February 22, 2008

Canadian Rivers

Headwaters drip from snowy melt of mountain glaciers
gurgle down glistening rock faces in nameless rivulets.
Fed by rain and sibling trickles they become sinuous streams
adolescent-eager in descent, unafraid to dash against boulders
froth into canyons, course over rock beds till they reach the flat.

Mature and strong they gouge valleys, meander through meadows
nurture forests, bears and eagles, rejuvenate farms and hamlets
flow regal yet restless through villages and cities
under bridges and over tunnels
ever pressing on to an ocean destination.

The watermark of veins, arteries and capillaries on our maps
they carve their initials, scrawl their signatures
all over Canada: Snake, MacKenzie, Coppermine
Exploits, Hillsborough, Saint John, Margaree, Moisie
St. Lawrence, Red, Qu’Appelle, Athabasca, Cowichan…

Named by Indians and explorers for Indians and explorers
they inscribe the plot lines of our history
hide the gold and call the salmon
propel the ferries, carry the logs, barges and ships
pave thoroughfares for tugboats, speedboats, kayaks, canoes.

We settle beside them for their sustenance and beauty
feel betrayed when, with spring-fevered earthlust
their swift-flowing waters bite off chunks of our land.
Then we fear them, dredge them, soil them,
treat them, drink them, dam them.

I have toe-squished the mud of the South
Saskatchewan, pulled Jackfish from the North
been awed by the Hell’s Gate fierceness of the Fraser
spied loons and cormorants gulping fish on the Nicomekl
otters cavorting in the Serpentine

driven miles beside the Thompson
as it winked at me through clearings
admired the canyons carved by the Bulkley
dreamed the legends of the Kispiox
listened from a tent to the night secrets of the Skeena …

Oh for more lifetimesto make them all mine.

© 2007 by Violet Nesdoly


Photo: I took this aerial shot on a flight between Calgary and Lethbridge last week. But I don't know the name of the river. Can anyone help me out?

The poem was my entry in the recent Canadian Landscape poetry contest run at Utmost Christian Writers Canadian site.

If you're a Canadian Christian poet and haven't checked out the Canadian Utmost site, you should. They run regular contests. For a list of upcoming ones with links to rules and entry forms, check here.


  1. Hi Violet,
    I love the tumbling, flowing, restless pace of your poem. I just 'can't never get enuf' of your poetry!

  2. Beautiful picture and beautiful poem! I love the rhythm of the words and the way you describe the rivers. So perfect!

  3. Thanks, fudge and Koala Bear - you sure know how to make a person 's day! :)


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