Saturday, November 06, 2010

Clea Roberts, Here Is Where We Disembark

Commute in Summer

Suddenly, the ice
is gone from the rivers
and the summer workers
are riding their bicycles.

The gravel crackles
under their tires
as they swoop
through the streets
clean and bright
as gulls.

They are commuting
to their summer jobs
in shops and hotels
where things are uncomplicated.
They punch tills or make beds
and take their lunch hour
in the park
by the clay cliffs.

Somewhere 10,000 hectares
of forest are burning
but the smoke
hasn’t reached us,
just the CBC news.

Canoes float by
on roof racks.
I’d rather be on the river,
but the shape
of a keel is a consolation of sorts
and the prettiest thing

I’ve seen—that,
or the pink haze
of fireweed growing
out of a burned forest,
or how a cyclist
must raise her hip a little
and renew her grip
on the handlebars
before she pedals away.
Writing from her “northerly edge,” is Whitehorse, Yukon poet Clea Robertsin her debut collection, Here Is Where We Disembark (Calgary AB: Freehand Books, 2010). Built with a storytelling ease, hers is a collection that writes of her geographic immediate, the surroundings and domestic and moments of simply living. Beyond the arc of straightforward narrative, where her writing compels is in the small moments, writing out not arcs but specific points, the pinpricks of smallnesses, such as in the piece “Seasonal Adjustments” or “Sunset, Little Atlin.” These pieces etch out almost like little koans, writing:
The light
has chosen
a path across
the water.
There were sections of the collection that read as too straightforward, requiring more nuance, some tightening up in spots, to let the compelling phrases and sections really come out. Still, hers are contemplative poems on a roughneck and potentially aggressive wilderness, letting the breath show where the breathing lies, suggesting so much more nearly as matter-of-fact, such as the poem “What to Carry With You,” that opens:
In august of the year that
ruined and saved us
we ride toward autumn
on the Fish Lake road,

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