Tim Lilburn







Rupert’s Land


Narrator, eroded voice, a valley of coulees, afternoon



Wolverine Creek de-caves, walks in its underwear, carrying a willow branch,

then sets itself in the wounds

of Last Mountain Lake, where pelicans are, papery breath

swinging from their stomachs’ glide.

And Last Mountain Lake gives what it’s done, rehab notes, endless antibiotic dripfeed of weeds, all its clothes and shoes, to the Qu’ appelle River and the Qu’ appelle

lays its money inside the body of the Assiniboine (into its side), river cranking,

with an avocet’s hitch,

from Ft. Pelly area, Kamsack, town of Enterprise, from the widefaced, testosteroned

stare of the Minnichinnas Hills.

Most of our courage slants wrong.

West, the stone Cabri Man rustles in poked and stirred light on salt plains.

Medicine wheels (quiet, move slowly now), saged-in pits on lunged hills.

Suncor waste ponds rebound bearings of day lost at a supreme height,

near the Athabasca where the river packs its staked ass north.

Wolverine Creek tucks its nose below its tail

and the night can lance in around it.



Suncor hired the lord who invented the guitar, a turtle-in-a-handbag

kind of daemon, cattle rustler, Man-with-a-Knife.

He slid his put-on-backwards, hoofy, shaman-shoes

on the glass floor.

No one had ever heard of shoes

used like that before he did it, nose in the groin of the wrong way.

Idiot cattle followed.

Religion grew to his lip like salmon lice.

On one knee before air audiences, the yet again big tent, dance show impersonations.

The swollen trident flew by this one’s look into the water’s neck.

A little underage, he carried his own cradle,

tucked in horsey blankets various moustaches, goatees and driver’s licenses.

Hermes (some say), the beloved.

He gores strings heavily every night in trailers in all the camps

chasing chords, blowing hard on coals in Stones’songs, sweetening oil from

the sand.

He’s seen moving in lamp light behind skin

windows in traders’ sunk cabins at Ile a la Crosse, High Level, Ft. Chipewyan,

heaved over, tail risen, yet curving over his head, enpenned, inflamed with attention

tilting the old accounts,

back and forth, lifting them, tilting, his man-falling-from-a-building eye,

smoothing, smoothing the columns’ glowing, swaying flows.

Memory is the sweetest part of his heart.



Stay close, up alongside.

Flanged rainclouds jackknife and wreck up in first air southwest of Dawson Creek,

mile 0,  the Golden Road,

diesels churning, eddying, motionless in motel side lots and in front

of the laundromat with showers;

the air’s burnt coffee.

Muskeg swamps sulk north.


At Fort Nelson the two year old within his pack of dogs raises a head

beside a flag of Labrador tea in earshot of the highschool football field

five hours after the vanishing from the backyard, dogs liquid weaving,

movement-suturing him in.

3:00 am, the twenty year old woman,

well-oiled, passed out in the street,

shorts at half mast.

Swallows carve something not seen

above Muncho Lake near the Lodge eaves,

lanks of air slithering away next to each flight curve,

hung meat cut.



People like small piles of smoke on the South Gataga River

wait for orange food packs to sky drop,

ghostgang rain tumplines across the hip of the Muskwa-Kechika range

and over the water’s ridged, flipping back.

Sour gas wells flare in wind pelt somewhere, somewhere near.

Force blooms a torn black front eating east.

Logging roads hack up by thickset washes, the float plane sways


bullfields of mountains

into the lowest layer where shale-backed, fossil-tagged dragonflies

scale and scrape air

and a horsefly is caught in the fold of my shirt, August


Loons, vowel-soaked,

their language expertly deboned

of consonant have come to invent the thinnest possible dusk,

handsome cold-pounded to sorrow, so an obsidian razor leaps

at a bell rope falling the center of us.

In the morning, after a night of their cries, three

come toward me.



The Northern Rockies set their tables above the snow, this wedge,

granite and shale and rag of glacier.

Toad River, slate-milky–

armpit pain, ache in the jaw–

twists under us.

A marine fossil lodges in the north bank,

plume of a horn floating from front bulge to where an anus would be,

113 Mile Creek, saw marks at one corner, up a side, fireweed, underwater grass

milled to rust above stone

Memory is the sweetest part of his heart, and he’s been through here,

with his cattle, the shoe-trick god, nose to the ground,

with a pointy bag.

Horse tail clouds jackknife and wreck

up in wind sideswipe in the Muskwa-Kechika, mountains’

names kept away in beaded pouches,

Mountains’names left behind in braided grass boxes.



© Tim Lilburn




Tahsis, Northwest Vancouver Island,

Edge of the Uttered Land


When he had finished with his speech, he turned again to the mixing bowl he had used before, the one in which he had blended and mixed the soul of the universe. He

began to pour into it what remained of the previous ingredients …

Timaeus 41e


Drums and cello briefly reappear. They stop.

Hermocrates steps forward from a stand of fir at the end of night; he appears speaking, hissing to a group assembled around Socrates.




Because of what you are

We have been awake all night with your question about the city and the city at war.

How could we offer what you’d said

In the unsteady flame of actual motion?

The film of the sea, a feature of the entire afterlife,

Shudders in eaten sprockets.

The ocean reams freight-cars of clause after clause

To deepen a bore in the sound, far out, the northern straits

Skate rollingstock

And these disintegrate, rotting from several yards in,

From the ore-beyond-imagination spider-wrapped in them,

Cree sentences, Thomas Carlyle sentences, Peter Lomb….

I met someone outside Critias’quarters

Who can stand behind, wrestler in a suit, completely what I saw.

Weight-of-the-world water–bushels and skeins

Of palaces, treatises, all a barbelled thing, deep

Uranium mines, softball fields of sex–

It gouges grasshopper coloured down the rock ledge.

This ocean, north, the trench’s book,

The water reciting in its iron shirt,

The water raises its grey-tipped ash shafts

Folding over the berm in many and against the cliff,

Where a rust blue Mazda quarter ton hoves against my landlord’s paint-boiled

House, that swims dank around the furious bowl.

Continent edge, crystal meth cabanas, Sitka

spruce, a machine

Of fog whirring its blades in alders.

The ocean upends and fans and fans its stone-black sayings book

Scraping from the bottom of this codex

Cooked on gobbets of meat,

Scraping, scraping, the ocean,

In its beards, its grooving paranoia,

Calling out its protections, its protections,

Its protections, its protections.

The water is never finished.

It sweeps and cleans and draws its black

Blood from its arm, rolling bed of bulls, and tweezers the blood

Between burnt matches

And reads the blood looking down the tunnel with its swaying stair.

The ocean’s sword-dust, multiple sayings, its self-sprainings,

Unelected doublings back, ash curves

On a cigarette, piling too long, towering

Too long.



So this stranger, you’ll have heard this, yes?, creeps up in The Water’s Edge

Or The Trail’s End Tavern, hoarfrosted, the man,

With mathematical knowledge,

And says hairy people were made like jam

In a bowl with this ocean, the

Trench’s book, this ocean in its iron war shirt,

Reading itself aloud, aloud. Loud, the water’s

Bear ruff, the night’s seal cloak.

Rustles like the mic-ed vestments of Orthodox, seal-smooth priests

Shoulder-padded with incense,

Moving in log churches smoky with vermin.

Amplified shot silk, scraping.

This place cranks its dial for Alaska, which rubs its crotch for Siberia.

Otter furs, cruelty and asceticism. That’s the burnt taste

Below the tuck of the tongue,

How it’s rounded the skin inside the mouth with its heats.

The water confesses everything sideways; darkness is itself;

It has no Luciferean charm or guile.

Where is the guile in two reefer loads sideswipping the full one hundred feet

In the Strathconas on the Campbell River Road?

The ocean is the bigbellied steel of theogenesis and its perpetuation, flopping down,

Digging in, then scudding back to the simple air, knives, horn cutting

Wire, maces,

Steel golf balls spurred all around.

The sea with its arms pulled off

By its own brief handshakes.

The many bulled water, the many bulls

Of water collapse and throw out

Their telescopic wings in rasping unison,

The ground of water pounded feedlot black.

The water a volcanic sleigh pulled by wolves.



The golden, golden soul,

Can you believe it, the sent-man

Hacking in the bar, flipping and spinning

His double cheese voice, throwing salt

Over his shoulder, a crest of salt, onto the reptile gnarled indoor outdoor

Of what was it the Quiney, The King George,

Can’t call it up,

His politburean Breznevian flag-face snapping over the beer,

Was freshened, he said, winged, when the scented Father

Studying the Living Thing blowhorned

The weaker gods, “I shall begin

By sowing a superb seed, big as a pickled egg, and then hand it over

To you.”

And then he spun around with what was it

A cleaver, a marmorealean dart, bluey, whaleish, no,

Wait, bat-coloured, bat-coloured, in his hand,

No, no, what am I thinking, an exact, perilous, frog-faced rock

And he squared to the same waxing, bronco-ing bowl

In which he’d pile driven the asteroid and conked and mashed together

The Motions, the Motions, the Motions,

The Motions of things, rammed to stick to one another, Sun and Moon

Shining the last like a tusk, of course, Fire

Sweated from rapid change,

Like horses or antelope, which were not


And there were bits of the skin of these still inside, spit-spackled

Stuck to the edge, electron mucus,

Not the best, lunks, locks, a bit of tooth, could have been, maybe,

A cracked button from a ceremonial coat,

Second or third grade of purity,

And he pounded and chaffed again and there it was, overmattered ellipses,

Inside, from the Sun, from the Air, nude, absolutely, with certainty,

Fleshing lightly from its own roar, the soul,

In shocks of tail-rotoring, forcing foam.


The ocean played with its broken arm,

Spinning, a blizzard over a one hundred square mile section

Of it, moved and moved, night soaked into it, night

Shanked its body into the water.



Selected Poems from ASSINIBOIA





© Tim Lilburn












Tim Lilburn(b.1950) was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. He has published nine books of poetry, including To the River (1999), Kill-site (2003) and Orphic Politics (2008), Assiniboia (2011), The Names (2016). His work has received Canada’s Governor General’s Award (for Kill-site), the Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award and the Canadian Authors Association Award among other prizes. A selection of his poetry is collected in Desire Never Leaves: the Poetry of Tim Lilburn (2007), edited by Alison Calder. Lilburn has produced two books of essays, both concerned with poetics, eros and politics, especially environmentalism, Living in the World as if It Were Home (1999) and Going Home (2008). He also has edited and contributed to two influential essay anthologies on poetics, Poetry and Knowing and Thinking and Singing: Poetry and the Practice of Philosophy. He has written at length on Plato and thinkers in the Christian contemplative tradition, such as John Cassian, Teresa of Avila and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, in the belief that a resuscitation of this tradition may have a decolonizing effect in the environmental politics of North America. Lilburn has been a writer-in-residence at the University of Western Ontario, the University of Alberta and St. Mary’s University, as well as the Regina Public Library, and now teaches in the Department of Writing at the University of Victoria.



       Zhao Si (China) and Tim Lilburn (Canada)



His work has been widely translated and anthologized. His most recent book is Assiniboia, an opera for chant in three parts, sections of which have been choreographed and performed by contemporary dance companies in Canada.





       Victoria University, Awarding Moment

Articles similaires