Whatever it was the Chinese calligrapher said with her brushstrokes, it was not something she said quickly. This stroke horizontal. Cut that into two arms with a dash upwards of the same length blown forward by a strong wind. From the belly of the dash, stroke down a short leg striding ahead into the wind. Branch a bold shelf off the leg, elbowing downward to end in a hook. Finally slash upwards ramming an iron spike between leg and hook. No good rushing, thinking of what the brushstrokes mean or thinking of lunch or the next character. Each stroke must signify its own speed and weight, as it carves, in the eagle's view, buffalo pounds of white space. No use being ridiculously careful, mincing and stinting the ink, trying to keep brush strokes alive, trying to make sure it all stands for something, make sure it carries her away in its magic carpets from the meaninglessness of doing nothing, of standing for nothing, promising nothing, of promising no ticket to goodness and rightness. As though we to life are as words to meaning, a matter of reference, we signifiers and life a distant signified, rather than fractals of intercellular space returning like molecular jungle-gyms in the marks of sense and frames of mind that captivate us. As though making our mark takes place on a white page in a vast notebook and diary that began with the big bang – each foot-print of each member of each species recorded infinitely for each to read of each of all of the others. And so we word-bodies walk our word legs in a language we can't speak. We stand for our brushstrokes. We kick at tyrants. Our ink stains resist like wax in batik. We bear scars of our spelling mistakes. We set out each day with helmet, shield and sword – the girls we love. We can't stop. Can't put down our pens. We'll always love how they twist away from us fantastic windmills. We can't imagine a time when we will no longer set out, no longer resist, no longer love to follow their rhizomatic cartwheels, to mark our time in the arms of such siren readers.
Meredith Quartermain is a poet and novelist living in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her first book of poetry, Vancouver Walking, won a BC Book Award for poetry; Recipes from the Red Planet was a finalist for a BC Book Award for fiction; and Nightmarker was a finalist for a Vancouver Book Award. Rupert's Land: a novel is just out from NeWest Press. She is also cofounder of Nomados Literary Publishers, who have brought out more than 40 chapbooks of innovative Canadian and US writing since 2002.
the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan