Weeds are flattened beneath last year’s tire tracks
others lay burden by the winter’s heavy snow.
The crocuses labor through this thick blanket.
I am sun drained from the bleakness
of the weeks before. Now a tick
I've carried in my hair runs up my neck,
festers on my chin.
I show it no mercy.
The lake-ice is rotting diamonds
where water seeps hungrily through its cracks.
Beneath the birdfeeders
goldfinches and juncos scratch.
Two mallards strut
crane their necks for the roving dogs and cats.
Sharptailed grouse lay low in the thicket believing
they cannot be seen, their rust-colored wings
match the frost-bitten ground.
This morning we were woken by a knocking
on our skylight, the yellow feathers
of a flicker splayed against the window.
I cradle a striped gopher, it heaves so slightly
against my palm, a leg broken
and one eye bloodied shut.
I lay it against the mountain ash and beg
it not to suffer.
This afternoon I have my hearing
for Truth and Reconciliation.
I must confess my years of sleeping
in those sterile, cold rooms where the hiss
of water heaters were devils
in the dark.
I want to walk these thickets
to that far horizon and not look back.
Why does the poet choose a date as her title?
Why does she withhold telling the reader what awaits her in the afternoon of April 30, 2014, until the second last stanza?
Although it is spring where the speaker lives, there are a number of negative images that prepare the reader to expect something she’s been dreading is about to occur. What are those foreshadowing images?
Why would the poet spend most of the poem describing details of the natural world around her and only briefly refer to her appearance at the hearing?
- In the second last stanza, the poet describes a sound she remembers from the rooms she used to sleep in—“the hiss / of water heaters were devils / in the dark.” How would you recite those lines so that you’d respect the poet’s hesitation to speak about what happened in residential school?
- Think of an appointment that someone your age might understandably be dreading. It could be something like meeting someone to break up from a relationship, telling a parent that you failed a test or got caught in a lie, apologizing to someone you have hurt, reporting an incident of bullying or abuse to a person in authority. Rather than writing directly about it, mimic the style of “April 30, 2014,” by withholding the identification of the dreaded task until close to the end of the poem. Precede it with images that establish a setting, images that will quietly resonate with significance when the reader understands the importance of what the speaker is about to face.
Louise Bernice Halfe, "April 30, 2014" from Burning in This Midnight Dream. Copyright © by Louise Bernice Halfe. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Source: Burning in the This Midnight Dream (Coteau Books, 2016)