Tumbling in spring

As the sun sinks below the false horizon
of bungalows behind my house, the sound
of light passing through dust on my windows
seems to change. The raft of my home
tumbles in spring, all that activity in the soil
and sap being sucked into crowns of trees.

No different I suppose from others on the block
arrayed like toys in rows. Containers. A sameness
that works against the singular feeling inside
this one, a sense that the silhouetted watersheds
of darkened branches fanning from trunks
are pushing through the glass. I’m called into this

animation, but I’m helpless. Instead, I speculate
about my neighbours’ marriages. And mine.
And why I’m caught this time of year in a whirlwind
of sudden, invisible insurgencies. I’m holding
onto something, probably my daughter’s shadow
as she sways from the monkey bars—

who can ever stop worrying? But when the light
really starts to disappear and darkness begins to sweat
from air like ink, and lights go on in rooms
of neighbours’ homes, and we see into each other’s lives
for a moment before the curtains close, the feeling
shifts. Darkness brings certainty.

Is it the way light behind shuttered windows
looks welcoming and calm in the dark?
Or is it the Bach piano playing on the radio?
We’re touching I’m certain, the same way
leafless branches seem to bring sap into the crown
in my house. But no one will believe me

or let us know for sure. Besides, the rafts
look fortified. We’d have to tie them all together
and, god knows, without fences—

Questions and Answers

Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?

The moment I was inspired to write poetry was after reading “The Red Wheelbarrow”, by William Carlos Williams, in a grade 7 or 8 English class. It was like a small door blew open in my head. The sense there in the poem was a sense I had inside me—a way of recognizing the world that uniquely seemed to happen in the poem, and of course afterwards, in many poems; a kind of ecstasy or vaguely numinous revelry somehow encountered in the dribs and drabs of life.

As a published writer, what are your tips or words of motivation for the aspiring poet?

Words of inspiration that come to mind are a paraphrase of something Al Purdy said to a friend of mine (Vancouver poet Rodney DeCroo) a long time ago: you might get some attention for your work, but the thrill of all that wears off; you’ve got to love writing the poems. So: love the writing, that’s the reason to keep writing poetry. And, I would add, never stop listening and feeling for your own unique relationship with language, and never stop listening to the words of poets whose poems move you. Have the courage to change, to try new things, to grow and to seek out guidance and mentorship when you need it. And have the courage to make the language your own. I sometimes think poetry is roughly half immanent and half needing to seen, heard and understood, maybe loved.

What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

“Tumbling in Spring” comes from a particular feeling in a particular place, as many of my poems do. Sitting in my home watching and feeling spring, dusk, neighbours, a sense of meaning that reaches beyond the obvious collection of things around me. I’m writing towards a feeling, so reaching for a linguistic balance between logic and grammar and something that is not logical or particularly stable or describable. Listening to the sounds of words together, attention to metre—not as a form of policing!—but as a helpful guide, attention to images that propel feeling into deeper, more vulnerable places, allowing mystery to flourish without overwhelming the work into something indecipherable.

This poem “Tumbling in spring” originally appeared in Reading, Writing, Listening Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 241 (2020): 123-124.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.