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Salmon Poetry

The Poised Edge of Chaos

Patricia Monaghan

Sand sifts down, one grain at a time,
forming a small hill.   When it grows high
enough, a tiny avalanche begins.  Let
sand continue to sift down, and avalanches
will occur irregularly, in no predictable order,
until there is a tiny mountain range of sand.
Peaks will appear, and valleys, and as
sand continues to descend, the relentless
sand, piling up and slipping down, piling
up and slipping down, piling up — eventually
a single grain will cause a catastrophe, all
the hills and valleys erased, the whole face
of the landscape changed in an instant.

Walking yesterday, my heels crushed chamomile
and released intoxicating memories of home.
Earlier this week, I wrote an old love, flooded
with need and desire.   Last month I planted
new flowers in an old garden bed —

one grain at a time, a pattern is formed,
one grain at a time, a pattern is destroyed,
and there is no way to know which grain
will build the tiny mountain higher, which
grain will tilt the mountain into avalanche,
whether the avalanche will be small or
catastrophic, enormous or inconsequential.

We are always dancing with chaos, even when
we think we move too gracefully to disrupt
anything in the careful order of our lives,
even when we deny the choreography of passion,
hoping to avoid earthquakes and avalanches,
turbulence and elemental violence and pain.
We are always dancing with chaos, for the grains
sift down upon the landscape of our lives, one,
then another, one, then another, one then another.

Today I rose early and walked by the sea,
watching the changing patterns of the light
and the otters rising and the gulls descending,

and the boats steaming off into the dawn,
and the smoke drifting up into the sky,
and the waves drumming on the dock,

and I sang.  An old song came upon me,
one with no harbour nor dawn nor dock,
no woman walking in the mist, no gulls,
no boats departing for the salmon shoals.

I sang, but not to make order of the sea
nor of the dawn, nor of my life.  Not to make
order at all.  Only to sing, clear notes over sand.
Only to walk, footsteps in sand. Only to live.

Copyright Patricia Monaghan 2002

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