Three Poems by Russell Thornton

New Work

River Rainbow

My two-year-old is standing on the swath
of pebbles piled alongside the pale green
and the bright white of the river that rides
down out of the canyon to run level
and free to the inlet. She’s throwing stones
into stray pools and eddies. Looking up,
saying to the air boohewun, boohewun
for the dozens of gulls. Dipping her hand
into the cold water for coloured stones,
throwing them, watching them splash. Then saying
again, boohewun. Looking up at me
with the gray-blue of the river heron,
one of its feathers fallen into her eyes.
She looks back to the water. Throws a stone
and adds circles within widening circles.
Throws another stone and her irises
halo the river flow. Throws another
and in her pupils the heron opens
its wings and lifts to arc through the blackness
lit blue. Now airborne over the water,
draws the halo out into a rainbow.
The gulls hosanna with their shrieks. She throws
a new stone, a new rainbow, a wild iris
of continuous colours. Any name
she utters is a rainbow, any bird
she sees is a boohewun, a messenger
carrying to her a name for a rainbow,
a heron, and bringing her a heron’s blue.


This morning as I woke,
the summer sun, the deep day, the brown earth —
all began in my memory of the large mole
you carried on the inside of your thigh.

You are gone and I am lightly riding my own death.
Once you asked if you should have it removed,
but a mole such as that one, I said, you should let stay.
Now it is my birthmark.

Playing with Stones

When I carry her home each evening
from the park playground swing, she pleads with me
to let her walk on the bed of smooth stones
at the front of our apartment building.
She wants to find individual stones
and put them in her wide pocket. Then place
the same stones along a row of large rocks.
I would like us to stay as we are now
within the flowering and flowing gold
gaze of the sun’s late rays. And suddenly
I imagine a day when she is old.
As if I were her child and she was soon
to be gone, I begin to grieve for her,
little mother, my daughter. Carrying
her shepherdess’s bag filled with her stones,
one for each sheep in her flock, already
she is keeping count for when it is night
and she brings the sheep into the stone fold,
already she is asking that they all
be kept in the great invisible scrip.
Tears she will cry for those she will love, tears
others who will love her will cry for her,
will stray, go lost, so she places stones
one by one on flat rock, stones that are tears
she gathered as they rolled out of the sun.

One Comment

  1. Paul Sutherland
    Posted November 2, 2015 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Dear Russell,

    I remember your poems in Dream Catcher 23, our Canadian issue. Congratulations on being short-listed for the Griffin Prize.

    Best wishes
    Paul Sutherland

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Russell Thornton

Russell Thornton's books include House Built of Rain, The Human Shore, and the forthcoming Birds, Metals, Stones and Rain (all Harbour Publishing). His poems have appeared in anthologies, including Best Canadian Poetry in English 2012, The Montreal International Poetry Prize 2011 Global Anthology, and Poet to Poet. He lives in North Vancouver, BC.