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Sample poems

THE EYES OF TRAVEL

No one recalls how long ago the last train left,
but the first houses, the houses that went up in a throng
alongside the track when the train first ran,
and are derelict now, seem to cling to the memory.
The houses’ creaking front doors, their paint peeling,
are like old, now never-looked-at mirrors,
and the crumbling front porches, the gates and fences,
stare at nothing, like desolate people.

The ones who stepped onto the train and were gone
are still young, still in love, their hearts like liquid light.
Somewhere they are all still on the train,
though none of them know where it is going—
all they know is that they had to become travellers.
Now their hearts, quick and unfailing, are one with the train’s rhythm,
their faces, lit torches in an endless night, lead the way.
Now they themselves are the only pair of rails they follow.

If we bring new wood and make repairs,
and if we retouch the town’s sad houses,
our own hearts will still be those the loving ones abandoned.
If we gaze after them, and if we praise them,
and our eyes turn bright with exquisite distance,
our eyes will still be the tracks their eyes left behind,
like the sunken tracks sheep make, streaming ahead of us
into the promised land, in the promised land.


THE ST. ALICE

The Indian bar. One side for the Squamish,
one for the Whites. Lower Lonsdale locus
of an older North Van. Invisible now,
those soaked tables, the brass depths
of the draft, the brass- and stainless-steel-
bar-counter- and glass-washer-hued cold hearth
of unappeasable sadness. You sat down
as in a church in the comfort
of warily shared supreme discomfort.
Said the clipped, musical litany. Cabs flowed
to the curb to take people home
to the lower Lonsdale reserves, the Indian
and the White. The saloon doors
swinging open on the dark.
That moment of animal poise
in the shame of being there, human,
on display, the cells nailed to a cross. No one
looked at anyone else, yet each knew
where his or her self and every other was
to the exact subtlety
of antler-tips of spirit. Another beer,
two glasses, yes. Money left
on the table, but twenties not shown.
The washroom glare non-worldly
as of a forced interrogation room.
Last call, then off-sales for later.
The slender brown hand of a raven-haired one
is still reaching to her stinking dewy glass
as the server slaps a wet cloth across her table.
An old shipyard worker, his ruined hand
oddly delicate, and beautiful like her hand,
lets his fingers rest on his glass. All of a sudden,
Cezanne’s apples are there, as if
about to slide off new surfaces.