Remembering Patrick Lane (1939-2019) – A Poem

Patrick Lane

Fear and Reading

Reading Patrick Lane again, hearing Faulkner:
Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice 
and studies the master. Read! So I read Lane's lines,
and wander behind them, not like a soldier, rifle
at the ready, not sure of friend or foe, but curious
about an image I fear. Lane, talking about writers,
the art of careful watching, saying, when he sat
among the snakes: their dense bodies
how he held one of the great father’s to his ear
so I could listen to the whisper of his breathing.

To hold something, its skin so close to the earth’s
breathing, its skin and open mouth so close 
to our living and not be afraid. To know 
as I know how Lane sat among the rattle snakes
in their hibernaculum in the dry sage brush country;
to wonder if he or anyone could hold a rattler,
great father, earth’s fanged venom, so close,
an old friend. And how much of this earth must I hold,
watch and listen into a poetry unafraid of how
it will change me? Unafraid to feel the dry skin,
the long winter there, the death inside it,
                                                       breathing. 

Richard Osler, January 14th, 2019, unpublished

During one of the Patrick Lane retreats I attended I remember Patrick telling me about sitting among the rattlers. That image has haunted me. I remember being so afraid of them when I spent time in rattler country back east in the Georgian Bay. But this is how Patrick entered this world. Brave and at times, dare I say, a bit reckless or was it just fearless? I don’t know but his encounters with wild things is one of the many ways I cherish his memory.

So many things Patrick taught me and the huge tribe of us that were taught by him over the years. But one of the most important was to write a poetry so fearless it could change me. In my own way I have tried to take my “rattlers” in my arms and listen to their breathing, their wisdom.

Thank you Patrick. How you challenged me to be the most fearless poet I could be. How you challenged yourself the same way. And the gift of friendship you gave me. Not just with you but with your beloved Lorna Crozier and the other dear friends I made through your retreats near Sooke, on Vancouver Island, on Bowen Island offshore West Vancouver and in Honeymoon Bay near Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island.

One Comment

  1. Posted March 8, 2019 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Your reference to the carpenter brings to mind Patrick’s amazing poem about the bird nailed to the sky. His imagery was startling. I’m rereading Washita and am caught in poem which seem to foreshadow his death. What does the body know before the mind grasps what is coming? Mute Swans–And the departures, the mute swans flying out of the dawn. Fly free, Patrick.

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