Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Antics of several species lately observed on Vancouver Island

Everything aggregates
in the spring:
boats docks anenomes
blossoms shades of blue
shades of green

starfish gather under pilings
lines tangle on decks and wharves
raccoon paws trail water
from cedar board
to cedar board.


Everything proliferates
in the spring:
jackstands bicycles wheel barrows

waste diesel waste oil new signs
white paint a rowing punt
a house for sale ripples
of refracted sun.

Everything is prodigal
in the spring.

Like Feather Dusters (subclass sedentaria), but
wavering heads full of wanderlust
we root ourselves in water waste and
light; we hymn
the margin,
love the strand.


Photos were all taken yesterday, 29 April, in the work yards and on the dock--or beneath them--at Canoe Cove, Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Wheelbarrows help to carry heavy loads down the docks to the boats; it's a steep roll at high tide.
The Troschel's Sea Star has five points and white spots, and lives just below the low-tide line of protected coastal regions from Alaska to Northern California.
Raccoon prints are, well, just that.
Jackstands are stands of various and variable heights, used to support boats that have been hauled out on the land.
All solvents and poisons used in the yard must be disposed of properly.
A rowing punt with a new coat of paint and varnish shines in the sun.
Light bounces from the tops of small waves onto the hull of a boat at the dock.
Banded Feather Dusters (Sabella crassicornis, Subclass Sendentaria), found the length of the Pacific coast,  are a sea creature described in the taxonomies as a "flowerlike animal."  Like anenomes, they fasten themselves to a dock or piling with a tube-like foot, then sweep nutrition into their bodies with their feathers. Feather dusters must also excrete fecal matter through this same tube: a "ciliated groove" runs the length of this tube-body, and permits the animal to dump out its waste.
Bicycle, stored between dock sections. "It seems to work," says its owner, a ferry captain.
Anenomes come in many varieties--"aggregating anenomes," "proliferating anenomes"--as below, and "frilled anenomes." This particular anenome kept company with a Red Sea Cucumber.  All of these animals tend, like plants, to root themselves to particular spots, then colonize--rather as we do.  Glorious but difficult to uproot yourself. Do we ever really succeed?


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pinched (ex voto to Frida)

being told her
right leg would have to be
amputated, Frida Kahlo
sat up

"feet, why do I
need you? If I paint wings, 
I can fly." Thus, every loss lifts
her up.

Not so,
you. Heartsick, your
humerus fractured, you
rage against the night, suffer her
wild love. 

An ex voto is a devotion, an offering to a saint or local god, given in gratitude for healing or deliverance from adversity, or because a sufferer seeks grace.  (Ex voto is a shorted version of the Latin phrase, ex voto suscepto, "meaning "from the vow made.") Some ex votos consist of tiny stamped tin charms in the form of an arm or a leg or a heart--indicating the body part or attribute to be or that has been healed.  Other offerings might include small paintings with an illustration of the affliction, and a legend explaining what has  happened. In Mexico, such ex votos are often painted on small crudely cut out rectangles of tin. Frida Kahlo both collected and painted works that drew upon this vernacular tradition.  Here, Frida is the saint to whom I make this offering for a friend in agony.  Can she help? I am not sure...

Cinquains, again.

Photos were taken in Mexico. Of course. And this entry blogged from a laundromat in Canoe Cove, on Vancouver Island.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Every spring, hope

I am
thinking of my
mother sliding through the
dappled light, on her way to

She stops
at the pond to
listen to the frogs sing.
Every spring the same story, every
spring, hope.

This poem is composed in cinquains, five line syllabic stanzas that follow a rule in which the first line has two syllables; the second, four; the third, six; the fourth, eight; and the final line has, again, two syllables.

The poem was written while enroute from Halifax to Calgary, over Saskatchewan, then posted in Calgary, while waiting for a flight to Victoria. (Kudos to free wifi services in airports. Thank you!)

Photos were taken in or near St. Paris, Ohio, where my parents live.

Friday, April 26, 2013


She wants a picture, but
when we meet she
flees. I clutch at air, at
bone or shadow and flare of light.
Heart's rattle, eye crease, pink
acrylic streak. Dust motes at
the window.  She slips into 
a sunlit draft. Stillness. The shutter
clatters. Don't look How then
can I--?       Shots 
frame the afternoon. At
lunch her slender finger taps
the knife edge (gesture not
pressure please understand).
Sometimes I'd like to 
[finger tapping].       O
don't. Blood pools another
letter, another sort of

We're packing today for a summer on the boat. Tomorrow, early, we fly to British Columbia. Soon we'll be headed for Alaska. Here, in Nova Scotia, it is pouring rain. The ceiling leaks again.  Where to find a poem in all the stacks and piles of clothing, packets of dried peppers, oil filters, piles of sketchbooks and rolls of brushes? (Now that I write the list, I see a poem might be found there. Tomorrow perhaps.)  I recalled a poem I'd drafted in April two years ago, while on the boat in Mexico, but never completed, about a portrait commission with a reluctant subject. Or perhaps I was a too hesitant photographer; I didn't know how to draw her out. This is that poem, recomposed and completed from my notes of 23 April 2011. Sometimes those old journals and sketchbooks are pretty handy. (Quick, copy this one, before you leave it behind!)

