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Protect The Island

Protect The Island

[painting by Beth ten Hove]

Protect The Island

Across the midsummer sun
an aluminum boat.
Suddenly aware.
I watch it approach
measure distance
in the blink of an eye.

Lifted from a solitude of loons.
I stand.
Protect the island.
It’s a lifesaver.
You can’t take it with you.
It’s a breath of fresh air.

Six vacationers land,
slurring themselves.
Whisky walk.
I approach. My lungs full and tense.
They call: Where are the fish?
I reply: In the north channel, but they’re belly-up.
The rain is vinegar.

they say they will write Washington
and Ottawa
and it won’t be love letters.
They salute
pile into the boat and shove off.
At the shore trees bow
in the recent wind
offering the greatest applause.

Armand Garnet Ruffo’s poem “Protect The Island” was originally published in his 1994 book Opening In The Sky. An Anishinaabe scholar, filmmaker, and writer, Mr. Ruffo is the Queen's National Scholar in Indigenous Literature. He is an associate professor in the Department of English, cross-appointed with the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures. In December, he was honoured at the City of Kingston’s inaugural Mayor’s Arts Awards. The awards celebrate high artistic achievement, recognizing extraordinary contributions in and to the arts.

Mr. Ruffo is the author of four books of poetry and two works of non-fiction, the most recent of which is Introduction to Indigenous Literary Criticism in Canada. His book Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing into Thunderbird, the first book-length biography of the painter, was shortlisted for the 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction. A new edition of the book was released in January.

"I live and work on a lake that calls my name every day, inviting me into her deep knowing of light and shadow, movement and stillness.My response to her call is in itself ‘water play,’as I mix my paint generously with water directly on the surface of the canvas. My canvas lies flat on thetable in my studio, like the lake on a calm day,quietly waiting for the dance to begin. I am fascinated by how water alters pigment and responds to the movement of my hands; and in the apparent stillness there;is always movement.”

Beth ten Hove is a Kingston artist. See more of her work atbethtenhoveart.com.

[cover graphic of Queen's Alumni Review, issue 1-2018]