Today’s poem is, "Whether or Not" by Kathleen Ellis. She has published four collections of poetry, and a new chapbook, Outer-Body Travel is forthcoming this fall. Poems from her manuscript, Dear Darwin, were set to music and released as a Parma Recordings CD, nominated for a 2015 Grammy Award. She teaches literature and poetry writing at the University of Maine in Orono.
She writes “I was returning from delivering my partner & one of our canoes to the start of the Kenduskeag Stream Race in April, & I realized on my drive home that I'd become a White Water Canoe Race Widow. Nearly every weekend from March through November, my partner competes in Maine's white water racing circuit…I thought about my loss of canoeing for the mere silence & mystery of it, because my partner was mainly interested in racing & not slow meandering along the river. And then I leaped to thinking about the river itself, & how with climate change & more frequent flooding, the river had also become fickle & changing. The poem regrets these losses, but it remembers, too, that the river, like love, is mercurial & steadfast in its acceptance of change…”
Whether or Not
by Kathleen Ellis
All that remains of the winter’s snow
is a strand
of white beads scattered
among the ferns.
Everything is dying to be revived
whether we want it to or not.
They say climate is what you expect,
weather is what you get—
rain continuing into rain
in the unseasonal seasons. I waited
for the river to rise
into years before portaging
above the falls. Then we measured:
and all spring, the river kept rising.
higher than last year
and the years before
And in June, the river was bony
bonier than all the years
we’ve been together here
where the island we live on
surrounded by water, unloosing the dams
of our own weathering and we tried
to staunch the flow but we were out of sorts,
imagining a planet without us.
Loving water doesn’t mean it loves you
back. And even while we stare
the seasons down, water pours
with its mercurial indifference,
Poem copyright © 2017 Kathleen Ellis.