Monday, November 29, 2010

Tuesday Poem

The Tuesday Poem community is an initiative by New Zealand writer Mary McCallum, and others , to post a poem every Tuesday. Thirty writers each post a poem on their own blog, and each week there is one post on the main Tuesday Poem hub site.

I have finally taken the plunge and joined them.

This week, the Pike River Coal Mine disaster has been much on our minds here in the South Island. And so, I thought of Jim Brock and his book The Sunshine Mine Disaster. Jim is an associate professor of English at Florida Gulf Coast University, who blogs at Gods and Money. He has kindly allowed me to post a poem from his collection this week.

Of course, each mining accident is different. The Sunshine Mine Disaster took place in a silver mine in Idaho. There are similarities but there are also differences, nevertheless it is a fine collection of poems. Some address the disaster more directly, others are concerned with the miners involved. I was attracted to Aubade because although we don't have elk here, we do have deer - not native to New Zealand, but introduced for hunting - and I'm sure many of the West Coast miners would have been keen hunters in their spare time.

Aubade: Good Daylight

If a man doesn’t like to rush,
and I don’t, he can spend a half hour
in the dry-house: pull on his t-shirt,
overalls, wool socks, steel-toed

rubber boots, helmet, belt,
battery pack and light, a denim
jacket. And still time to make
good daylight at 6:30 a.m.

in Big Creek Canyon. Most
Mays, on the ridge above the Crescent
Mine, you can see ten or
twelve head of elk below the snow

line. It’s easy, in this work,
to think of cave paintings, when
you see wildlife in the dawn’s
light, before pounding the face

with dynamite, mucking out
the rock, clearing the new ground.
But I don’t like that kind
of confusion. Extraction counts

for nothing, save the pay dirt.
And those paintings are just some
lines, guttural and round, copies
of animals that had come out

of nowhere and had nowhere
to go on this slow earth. Today
three elk appear, two females
and a calf, feeding off

the greening bitter-brush. To the
calf, I say, “Grow fat, bastard,”
as I measure the distances of two
Octobers with a thumb, a hair



Footnote: My own poem, Blue, is the Tuesday Poem at Helen Lowe's website this week.


Mary McCallum said...

A thought-provoking poem. I like the pace of it, the way it takes its time... and is willing, like the narrator, to wait... The end is terrific. Thank you, Catherine... and Jim. And welcome to Tuesday Poem, Catherine.

Helen Lowe said...

Great to see you here on the Tuesday Poem Blog, Catherine. I love your choice of poem and thank you, too, for letting me feature "Blue" as my Tuesday Poem.

Elizabeth Welsh said...

Gosh, the evocation of cave paintings is astounding. Thanks for posting this Catherine!

Tim Jones said...

I was very pleased to see that you've joined the Tuesday Poets, Catherine, and with such a strong start too: both this poem, and your own poem on Helen's blog. Welcome aboard!

Claire Beynon said...

What gravitas this poem has, Catherine. The lines I find most moving are these - "It's easy, in this work, to think of cave paintings.' They put me in a time warp, a place warp, as if I'm looking through a telescope from both ends. The tone of quiet resignation is quite wrenching.

Welcome to Tuesday Poem - in the words of the old song 'Welcome to the family, we're glad that you have come...' And, thank you, Jim.

Melissa Green said...

Catherine, your 'blue' poem was lovely. Welcome to the Tuesday Poets!