Helen Guri

Excerpt from “Kettle,” a long poem
Helen Guri

(1) Ensemble

Most of us already have water, a pot to put it in.
It is hard to improve on the men and equipment.
Strategically deploy a big pot of water on the stove.
Illuminate, if at night, the burner under it.
Start looking for things to put in it; make use of
infiltration methods. And there you’ll be,
having retrieved a pot, filled it, and lit a burner.

Even though the water is boiling you can test it with your finger.
Every source of information must be cultivated.
You don’t need to know how the properties of water differ
at 100 degrees and at 180, but by tasting it at those temperatures
you report every bit of information, regardless how insignificant,
to headquarters. This may at first feel ridiculous,
and then it will start to seem so useful
you’ll stand by the pot feeling quite ingenius.
The degree and quality of intelligence available
will leave enough on your skin for you to taste,
maintaining physical contact, just tapping the surface.

Note: With the exception of a few words and lines borrowed from other sources, Kettle is entirely composed of phrases from Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal (2011) and the Ontario Provincial Police Crowd Control Manual (1970).


Helen Guri is the author of Match, published by Coach House Books in 2011 and shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. Her poems and essays have been published widely in Canada, as well as in the U.S. and Australia. She currently works as a freelance editor of fiction and nonfiction for various large and small presses, and edits poetry for Brick Books.