The Iconoclasts

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 105th birthday.

Margaret Avison
1918 – 2007


The dervish dancer on the smoking steppes
Unscrolled, into the level lava-cool
Of Romish twilight, baleful hieroglyphs
That had been civic architecture,
The sculptured utterances of the Schools.

The Vikings rode the tasseled sea:
Over their shoulders, running towards their boats,
They had seen the lurking matriarchal wolves,
Ducked their bright foreheads from the iron laurels
Of a dark Scandinavian destiny,
And chosen, rather, to be dwarfed to pawns
Of the broad sulking sea.

And Lampman, when he prowled the Gatineau:
Were the white vinegar of northern rivers,
The stain of punkwood in chill evening air,
The luminous nowhere past the gloomy hills,
Were these his April cave—
Sought as the first men, when the bright release
Of sun filled them with sudden self-disdain
At bone-heaps, rotting pelts, muraled adventures,
Sought a more primitive nakedness?

The cave-men, Lampman, Lief, the dancing dervish,
Envied the fleering wolf his secret circuit;
But knew their doom to propagate, create,
Their wild salvation wrapt within that white
Burst of pure art whose only promise was
Ferocity in them, thudding its dense
Distracting rhythms down their haunted years.

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