Photo taken by Dick Loek/Toronto Star in December 1990.
—being a visit of the spirited kind with the great Canadian man of letters, in the Dantean poetic form of terza rima
O Robertson, dear Robertson, I dast
not trouble thee in Paradise, Nirvana,
nor in Asgard’s halls if that’s where you now cast
your mighty nets of word and mirth. I wanna
seem as erudite and clever, Heaven knows,
as you, and not some whinging prima donna,
but as mercury subsides, the windy blows
of those who’d tarnish what is silver and sublime
of this great time are getting up my nose,
attempting to convince me it’s a crime
or mark of low intelligence to cheer
what’s goodly and expanding to a prime
of human understanding. With your clear
and unobstructed view of where we’re headed
and my obstinate refusal to adhere
to doom’s dark drivel, I am wedded
to the notion that together we might salvage
something priceless from the leaded
and corrupt events reported by the savage
and vindictive, by the weary and obstructive,
by the arguers whose logic seeks to ravage
all that’s mystical and unexplained. It’s relative,
I know, that yay and nay together must reside
in every possibility, but their order is subjective.
Am I right, or do I labour with false pride?
O mortal, winsome mortal, such delight
I take in finding you again with Thor’s great hammer
pitted ‘gainst depressives’ native right
to cringe beneath your cheerful yammer,
seeking common ground and seldom finding,
both of you reduced to wincing stammer.
Where is the proof? demands the grinding
intellect. I do not care, retorts the sprite
whose visage to the cynic is full blinding.
The passing fact, experienced, is right
but only in the moment to the blood and brains
of that to whom the truth gave light.
The gap between the witness who explains
her wonder with insistence to the rest
learns swiftly what it means to “take great pains”.
There is scant gain in it. You’re blessed,
make no mistake, but cursive souls
like yours who flow too easily ingest
the poisons of heredity. The holes
of graves preceding you contain no tales
worth digging up again. Their bells have tolled.
All life is made to vivify. What today fails,
ignored, tomorrow proudly shows her worth.
Who keeps their wit and chin up, paradise regales.
In this tendering season of light’s rebirth,
rest easy. Good abounds on Heaven and Earth!
© Elaine Stirling, 2017