Tuesday, December 28, 2010

They Will Take My Island

by Darren Bifford

Paul and I consider Gorky’s 1944 They Will Take My Island.
This is Paul’s favorite work in the Art Gallery of Ontario.
He brings me to it after we see Rubens’ Massacre of the Innocents.

There’s a lot to admire about Rubens’ Massacre of the Innocents.
In a way it’s my favorite painting in the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Something about it reminds me of They Will Take My Island.

The soldiers are so intent on killing all the babies, no island
exists in the Pacific they will not discover, nor in Ontario
for that matter. They say people borne of islands are innocent.

No work of art hangs on their walls. History walks around innocent
in circles, saying let’s begin again and again. The British in Ontario;
the French in Quebec, expect for Gauguin who sails for Islands

where he will live naked and gaudy as he imagines men do on islands
civilization skips. Even here under the cities and roads of Ontario
you’ll find tracks and bones: it’s true none of us here are innocent.

Which reminds me of Gorky’s 1944 They Will Take My Island.
I see my great-great grandfather with a cross and level in his hands.
Listen to the crowds roar! There are no tigers in the land of Ontario.
Herod’s soldiers sail ashore. Every creature in the forest is an infant. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

They Will Take My Island

by Robert Earl Stewart

The gate of your ribs pulled open tonight.
Your chest bleeding some kind of searchlight.
It picks up the grey gull of a boat against the darkness,
the landing party lit white as embers.

You cannot see the man who lies in the hold
on a dune of dried fruit spilled from crates.
It’s as dark as the centre of the sun down there; his thirst
as bright as the centre of that darkness.

Sometimes he looks like that guy you know—
that guy with the boat and the card game.
But most of the time he just looks like the admiral,
locked away in disease from his horde.  

It smells like birthday candles where we watch
from the shore. The lamp in your chest has gone out.
The shorebirds hold their eggs inside like the future,
like a new, dark beach before the prow. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

They Will Take My Island

by Claire Caldwell

After the tourists left, we made a map of Venice
with black licorice. It snowed that year, and our father
painted dead fish in the markets. We took turns
trailing feral cats and ladies draped in winter furs.

The canal slithered past the cobblestones, sleek
as a silver chain. Mother cursed the water
in her bones. My brother built forts for his
glass animals, too young still for the cartoleria
where the man with marbled eyelids told fortunes.

I delivered his ink on Sundays. He stamped my feet
before reading their soles. Our island won't sink
if it's sailing,
he'd say every time. I chose to believe him.

Monday, December 13, 2010

They Will Take My Island

by Catherine Graham

Scuttle in the blood cells,
they seed the white beach, crawl
sideways under the skin
with a belly-skeletal undertaking.
Pincer-caught without pain,
they labour up a rogue wave
of metastasis to make the spreading endless.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

They Will Take My Island

by Robin Richardson

With slant-eyes, beards and breakable
demeanors they will claim the dust,
sheets, pleated dress, the furnace that
mutters grumpy where I sleep.

Their boots will take the hardwood,
blue clamp of conversation while
I pour myself a drink. The books
will stack self-conscious, spines

will arch and fingers aim to slink
across the grind. They will pine
for morning toast, dalliance
of daylight at the sill; Its coming

and going and showing up the quiet
with a cricket-fiddle; stark and hardy.
They will echo in the hallway, stay
a sliver on the rocks-glass. They will

want the writing, haunt the paper
with their harks and clever inching
inward. They will lift the covers, cull
the frantic musing with their firmness.

They will take my island.

Monday, November 22, 2010

They Will Take My Island

by Gary Barwin

after Leigh Nash & Natasha Nuhanovic

inside, godlike
the eyes of a ukulele

a smaller goodbye
a diplomat’s first duty

to strum

goodbye, ukelele
stray-dog guitar

only a small song
when all we have is shore

Monday, November 15, 2010

They Will Take My Island

by Paul Vermeersch

after Arshile Gorky

My loves are coming. Whether on a raft, or a frigate,
or a longboat with its serpent figurehead,
its sails billowed by whirlwinds, they are coming to my island. 

She is with them, the love of my childhood.
She was a foal lying silently in brown leaves.
She will be something different now,
a stranger to my island, and yet the leaves
are already withering, already falling to the earth in preparation.

They must navigate whirlpools and crushing straits,
but still my loves are coming in a cold white spray. 
They make for my island, and the love of my youth is with them.

She was a young woman in a field of honeybees.
Their droning was loud, but they would not sting her.
The field and her hair are one, and the field 
goes behind her like a floral train.
I can see her only like this, and not as she might be now,
in accordance with a pact made long ago.

All my loves are coming to my island. The first love
of my manhood is with them.
She had the head of a boar and a girl's quick laugh.
And the second love of my manhood, a scarlet ibis, 
cruel as a lizard’s eye, is with them too,
but she might turn back before they reach my island.

And the love of my life is with them. 
She will introduce herself in my native tongue, 
saying, You need not fear me,
and she will lead all my terrible loves
to this shore, and together they will take my island.