“Drifting” at split rail fence

As I was walking along the Scotch Line trail (which I’ve mentioned before on this blog), snow falling fairly thickly, I was trying to remember where I first came upon Paul Hawkins’ writing. I think it was through Portuguese artist and writer, bruno neiva, who had been working with him on some collaborative pieces. Since Hawkins is in the UK, Google was a handy way to find his work; I bought a couple of his books, and generally have been following what he’s doing and writing since. His writing is consistently thoughtful; words work hard and with intent.

A predominant feature of the landscape is marsh; as you walk, it offers a non-linear boundary to the farmland that you pass by. A predominant human feature is a dry stone fence which eventually becomes a split rail fence along another section of the trail. There is a point at which you walk between marsh and fence (passing a well-shot at map, 911 messaging, and resting point). In winter, snowshoe hare, fox, and coyote tracks, among others, follow the trail and cross the marsh and fence-lines.

Hawkins’ poem “Drifting” sits along the split rail fence where ends of cedar cross, thus starting or ending a new section.  “Drifting” requires a shift in reading. Tight on specifics, the poem eludes the specifics of place; the poem points to routines and patterns but, in all, the individuals of the poem are unsettled, in drift, displaced.”Drifting” is a piece of Contumacy (published by Erbacce Press); the full collection, among many things, has strong place and place-making resonances.

I moved this poem. I planted it last week a section or two down the fence-line, but there was a poem-mishap, so I left the stake and took the poem home to fix the problem. I don’t think that this has happened before. Across the way a bit, plunked into the marsh, is an old telephone pole, still functional, if seeming obsolete in form. I replanted “Drifting” in a more diverse spot, along the same fence-line, still in view of the telephone pole, just past the 911 and map signage, and farther down, the foundations of a — what? — once farmhouse, storage shed, outbuilding, in ruins. On the way back, a lean snowshoe hare leapt across the trail and vanished, its colouration masking its direction.


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