Canadian Rivers

25 Jun

Our poetry group is part of the Abbotsford Arts Council meet and mingle event at Mill Lake Park on Saturday afternoon. We’ll even be giving a short poetry reading.

Because Canada Day is just around the corner I was reminded of and have decided to read a couple of Canadian poems that I wrote a few years ago. One that I’ve been practicing is “Canadian Rivers.”

I’ve posted it on the blog before but I’m re-posting it today, along with a recording of it. Maybe it will whet your appetite to discover some of our beautiful Canadian rivers for yourself!


Unnamed Alberta river seen from the air

The river in the photo (name unknown) meanders across the Alberta prairie between Lethbridge and Calgary. (Photo © 2007 by V. Nesdoly)


Canadian Rivers

Headwaters drip from snowy melt of mountain glaciers
gurgle down glistening rock faces in nameless rivulets.
Fed by rain and sibling trickles they become sinuous streams
adolescent-eager in descent, unafraid to dash against boulders
froth into canyons, course over rock beds till they reach the flat.

Mature and strong they gouge valleys, meander through meadows
nurture forests, bears and eagles, rejuvenate farms and hamlets
flow regal yet restless through villages and cities
under bridges and over tunnels
ever pressing on to an ocean destination.

The watermark of veins, arteries and capillaries on our maps
they carve their initials, scrawl their signatures
all over Canada: Snake, MacKenzie, Coppermine
Exploits, Hillsborough, Saint John, Margaree, Moisie
St. Lawrence, Red, Qu’Appelle, Athabasca, Cowichan…

Named by Indians and explorers for Indians and explorers
they inscribe the plot lines of our history
hide the gold and call the salmon
propel the ferries, carry the logs, barges and ships
pave thoroughfares for tugboats, speedboats, kayaks, canoes.

We settle beside them for their sustenance and beauty
feel betrayed when, with spring-fevered earthlust
their swift-flowing waters bite off chunks of our land.
Then we fear them, dredge them, soil them,
treat them, dyke them, dam them.

I have toe-squished the mud of the South Saskatchewan
pulled Jackfish from the North
been awed by the Hell’s Gate fierceness of the Fraser
spied loons and cormorants gulping fish in the Nicomekl
otters cavorting in the Serpentine

driven miles beside the Thompson
as it winked at me through clearings
admired the canyons carved by the Bulkley
dreamed the legends of the Kispiox
listened from a tent to the night secrets of the Skeena …

Oh for more lifetimes
to make all of them mine.

© 2007 by Violet Nesdoly


Poetry Friday LogoThis post is linked to Poetry Friday. It’s hosted this week by Carol at Carol’s Corner.
This poem was first published at Utmost Christian Writers Canadian site where it received honorable mention in 2007 Canadian Landscape Poetry Contest.

Tags: , ,

7 responses to “Canadian Rivers

  1. Ellen Grace Olinger

    March 28, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Hi Violet, I enjoyed reading your poem. “Oh for more lifetimes/to make them all mine.” I feel that way about where I live too.


  2. Carol

    June 26, 2015 at 7:25 am

    Violet, this is beautiful. I loved, loved, loved hearing your voice reading it. I especially love the first, second and fifth stanzas and how that list-like rhythm (I’m calling it that, but not sure that is really right) feels so good on the tongue. And there’s a myriad of beautiful phrases, “sinous streams” and “adolescent eager” and “toe-squished mud.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Violet Nesdoly

    June 26, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Why thank you, Carol! I’m still learning to use SoundCloud so it’s good to hear that you listened and it sounded ok. Your encouragement means so much. 🙂


  4. maryleehahn

    June 26, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    What a gorgeous ode! What a perfect river-based memoir! This is a favorite line: “The watermark of veins, arteries and capillaries on our maps”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Laura Shovan

    June 27, 2015 at 7:11 am

    Every river tells a story, but I think it takes a home-town poet to do that story justice. Loved your poem and the photograph, Violet.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

    June 28, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    What a treat to hear you read this poem, Violet! Your respect and devotion for nature and your homeland comes through loud and clear. I especially loved “they carve their initials, scrawl their signatures/all over Canada” and also “I have toe-squished the mud of the South Saskatchewan.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Keri Collins Lewis

    June 28, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    “spring-fevered earthlust” and that sense of betrayal is so accurate — we think rivers stay the same but they are constantly changing, and your poem (what a tribute!) captures that versatility so well. Good luck at your reading! I’m sure you will be fabulous!

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: