Sentinel Poetry (Online) #55 ISSN 1479-425X


Editor-in-Chief: Amatoritsero Ede

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Peter Van Toorn*


Mountain Lines


In a bad poem

you will hear a sound

but no silence,

only more sounds

full of noise.

In a good poem

you will here a sound

but no noise

only the silence

it is coming out of

in a great poem

you will hear only silence,

and the sound you will hear that coming out of

makes so little noise

you feel rightly afraid

and strangely full

of a lingering joy


Mountain Stick


For pritee renneth soone in gentil herte - Chaucer


As fit for swinging and full of good oak

as the day it was cut down for a walk;

and taken for granted on any hike

till out climbing up a bouldershot brook

one fall, up mountain; and stopping to shake

the stiffness out of my walk, and just make

some tea in the shade by the brook, I woke

to a moon; and like the world’s oldest book

I read my father’s spiral in the stick’s

bronze skin, with flowers here and there cut out,

a line no shoulderload, sweaty hands, nicks

or scratches from years of walking would flout:

a lifeline – one world, one heart, one motion –

swinging through darkness with the sun and moon.




There is a rumour that starts like a rune

in the earth, seeding the tunnels of bones;

then travels away like a tune –

commuting by wind through every season,

working its way into the blood:

a heresy even the rains applaud

most recklessly… From warbling grass a young

boy takes it – like a frog, a bird, a song

or a stone; takes it home, holds it like light

in butterfly fingers; keeps it close,

under a pillow. Dreams it. Never knows

(till he dreams it at the speed of light)

how it can crush the skull’s tiny glass,

change the balance of grass,

or float its blossoms on the rickety

evening surf… If it travels alone

like a song in a box, it’s an echo

muffled by mould; or runs like a clock

but keeps changing time, it’s a walk

in somebody’s bones. Even the blind can see

it opens and closes and lives on like snow.

Frogs croak it, birds fly it, and songs referee.

In a poem it boasts all colours of the sun.

Like a bronze Pope, it salutes no one.


Mountain Leaf


A bird pushes a leaf on a red roof,

aiming for ground, so it falls – not the roof,

but the leaf a bird pushes; and the more

it pushes (crisp beak and twig toes), the more

it pushes a bronze leaf, all curled up

in a cone (showing a beak all curled up

in a cone too, aiming a bronze baked leaf)

for grounds that roll the curls out of a leaf,

grounds which, though rolling round a huger sound,

nevertheless snaps twigs in leaf’s own sound,

so that, round on round, the red roof, while not

waiting for a leaf to fall, is still not

tongue-tied either, but stands by, push for push,

ready for leafy bird’s stiff, crisp, bronze push.



In Guildenstein County


1. Wawa: slipped Beat


In guildenstein county

where there’s hardly any wind

to go by

you can smell the poem in a thing for miles

when wind wins.


handsdown, right out of nowhere: given

good grass out front

bad brushbehind.

Even so,

not counting wind in the pines,

wind in the brakeslams,

there’s hardly any

to go by. Go

by, put arms around, smoke on, ride off, bounce

on a blanket about. Just

miles and miles

to crash

and keep crashing through.





even say-so,

wind puts auk eyes all around you.

Call it: wawa.


Mountain urn


A Bird keeps a bag of stones in its throat,

small stones, to do the grinding. Seeds are tough.

people always keep fire handy, for heat

and other things. They aren’t born with fur.

All animals are afraid of their fire.

There you have it. Bang! Civilization.

All of you who go to bed and get up

with the sun, Bless you! But wow to the lamp

which lights up on the morning of the world



*All poems except, “mountain lines”, which is never before published till now, are taken from Peter Van Toorn’s 1984 ground-breaking and Governor-General-Award nominated poetry collection, Mountain Tea, which was re-issued in 2003 by Montreal’s Vehicule Press.








Peter Van Toorn

Guest Poet

Photo (C) Lois Siegel



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