New Brunswick: A Timeline Legend

by Shane Neilson

Shane Neilson is a poet from New Brunswick. Poems from his new manuscript, titled New Brunswick, have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, printed in Best Canadian Poetry 2015, and won the Robin Blaser Award in 2014.

 

1534: We never knew what we wanted to be.

1604: We did what we wanted.

1635: Language is the woods and we are the trees. We hunt for what we want in dialects.

1654: A ship falls in the forest. A fort falls in the forest. The forest falls in conquest.

1713: Treaties are a pulp and paper product.

1751: New Brunswick is a glade of blades, a hair-cutted canopy of bloodied fellings, a home for carvings and a gutted sky.

1755: Wood relegates language to a loss called exile.

1764: New language trees take root as seed is spread and cocks crow and our inextinguishable grows to give the sky back its modesty as raiment of evergreen.

1783: Hear the human voice,

1784: a girl,

1785: laughing

1800: as she clambers up branches,

1812: her face a green droplet shooting through scorched canopies.

1825: Let’s admit this commandment: we want catastrophes of fire,

1837: a history of branded facts and oaths on the calloused hand

1838: that sweeps the forest with a gesture.

1842: Nothing higher than hay or sapling can stand.

1843: We become collapsed economies of soil,

1843: a diverse ecology numbering refineries of oil, dune smelters, and prohibitions against want.

1850: Men and women need each other as hay: he pulls her hair, she ties the bale,

1853: their little girl climbs the branches and sings Johnny Appleseed.

1854: Pulp and paper products: calendars, datebooks, bills of sale, judgements, bibles, invitations,

1859: paper airplanes,

1867: and if a man tells her he loves her, well

1871: have you ever read a love letter by an illiterate man

1875: to a smart woman

1875: as posthumous forests fall

1875: with toothpicks between teeth?

1875: The man promised time

1877: and he tried to make her laugh.

1881: Epitaphs are your dead mother and father

1888: and you write this pulp and paper product in the bough of your childhood.

1889: Little girl, sing your desperate song

1893: to the forest that it not fall.

1901: But the forest is echo—time bent into a wave, a hand that clear-cuts to the coasts.

1910: The hand of god and man falls on the soil’s cheek.

1919: Silence is horizontal.

1930: The sky is flat.

1935: New Brunswick sells logs of sky,

1950: uses dulse as aurei on all the lovers that fall.

1957: Pain circulates like winter sap.

1965: The wind carries new seed to the language farm,

1969: the hand of god and man invents second growth and second acts.

1974: Want is a renewable resource.

1987: The little girl peeps through the grass, Sussex blueberries in her teeth.

1994: She uses hay as a reed, a signal of love.

1997: She ducks under the glittering hand.

2002: She sleeps sound on the midnight-white Lymphad.

2004: Men and their seed

2005: fall silent, pulled by Skidders

2006: to the wood camp

2010: that chews up men

2010: and floats them down the baptismal vita brevis, water sloshing want want want.

2012: Want: standing in the Saint John, the woods commanded for him, Spread my ash from the bridge.

2013: Want: lying in the hospital bed, the woods asked for her: Will I survive?

2015: Want:

 


Shane Neilson is a poet from New Brunswick. Poems from his new manuscript, titled New Brunswick, have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, printed in Best Canadian Poetry 2015, and won the Robin Blaser Award in 2014.

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