Pamela Porter

Pamela Porter – MY FATHER’S GRIEF 



I want to take away my father’s grief.

I want to unravel the thread of it
from his shirts. I want to scrub
the dirt-black seams of it
from his fingernails.

I want to sweep it
from the doorways of his house,
wash it from the walls and hinges
……….and window wells.

I want to capture the moth of his guilt
that has crawled inside his ear
and whispers its dusty word,
the shudder of its wings
sibilant as shame.
I want to reach in and take it in my fist.

I want to quiet the river of sorrow
that gurgles its weary dirge
beneath his bed, his kitchen table.
……….I will ask the willow
to quit her weeping.
I will point toward the sky, say,
See the moon ripening – there –
in your branches.
Be now content.

I will call the little birds
to bring the lilt of their gossip
into the yard.
……….I will call the crows
to carry the bonehouse of his sadness
in their beaks, open their wild
……….blue-black wings
and drop it into the sea.

I will place the stones of the dead
beside the back fence
and I will sing them to sleep.
……….It is enough now,
I will sing.  Enough.

Go to sleep you dead.
Leave my father to his life.

I will plant a tree whose blossoms
will burst and scatter
over the wet
………………….black earth,
and I will call each petal in turn
joy, light, peace,
until I have named them all,

until my father’s grief is consumed
……….as though by fire,
and I will strew the ash of it
over the sea.


Patrick Lane has called Pamela Porter “a poet to be grateful for.” Her work has won over a dozen provincial, national and international awards, including the 2005 Governor General’s Award, the Gwendolyn MacEwan Poetry Prize, and the Vallum Poem of the Year Prize. Her eighth collection of poems, House Made of Rain, was released in 2014 by Ronsdale Press. Pamela lives near Sidney with her family and a menagerie of rescued horses, dogs, and cats, including a formerly wild mustang.


To view other poems published in this issue please visit Vallum’s website here: