- Pink protrusion, pachyderm pork crystal,
- Crackling with conch sounds casual acorn;
- Mice muzzle and masticate your back
- Unbeknownst by unquick ununquiet mind;
- Hear nothing ears except earhasp twitch,
- Smell nothing snout except swine incense,
- Touch nothing trotters save tapioca stye wallow:
- Eyes examine the excellent nose horizon,
- Heedless of huntsmen homing your oak hall,
- Dreaming of the devoured peacock safe down in your belly.
“White Grumphies, white snow…”
- The students of Agricultural Diploma, their fathers
- Grow square miles of blue flowering flax near
- Pilot Mound and square miles of yellow mustard which
- I saw as I drove out from Minnesota,
- Well knowing that in the fall, in the autumn,
- We would be teaching them Robert Penn Warren’s
- Understanding Poetry, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice,
- Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad, Emily Dickinson.
- As I climbed the stairs to their classroom
- Over the Rupertsland Agricultural Auditorium,
- Prepared to teach them “I heard a fly buzz when I died,”
- I heard them splitting desk into kindling
- For a bonfire in a waste paper basket where they
- Burnt the texts on the course one by one,
- Rainbow-coloured poems and prose they burnt,
- Book by book, as I taught them.
- As verbal virgins they were tougher
- Than such pastoral nymphs as Diana or urban ones
- Such as Athena.
- However, a day or two later, taking a random stroll
- Across the winter campus, I saw,
- Around the corner of the Swine Barn, a herd
- Of white, white pigs being driven into the barn
- By my Aggie Dip students each with
- A very proper and even beautiful pig-driving stick.
- Was it their mid-term test in pig-herding?
- It must have been.
- The whiteness of the piggies against the whiteness of the snow
- Presented them with optical problems.
- They had trouble seeing me as well.
- In fact not one of them did, for I
- Was wearing this poem.
In his notes on “White Grumphies, white snow…” in Souwesto Home Reaney says,
My editor, Stan Dragland, wishes me to explain “White Grumphies, white snow.” They are white pigs herded by agricultural students on a snowy day.
Colleen Thibaudeau, Reaney’s wife, read this poem at the first James Reaney Memorial Lecture at the Stratford Public Library in their hometown in 2010. As the poem ends with the poet claiming to be invisible against the white snow because he’s wearing the poem, Thibaudeau remarked,
“Poetry is kind of invisible,” she said. “People think they won’t pay any attention to it and it will go away.”
About the Poet:
Reaney, James Crerar, (1926-2008) was a Canadian poet and playwright. He is considered one of Canada’s best-known poets and dramatists, enjoying literary success over a period of seven decades.
His contributions to the imaginative life of the nation spanned literary genres, ranging from short stories, poetry, libretti, and historical drama, to plays and novels for children, along with insightful critical essays on literary practice.
Highly regarded at home and abroad throughout his career, James Reaney’s work was recognized with three Governor General’s awards, the Chalmers Award for drama, and the Order of Canada. He died on June 11, 2008, in London, Ontario. [DES-07/14]
- James Reaney – Poet, Playwright, and Artist