So I’m here again in the blue tent, the night before we climbed Desolation.
Jack’s awful vaulty blue smokebody rock. Hozomeen somewhere beyond us looms.
The fire lookout boarded up for the season. It’s late October.
Angels in the bluedark. Glint of cracked mica slung skyward over Lightening Creek. Something
about this night I haven’t figured out. Still the bittersweet scent of woodsmoke,
scorched driftwood. Fossilized sunlight and bourbon fire on my tongue. Jagged
glittering pulsing spine of the galaxy beyond this nylon skin that sheltered
you through fieldwork in the Okanagan, while the wildfires burned two summers ago
now, and the summer after in Edmonton, working on vulnerability and climate change
in the boreal; fire-quick, blueblack lungs, forest dominated
by species (e.g. Pinus banksiana (jack pine) and Picea Mariana (black spruce))
that bear serotinous cones and require lethal fire to regenerate…Skies
clotted so thick with ash we abandoned plans to hike in the Rockies.
Serotiny. An ecological adaptation…in which seed release occurs in response
to an environmental trigger…fire, warming, drying, death. From the French,
serotine, that which comes late, that which happens in the evening.
Seraphim’s continual burning. Bluedark angels in the tent’s shadows.
I’m trying to remember what you said about consciousness as a form
of energy, a quality in all matter accruing or an embodied pattern held
for a time and then released like heat or light from charred remains.
You were on fire. I drifted. Qualia. Quantum entanglement. Sefirot.
Keter. Da’at. Tikkun. Glint. Spark. Sparks fly up. You’re singing
a song without words. It runs electric through me out into the night,
out to the stars ringing like bells and tongues of angels perched
on the shuttered lookout on Desolation.
Is that how it was?
I keep trying. This is the fourth or fifth time. It comes alive
when I write it down, black cursive, scored. Patched with White Out.
Stitched closed, then ripped out again, in this notebook bought
in a dollar store in Penticton that year I first really began to notice
the wildfires. And then if I leave it, come back to it after days,
I see that it has died. Keep writing. It’s spring now. The first
of May. Camp site 5 at Descanso. My bike and two ferries to get here—Queen
of Cowichen, the Quinsam. Salt. Tar. Dark-eyed juncos
flit by at dusk, a blurred flutter at the edge of sight. The tree frogs are singing.
Charred fire pit. Woodsmoke and weed. I’ve pitched my tent by a Douglas fir
and touched the furrowed bark. I come here to figure things out.
Y. called last night from Edmonton where he’s packing up after a long winter.
We argued panpsychism and biocentrism, consciousness emanating from the matter
of the world or the world generated by our consciousness. But then how to explain
what happens when we go dark? When we sleep? Does the world cease
to exist? Time and space as tools of perception. Is this just Kant,
skewed by quantum mechanics? How do we explain two individuals
who seem to have the same perceptions of an external reality? He is
a thin line of sound that rings the small bones in my ear, radio wave converts
to electrochemical signal. The wake of a ferry. Its throb. Wingblur
clips the tent’s fly. Then something about the Lurianic hierarchy of souls.
Nefesh, the life force—the force that lingers at the grave. Imminent.
Embodied. Then Ruach—spirit, breath. All the way through Yechidah.
The solitary. A single point that joins human and divine. Transcendent.
And how we might catch glimpses of this, in prophecy or dream.
Is this another way to speak of energy? Y. insists on the existence
of an external world and objective, scientific precision. Bracket the subjective
emotional response. But I don’t mean emotional, not like that. The subjective
cannot be bracketed. I mean attention as a moral act. To see
the radical alterity of things which are ultimately dark and withdrawn.
O blue clay of flesh. O dark-eyed junco.
I lie in my own tent, greeny chamber, like a silique
of the capsella. Shepherd’s purse. Mother’s heart. Weed
that blooms on disturbed ground. To be vigilant.
To know what it is possible to know of this other being
apart in its own being. O dark-eyed junco. O love.
The trees are singing. I hear. I’m listening.
Notes: “Seeds” is a long poem that thinks about forms of resistance, survival, and emergence in the context of climate change and the sixth mass extinction. Each numbered section or ‘seed’ centres on a different organism or human-made object: lentil, snowdrop, SARS-Cov-2, “the beautiful cell,” codex, honey bee, tiny house, among others. I think of each ‘seed’ in this long poem as a blueprint, whether simple human-made tool/concept or complex organism driven by its DNA to adapt to and respond to the current existential threat. The Vespa orientalis, for example, as noted by Robert Bringhurst in Learning to Die, has evolved a band of the obscure pigment Xanthopterin to draw sunlight out of air and generate a small voltage. Tiny houses, mobile wood frame cabins outfitted with solar panels, are being built by the Tiny House Warriors in unceded Secwepemc Territory in the interior of BC to challenge the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline. SARS-CoV-2, while posing a threat to humans, illustrates horizontal gene transfer as model for resilience. I’m also interested in the idea of attention as a moral act, as observed by the neuroscientist Iain McGilchrist: “without alertness, we are as if asleep, unresponsive to the world around us; without vigilance, we cannot become aware of anything we do not already know.” I’m trying to focus attention as a form of respect for these organisms, not as resources, but as beings in their own right, withdrawn, dark noumena “Shelter” is the opening poem and considers different conceptions of consciousness embedded in matter; it begins the sequence as a time of darkness and dreaming before the ascent of Desolation. It considers the possibilities the Anthropocene might offer to see differently, to learn to approach other beings in a new way.
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About the Author
Kim Trainor is the granddaughter of an Irish banjo player and a Polish faller who worked in the logging camps around Port Alberni in the 1930s. Her second book, Ledi, a finalist for the 2019 Raymond Souster Award, describes the excavation of an Iron Age horsewoman’s grave in the steppes of Siberia. Her next book, Bluegrass, will appear with Icehouse Press (Gooselane Editions) in 2022. Her poetry has won the Gustafson Prize, the Malahat Review Long Poem Prize, and the Great Blue Heron Prize. In addition to working with the musician Hazel Fairbairn on a poetry film of Ledi, she has recently completed an art song of her poem “Blackmud” with the composer Yi Ning for Art Song Lab 2020. Poems are forthcoming with WEI: Women & Environments International, Anthropocenes, and ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment. She teaches in the English Department at Douglas College and lives in Vancouver, unceded homelands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.