Saturday, March 28, 2015
Ballad of a Glad Cafe or The Kaslo Road Revisited Circa 1980
I remember that you asked for explanations
As we exchanged our knowledge near the rain;
The lake was down below, and broad, and snow-swept,
And I felt good in that old cafe again.
I could open up my deepest heart, and you looked in;
You'd dropped the common doubts and knew the score.
When the lightning came you stood your ground and caught it;
I wondered if you wondered if there's more.
Or do you have some questions on the history?
Not for granted, surely, you take those hours?
You claimed a lot for grace and special knowledge,
But just like that how often do they pour
So sweet and fast and freely given. . .
Well, not entirely free, there is a price:
For the victors, faith in glory, for the vanquished:
The slowly dying flame of memory changed to ice.
I think you thought that victory might be easy
Just the natural steps that lay ahead,
One conversation down and ten to go,
The route so full of the light that spun our thread.
But since I left your side I thought a decade
There is a toll of tales you'll need to hear,
Whole armies move surely in my memories,
You have to learn that wisdom starts with fear.
Not fright from me; though there are those who think so,
But there is the office, the mantle I never sought,
But that I learned to wear in the heat of roaring battles,
You might have smelled the smoke that lingers yet.
You might have called it incense, near the rain,
In all the joy of friendship's opening hour
But come the close of subsequent encounters
You'll need to know the history of its power.
So you could think on Moses in his trials,
How he pitched his life against the Pharaoh's
That if he'd scouted not Sinai, but the Kootenay shore
He might have sat in our cafe to speak at length.
Does it matter that the space was unpretentious?
The stable of stables knew no nobler stance
And nothing like that view of this green country
Where the cafe and my intentions take their chance.
And Moses is not so strange an image either,
I've not his mob, but I've had my meanderings
A miracle or two, and lots of cheek
When I've kicked the golden calf and other panderings.
And you must have guessed by the strength that shook our table
That this wasn't the first time I'd prayed around these walls
Like that old tiger I'd checked out my future desert
When I had to walk alone to hear the call.
The cafe came not to me on a pleasure trip,
I found it through a snowstorm and surprise,
Heading north in pain and a wildcat winter
An exile Caiaphas' henchmen left to die.
The sudden spring had closed and the light grew colder,
The wind was whistling vengeance from beyond,
All around the compass froze in wonder,
And both camps huddled wondered where I'd gone.
I first flashed by in the daylight with the wounded,
The next time through the dawn among the ranks
Of a wilted weekend's witless memories squad
Who would have ruined coffee with their thanks
And I had to keep my fingers on the lanyard
Hurling limping salvos south from the Duncan flats
Then I walked out in the sun to check the damage
I was never quite so out positioned after that.
So my virgin entrance came in calmer times
And though I wouldn't say my scraps were done
I'd discovered secret trails and bolder allies,
I fought from strength and rarely drink alone,
And every toast we raised of Brazilian leisure
Marked a sweet advance on the final goal,
We counted up the wounded, split the treasure;
I came not often, but with all I'd want to hold.
And now you've sat beside me in that landscape,
We talked of matters out of touch with lines of fire
But tales of the Kaslo road say it's not easy
To keep a gunner's hand sweet on the lyre;
And if you'd like to wander in the mountains
With me again, then talk above the lake,
Ask of others who shared in the early stories
There are legends before the history you would make.