Three Poems


It was the devil in my hands
that set the willow trembling.
That’s what the elders preached.
No witching here, they said,
and stood on holy ground, unmoving.

Yet the river, low that summer,
brought them to their knees
praying rain. Lord, let the farmers’ crops
rise up green and wither not.

Their tongues were dust.

Well by well, the pumps drew mud.
Cattle bloated at the fence line.
In the air, the taste of chaff and smoke.
, the preacher called up prophets,
. We sweat and wiped our brows.

A week of supplication and oh ye of little faith.
The sun pitched an apocalyptic sheen.
Into the fields, the men dragged
burlap soaked to beat down fires
sparking in the heat.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
that much the elders admitted, but warily,
warily brought me in, and stood back still
as if the forked branch held out
were the very serpent’s tongue.

Behind the church, they followed,
paces back lest any gypsy trickery leach off.
The phantom root, remembering its source,
began to quiver. Strike here, I said,
and crouched to scuff an X into the dirt.

But in the end, the proverb ruled.
They couldn’t dig. No one would man the auger.
Repentance and a mustard seed of faith is all we need.

The minister lofted the scriptures
and at the pulpit, red-faced, rallied.

So men again burned decks of cards and radios,
and women wept for wayward sons and daughters.
The tribe called down their manna in the wilderness.
Water from a rock more ancient than the dirt –
that’s what they wanted.

What tremor in the dowsing rod I felt
was deep and calling deep, tuned
to find its given key. Even stones can sing.
Stars, too. Why not in harmony, underground,
the spring and stream a tonic to the root?

Late summer, at the river, they baptized
in a shallow current, kneeling for the full immersion.
When the preacher bent to bring each body up,
those on shore raised high their trembling hands
and shouted hallelujah, praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Waking to Eternity

Not light you notice first
but green
shoots and tendrils
winding up the bones—
what were your bones—
and leafprints pressed against
your skin
what was your skin

So this is how to think
two worlds at once–

how it is evening
with a white moth
drinking from the pool
of a low moon

how it is horses
disappearing into the hayfield
leaving the sun
and a trail of dust behind

Psalm from the Dollhouse

The hearth is cold. The mantle clock, unchiming.
Piano locked and lidded in the den.
Windows shuttered, slack-hinged, bent.
Through grey slats, a fence of splintered pine,
shadows where the ivy greened and climbed
towards the attic bedroom’s unmade bed.
Pitched in corners and under chairs, cobweb
dust, moth husk, old flies. Nothing left alive.

Reach down a hand to set things right in me.
Room by room, sweep through. Make true the crooked door.
Gather up the figure lying facedown on the floor,
and blow the ashes from her eyes. Let her see
the table’s feast. Let her drink. Let her eat
and then walk singing to the star-washed street.

About the Author

Carla Funk

Carla Funk is the author of three poetry collections: Blessing the Bones into Light (Coteau Books, 1999), Head Full of Sun (Nightwood Editions, 2002), and The Sewing Room (Turnstone Press, 2006). A new collection, Apologetic, will be published by Turnstone Press in 2010. Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including Half in the Sun. From 2006-2008 she served as the City of Victoria’s inaugural Poet Laureate. She teaches at the University of Victoria. Of her writing, Funk comments, “I’m growing more and more fascinated with the threshold between the seen and the unseen—the space between dream and wakefulness, the torn veil still hanging in the mind’s eye. Poetry seems as good as tool as any to help with the exploration of this place.”