Appellation d’origine controlée

Waters Remembered begins with a catalogue of streams Taddle Creek, Garrison Creek, Burke Brook, Castle Frank Brook, etc. All buried watercourses in Toronto.

It is not quite an epic catalogue. Their mention is a lyric impulse to anchor the poem in place.

This beginning tying name to place suffers a displacement when it comes to portraits. The subject is not named by a kind of divergent ekphrasis. “Royal Street Diamond” begins as a description of a bronze bull created by Joe Fafard and poised outside the Mira Godard Gallery in Yorkville and then the poem turns to the speaker’s companion, a friend “who is losing memory and language”. The poem is full of details and apt anecdote that allow me to identify its subject. And I ponder why his name isn’t invoked.

He points to the anatomically correct
scrotum dangling between the bull’s sturdy
back legs, giggles, waves his hands and says

needs something … at his neck … He reaches
for words and finds them: a sign … waiting
for the girls!
We laugh and walk on past

high-end clothing shops. His words flow now
remembering his cousin’s dairy barn smelling
of straw and shit, its din of bawling calves.

He was a professor of English and an admirer of pretty boys from way back. The creator of Stonyground, a very special farm garden on the Bruce.

But I understand the poet’s reticence. This is not a poem for. It is a poem about.

But naming is important for the the full presence of the genius of the place to carry on. Our friend’s name is Douglas (never Doug) Chambers. He has since that walk with Maureen Scott Harris lost more of his memories and has less of his exquisite mastery of language to work with. He still giggles on occasion.

Maureen Scott Harris Waters Remembered

And so for day 1879

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1 Response to Appellation d’origine controlée

  1. Today, the Paris Review Poetry offering features a poem by May Sarton entitled “A Farewell” and it bid me be mindful that we are always saying goodbye (and hello). The opening lines also reminded me of my dear friend Douglas Chambers though they were not unlike Maureen Scott Harris’s written about him. Sarton bids us pay attention (attende as Douglas would say:

    A Farewell
    by May Sarton
    Paris Review Issue no. 89 (Fall 1983)

    For a while I shall still be leaving.
    Looking back at you as you slip away
    Into the magic islands of the mind.
    But for a while now all alive, believing
    That in a single poignant hour
    We did say all that we could ever say
    In a great flowing out of radiant power.
    It was like seeing and then going blind.

    Douglas was also mindful of stepping out into the abyss — another fashion of paying attention:

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