When I Find William


When I Find William
by Joanna Streetly
Westerly News

(Written after the disappearance of an eight-year old boy
from a beach in Tofino. He was presumed to be swept out
to sea when an extensive search failed to find him.)

When I find William
he is standing on my street
in a misty orange pool 
of street light,
arms dangling, hair
curly with leaves
and I gather him
 up,
loving him as I
 try not to run

The candle burns 
nightly in my window
as if I can lure him
like a moth
as if I will find him
on my morning 
doorstep, crumpled
a modern-day match girl.

But he is never
 crumpled when I find him.
His eyes shine through 
the salal,
seeking out 
my eyes—a boy raccoon
red jacketed, same 
white stripes,
weight 
shifting hand to hand
assessing my intentions
my honour

At the beach 
I find him
in a cave, drawing pictures 
on the walls,
prince of a
 magnificent sandcastle,
not 
in a tidepool
 face down, jacket 
sodden,
surf grass
 for hair, anemones 
for a pillow

I will find him 
every day,
on every walk
and every night
he will come to
 my candle

And he will 
never 
be lost.

-- Joanna Streetly

When I Find William


Water In My Blood

Water In My Blood
by Joanna Streetly
Women & Environment international magazine

I. Iere Village, Trinidad 1975

Wet season, dry season, cricket season, kite season
I knew their names, their signs
knew the smell of the first rain
danced in it with my brother
by the giant mahogany
shirts no longer damp with sweat
held to our skins by monsoon pressure.
Later, in hammocks
under the galvanised tin roof
we’d swing without words, the roar of rain
a blanket around us.

I remember bright women
stately as ships
water on their heads as they sailed my skyline.
Coming home from the standpipe
I would try and try to balance
anything—a grapefruit, a pebble,
trailing in their dust, chin up,
the thud of my ever-tumbling objects
barely audible
above the voices raised in song.

II. Vancouver Island 2006

My task takes me by boat at high tide
ducking beneath evergreen branches
moss in my hair, twigs.
The waterfall froths and spills its sweetness
into salt, pushes the boat away.
On days when I get it right
I can balance in the perfect spot
fill a bucket quick as I fill my lungs,
hold out a girl-child, cup in hand
so she can do the same

Afterwards, we slip-slide among boulders
under branches, over slick logs,
hands held tight, to the deepest pool.
We gasp and shriek at the cold!
Slither in, leap out, laughing into the
thick wet air, breathing water and moss
and cedar and salmon.
Back in the boat, goosepimpled,
we cross the inlet, slow against the skyline
(mustn’t spill a drop)
blankets around us, and the motor
humming us home,
our voices raised in song.

Water In My Blood

The White Road

The White Road
by Joanna Streetly
Winner of the More Than Just Mud Poetry Contest
Westerly News

I cannot write the silence,
the sharpsmooth surface of
liquid, reflecting night
beneath me, slicing away into
unconcealed darkness, until
Mount Colnett reaches up skywards
etching the breathing back of a whale
against pale stars.

The tide is swimming me
home, a giant turtle, on whose
back I ride the stillness
sinking my paddle into
the white roadway of
autumn equinox full moon.

Far across the channel
the waterfall throws
sweet rainwater into salt
a muted pour, amplified
in the warm glass night.

I ride the edge,
the dark shadow of forest
looms, frightens me,
while the open plate
of moonlight
fills me up,
singing.

Quivering blades of kelp, fin
like salmon in a sudden surge
of current, scattering moonlight,
fingers of quicksilver
skittering
helter-skelter.
Mercury spilt.

Elsewhere, silken water palms
the unseen eelgrass.
Silence, so round and full, is
slapped into fragments
by the screech of a heron,
waak! waak! on and on
broadcasting my human
transgression to all: Beware
of danger.

A flock of mew gulls
takes heed, rises, in a flight of dark
shapes, swooping low
like bats, anxious to land again,
to rest, if only briefly, on
soft grey mudflat,
before it is lost
to the incoming tide.

I paddle on, that same tide
swimming me home.

The White Road
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