The deadline to vote in this year’s 2021 NL Reads is fast approaching. If you haven’t already, head to the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries’ website before February 26th and have a say in which title wins: Crow Gulch, The Woman in the Attic, Almost Feral, or One Good Reason. You can still get through them all if you’re a fast reader. Get started now with this excerpted poem from Douglas Walbourne-Gough’s Crow Gulch:
What if the land you want to break is bedrock?
Bald fields of stone flowered with boulders, kissed
by bog and moss less than knee-deep? What if
this land is so stubborn, so resistant to charms
that spruce grow sideways, grow themselves
into knots for spite? What, then, is your next
move? How do you woo a stony place whose blood’s
gone salt and spends half its year in snow?
A land so unfriendly that its dark and angry ocean
borders hold far more life at twice the risk of death
yet you set sail between continents to get there,
just to dock and take breaks between boatloads
of some other country’s fish? Well, you buck up.
You defy law and logic, squat in tickles and coves,
learn their rhythms, make do along the edges. You learn
to take salt-blood as lover, as old god of giveth-and-
taketh-away. Bend like tuckamore, lean against
the wind, love it like a mother, let it shape you.
You keep going because refusing to accept it
means accepting death. Life here was that simple.
Over generations you grow a bit lower, closer
to Earth like cloudberries, like Labrador tea,
like crowberries and lichen. Become stocky
like black bears, cling to this rock as stubbornly
as it tries starving you out, tries drowning
your loved ones, tries blowing you off a cliff,
back across the Atlantic like a skipped stone.
Excerpted from Crow Gulch. Copyright © 2019 by Douglas Walbourne-Gough.
Author photo by Heather Nolan.