The Poetry of John Grousewater

Information found elsewhere:

John Grousewater was a minor 19th-century explorer who trekked large areas of what is now northern Canada. The precise nature of his journeys is unknown and he is not credited with any significant discoveries. There is no Wikipedia page about him.

Indeed, biographical data is scant. He was likely of Slavic origin (possibly born Jan Cietrzewód), though he came to England in his youth, from where he eventually set sail for North America—in no official capacity and perhaps as a stowaway. Once on land, he maintained a working but distant relationship with the British and attached himself sporadically to certain Native bands as he trekked West. He spent long periods on his own and eventually disappeared somewhere in the Yukon or Alaska. The extent of his wanderings, as well as their purpose, can be gleaned only from several leather-bound notebooks found in a private British Columbia library in 1953.

One of these notebooks is filled with short poems closely resembling the Japanese haiku. The entries are not dated and the order of the pages has been lost. To a historian, they are of little worth. John Grousewater is an insignificant historical figure. Yet in the following months, I want to share some of his writings and poetry with you.


Grousewater I

winter fir
–ing of a thawing musket
crows scatter


Grousewater II

fat drips
  fire, sausage crackles—flames
             hiss of steam


Grousewater III

frozen toes
             squirm—life left but hunger thinks:
             succulent self


Grousewater IV

lost musket
    found—glorious news
                  still fires


Grousewater V

found deer skull
shattered against jagged rock
                        no meat left
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