A Poem by Anne Marie Todkill

New Work

Central Experimental Farm, April


Open your hand,
drop a flat stone
into reedy water,
watch it fall
through the fret;
note the slight wobble,
weird slo-mo,
like a memory
of how to float.

Wild geese
sink into fields like that,
reassessing weightlessness,
rocking earthward
in a sling of air.


They have our number
and keep dialing it at night,
at daybreak, beeping us awake
the way the sound of local traffic
penetrates, the recycling truck’s
rear-wheel brakes, the restlessness
of all things normal and recurrent.


The snowfall’s been thin,
near-record low, as if winter
(was it boredom? incompetence?)
was secónded to some other season.
We’ve had no stockpile,
no windrow drifts,
no frozen assets waiting for release,
and now (most bitterly) no thaw:
just this freezer-burn,
high-pressure stall,
stingy sublimation,
parching last year’s
harrow-work to stone,
leaving lichen scabs
of saltgrit on the roads,
ice polished under tires
to onyx cabuchons.

The ugly earth,
pig-iron fields.
Someone tell the geese
they’ve come too early.

This isn’t spring,
but west along Baseline
a superstore garden
has potted it anyway
under awnings.


Pity the epic geese,
skidding into gravity,
awkward with their landing-gear down
and the autopilot malfunctioning.
It takes an effort: not just wing-baffle
brakes them, but all that migratory muscle.
Look at them, fifteen-pound honkers
hanging onto air like an old belief.
We put ourselves up there,
watching the throb
of their imperfect chevrons,
(eternal realignment,
fracture and repair)
worried by the sense they give
of our own weariness.
But when we watch
the night-flights landing,
their ponderous hover
above hard fields,
it’s the coming-to-earth,
the tragicomical surrender,
that chastens us.


Who can tell whether
that glass-bead gaze
is gormless or self-aware;
the implied pince-nez,
paratrooper chin-cup;
all long-necked birds
pose as caricatures.
We might say this:
geese resting in the stubble
of demonstration corn
(periscoping for predators,
thriftily gleaning)
are in every way exemplary.
They signify themselves,
the solace of return,
our satisfaction with such things;
and hence, ourselves.
The geese are back. Obvious,
that it does us good
to see them. This is spring now.
This is now, now. And?
Everything. They are as we are,
tautologous with time.
Heideggerian, these geese,
Colvillesque, silver-edged,
monumental and ordinary,
a sacred and pragmatic flock,
finding God knows what
in frost-scaled fields
tender or sufficient to eat.

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Anne Marie Todkill

Anne Marie Todkill’s poetry has appeared in The New Quarterly, The Malahat Review, Arc Poetry Magazine, Ars Medica, and The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2012 (Tightrope Books).