Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Gillis, Susan, author
Yellow crane / Susan Gillis.
Issued in print and electronic formats.
isbn 978-1-77131-491-6 (softcover).
isbn 978-1-77131-493-0 (pdf).
isbn 978-1-77131-492-3 (epub)
ps8563.i5125y45 2018 c811'.54 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .c2018-902175-6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .c2018-902176-4
Copyright Susan Gillis, 2018
We acknowledge the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Canada
through the Canada Book Fund, and the Ontario Arts Council for their support
of our publishing program.
The author photo was taken by John Steffler.
431 Boler Road, Box 20081
London, Ontario N6K 4G6
War & Peace
Forgive Me, I Thought It Was Just Wind in the Marsh Reeds
Lost & Found
The Beauty of the Table
So I beg you, no more of those lamentations
Shift in the Weather
Rooms, and Not Just Interiors
Notes & Acknowledgements
How far off are those years, mine and not mine,
When one wrote poems on Italy
Telling about evenings in the fields of Siena
Or about cicadas in Sicilian ruins.
— Czesław Miłosz
For awhile as children we didn’t know time existed.
Then time teased us; eager to catch up with it, we wanted to have sex with stars, or just anyone, to drive, to drink, to travel; we wanted to be old enough.
Eventually we were, but still time was ahead of us. Now we wanted to be old enough to speak our minds without fear of consequence, to do things we weren’t ready for just yet but someday; we got together with time and made plans.
Only that day never came. Instead, we woke from a dream of being chased and realized we’d switched ends; now time was taunting us to come back.
Our children grew up too fast, or had never materialized at all; we couldn’t believe we’d been so good looking, in spite of our ridiculous outfits and the hair.
For a long while a battle raged. Cunning, trickery, deceit, excellence, lists — we used them all.
Gradually we became tired of our heroics. We saw where this was going, and began to befriend time.
Soon Arthurian England didn’t seem so different; we could imagine the sound of crickets in the Roman Coliseum. Uruk could be a living place, with friends and romance and intrigue and all the other elements of the mysteries we’d taken up reading.
Deep time seemed like a place we might visit, like the Danube or Antarctica.
We collected brochures, planned our next move, the next-to-last or next-to-next-to-last, hand in hand with time, who seemed at last to be giving us good advice.
We got ready.
Took us a while, didn’t it?
Light and shadow sweep the field, hasty, hurried.
The wind that pushes the clouds that make the shadows is high.
The hay is not waving, only the light on the hay.
And then the wind spirals down, down, the hay in whorls, shaking.
A shadow crosses.
On my left the stone wall springs to light, flowering plants in the niches, radiant.
This is how we don’t write anymore: stone walls, hayfields, ruins, the beauty of ruins.
Charged with being too politicized, Czesław Miłosz answers that he can write the senses, would like to, therefore doesn’t.
If you have a nail in your shoe, what then? Do you love that nail?
No, or yes, it’s the same thing.
I stretch out my legs and stare over the field.
Pine, pine, spruce, fir, pine.
Wind in the poplars over Willow Pond.
Yes, I would like to be a poet of the world.
New weather drifting toward me over the hay.
1 Czesław Miłosz’s “In Milan” is a poem I keep going back to for its many conundrums, not least of which is whether he loves the nail.