Four

Sue Goyette

copyright ©Sue Goyette, 2013

We first invented running so we could be in two places
at one time but then understood how, with empty pockets,

we could also harvest the wind. We invented hospitality
to lure our successes home, and to get love a much-needed

drink. We invented chairs so we could rest after the chase.
We invented the chase after we invented running, and inadvertently,

robbery. We invented the suburbs after accidentally colliding
into the feud and its conniving stepsisters the argument

and the snit. Some of us needed more space.
We discovered death under the bridge

and someone insisted we take it home, that it needed
our help. That day alone we invented the handkerchief

and the whisper. When it sat up, when it looked at us
with the teeth of its appetite puddinged in its eyes, we discovered

the flapping of words trying to escape from our ears
and something hammering in the silver-shaft of our hearts.

We unearthed fear that day, our first act of real
archeology. Understand, at that point, maps charted roads

and the humble footpaths between rumours crooked
with love. The ocean took up the most room

with its tidal pull and tentacled beasts inventing
their own recipes. Some days we knew we were nothing

but ingredients; other days we felt like honoured guests.
But the day we brushed the dirt from fear’s forehead

and got a look at its hands, well, our maps changed
and the ocean got bigger, our nights, a great deal beastier.

Notes on the Poem

Sue Goyette's "Ocean" chronicles in waves of poems the relationship between a community of shore-dwellers and the sea with which they attempt to coexist, sometimes peacefully, sometimes decidedly not. As the Griffin Poetry Prize judges remark in their citation for this magical collection: "Here is a place of change and myth-making, where transformation happens every day." Poem "Four" exemplifies this most charmingly. Words in unexpected assemblages and contexts ostensibly mark the start of the sorts of things you wouldn't normally associate with the mystique or the majesty of myth. Not that running, hospitality, chairs and suburbs, for example, aren't important after their fashions ... but the elevated subjects of myth? Some of it is tinged with rueful calamity: "We invented chairs so we could rest after the chase. We invented the chase after we invented running, and inadvertently, robbery." But then ... "We discovered death under the bridge" and the daffiness takes a somber turn as "That day alone we invented the handkerchief and the whisper." In the progression from the whimsical to the more serious, Goyette's shore-dwelling protagonists do indeed contend with change, forced to step from their "humble footpaths" to deal with the unmapped terrain of fear and unknown, possibly menacing beasts while trying to hold onto love. And yes, the transformations do come at them daily, as: "Some days we knew we were nothing but ingredients; other days we felt like honoured guests."

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