Chant for Summer Darkness in Northwest Climes

by Neile Graham

The taste of blue, as in bursting berries,
as in the air's weight on our tongues,
raspberry red as a summer's day turns.

West over water, the light once plum once
salmon turns aqua turns midnight blue
hazed with stars I make you name.

We can't stop talking because we don't
ever want to say goodnight good sleep
farewell goodbye God be wy you. This is

the life of brambles, of hedges, of continental
divides. How to speak of this: the value
of naught, of not, of the naughty knotty

thought of you. I want to read everything
about you, pages about your breath, so
invisible, so risible, the difference between

a green girl and a green man, vines spilling
from both our mouths. This is what I imagine.
You always here as the nights grow

long and cold, talking always talking,
our words like berries, plump, alive,
a falling abundance we can waste we can

taste we embrace. Until it's dawn and past dawn.
Until morning sun tattoos us until the world
is everything ripe and full and is ours.

Neile Graham is a Canadian by birth and inclination, having grown up in B.C. and currently living in Seattle. That, in conjunction with her lifelong fascination with myth and folklore, has led to her working on a collection of poems about the mythic lore of Scotland and the Pacific Northwest, from which these poems are drawn. She has three previous collections of poetry: Seven Robins, Spells for Clear Vision, and Blood Memory, as well as a CD of her reading her work, She Says: Poems Selected and New. Her poems and stories have been published in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada. Her favourite fruits are the raspberries from her garden, which she annually combines with apricots and spices to make jam.

When asked what poem of hers she'd like to have set to music, Neile replied as follows: "Coincidentally enough, this very poem is the first of mine set to music. It's a poem I wrote the first draft of for the members of the 2011 Clarion West Writers Workshop (I help run the workshop every year) based on the complicated farewells at the end of the intense summer experience. One of the class members, the very talented writer and composer John Coyne, later sent me both the sheet music and an MP3 of a gorgeous setting of the poem which took my breath away. He hasn't recorded it with a vocalist yet so the version I have has a violin line where the vocals would be, but hearing the song is a mind-blowing experience for me."

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