I took a book of poetry with me on the plane to the Maritimes last week. It’s called Marrying the Sea by Canadian poet Janice Kulyk Keefer and Melissa lent it me because of the namesake poem of romantic love she thought I would especially like.
I did. But it wasn’t that particular poem that moved me most. It was another. A poem about tumultuous passion, tormented yearning and devastating heartbreak. I read Isle of Demons on the plane and got stuck, reading and re-reading it, the words like a whip cracked across my heart.
Almost the first thing I did when I saw my friend Leanne for the first time in years was thrust the book at her. You have got to read this poem, I told her. And she did, getting lost in the 16 or so pages it took to follow the plight of the young French noblewoman whom legend tells was abandoned on an island, with the lieutenant she met on the way to New France, when it was discovered that they were lovers.
At supper the young lieutenant
speaks of snowfields vaster
than this sea we cross – each tree
a cathedral. Even the birds,
he tells me,
sing in a foreign tongue
I doubt I’d have been able to withstand the double seduction of such language and the ocean together, and though she offers up prayers amid her tumult
…Seal my ears
With your white silence
they are no match, in the end, for the calms you cannot guard against.
I could taste the salt on my own tongue long before I landed in Saint John.
Brine enough in the wind. Brine enough for me in the poem.