for Don McKay
The oldest continental rocks in Newfoundland and Labrador are 3,800 million years old, but the oldest rocks in the ocean are only 150 million years old.
—Newfoundland and Labrador: Traveller's Guide to the Geology
A deliberate member of the clan of come-from-aways,
you say you don’t want to be anything else.
On Newfoundland, everything is a come-from-away.
Even the rock that comes from Gondwana, Pangaea, Avalonia,
jammed together to make this rock isle
stuck out in the Labrador Current.
Other places we know
were where they are,
but here, you say, we are all new.
The traces in the rock remind us.
Even the light trapped in the Labradorite
comes from away.
So you fit right in.
When you plug in deep time
everything becomes more complicated.
When we encounter deep time it’s a humbling experience,
it sort of prefigures what’s happened with people.
Just the first baby step back and that erases us.
Oil workers, miners
sealers, sailors, soldiers
who did not have to die
On this island
time shifts, perception shifts.
When you first come to this island
all the communities seem so close together.
The longer you live here,
the further apart they seem.
Dr. H. Williams, the geologist,
used to call it
the holy ground of plate tectonics.
And after the ocean has worn the rock away
even the shadow of our bones will be gone.
Part of the Conversation
for Danielle Wood
As a child you were the magpie
picking up the shiny bits of family lore
and hoarding them against the day
you would need them.
With should I stay or should I go?
pounding in your head
you left to write your novel
in the corrugated iron shed in Broome
far north of Western Australia.
Miserably homesick, unbearably hot
you cooled yourself with stories of home
where you could walk the streets with your mother and uncles
who’d known everyone since they were children
who was married to who and
who was not married to who anymore.
Soaked in this big community memory
with the idea that what you do
will never go away.
Not very many things happen that too many people are outside of.
When the bridge fell down, everybody knew somebody
who was either on the bridge, or got stuck in traffic.
But you could not bear being out of earshot
that home was going on without you.
the place where mountain and water make sense
where the light falls differently
and where you can be the kind of person who sees
I like knowing what my patch is.
I like knowing I can walk that far
and if I go any further
I’ll be off the edge.
This is the patch on which I can play out my life,
be part of the conversation, whatever it is.
Even when you left
You were always coming home.
A long-time “islophile,” Laurie Brinklow teaches Island Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island. She is particularly interested in the power of place and story, and their impact on identity. She has published in academic journals and books, and is the author of Here for the Music (Acorn, 2012).