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Monday's Poem

Thirty-Three Thousand Shades of Green

© John B. Lee

for George Whibb

an artist friend said this morning
there are some thirty-three thousand
shades of green

and afterwards I watch
the television image
of the dome of a midnight mosque
in war
which seems
the sunken tower of a ship
lost beneath the aqua filters of a distant sea
this doomed green city of Iraq
drowned in deep-water dark
so weirdly avocado-coloured
in this visionary light
where cars come eeling out along a street
to slip the shaded bottle bubbles
like a loss of breath
in burning saints or dying sailors
saying last farewells from spirit fathoms of their over-heavy selves
and birds in flight
come swimming on like sudden moths
white-mossed and myrtle
to the moon
as small gay brooches
of a running girl's delight
they flitter off these branches
and are gone
to milt the tarnished edges of our sight
oh what a verdant
batholith is builded there
beneath some ancient heaven's unpresumptive blue
but now that hour sleeps
beyond a ship-wrecked sun
as thirty-three thousand greens
float up like shoe-stepped grass
to catch
the after-sap of also-greening stars

John B. Lee has won over 60 prestigious international awards including being the only two-time winner of the People's Poetry Award, and he has been a two-time recipient of The Canadian Literary Award for poetry (CBC radio features). Most recently he received the Eric Hill Award of Excellence in poetry from Qwerty magazine and the University of New Brunswick. He has had three award-winning chapbooks published to date including In a Language with no Word for Horses, (above/ground press); The Echo of Your Words Has Reached Me, (Mekler and Deahl); and An Almost Silent Drumming, (Cranberry Tree Press), a series of poems written while he was a guest of the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, and which received letters of praise from both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

The most recent of his over 30 full-length books are: The Hockey Player Sonnets: overtime edition, (Penumbra Press, 2003); Totally Unused Heart, (Black Moss Press, 2003); and In the Terrible Weather of Guns, (Mansfield Press, 2002).

Marty Gervais' most recent book is
Be Now: New and Selected Poems

(Mosaic Press, 2003)

More information:
John B. Lee
Marty Gervais

John B. Lee: "Thirty-Three Thousand Shades of Green" was inspired by a conversation I had with my friend,
the visual artist and fellow poet, George Whibb. He told me that there are more shades of green than any
other colour. At the time, CNN was broadcasting images of Bagdad under seige at night. The peculiar sea-
green night-vision filters made the city appear as if it were being photographed under water. The sub-marine
imagery also caught the weirdly blanched white flight of birds flittering in and out of focus. I was keenly
aware of the propoganda value of these mostly empty and uneventful images. CNN was making nothing of
much and much of nothing. Meanwhile the people of the city suffered both the conflagration and the lie.
Children were dying while we made popcorn and listened to the shake-and-bake pundits blather on and on
as if there were something glorious and heroic, rather than something sordid and tragic and oleaginous and
truly CRUDE.

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