Agitated Sky Etiology

Sylvia Legris

copyright ©Sylvia Legris, 2005

Stumped Sky (Questions of Missing Weather and Birds)


Everything fades to …

Whiteout. Hypnotic and nose-close to hypothermia.
Blizzard-blinding (snow like something out of Fargo).
Winter a mile-high silver screen

tarnished to monotone. Unrelenting;
an eight-months’ sustained
sub-zero note.

Look down,
look down,
look waaay down …

It’s as if you were never here (you start to believe this).
Walk the same footprints every day
and every day they disappear — drowning
in the whiteness of it all, hyper-invisibly visible;
white trudging white.

Notes on the Poem

Poetry can be evocative in many ways. Sometimes poetry's power is wielded in ways not entirely - or at all - pleasurable or satisfying. Have you ever been left feeling unsettled or uncomfortable at the end of a poem ... but still appreciative that the poet can orchestrate words in such a way that they've achieved that effect? The judges commented in the citation to Sylvia Legris' 2006 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize-winning Nerve Squall that her "high-octane poems are powered by 'atmospheric overload'." Overload, be it meteorological or sensory, can spawn arresting and rapturous states. If the overload continues to build, it can rapidly tip into any number of forms of physical or mental distress, for an environment or an individual. In this poem, Legris maintains a razor thin line between euphoria and senses of discomfort and dread, and the effect is enthralling. Note the ominous hints of something not quite right: fading, tarnishing, monotone, trudging. Note the outright unnerving, unpleasant, painful sensations and states: whiteout, hypothermia, blinding, drowning. But wait a moment. There are also notes of whimsy, such as the reference to Fargo, a movie noteworthy for its dark humour played against a blazing white, snowy backdrop. The suggestion to "look waaay down" suggests - at least for Canadians of a certain age - a wacky reversal of the friendly exhortation of a childhood pal, the Friendly Giant. The whimsy is perhaps perversely juxtaposed with the vaguely threatening. But wait just another moment. When you look waaay down, is it possible you'll attempt that bungee jump into the unknown, rather than "walk[ing] the same footprints every day"? Conversely, is Legris just despairing that she is treading that same path every day and is disappearing into an irreversible invisibility? In just a few stark stanzas, she manages to unsettle in the most exhilarating fashion.

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