Beat Meditations:  Beach / Mountain



I.—Prince Edward Island National Park (@ Cavendish)


Waves shining like woven cord and straw—

shoot forth short fronds—

linear whips—

knotting against rocks

or leafing with seaweed,

according to tidal syncopations,



That was, what?  Eight years back,

when my daughter, Aurélia,

then just a girl,

was ready to abandon the zouches


at Lucy Maud Montgomery’s estate,

where Anne of Green Gables

exists pretty much as a rock,

impervious to the wash-out History

that’s swept away buggies and catalogues

and even the twentieth century.


We’d strolled amid parliaments of bees,

inspecting doddering berries,

or buzzing piled-up hay,

in the late summer,

the cumulus of lettuce flowering

in dialectical opposition to the cloud-bruised sky.


Then we traversed to Cavendish—

creaking over arranged wood planks,

threaded through Mi’kmaw marsh

(once also Acadian),

to view and scent this saltwater distillery—

the unimaginable port

(way too much seesaw for shipping,

but with pocket harbours good for fishing)—

the exudation of spray—

limp, ephemeral steam—

that terminates walk-ways—

intruding slashing floods

upon sloping, yielding sand,

while viscous sculptures splatter—

foaming against rock.


Impossible to untangle Whiteness

from this milk,

this star-coloured frost!


Porcelain is froth—just as earthy,

just as fragile—

and just as unstable as the waves that shape it,


as it gangs up on shore,

boiling and brawling and bowling

pebbles, shells, softened glass—

then gangrenes,

confronting seaweed or sawgrass,


but almost never undermining the dunes—

those bumps, lumps, of failed drumlins,

those humps of sand,

hostile to marsh-mud.


On this island the French labelled, Île Saint-Jean,

and poet (Native Son) Milton Acorn dubbed, Minago,

(the Mi’kmaw for Island),

and the Mi’kmaw proclaimed, Epekwitk,

or “cradle of the ocean,”

was also where Confederation—Canada—got cradled:

No wonder, then, that Acorn’s Jackpine Sonnets

endlessly trumpet Liberty,

articulated as Democracy plus Social Spending,

plus Green Thinking sustaining Gold Standards….


Anyway, it’s here that, that August,

the Atlantic surged—

erratic as a pirate ship,

but relentless in battery.


Water crept upon the gull-broken shells;

sand—gritty honey—

stuck to our feet;

the sun along the chittering tide

blazed in speckles.


Aurélia swam in the roadless sea,

crackling lithe and blithely

through unexpected lapis lazuli,

interspersed with gilt.

I had to sit out—parental—the moment,

drent in a river of heat,

my bister skin blistering,

and stinging insects haloing me,

daggering at me in vivid 3D,

while Aurélia, golden, forged her white trail,

that candour,

out of the cinemascope seascape.


(If only the swish and squawk

of long-circling, long-standing gulls—


that dirtied, clerical whiteness—

could drive off orgiastic mosquitoes!)


Relief came feral:  A bit of chill

off the Gulf of St. Lawrence,

the last sun streak on the water

gleaming almost lurid—

like a quay, collapsing in side-swiping waves,

splintering into toothpick slivers,

soon lost in a blanking quagmire….


Indeed, incoming imperial, Whitehall fog,

arrived, so sudden, so sodden,

Aurélia splashed ashore,

the Maple Leaf Flag fell listless,


and then drops splattered,

studding rocks with spots,

due to oncoming cloudbursts—

hoary (canus)—

métissage of black and white;


and it was time to skedaddle,


for the auto,

to motor through the generously sable, liquid tempest,

the illustrious storm,

that sky suddenly as nocturnal

as white seagulls on a black-tar wharf—

sparks guying through pitch—

like words out of the legislature—

lightning for the ferantur:

We the Governed….


(So much lightning was there,

I thought Thomas Alva Edison

was being reborn

as Frankenstein’s Monster.)


From the furious weather,

from the swank, sandy—not too pebbly—beach,

we landed next in Charlottetown,

namesake of the arguably partly-African

Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz,

wife to George III,

whose policies sundered British America

into Loyalist and Republican factions—

the eventual birth of two nations:


One wild, ferus,

and another one lush with wilderness.



