Barbara Colebrook Peace

On Having Nothing to Say When P. K. Died

Now in this season there are no words left.
    "Migration" —P. K. Page

The words began to leave, one by one
slipping from the room;
though a few stayed, silent, by your bedside
while you slept. Now they have disappeared

into the forests
from which you called them.
The eagle-owls, the daughters of howling,
are muted in mourning;

the dusky-legged swans
have returned to their mountain
sanctuaries. Now the words of light,
the brittle

and the strong,
and the heart’s alphabet,
have migrated southwards. So the light
changing while you died

remained unspoken, and the unspoken dark
gathered you in.

Reconciliation

the sea by day, perhaps, the stars by night—
from which we came, to which we shall return.
Somewhere within us fins and tails still flick.
Somewhere an angel struggles to be born.

    “And Once More Saw the Stars” —P. K. Page and Philip Stratford

An arc of light, and suddenly there was water.
Have we tumbled fresh from the waves
and what land is this
beneath our bewildered feet?
We don’t know our bodies yet, our
backs, bellies, and thighs.
We touch sunlight on stone, branch, and leaf,
each of us seeking
an image of brightness,
the sea by day, perhaps, the stars by night—

to recall our origins,
the calendar and seasons of our lives.
Today, all our yesterdays
sleep in the ancient seabed of our dark.
Somewhere within us earth still lives as moon,
to be mourned before we can begin.
And so we walk remembering in silence
when our boundaries were water,
and the stars anonymous and unknown,
from which we came, to which we shall return.

Stretched on the ground, dreaming, we
discover our hands: their separations
of joint and knuckle, the skin
that bleeds when we scrape against rock.
Curling our fingers in branch-holding language,
we tell the monkeys: We are your kin.
Turning again to face the ocean,
we lift our hands to acknowledge
whale and dolphin:
Somewhere within us fins and tails still flick.

Knowing at last we are human,
we take our lives in our arms,
and hold them close to our breast.
We know now this is earth; a waterfall
marries us to our beginnings. Our bare feet
grasp the rope-bridge. We look down
far below where water churns,
and there—
mysterious, terrifying, dappled and alone,
Somewhere an angel struggles to be born.

P. K. Page

November 23rd, 1916—
January 14th, 2010

P. K. Page, University of Victoria, 1985

In 1985, the University of Victoria awarded Page an honorary Doctor of Letters. Photo courtesy of Michael Page.