I’m just back from Montreal where I participated in the launch of My Island, My City, a collection of new work from forty different writers, sponsored by Montreal’s own Lawn Chair Soirée and edited by Jan Jorgensen. I was delighted to have my poem Skating to China included in this anthology.
If you don’t know Montreal (one of my favorite cities in the world!) you might like a bit of an explanation.
The quick facts are:
1)Montreal is really an island in the huge Saint Lawrence River.
2) Jacques Cartier arrived in the area around 1538 (think about that for a minute!).
3) He was certain that China lay beyond the rapids blocking his further passage. The area south of the city became known as Lachine (China) and still bears that name.
4). Eventually, around 1821, they built a canal to bypass the rapids.
5). You can bike, walk or rollerblade along this now refurbished canal path.
6). It’s really fun to skate to China.
Skating to China
It’s not that hard, even for an old lady with bunions and a bad knee. Bring water.
Start at the Vieux Port and just keep going. A few kilometers or so.
It’s mostly flat, except for a few dips below the highways.
If you’re too chicken to fly downhill, take off your blades and waddle under the Décarie
in your SmartWools alone.
Cyclists, with their lime green jerseys, will buzz past you like flies.
But pay no attention to speed.
Put your skates back on again and continue
Notice how a city, too, takes its time. Getting rooted, decaying, rising again.
See here the graffiti, the crumbling walls, the edge of Montreal unfurling.
Then the greenery, the new and tidy condos, the canal reborn.
All along, the wild smell of the sea will follow you, floating on the Saint Lawrence like
the feather of a gull.
There will be wind and boats and birds and all things marvelous, which you might have
temporarily forgotten even existed, but now you remember, and you’ll want to hold them
inside you, even as you leave them behind.
When you arrive in LaChine, remember why it’s called LaChine.