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Happy Canada Day to the Canucks on the board...and a poem!

Apr 24, 2008
Victoria, British Columbia
Here's a little poem by Al Purdy...

A Handful of Earth
to Rene Levesque

let us join Quebec
if Quebec won't join us
I don't mind in the least
being governed from Quebec City
by Canadiens instead of Canadians
in fact the fleur-de-lis
and maple leaf
are only symbols
and our true language
speaks from inside
the land itself

you can hear soft wind blowing
among tall fir trees on Vancouver Island
it is the same wind we knew
whispering along Cote des Neiges
on the island of Montreal
when we were lovers and had no money
Once flying in a little Cessna 180
above that great spine of mountains
where a continent attempts the sky
I wondered who owns the land
and knew that no one does for we are tenants only

Go back a little:
to hip-roofed houses on the Isle d'Orleans
and scattered along the road to Chicoutimi
the remaining few log houses in Ontario
sod huts of sunlit prarie places
dissolved in rain long since
the stones we laid atop of one another
a few of which still stand
those origins
in which children were born
in which we loved and hated
in which we built a place to stand on
and now must tear it down?
- and here I ask all the oldest questions of myself
the reasons for being alive
the way to spend this gift and thank the giver
but there is no way

I think of the small dapper man
chain-smoking at PQ headquarters
on Avenue Christophe Columb in Montreal
where we drank coffee together six years past
I say to him now: my place is here
whether Cote des Neiges Avenue Christophe Columb
Yonge Street Toronto Halifax or Vancouver
this place is where I stand
where all my mistakes were made
when I grew awkwardly and I knew what I was
and that is Canadian or Canadien
it doesn't matter which to me

Sod huts break the prairie skyline
then melt in rain
the hip-roofed houses of New France as well
but French no longer
nor are we any longer English
- limestone houses
lean-tos and sheds our fathers built
in which our mothers died
before the forests tumbled down
ghost habitations
only this handful of earth
for a time at least
I have no other place to go