Thursday, August 27, 2015


If life should take my legs, my happy legs,
As better men than I have had to bear,
I'd still know how to pray, I'd not despair.
The current that has long hummed through my bones
Would nonetheless be faithful, and its sparks
Would keep their spinning parley in its place.
I'd not be lonely, and no less unemployed
And yet from time to time I'd recollect
The freedom that two legs give every soul
And all the rocks and crannies explored.
This thinking makes me very glad again
To be, to be, so simply ordinary.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

February 22, 1978

Lent it is, and the prospects raise my wonder
Why, Lord, is the landscape black
These streets feel not sun but storms.

I do not like the look of houses
Always, in my strolls about;
Trees are faithful, flowers sometimes
But homes, with people in, or out,
Have sometimes too much devil in them
Hearths of heathen war with grace
The doors, which could not know I'm knocking
Slam with thunder in my face.

When all my songs are over,
Mother of minstrels, mother of men
Just let me rest my head on your heart again
You know I didn't do too well
But the fault was sure not yours
You would have given everything
If they'd opened up their doors.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Emily Carr

Emily Carr, I finally love you
Laughing bear has played his trick
At last I saw your list of wonders
A friend's persistence won the day.
I loved the stories but the painting
Long ago awoke no flame
Now I see the doors to open
And will tremble at your name.
Sorry for the long palaver
I don't know why I could not see
The coast in your eyes long in mine
But Laughing Bear has growled at me
His gentle back aglow with lessons
I laugh myself to take my place
Perhaps if I should be so lucky
You will lead me to his face.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Silvered Wings

Once I saw a flash of snipe
Or perhaps some other shore bird
A hundred, closely bunched
Race across a tide flat through the air.
Suddenly, as if by signal
Turned they wingward at the sun
And I saw a sheet of silver
Flashing earthward, catching me transfixed
Only God could give that signal
Thought I then and through the years recalled
The vision present, then the door
Swinging shut.

At times the vision of the seen
Was far too bright;
And the pain of beauty passing
Closed my heart, blustered shut
By the harsh cries of a half believing world.
Yet the hidden vaults were not forgot
And often open to my view;
Quite by surprise I would be caught
My soul would then fly up
And fall in silent tears.

Where hid that beauty?
Not in woman's eyes or in my books
And if in the forest why was it so secret
Not automatic yielding to my quest?
Something in their presence leaves me stammering
For the Beauty where I can rest eternal be.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


For Tim Lander

I roamed around the world to find
A place to give me peace of mind
But I ain't found anything as kind
As my home in the Kootenai mountains
Kootenai mountains strong and high.

Going back home to the Kootenays
Going to get my soul untied
I've been down in the city too long
I think my brains are getting fried.

Hang out my thumb on the old freeway
Flagged a truck in Manning Park
Make it through Osoyoos
Before the sky got dark.

Had to hang around in Greenwood
Met a poet in a bar
Back seat on a motor bike
Froze my jaw by Castlegar.

But I'm back home by the lake shore
And my friends all know I'm home
Hang Vancouver on the clothesline
Next time I'll go by phone.

Lent March 9, 1975

Lent it is, and silver March insists
In this month of memories of spring
That I set out to settle things within
And sort the thoughts that penance proper brings.

Lent it is and silver March returns,
And spring is breaking up the hills of snow.
The sun is growing stronger day by day
And I am thinking stronger as I know.

The time has come when all the hills and streams
Though they have been my friends and will again,
Deny me now and turn my feet away.
The time has come for me to challenge time
To make her stand in one surrendered place.
She must deliver up the treasure stored
She holds the mirror where I can paint my face.

And paint I must, my world can wait no more
My destiny has raised me up that other shore.

