Current Issue Excerpts
The Jesuit Relations: Soon after he first came to Québec, the Jesuit
Jean de Brébeuf spent an entire winter among the Montagnais people.
the winter was beautiful, he remembers, in 1633,
the snow piling up in mountains
before the house in québec,
but the cold so intense, the froze
like the sound of guns
in the woods;
though he wrote before a great fire,
his ink slowly
froze - light, but without
sufficient heat; and the sun he saw only through
the ice that crusted the windows of his room,
pale, mottled light held in
a shapeless prism.
because someone must learn the language of the people,
he was chosen to winter among them
in the depths of the forest, and they showed him
a dead body shrouded in furs
raised upon a wooden scaffold, asking them:
"when will it receive burial?"
being told, "when the snows stop"
turning his head toward the sky, the snow falling
through the branches, descending upon his eyes,
the forest in every direction nothing
but a world of snow,
and snow silently wandering
the bitter wind;
here, a single day's walk
a stilled soul waiting
TIM PRIOR is a Toronto teacher and poet whose poetry has appeared in a variety of Canadian literary journals, including the Antigonish Review, Canadian Literature, CV2, Event, the Fiddlehead, Grain, Literary Review of Canada, and Queen's Quarterly. Poems from the jesuit relations sequence have been appearing since early 2010.