, , , , , ,


~~a glosa~~

Free thinker! Do you think you are the only thinker
on this earth in which life blazes inside all things?
Your liberty does what it wishes with the power it controls,
but when you gather to plan, the universe is not there.

—from “Golden Lines”, Gérard de Nerval, 1854,
translated by Robert Bly


I have a shelf in a quiet corner
of my house where books appear,
where spines with startling titles
wink like coin upon a beach
you think, at first, is crumpled foil.
I move in close. You little stinker,
where’d you come from? Didn’t I just
dust here yesterday? Three Bly collections,
now there’s four! Best not to blink or—
free thinker! Do you think you are the only thinker?

Laughter of the cynical sounds hardy
like a whack across the shoulder blades.
Well met, friend! One scarcely hears
the swallowed—gullible—or feels
the poisoned tip of reason penetrate.
The spy pretends to care. He brings
his little eye of mean intelligence,
then shrinks. He’s leather in the rain.
I know him well. I know he stings
on this earth in which life blazes inside all things.

Meanwhile, this new-found book,
the fourth or maybe fifth this year
falls open as do all things freshly
manifest, and from its novel pages
pour like immigrants through Ellis
and old Halifax onto these shoals
new habitants, thoughts never known.
Tides reverse. My salty backward-facing pillars
burble, angry, smash their begging bowls.
Your liberty does what it wishes with the power it controls,

The pale brittle shell of politics is broken.
Newborn patriots stand blinking in a sun
that’s never shone like this till now.
The rush of sea, the boats well laden
with supplies will dry all eyes
once sorrowful. You who swear
the age of miracles is dead, you’ll find your proofs.
Who negates life for afterlife, division
as your goal, we too will meet somewhere.
But when you gather to plan, the Universe is not there.


It’s been a while since I’ve written a glosa, but even longer since I’ve felt proud of my nation and government down to the cellular level. There’s been a sea change in Canada since the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. I see young people politically engaged for the first time. American friends post videos of our PM greeting new arrivals and say they feel the shift too, even through all their media clamour.

If glosas and form poetry appeal to you, please visit my website where you can learn more–and perhaps buy a book or two.

© Elaine Stirling, 2015
Robert Bly’s scintillating translation of Nerval comes from News of the Universe: poems of twofold consciousness, published in 1980.