II.—Banff National Park (@ Tunnel Mountain)


Whenever I portage from Routine to Magic,

I find myself in Banff, the premiere national park

in ye olde Dominion,

where a goat capers among crags, somewhere,

in the holily elegant mountains,

and I gotta go giggly, manic,

gaga for ascent,

thirsty for Victory

wild-grape wine, wild-rice sake, thistle-distilled scotch—

the achieve of Inspiration

(90% perspiration),

as I clamber up from Doubt

those canyons of Mistakes,

the miasma of Misgiving,

to sight dazzling Dream

peaks unpleated by cloud,

undepleted of sun,

the finished poem,

sloping down the page.


When I’ve struggled to the pitch—

literally, of Tunnel Mountain,

I’ve relished the delicious Anguish

of such Triumph,

too deliriously ephemeral a pleasure:


To attain a summit is like gaining Sierra Madre “treasure”;

the win is a loss,

for the top

cannot be topped—

only defended

or surrendered,

so that one descends to Normality,

and Triumph recedes—

suddenly invisible—

into Memory:


The book is closed;

or, one sees, again, a freshly blank page.


One can sink back to earth,

to sea-level,

with exhilaration, if you go giddy

downward, your gait between

a hop and swinging your legs—

like a hoppety-hick hiker—


downhill drilling,

to reach that plateau

where thorns stab out the sun,

while you lie on your back,

ruminating, “I like pine, I like birch, I like spruce,”

and then you snooze.


However, downslope, one may yet feel,

not just grounded,

but downtrodden—

crestfallen to picnic among mundane, scavenging ants

and vengeful, atrocious mosquitoes….


Unless you can scruple to sight

a minuet of dust motes,

dancing vivid through spruce needles,

or you retreat to your room among artistes,

to quaff whatever has become of grape leaves,

to devour sumach-tint wine

and the spoils of gardens

amid the squander that is perfume

in the sumach-red, grape-purple of dusk,

where crows emit cloudbursting caws,

until bats—

those indescribably weird bulldog faces with wings,

now dangling like grape clusters

in caverns, those always nocturnal nests,

wing forth to plunder insects,

to swallow em like sharks—

those oceanic vampires—

wolfing down ruddy meat….


If I’m addled by cunning draughts

of perfume and/or wine,

I must resemble an inexperienced gargoyle,

and tear apart Poetry,

much like a psychotropic-driven bear

ripping apart dreamy anthills.


When I venture again onto Tunnel Mountain,

scaling up through depths of sky and eagles,

I fantasize I glimpse a deer’s aphrodisiac eyes,

or a medieval-textbook lynx,

burying its amber-hard urine under pine needles,

and I wonder if the Middle Age doctorates

were correct,

that an elks’ antlers can razor through tree branches—

if need be—

perhaps in the throes of testiculouse,

luxurious, gamey breeding?


And were I to plummet precipitously

would I stop,

perforated in a tree—

like a windfall apple

somehow stuck on a porcupine’s spiny bristles?


I muse now on a rain-unhinged mountainside,

the peril of avalanche or slide

(as when Turtle Mountain crumbled,

burying the mining town of Frank, Alberta,

in 1903, in the middle-of-the-night),

and figure that the collapse

is a vertical earthquake,

whose rumble and grumble

outtalks Normalcy

and whose strident stalking

outruns Safety.


One audits the thunder of a change

in Fortune


the thud of a drop—

as bulls change their natures

and scatter for shelter

like bears seeking hibernation….


Suddenly, the drop is a flood,

and, to survive,

one must ski or surf

wherever gravity and/or winds direct.



That’s writing!


One gotta scale through images, memories,

or tunnel into Genealogy, History,

or spring faces, throw voices,

via a traverse

across Time and Space,


to land,

splashing ink,

upon dizzying emptiness;


and as the poem is built,



one attains

the heights of Consciousness,

profound as fathoms.




[Commissioned by the Minister of the Environment, Hon. Catherine McKenna, January 2017.]