I started this poem a few years ago and set it aside, as I often do. Yesterday I sat in at the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Smithers. Heartbroken at the stories, I was also proud of the Witsuwit’en welcome to the participants, proud of their healing spirits. We are so lucky to live in their territory. Somehow the music C’ede’i Kwe/Driftwood Creek makes as it forms the boundary between the territories of Wah tah K’eght and Woos seems to speak of both gifts and great loss. Of what passes and what remains. I offer this in the spirit of healing.
Around here, the creek across the road
sings the prettiest.
From the bedroom window it’s a blur of sound
but if you move closer –
say down to the picnic table in the canyon’s park –
it has a rise and fall
that seems to follow the rise and fall
of your breathing,
the pulse in your throat as the sun heats up your face
and the hand moving this pencil.
It soothes the chitter going on inside your head when you’re trying not to think,
trying to be here, be now,
as they say,
and not to wonder if that prickle on your ankle
is a late-season ant or fly or cranky wasp
disturbed by the arrival of your restless feet
under the table.
It’s like that in this small park.
Mostly refuge, mostly haven, mostly peace.
Until the sudden chaos of field trips or family picnics,
kids heaving boulders into the creek.
Burnt picnic tables, an overturned outhouse.
Lovers leaving crumpled tissues, an empty bottle.
That time there was the little black dress,
a rag on the morning grass, the police searching the underbrush
for the woman who picked it out of some closet
and slipped it on. What could she have been wearing
when she left this place?
When you go down to the shaded gravel bar
and crouch to listen,
individual songs emerge.
You close your eyes and try to single out
her voice. One clear chord
still echoing between the canyon walls.
You wait, watching for a sign.
This gravel bar has somehow survived
forty seasons’ floods and ice.
All the children tossing rocks into the water.
Another variation on the theme of kerplonk
that makes our grandson raise his hands in glee
aha, he crows, aha
his small body stretched tight, quivering
in wonder at the chorus he makes
with a handful of pebbles tossed high
to fall into the creek.
It’s a wonder there’s anything here but sand.
I’ll pack up my songs
and drive into town to sing, join voices
and sound a charm against the pain that sometimes happens
just across the road. Against the coming winter
when the creek sinks deep under the ice
so quiet, so still, that even the dipper has to look hard
to find an entrance into the concert hall.