Paul Vermeersch author photo by Patrik Jandak
author photo by Patrik Jandak

Paul Vermeersch is the author of four collections of poetry, the most recent of which, The Reinvention of the Human Hand (M&S 2010), was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award. He has also been a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and the K. M. Hunter Artist Award. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph for which he received the Governor General’s Gold Medal. He has taught writing at Sheridan College, the University of Guelph, and the University of Toronto. His fifth collection of poetry Don’t Let It End Like This Tell Them I Said Something will be published by ECW Press in fall 2014. He lives in Toronto where he is senior editor of Wolsak & Wynn Publishers Ltd.

Two Poems by Paul Vermeersch

The Painted Beasts of Lascaux

Their discovery has been a kind of homecoming, too.
Part of you has been here before, germinal, hidden.
A painted hand resting on the stone, a molecule,
a memory of muscled, brawling bulls entombed
deep within, their horns goring the darkness
locked in the rock of ages. These yellow ochre horses

were born too long before they could be anything
but horses, before they could be centaurs, before
they could be starships. Remember, these herds
are the same on these walls as they were in their fields,
the same as they are in your mind. Listen.
Their hoof beats trampling that ancestral earth

are still the drums that drive the song in your body,
the abiding chant of the hundred billion dead
who came before you. Their distant voices vanished
into your voice, deepening it. Their song is the song
that’s been snarled in your heart – breaking it,
trying to pound its way free – for your entire life.

Copyright © Paul Vermeersch 2013
From The Reinvention of the Human Hand (McClelland & Stewart, 2010).

Ode to Amoeba proteus

Little one, you have mastered the arts of taking
and giving. Even the tiniest crumb you take
with the whole of yourself, enveloping it,
creating a hollow place inside of you
to keep it hidden, to keep yours, until that place
is empty again, and it collapses in upon itself,
and the need to fill it returns, and you take.

But when you give, there is no saint or saviour
who can match your generosity. Only you
can give yourself twice, each perfectly
to a different future, each from a single past.
I even believed it was possible, once, to give and take
the way you do, when the world seemed made of knives,
and all I wanted was flesh, and all I felt was want.

Copyright © Paul Vermeersch 2013
From The Reinvention of the Human Hand (McClelland & Stewart, 2010).