Rites and Writings

Ceiba © Katharine Beeman
Ceiba © Katharine Beeman

Quinta de los Molinos

                   for WS

Passing the gatekeepers 
four times with the rite answers 
we left you there 
in the garden 
flowing fountain of underwater plants
fresh as a Canadian river
in Central Havana in the middle of a drought

In a space hallowed
by tobacco and cedar smoke
sealed from the small noise of Sunday buses
hoot of freight trains in the night
of the Canadian bush far off
in the company of doves and dogs
you’ll help with their care no doubt
and they with yours

Among foliage whose names we don’t know
shapes new to us
kidney-sized pods of many seeds
a red and yellow tree of flowers and globes on ropes
we left you
my Viennese stone mason

Passing the talking stick
poems and images climbing
the thread of smoke
dissolving at last above the water
laying tobacco, we paid thanks and honour

Near the painted sacred ceiba
who sleeps on her curled tail
when no one is looking
we will visit again
your palpable absence present
twines, holds the ground for us

Steven Kaal, Librairie Abya Yala © Lesvia Vela
Steven Kaal, Librairie Abya Yala © Lesvia Vela


                  for Steven Kaal*

Who inherits
his copy
of my book –
so kindly bought
so thankfully to him
inscribed, I wonder
on hearing
that a friend
has died.

Not thrown out, I hope
Will go to a relative,
down the hatch
to a second-hand bin,
is this callous?
No, another way
he will go on
as recycling readers
wonder about this Steve
of words and books.

*Note on Steven Kaal

Steven Kaal, a historian, translator and interpreter, and his companion Lesvia Vela founded and ran the
Librairie Abya-Yala (meaning the continent of life or the American continents in their entirety, in the language of the Kuna of Colombia and Panama), from 1995 to 2004. Revolving around all facets of Latin American culture, their wonderful store on Boulevard St-Laurent in Montréal was teeming with books in French, Spanish, English and Indigenous languages, and hosted book launches, poetry readings, art exhibitions and just plain good old conversation among supporters of Latin American culture and solidarity. After the bookstore closed, Steven worked mostly as a translator and interpreter. He died much too young, in 2018.

Katharine Beeman is a Montréal poet, translator, editor, and member of the Canada Cuba Literary Alliance/Alianza literaria Canadá Cuba. She has published several books, reads at international and local poetry events (most recently at the Logos series), and participates in the Salon Rouge–Sala Roja–Red Saloon writers’ group.