Saturna Island as Vietnam
the sheep trails are trials, fateful
to strangers, a kind of a puzzling.
They lead to the cliffs, & the cliffs
to the sea. On the way back
they seem to disappear behind you
& in front. With nowhere to go,
you forget where the road was. Somewhere
the deer are lost, & a party
searches for them. The deer are full of fear.
Somewhere in the mind there are heaps of dead ones,
piled up. Smiled. No,
never seen a deer do that. Farther in,
they gather quietly but awkwardly
to a mental feast. Stupid, isn’t it?
The cliffs are of black-grey rock, shaped
by the rocking water, locked on land,
licked. Loosened, they are
like livers and lungs. Breathless.
As if once hung
in the bodies of the living.
can’t climb trees.
I keep forgetting that.
It, whatever that is, behooves them,
to stay on the ground. Strange
manner of flight.
A voleur, is it one who flies,
or one who steals.
Into the mind at night.
They seem to wander freely in the darkness,
but there is no way of knowing.
They can be locked in light,
How came you late?
I lost the trail, late
at night. I ate
& drank some wine,
& didn’t say please.
By that time,
it was too late.
the trees are what you see
when you go down a hill, or up—
not the top of the next one.
It’s either you or the forest
gets lost. Whichever,
there is no choice.
It’s one or the other,
you simply can’t tell which.
The other is what you don’t know.
One is a guess.
The ghosts are guests.
You have a hard time getting to sleep,
because the trees are talking.
You fall asleep, or in love,
you fall, & the trees are what you hear.
The party is lost, so
you don’t hear it. The trees
sound like a river.
Of blood, but your friends are silent,
won’t for a minute speak of it, believing
it as simple a thing as greed.
The ghosts leave the house
without eating or speaking.
Reid, James. “Saturna Island as Vietnam.” New Wave Canada. Ed. Raymond Souster. Toronto: Contact, 1966. 146–7.
Reprinted with permission from the estate of James Reid.