POETRY: The View from Here

STEPHEN COLLIS | February 11, 2022

Brilliant city
maximum return
on investment
I lean close to the water
to hear the land think
beneath cold cover
of its liquid history
wondering what
British property
toiled or took
scopic height over
these riparian lands
and knuckled islands
hold sea that’s
no property at all

we’ve been masking
the ceremony
that keeps land
and sea knit together
brought brimstone
into brilliant heaps here
cut night from day
for cosmic permanence
whose reality
intrudes on whose?
Fire-sky and
rock ruptured road
the cabbages of the 1980s
tower over our intentions
to grow and grow and grow


Stephen Collis is the author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, including The Commons (2008), the BC Book Prize winning On the Material (2010), Once in Blockadia (2016), and Almost Islands: Phyllis Webb and the Pursuit of the Unwritten (2018)—all published by Talonbooks. A History of the Theories of Rain (2021) was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for poetry, and in 2019, Collis was the recipient of the Writers’ Trust of Canada Latner Poetry Prize. He lives near Vancouver, on unceded Coast Salish Territory, and teaches poetry and poetics at Simon Fraser University.

This poem was written in response to the exhibition, The view from here: Selections from the SFU Art Collection and shared during the writing workshop series, Shifting Perspectives with Stephen Collis and Isabella Wang