Summer Solstice


On this longest day, sunlight can even be heard.
At noon, it’s the hiss of hot whetstones.
By afternoon, gongs announce messengers.
We wait, but only more light arrives.

Light arrives all at once.
Like a girl in a starched cotton dress,
knees brown as walnuts. Like sorrow,
as much as love, at first sight.

The painter, Turner, said as he died:
“The sun is God.” Breasts forming
on the trees shine with young apples.
Light prays entirely by itself.



Light says to the exile, “I’m your country.”
It stamps the blue passport of the sea,
to travel anywhere. Waves hold up
suitcases that bulge with sea-weed and hope.

Today, the unceasing light makes
cracked bells ring in tumbled
foundries, all on their own. It’s the true
resurrection: of bells and orange blossom.



On this longest day, even stalactites
in caves can flicker: endless dark
twirls of café au lait and tobacco.

Villages spin around their glittering weather-vanes.
East is west. To leave is to stay.
To travel is to arrive before your mind got started.



Everything that happened today, has happened.
What did not happen, did that equally
visibly, too. On this one day,
the unconceived work equal shifts.

The sun is a decisive butterfly. It won’t leave
the orange tree. Smoke from the bakery
won’t leave the chimney. Scissors won’t renounce
the shape of a cross. Hearts won’t renounce
the shape of their love. If it cuts us, it cuts.


Questions and Answers

What inspired “Summer Solstice”?

The poem was inspired by my wish to draw on, and add to, the rich symbolism of the sun, since ancient times, as source of life and light, and as overlooking all that happens beneath it, both good and bad, that we must come to terms with.

What poetic techniques did you use in “Summer Solstice”?

A main poetic technique is the “imagist” one of clustering concentrated images together in free verse, without comment or generalization. The images are shaped by metaphor, or by juxtaposing a description of one situation with that of another apparently different one, but without explaining their inter-connection. I have been influenced in this by reading (in translation) Japanese haiku poems, and some of the poetry of Ezra Pound.

This poem “Summer Solstice” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 180 (Spring 2004): 51-52.

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