Friday, August 3, 2018

I Wish I'd Written This

The Forest

A cold stream,
a wooden cup.

There was no question
of where you would cross
or where you
would stop to drink.

And still I ask -
what brought
you to me?

The plain succour
of my axe cleaving
the distance?

The mischief of
new brome grass
at your knees?

The trees will count
all the years we've lived,
and then they will keep
on counting,

or fall down or be
felled, or burn
standing or in a stove,

the fire a
bright prayer
releasing carbon,
all the words uttered,

our first exhale
and our last.

There will be the things
we have chosen to dwell
upon, and the things
we have chosen
to forget, as well as
the pine needles,
caught in your hair,
our bodies cradled
in cacophonies
of wildflower and lichen.

But first there will be
intentions and mutability,
a study of light and clouds
through the treetops,
the subtle ways to give
ourselves completely.

The passing corvid, aware
of its reputation for intelligence,
will fly over,
clearing its throat.

-Clea Roberts

Clea Roberts lives on the outskirts of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, in upper Canada. Her work has been published across Canada, the US, Europe and Australia.

The above poem is taken from her book of poetry, Auguries, her second collection, of which a review by Brick Books exclaimed: "Poems like single larches, each in an immense white plain - spare and clean, their exactness startling and arresting",  a statement with which I heartily concur.

Available here.

Ms. Roberts' work is steeped in the physical landscape, with a spiritual dimension. Her poems sing of the land on which she lives, the physical and emotional condition of northern life.

Her first collection of poems, Here Is Where We Disembark, was a finalist for the League of Canadian Poets Gerald Lampert award and was deemed the best first book of poetry in Canada. She is a five-time recipient of the Yukon Government Advanced Artist award. Wow.

Ms. Roberts facilitates workshops on poetry and grief through Yukon Hospice. She is the Artistic Director of the Kicksled Reading Series.

Let's enjoy one more of her poems, spend a few moments more in the romance and beauty of the far north.


Where the Nisutlin grew shallow
and swift, we rested our

paddles on the gunwales,
only dipping them to steer.

We watched the riverbed,
the astonishing velocity

of the round, green boulders
passing beneath us,

and the red-backed spawners

slipping upstream through
the shadows cast by clouds.

And the kingfisher
we startled into flight, gliding

furtively from one sweeper to the next,,
while the small bruin raised its snout

in the air, and catching our scent,
turned back into the forest

as we drifted by
and around the bend.

Every night the wolves called
into the unreachable parts of us

and you laughed in your sleep.
It wasn't your usual laugh -

it belonged to the woman
who walked naked into the river

each morning, right to the top of her thighs,
and sunk down, purposefully,

kneeling on the soft gravel to bathe, to see
every heartache suddenly flattened

and carried away on the river's
sun-scalloped surface,

a driftwood fire
blazing on the shore.

Well. As I browse through Auguries, I want to give you each and every poem. They are that good. So we will stop for now, hoping you enjoyed this glimpse of the beauty of the northern landscape, that claims the hearts of those who live there.

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.


  1. Yes, these are wonderful. Just the kind of poetry I love best: clean, spare and exact, as the reviewer said. I'll be looking for more of her work. I can imagine reading it over and over for the sheer pleasure.

  2. This is my kind of poetry. I've always dreamed of visiting Canada and this is the closest I will get.

  3. Refreshing as a glass of clean water. Thank you!

  4. Her poetry is as spare, fresh and clean as the landscape she loves. I am so happy you enjoy it.

  5. I feel as if I have just had a glimpse of her northern environment. Thank you, Sherry, for introducing us to this talented poet.

  6. When I read her work, I can imagine the northern vistas, and feel I am there for a little while. I lived in the north one winter, and it was very different - so much SNOW. Broad vistas. Fresh, dry air. My wolf dog Pup loved it. He would lie in the falling snow till it covered everything but his eyes, and refuse to come in till I made him.

  7. Thank you Sherry, I enjoyed the poems you selected, each word. May we all see with such clear eyes. And find the perfect words.

  8. Wonderful poetry 'steeped in the physical landscape, with a spiritual dimension' - that is the stuff of life that replenishes the soul. Thus: my absolute favorite genre of poetry … and Clea does it brilliantly. Beautiful writing!

  9. What a wonderful world she speaks of! Thanks for the share Sherry.


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