Photos are of coltsfoot blooming from dead leaves (the first flower, if you can call it that) and broken bits of wharf and barn in West Quoddy and Beaver Harbour.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Flexible dates

Mind reading and mentalism. Camera gear! 
Free psychic reader, 30 years. (I'm glad you're 
gone, I wish I had gone with you) Raw food. Garden
party. Thursday afternoon in the pet
store. You in your motorcycle jacket
looking at the fish. (Rebecca and I 
miss you) Me, talking to the bored bird. I thought we
had a moment (I miss everything about you) in
the hyperbaric chamber. Belly dancing. (When 
the time is right) You must speak
Swiss German. Have own platinum
dolls. Flexible dates. August 14,
2-5 pm. (You know who you are, 
you were bowling)

This poem was composed entirely from words lifted from the back pages of a June 2009 issue of The Coast, a free weekly newspaper distributed in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Personals, event advertisements, job listings, adult services and classifieds spell out the traffic of so many secret lives.

Photos are of various sites in Halifax and on the Eastern Shore.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Night-dark day

dark day,
dismal drizzle
crying gulls. One boat plows
through mist, hauls weighted
traps, throws star-
fish back.

This poem is a modified English form of a cinquain,  a form  of syllabic verse in which each line consists of a strict number of syllables (like Haiku, with its 5/7/5 formula).  Initially, in French, cinquains were poems built of five-line stanzas. In English, however, the cinquain developed a specific formula, so that the first and last lines consisted of two syllables, the second four, the third six, and the fourth eight. I added an extra first line here (making a sextain?) for sense and sound.

So foggy today that the day is both dark and blind. The sea star picture was taken on Hakai Beach in Central BC in full sun. We don't have such wildly brilliant starfish on the east coast. But the five points make their point, and add desperately needed light to the day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Trampled crocus,
half-green grass,
bitter wind:
spring stays at half mast,
requires more

Pictures were taken under grey skies by a windy sea in West Quoddy this morning.  I wrote the poem--if we can call this ditty by such an elevated name--while sitting by the fire. Yes, it's that cold. Pity the lobstermen, who begin to haul their traps today.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The whales came again last night

The whales came again last night
bumping up against the hull, gurgling
at the through-holes, rocking gently rocking. Then
they began to sing--sounds of damp fingers
trailing mouths of goblets, slip-stick crystal music,
pure ethereal tones knitting voices in the night.

I dreamed we'd seen them singing, these after-
midnight whales; they were oddly jointed
giants, skins crayon-coloured in aquamarines
and rusty reds. In my dream
in the waking world, no one cared what
we had seen.  They went about their daily
lives, pumping gas and annotating
endnotes. But we had heard the whales sing.

Several times in the middle of the night, while we were on the boat in northern British Columbia last summer, we were wakened by a peculiar, ethereal singing, vibrating through the hull. It was often accompanied by a gentle rocking or bouncing in the water around us.  What we heard corresponds to no known whale songs, though portions of the pitch approach the songs of Southern Killer Whales, while the slow rhythms of what we heard resemble humpback songs,  albeit at a much higher pitch. I report on a dream I really did have here. We still do not know what creature we were hearing, but are profoundly attached to the idea that we've heard the whales singing. For more on that trip, see http://quoddysrun.wordpress.com/

Images are from Khutze Inlet, where we first heard the singing, and Bolin Bay, where we heard it again. The last image was taken not far from Malcolm Island, looking towards the mainland.

To hear recordings of various whale vocalizations, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_whale_vocalizations#Blue_Whale_.28Balaenoptera_musculus.29

Why do crystal glasses give off a sound when you rub them with a wet finger?  It has everything to do with vibration and what is called the "slip-stick" phenomenon. See http://www.ccmr.cornell.edu/education/ask/?quid=1143

Finally, just for the pure pleasure and virtuosity of it, see Brian Engel play Mozart's Adagio in C Major for Glass Armonica: http://vimeo.com/2073455

Sunday, April 21, 2013

How rocks age

for Marie-Therese

Rocks birth and break like we do;
anaclitic, unbalanced,
each tumbles from another in sudden parturition.
Pressed into form
by torsion or catastrophe,
the shattering goes on.
Ice shears them, cracks
new lines, peels and reveals new
facings. Rivulets run through
them, gash deep canyons, drill
troughs and holes and secret
caves where darkness flies and
echoes. Steady dripping wears them down, they
fracture, hole and pebble, crumble into sand.

Photos were taken in West Quoddy and at Taylors Head Provincial Park.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Beauty of the lobster trap

First flowers of the spring
they'll soon be sunk
and other breeds


All photos taken April 18 2013 on the West Quoddy dock.  Lobster fishermen were supposed to set their traps on the 19th, and haul today, but bad weather and high winds delayed the start of the lobster fishing season for several days. The traps still sit on the docks in the fog and drizzle and the boats are all moored.