from Second Growth, Creekstone Press 2014
we came for wilderness, bounding trail, rinds of trail
slumping into streambed, river mud hugging our shoes, pulling
ourselves deeper into the forest by its trunks we came –
for the twinge of rain-aged bark in our hands, sunshade
of fir, dogwood, aspen, birch mycelia
flexing whispers between roots, milk-warm
mewling of chickadees, junco tweets kissing bluest
bluest sky, woodland – sponge-deep, open-pored, moss
soaking in all rough edges of sound, we came –
for the coke-sour glint of strewn bottles, burnt-out cans,
cigarettes for birdfeed, scream of slash piles, scream of skin’s
slow scald by water, ubiquitous drone of the ant-trail highway,
tires screaming in gridlock,
scream of jackhammer, rock drill,
screaming teeth of the tree buncher, forested escarpment
crushed to pulp, slash piles incinerated to char in the snow –
we came for boombox static, heartless rock, flatulence
of spun-out tires, the shores of heart lake flanked
by a deadlock armament of quads, we came for the quads
belching like kid soldiers as they pass, forest floor
churned to muck, for fish in the lake, reel’s plastic line
and cancer, the body toxic, for the driver
grinning at our tits, we came for the smack
of muck in our faces, we came to see ourselves
glistening from oil pools and mud. there has never been
a time like this. we curl toward the remaining woods. it took
millions of years for this world to adapt
to the toxicity
and above our heads, aspen
clothed in mushroom shelves –
caps soft as antler down, underside’s
cream-bathed glow – pocket reservoirs
of what’s left of the dawn.
Change bloomed slowly –
one small blush
deep in a provincial park, the budding heart
Back then I marched straight
into the canopy’s rusted out-heart and never
There were easy distractions – flycatcher’s
drunken prattle, how light flits
between trunk and shadow, purple columbine
winking through deadfall.
A pine beetle burrows below bark.
Spores through sapwood
fan like spilled ink.
Not long ago, yearly cold snaps
froze the suckers in their boots.
Now winters sludge along, the beetle
eats its heart out, and snap
goes the timber
of weak blue wood.
From this hill where I stand, the red forest, a dead sea.
One province’s hellfire. Glaring eternal sunset.
Overnight, it bloomed all over me.
I wake to openwork, heart’s shifting filigree,
rust-read and sweeping eastward
under a clear Chilcotin sky–
splay of her limbs, moose
polished clean to bone
by water so pure it squeaks.
lower your cup to the stream,
drop below the plume,
below the feather spray of rapids.
how the river breathes
a white raven ghost, water
exhaled by the lung of the world,
sing the glacial
cave-call, peat and sinter,
hollow echolalia: older
than rock pestle on mortar stone,
armouring the heart
passed down the woman line
down the valley.
listen to the clatter –
moose tibia at the bend,
rocks at the upstream eddy,
by one last
glistening thrust, salmon
to let the soft bits through
pulled home by the sound: ice
knuckling its own knuckles
shudders at the source,
carols the long lament
of calving off, of working
Fabienne Calvert Filteau grew up in Ontario and graduated from the University of Victoria in 2011. For a decade she worked as a tree planter throughout BC. She has been published in Paragon and Prairie Fire, among others. Currently she lives on Gitxsan territory in Hazelton, northwest BC.
Northern BC folio curated by Gillian Wigmore.