Siwash Rock

Barely out as far as the length of an oar
a dwarf fir floats on its grey rock,
ridged and worried by the weather.
A plaque set into the granite tells us this:
that Qu’as the Transformer turned Skalsh into a rock
for his unselfishness.

I don’t know much about the first people,
and what I know about the sea I know
because it stung my eyes.
My feet know stone a lot better than me.
But selfishness I know.

We think of the names of places:
places boiled in black tar,
cracked and splintered well before Christ,
smoothed by the pleasant green, pine green,
pale grass, pale as Peace River honey.
Names laid on the topsoil,
laid on the cracked and splintered rock,
worried, rubbed away in places like bone.

A fish hawk hung his head next to mine
in a dream, and the mouldering chinook
of his breath whispered the names of places.
They begin where the discontinuous
polar front begins — in the west,
in the setting day, past Malaspina Strait,
Powell River, past the shores of Alert Bay,
where they took some blankets
from the Kwakwaka’wakw there.

What will you give me?
say the black winds of Moresby,
slapped against that livid rock,
cracking splinters of red cedar,
shivering lodgepoles,
howling the sweet, salt
three minute death by water.

What will you give me?
say the winds of Port Alberni,
slapping the sides of the residential school,
so it shakes with memory,
shaking the abusing priests,
the abusing kindness.

I think of the names of places:
Peerless Lake, where the kids
drank methyl hydrate, The Pas, Manitoba,
Davis Inlet’s freezing shack,
and the sibyl hanging in a bottle at Cumae.

The ravens on the seawall sort their shells /
the walk is littered with mussels
broken by their beaks.
They shuttle back from the base of Siwash Rock,
and the wheeling gulls, cawing, calling
what rock
what rock
what rock
what rock
what rock for me?

Bus Conversation

Their voices, fatted with gossip
and nimble as bats spun out of the dark
conjure backshed bottles
weeping unpronounceable spirits.

And their scarves touch singingly,
the two nodding Easter eggs of their heads
spring and relax,
their mouths red with exclamations.

A ruddy hand, mottled like sausage,
touches her sister’s
as they pass the Ukrainian church
and its gilded saints.

A man gets up, a sober Canadian man
in a doeskin shirt,
leans cheek to cheek
with this good Canadian woman.
“Can’t you speak English?” he says.

Copyright © 2019 Lilibug Publishing.

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