Spain Remembers

Spain Remembers

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

WHAT'S THAT ABOUT? A poem by Ulrich Wendt

What’s That About?

Rolling into Winnipeg in the evening from the east,
beside the rail-yards,
the sun going down like a disaster movie of the mind,
I have the old familiar feeling that something dreadful is about to happen,
and, as usual, nothing will for a long time:
the children are all right and the house is where we left it.

It’s true about the ripples in the dark water,
we’ve all made it, this self-conscious metaphor.
But the stone itself is a splash into nothing.
The stone sinks into nothing.

Over in the rail-yard, beyond the weeds, is a box-car bright with new graffiti.
What’s that about?
Get up in the middle of the night,
knapsack full of rattling spray-paint cans,
find a box-car loaded and ready to move. Important, that last bit,
or it just gets painted over.

Do you do it in the dark? Or are the yard-lights bright enough?
Anyway, some of it’s not bad. But why?

Watch your work (if you timed it right) get coupled to an eastward train,
see it out of sight and what? Regret? It could have been the Sistine Chapel
if only there’d been time enough and half a chance?

Or maybe picture the journey? Clickety-clacking slowly past the rusty ditches,
and the shiny penny-making Mint, through fields of geese and flax,
rolling faster now to penetrate the shield then mile on mile
of muskeg, rocks and trees, rolling far too quickly past the art-appreciating moose.

Then slowly running through the rail towns – say, Dinorwic –
where sharp-eyed boys put pennies on the track to make them bigger
and then more rocks and trees to reach the Lakehead, seaway and the world at last?
For what? To say I’m here, I count?

We’re here, we count and maybe that’s enough
but the version I prefer has us huddled in a cave
with the First People out of Africa.

A wall is daubed with grease and blood
as someone tries the colours in the feeble light;
then the fire is kicked and smudge-faced children let their eyes go big
as the sparks reveal the conscious shape of something strange and new
and all are lost in wonder as the fire dims again.

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