Original Text: 
A Strange Relief: Poems (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2001): 55-56.
with sincere apologies to Gilles Vigneault
2to be one long season,
3when snow hides the dark mud,
4when nothing moves and nothing grows,
5when the white sky and white land agree
7can judge no distances.
8The treachery of spring, when the land
10and the rippling fields
11are stripped of their sheets
12and wait to be stained with seed.
13You are waiting for another winter,
15will cover the earth in a garden of snow,
16the cold air will remain cloudless,
18and your swallowed aspirations
19will take root in your body and grow
20out of your mouth, watered by a clean tongue.
21Ton pays est une frontière
22ineffaceable, une cicatrice dans la terre,
23dont la terre ne se gêne pas
24parce qu'elle est portée
25sous un manteau de castor, sous une ceinture
27Here, what have I proven? All depends
28on where you're coming from.
29My country is not your country of snow.


1] Gilles Vigneault (1928-), Quebecois poet and song-writer, whose song "Mon pays" (1965; `my country'), became a popular anthem in la belle province after it was commissioned by the National Film Board of Canada for Arthur Lamothe's film, La Neige a fondu sur la Manicouagan. The first lines of Vigneault's song are:
Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver
Mon jardin ce n'est pas un jardin, c'est la plaine
Mon chemin ce n'est pas un chemin, c'est la neige
("My country is not a country, it is the winter; my garden is not a garden, it is the plain; my road is not a road, it is the snow"). The song can be read as saying that Quebec is not an independent country but an assemblage of wintry landscapes. Sizable numbers of Quebecois have for nearly fifty years sought the independence of Quebec from Canada. The last provincial referendum, on sovereignty and possible partnership with the rest of Canada, lost by 50.58 % against to 49.42 % for. Back to Line
6] à la lointaine: `to the far distance.' Back to Line
9] If Quebec is truly winter, then what is it in spring? Back to Line
14] fleur-de-lys: the provincial flower of Quebec. Back to Line
17] spoken h's: one mark of an anglophone. Bill 101 ("Charte de la langue française"), passed by the provincial government of Quebec in 1977, proclaimed French the only official language. It forbade the use of English on advertising billboards and on signs for sizable businesses. Back to Line
26] Ton pays est: `Your country is an indelible border, a scar on the earth that it wears without shame beneath beaver pelt and arrowed belt' (poet's translation). castor: Canada accepts the beaver as its national animal. Back to Line
30] `My country, it is not a country, it's my skin.' Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
Special Copyright: 

Copyright © Sonnet L'Abbé 2006. Not to be republished without permission of the poet.