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Sunday, January 20, 2013

'Wait for me dammit'

I am enjoying yet another collection of Al's poetry, 'The More Easily Kept Illusions-The Poetry of Al Purdy,' published by Wilfred Laurier University Press, in 1986.

I like some of the things Robert Budde says about Al's voice, and the accessibility of much of his work.
I was thinking about the choices the editor made for the collection
when I got side-lined, not for the first time, by 'The Horsemen of Agawa.'
"I have to abandon my beer
and use both hands for safety" 

It was like having a camp-fire conversation with other travellers - 'Did you get to the Agawa rocks yet, gotta go tomorrow' stuff.
Kind of accessible.
But better.
Because of the way Al shared the story and the places he took it.

"We clamber down rocks as unsteady as children
reach slanting stone ledges under the hundred-foot walls..."

"The painted horseman rides over four moons (or suns) on his trail
whose meaning must be a four day journey somewhere
the red iron oxide faded from Lake Superior storms
and maybe two hundred years since the Ojibway artist stood there
balanced above the water like us...."

We're not meant to photograph, I think
But I cannot see the power has diminished in any way

I love reading those words describing a place, and thoughts, that we also experienced when we made the pilgrimage.

But what I appreciate most about this poem
is what it says about Eurithe, and Al,
and what he felt about her.

..."But I mistrust the mind-quality that tempts me
to embroider and exaggerate things
                                    I just watch my wife's face
she is quiet as she generally is because I do most of the talking
it is forty years old and has felt the pain of children
the pettiness of day-to-day living and getting thousands of meals
but standing on the rock face of Lake Superior
it is not lessened in any way
with a stillness of depth that reaches where I can't follow
all other thoughts laid aside in her brain
on her face I see the Ojibway horseman painting the rock with red fingers
and he speaks to her as I could not
in pictures without handles of words
into feeling into being here by direct transmission
from the stranded Ojibway horseman
and I change it all back into words again for that's the best I can do..."

Read to the end.

(selected lines from The Horseman of Agawa)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much, Lindi, for posting excerpts of that great poem. And how amazing that you had your own photos to accompany Al's words; I had enjoyed the poem before but it's so much better with visuals showing what he was referring to. As you write, it is also deeply lovely what this poem says about how Al saw and felt about Eurithe. Perhaps it isn't surprising that when she was asked by Howard White, Al's longtime publisher, what her favourite of his poems are (for the reminiscence he collected for The Al Purdy A-Frame Anthology), The Horsemen of Agawa is the first one she mentions.