Patrick Lane

Return to Favorite Poets

Patrick Lane has been many things in his life: first-aid man, husband, father, addict, poet, novelist, non-fiction writer. With the success of his autobiography There is a Season and his novel Red Dog Red Dog it might be easy to overlook Lane the poet who informs everything Lane is. His latest books of poems are Last Water Song published in 2007 and Witness – Selected Poems 1962 – 2010. Last Water Song is vintage Lane: the stories, the tributes to his fallen poetic compatriots, many at the hands of their own addictions.  Witness is a good survey of his almost 50 years of writing. Standouts for me include his new poems published here for the first time: : A Woman Emties Her Sock Drawer and What My Father Told Me.

The poems that follow come from Witness published by Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd. and a far earlier book – The Measure published by Black Moss Press in 1980. These poems, while not his best known, capture Lane’s fearless honesty, his fierce observations of the losses that attend every life and always the awareness of the final loss that is to come.

What Language Can’t Reach

And the only way I know how to do that is to stand far off
as if on a low hill under a moon
watching a passenger train stopped
at a siding in the distance of a prairie night in winter>
In the snow and watching. That far away. That sure.

From Witness, p. 90

Coming Home

Coming home drunk
I want you to be
not there. I want
the empty in the bottle
the broken glass
and the backs of my friends
as they leave me. But
most of all I want you
not to be there.


I know in the coldest corner of the land
my death is written with the same hand
that holds this skinning knife.
The arm that holds the green skin back
and nails it to the wall to heal
in the long slow grief of the wind
wants only a coat to wear.

The dead care for me like snow
cares for the sea or sand
cares for the stone that was a mother.
There is no other than myself to blame
for grief. I live because I must.

The trail is worn too deep for loss
and time that is spent in time
cannot be trusted to serenity.
The green skin folds and freezes
in the wind. A winter kill.
The truth of love is in the colour
of these hills: a man’s cold breath,
the brittle death of trees inside a fire
and the howls of the animals
as they leave behind nothing of their passing.

Loading Quotes...