from Heart

Di Brandt

copyright ©2003 Di Brandt


Don’t laugh when I confess every cobalt
coloured little lake along the Trans-Canada
is flooding where I cried for you, hungry
tires eating the pavement from Winnipeg
to Couchiching and Shabbaqua, my body
hurtling through spruce scented air toward
polluted Ontario, my spirit reaching long
arms back across the miles to open prairie,
deer among the aspen of La Barriere Forest,
singers around a fire, your filmmaker’s eye,
your poet’s tongue, your quicksilver
philosopher’s mind, quivering skin, naked
heart, how do you know if you’re crazy,
these commuter lives, from exhausting
winters in dirty cities to snatched moments
in paradise, being with you, sunflower
mosquito dragonfly grasshopper ice in
the lungs wish it could last happiness

Notes on the Poem

This section of Di Brandt's poem "Heart", from the 2004 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection "Now You Care", teeters several times on the brink of pathetic fallacy, that poetic practice whereby human feelings or responses are associated with nature, natural phenomena, animals or objects. At very least, Brandt uses some tall tale tinged similes to illustrate her narrator's yearning. No, every lake the narrator drives past is not overflowing. The narrator might have been crying as she travelled along the highway, but she's surely exaggerating about the extent of her distress. But why does she feel she needs to intensify it in this fashion? And no, while her vehicle's tires aren't literally gobbling up the road, that seems to best capture the speed with which the immense gap is widening between her and that over whom she weeps. Then, while her body is heading in one direction, the narrator's spirit hypostatizes and elongates and lunges back from where it came. While the narrator is in this overwrought state and torn in two directions, it seems she is also rending the subject of her anguished longing into pieces: "your filmmaker's eye, your poet's tongue, your quicksilver philosopher's mind, quivering skin, naked heart" Does all this fevered rendering of animation to the inanimate and dissection of a whole into disparate parts culminate in confusion and hyperbole? While it all seems a bit maudlin, the narrator is not without some wry self-awareness. In fact, before launching into the sweep of her lachrymose departure, she did preface everything with "Don't laugh when I confess ..." Is she telling the person from whom she's departed not to laugh, or maybe the reader, or maybe even herself? Are we to not laugh at the confession, or perhaps at the over the top fashion in which the narrator has conveyed her emotions?

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