Friday, August 29, 2008

an old poem about the british columbia interior

There are far too many poems in the world with the bare title "poem," but this somehow one of the rare pieces I've allowed myself. When I wrote this during the summer of 2002, I was in Edmonton with poet Andy Weaver. We had rented a car to head south and then west into Vernon. We were scheduled to read at Jason Dewinetz' greenboathouse reading series, held in the basement of a building once owned by Jason's maternal grandfather. Wasn’t there a shoe store originally on the first floor? There was little at this point but remains, Andy and I reading with poet Vanessa Lent, niece of Vernon-based teacher, writer and Kalamalka Press publisher John, as part of her first public reading. John asked me about my Matrix magazine t-shirt, asking if the journal still existed, and saying oh, I published there years ago. But what does this have to do with the piece?

cold lake & the threat
of an empty dress

1950s dream
& wwII bombers
stalk the shore

a towel
that doesnt cover everything

to be made of stone
& endure forever

burning a hole in
bare pant legs
Between Andy's credit card, his discomfort at driving, and my love of it, we were the perfect pair, overnighting at derek beaulieu's in Calgary to break the trip by a third, so we didn’t have to worry about a nine hour drive before doing a reading. It was the same trip where we met ryan fitzpatrick in derek's converted garage, his housepress. Do I mention the day I helped derek and his father insulate the roof, to keep his press office warm, circa 2000, the days and nights around the same visit I spent with a woman that tore my heart out?

Instead, on this trip, Andy and I had lunch in Golden and I bought that pen, where the old 69'er gold rush prospector and mule moved back and forth. I have been slowly building a collection, one tourist pen at a time. Thanks to our road-map, Andy and I found the infamous 'last spike' site and drove up, disappointed at the fence keeping us from stealing it (or perhaps, from being struck by a passing train), and images in our heads of not just the grand rail but Pierre Berton's retelling of "the national dream."

Vernon, British Columbia seemed like a 1950s dream by itself, a town caught like a fly held in amber, to its own just-distant past. After the reading, we had drinks and drove back to the family cabin, where the green-painted boathouse sat, converted into a studio, where Jason slept. We sat the three of us around the campfire with three girls we didn’t really get the names of. Wasn’t novelist and poet Laisha Rosnau there too? I know she was. I remember talking to her at the pub. I don’t remember much else. I think someone even went swimming, at one point, in Lake Okanagan. I know it wasn’t me. Dropping dress on the beach.

The late night swim, the Vernon lakeshore, the bonfire we sat around. Is it as simple as simply-this?

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