Up North and Back – Travels in the Interior
When we went on our 2013 Summer road trip in Canada, I confess to feeling a bit melancholy. So many of the little towns we passed through looked as if they had been hit by the recession, deserted and run down. There were also magnificent museums and scenic views, but all the same, I could not ditch the feeling that times were hard in those back-of-beyond places. Some were still bravely trying to create jobs and pulling the tourists, others had just given up.
The result: poetry and poems about the road east to Fernie, north to Edmonton and Prince George, and south home, via Lillooet, about 3,200 km over 12 days. This book, like all the ones published before, was designed using Blurb’s BookSmart software.
List of poems in Up North and Back
- Different Kinds of Dead
- Royal Tyrrell
- Two for the Road
- Duffey Lake
- Driving Home
as long as the GPS says
turn, turn now, stop here, you do
when it protests and beeps,
you panic and poke it, reset, reboot
put in the coordinates again, hurry
get grouchy, swear to dump it
swear at the manufacturers,
the software the hardware.
but there’s the road, the sun
mountains to steer by, paths to
divert on get lost on wander off on
places to find accidentally, to like
there’s us. so long as we’re together
we can get lost, lose the GPS
still travel well,
still find our way home.
Different Kinds of Dead
Dead Fort Macleod, dead redcoats
on the walls of a small, sad motel
Attempts at milking a past that was
not that great, like its fort
theatre and restaurants, once grand
Now just dead on an early Monday evening.
Passed on, but with added drama
Frank, after the Slide
Past, but recalled with emotional overkill,
thunderous effects and maudlin violins
a soundtrack for well documented death
They’re still there, making the most of it.
Vulcan has nothing else to do but die slowly
The town was dead before they got a little famous
They only imagined they were alive, once
Now it’s white-out on a bright afternoon,
the buckled Enterprise on its plinth quavers in the heat
On the somnolent roads cars pass silently into the light.
How prettily the dinosaurs pose,
looking askance, furling their claws
just so, smiling grimly amongst ferns,
ancient trees and river banks, with jaws
opened, so you can see in.
Their serrated rows of teeth
go all the way back, nice and white.
Their tongues are pink, brown, pointy,
their palates, candy-striped,
painstakingly painted, each grin.
They peer around, wave heavy tails,
lit up like Xmas, in engaging stances.
Look: they’re standing on or gripping other dinos,
prey in death-throes, big tree branches: –
clues to what they’d been.
Two for the Road
Why go so far, so north,
so long on the road
Why keep going, driving
One place, one spot, to the next
Another few hundred k’s
Another motel, more strange beds
Another breakfast with plastic cutlery
boiled eggs, weak coffee, limp toast
Why go away from our things, paths,
habits. Why go together
Why not go alone
Because nowhere is far
when we’re together
We take our places with us
to revel in the comparisons
A tongue-twister of
lilies, lilts, largos, oohs,
exotic-sounding, an unlikely destination.
Perched on a bench above the river like a call-girl all done up,
waiting on the porch, calling out to passers-by.
Still flaunting her finery, her glory days,
fancy murals, jade on plinths, intricate porch brackets,
grandiose façades, riotous flower gardens, hippie post boxes,
A feisty little town, a shabby haven, welcoming us,
hoping we’ll see past its faded glamour.
Coming upon a slab of pure jade,
around the corner of a plain road,
with the normal blackish trees,
and nondescript muddy rocks.
Water made solid gem.
Like gems from solid rock,
the miracle of something
smooth, valuable, gleaming – carve-able,
from dull stone, porphyry, quartz.
The surprise of a jade mirror here
in the middle of an average day, road, place,
out of a normal brownish river,
inviting us to look into it.
Inviting us to carve it into memory.
Look for home with an ache
behind the eyes. Mistake
a view, a familiar silhouette
for our well-worn doorstep.
Keep thinking the next speck
– Castlegar, Osoyoos, Lillooet –
will not be further, rather, back,
marked in red pen on the map.
The country we left’s no longer ours.
Only bleached photos and dried flowers
in albums take us there. We look now
for routes to our new home, somehow.