Emily Carr

Robert Crawford

For Alice and Marjorie

Klee Wyck Laughing One they call
Through soaked air on Vancouver Island
Where she snores adenoidally in roadmakers’ toolsheds
Inches down night-chilled slimy rungs
To the tippiness of a canoe
One woman British Columbia
Nosing among floating nobs of kelp
The bay buttered over with calm

Parents christened her Emily Carr
Wee faces scribbled on her fingernails
Black curly hair chipmunks white rats
Zigzagging through Beacon Hill Park
Tiptops of redwoods eightsome reeling
Stravaiging to classes out in San Francisco
Charcoaling a big plaster foot

Jazzily in Paris she misses the ocean
At Skidegate and dank Kitwancool
Among Fauves underneath the Eiffel Totem
Pines for where colour throbs out in the woods
Asthmatic mutilated enriched
She sits a stilled tongueless bell
Among smallpoxed poles in the forest
‘No one to shake hands with but myself’
Eyeing carved beaks head-high nettles
Burst seams of a cheap Indian coffin
A logger’s saw purrs on the beach
‘Don’t tether yourself to a dishpan woman’
Shorelines mew like a cat

Her perjink father so worshipped England
He lugged it here locked in a camphor-wood chest
Pulpy prayerbooks books of psalms
Jesus Christ out in Tanoo
Nailed to a pine then risen holes
In his hands for the wind to blow through

Up the Skeena mosquitoes filling her mouth
Totem poles with mouthlike doors in their bases
Letting you breeze in and out
She catches a hoydenish Knock Knock
Who’s There drummed in each trunk
Deep through its unpeeled fungal bark
Treks on finding forsaken poles
Colourless toneless soaked in grey paint
Waterbarrels scummy with greenish slime
Jam kettles rusted in rain
Breathing mosquitoes head in a sack
With a hole for a panel of glass
Two pairs of gloves canvas pantalettes
Loose to the soles of her shoes
She sketches obliterated ravens
Inspired and hurrying against the clock
Everything is made out of breath

Needlingly shining in hundreds and thousands
The Godhead at Skedans is not
Stuffily squeezed in a church
More like a string vest a drystone wall
Looseknit mortarless blown not so much
Here in the cutaway lower branches
But the very tips of the pines

White housepaint mixed with artists’ colours
Eked out with canned gasoline
paintings mounted on mosquito netting
Lying alone out in the caravan
Praying hard devilfish like sausage sweet
Life smells coal-oil turps
Soaps powder disinfectant
Rubber of well worn hot water bottle
Camp fire birdsong and pine trees one
Sweetness in your head and out it

Coughing with eight bunched shaggy dogs
Her creaky big black baby carriage
Weighed down with beans and her Javanese monkey
Chomping a suburban earwig
Where a parson thwacked a cat with a plank
Gulped in the stomach of that timbered room
Where all the totems were telephone poles
Out in Victoria near Parliament House
On buff ceilings sea eagles’ outspread wings
Breathlessly wanting to carry her off
To try the high air of Okanagan

Wind’s spank a beaver’s silent scoot
Totem poles splitting in the island woods
North wind out in a hessian flour sack
Billowing it as if it were silk
Best of all things Emily Carr
Gave us when she was dead
High in the treetops hoaching with ravens
Yon green Victorian unVictorian
Throughing and throughing of the wind