Do not decry my youth; my silent tongue
Knew not the words that summoned youthful fame.
If I wrote nothing more than common chat,
Give neither me, nor God, nor fate, the blame.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Navigators March 10/81

What they really seek, these navigators,
Is forever another horizon.
Our gentle God made earth to meet the sky,
And likewise sea, so we might search
The constant dream, and instantly
Discover our own destiny: that's death,
The singing shudder of the body at the soul.
Like mountain ridges on swooping plain,
The rise of the forest crown against the sky:
Where they meet our vision.
What they really seek, these navigators,
Is forever another horizon. Where the 
Mountain meets the sky, on a swooping plain
Stops against the clouds, or ocean's tide.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Coming of the Dawn

You came by and you knew my name
Trees in the forest fell in flame
Time, it stopped, and tides refused to run.
Mountains crumbled into dust
Towers fell in rings of rust
Wine in all my tumblers turned to blood.

Don't go out in the dark tonight
Don't go out in the pale moonlight
Talk with me till we see the dawn
All outside is dark and wild
The devil's hunting down a child
Stay here till the rising of the sun.

First I wept, then I moaned
A fire was burning in my bones
I wondered if I'd have it to be kind
I saw the tears you tried to hide
I felt the pain you kept inside
I knew I'd have to open up my mind.


I heard the wolves howl on your trail
I saw the knives and my blood ran pale
I sharpened up my swords and I threw the gauge
I kissed your eyes with a brother's care
I washed your feet and dried your hair
I barred the door against their howls of rage.


 Now you're fed and warm with wine
The firelight has eased your mind
You think you'll go into the night again,
But don't you hear that howling outside
They'd love to get this tiger's hide
And I'd have to guide you through the wind and the rain.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Cherry Valley Summer

Prince Edward county summer
Small boys roam the fields of hay
My days full of ease and wonder
Old farmers smiling as we play.

Every split rail fence a border
Every field an undiscovered land
A hickory tree a ship beneath my orders
Chasing pirates was my Queen's command.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Out Among the Raspberries

A poet crowding forty muses on old age
But this one does not worry his aging loves,
His grandfather's image in the garden rows
Speaks the peace of the advancing years,
Each passing sun was but a step to final rest
Old slouch hat and holey sweater,
Gumboots and hands wrinkles
And always a voice leveled against tomfoolery.
He went so quietly into that good night
He talked to me, in peace, before he went.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Towards a Permanent Hold on the Resurrection or: Inverse/Adverse April May 1977

All poets die.
You'd better know this
As you, if you, search their ways;
Their labyrinthine passages
Might not seem worthwhile for following
Into darkness you would rather doubt
And death.

All poets die,
If they're real, I mean, of course.
There is a kind of verse
- Fifty cents a card, in the drugstore -
Written by someone who never was alive.
But that's not poetry,
And what was not alive can never die.

Real poetry is death.
Sister, angel, brother
To all ambition
To all haste
To all error
To all waste
To all but All and Nothing,
An every day funeral
Of something in the heart / Of something in the eyes
That blinds the eyes / That blinds the heart
And you can bet your sweet oblivion,
And all the ways you have of getting it,
That poetry will kill that too.

Eve, you know, sprung out
From Adam's ribs,
Is just the symbol;
The poet comes bone grey
From the ribs collapsed on Calvary
Do not come to poetry for comfort.

All poets die;
Do not come to poetry for ecstasy.
Do not rob the rights of fishing streams,
Or baseball fields,
Or churches still as stone.
Don't banquet, damn you,
Where dry bread and lashes
Leaping in the night
Might help you in your blindness
Find the missing dawn.

All poets die,
Especially on the eve of discovery,
Assassinated by the grim realization
That nothing, especially their intuitions,
Is really new.
If the poet finds anything new
He has to throw it away,
Because of all old things
Poetry is oldest.
Whatever is new, therefore, and so on,
Is not in any way poetry.
It might be physics, or even psychology,
But it is not poetry.

All poets die,
And kiss the grave that swallows them.
Oh lovely grave, oh welcome earth
Wherein the poet, discovering the point of worms
Knows a needed rest from men.

All poets die.
Their bodies sink like water to the rock.
Their bodies flow like rivers to the sea.
Their minds dissolve and all their words
Are honoured, like the fish they might have been,
Had God not ordered otherwise.

All poets die:
That is the lesson.
Poetry is death.
Poetry is death.
Poetry is death.
Death is poetry.