An Omen in the Clouds
The Empress of Ireland Sails Past
Cap à l'Orignal

grim cliffs grimace to starboard
escalating danger in a lessening light
what greater shadow lurks
within dusk's penumbra?

above it all angels and that bird
the legendary begetter of fire
her wings a higher blaze
shimmering in evening's glow

trickster dancing
this tightrope wake
way above the waves
what stunt will she pull
what new trick will she play?

what sorrow will she sing
dancing across her taut evening
chords in the roof of this circus
tent we call the sky?

early spring migrations
lacquered wings stretching unearthly
feathers of paint on frail eggshell clouds
lurching at the mercy of the elements
so far from home

Floating on the Great St. Lawrence River
L'Île du Bic


"Footsteps!" she said
"Someone has left footsteps!"
each island
a terrestrial iceberg
imperturbable embrace of evening

each drifted patch of glacier stone
a giant land mark
elapsing from yore to yawn

wind and rain carved stones
built them into buildings
stark high rise fortresses
distillation of mist and cloud

windows in the cumulo-nimbus
blue like eyes
breaking their azure gaze
here and there

les murailles
pic champlain
la citadelle

bearing silent witness


this unexpected wall
attenuated with cotton
dew drizzling a shawl
around bare shoulders
piercing like a patternbuilding
till a sudden squall
its black hand descending
caressing the heart with fear
plucking teardrops of rain
from the cloud's swift frown


waves the colour of steel
lapping against this thin
metallic skin

the great heart thudding
seeming to murmur
white waves left behind

the Empress of Ireland
flowing through the night
now growing
growling around them

shafts of diluted moonlight
svelte shrouds gathering
each meticulous tuck in a hem of rain

The Empress of Ireland is Struck by a Norwegian Collier
Somewhere between Pointe au Père
and Ste. Luce-sur-Mer


this Goliath
smitten by the tiniest of coals
a collier bearing anthracite
cheapest of sling shots
felling this sea giant
now handcuffed to the waves

its body bent in two
its life fires
quenching themselves
failing crests of questing steam

faded light's impulsive beat
gnawed to the quick

thinning rust
bolts of corrosion
blood streaking
midnight's clouds

white holystoned decks
bright mirrors of polished brass
soon to submit to an eternal cleansing

black chance of inky waters
pouring through a puncture
this bullet through the shell-shocked hull
cavernous like leviathan's gaping jaw

The Empress of Ireland Lists
Somewhere off Ste. Luce-sur-mer


thrown dice
separate pieces
wending winding ways
up staircases
through unlit corridors
over slippery sloping floors
slopping with an unwelcome ocean
rising to baptize them
here to capsize them
reborn on this river
muddy and wide

doors no longer open
water like a gambler's stake
rising higher and higher

what other world beckoning
douses the lights in sleepy eyes


now the waves are on fire
the lambent river
a bonfire of flame

the fire storm casts shadows
desperate parents holding out
anxious hands

flapping white seagulls
moths at the mouths of wailing children


who plucked my three ripe brothers
apples from the apple tree of life?

a gravelly hoot
rolls its deep voice
across heaving waters
it loses itself
on grainy granite

someone swims somewhere
onwards and onwards
towards an ever
more distant horizon


treading water
hands and fingers
clasping at air
grasp only water
pull through the water

hands and fingers
clutching at liquids
a land thirst
never to be quenched
clutching at hope
that thinnest of straws

Passengers and Crew Take to the Boats
Somewhere off Ste. Luce-sur-mer


high above the waves
the light house light
turns round and round

a knife spun on the plate of hope
and superstition
its golden finger points
at people
dunking them like apples
plucking them to safety

faith hope and charity
swimming round and round
their frail threads cut

ascending to splendour
great bubbles of air
rainbow speckled
as slippery to hold as soap

stark bell the ship's knell
keel hauling them down


unseen faces
unknown victims

survivors swimming slowly
through this son et lumière
searching the nightmare
longing for safety
terra firma
hard dry ground

fire and the firm tide
flaming on this lurid flood

Final Voyage
Somewhat at Sea
Somewhere Off Ste. Luce-sur-mer

Standing by the ship's rail,
the hooter loud and sudden
a giant bittern booming bitter
across dark looming waters:
"Here, child!" I say, "Take this!
I'll find another over there."

I see trust in the sleepy eyes as I help
her into the life-jacket and hold
her hands as she climbs the rail and starts
the heavy descent to the heaving boat below.

Have I left something in my cabin?
My notebook, perhaps? A roll of film?
The urge to check is much too strong.
I turn from the ship's tilted side
and climb the deck to that darkened space
where all I've ever really owned
passes swiftly before my eyes.

I search through my scribbled notes:
"Though I have written every day,
I am not much of a writer, nor will I ever
be able to be one now. Yet still
I live in hopes to see that one bright flash
that picks out the great in spirit,
illuminating them across the centuries."

The mystery of words crawls spider thin:
a web of crow's feet cross the face of time's
white and wintry page.

A Survivor Speaks Years Later
Migratory Bird Observation Station
St. Fabien-sur-Mer


what did the raven haired angel see
from his observation post
on this lonely elevated tree?

down below
St. Fabien-sur-mer
basks in spring sunshine

migratory birds pass by like ships

étrangers in the ennui of daylight
passing quickly through
rising on angel wings
falling through sleek
bubbles of failing air


"Look!" she said, "a turkey vulture!"
fire spreading red across his wings

trees below us are garlanded with mist
as innocent as a child's sweet gaze
this early sun that peeps through the branches
I remember I remember the house


...where I was borne on water
the little porthole where the sun joined
hands with the midnight waves
but never never peeped in at dawn
my mother rocking my brother's cradle

where out there do they play now
those fingers that soothed
my fevered brow

nightmare of the last man
scratching at his bubble of air

the steady scrape of clawed fingers
scrabbling at bulkhead and door
the captain tied to his post
glamour of the sea host clamoring

pale faces of rich passengers
barking at the eye of portholes
aux aboies
impecunious ghosts
held penniless in windowless holds

no need for a rowboat now and who
will place the death coin on their eyes

A Dream of the Forest
Anse à Mouille-Cul


thin bright needle points
tugging at memory's thread

the flesh that enfolds
this all too feeble mind

vermilion and amber
flames of bright spring flowers
resplendent voices
decked in dazzling names

how can I forget how hell
embraces the breaking of bones
the wet rip of flesh
sundered from loving flesh?


midnight's daisy
flared its brief canary candle
gasping for northern air
too south by far in the channel
that bright midnight sun

last week in Rimouski
I caught my mother
praying on her knees in church
my father
beating his breast
crying in a corner

they were both dead at the time
drowned long ago at sea

I lit a lachrymose candle
in honour of the hour
of whose utmost need?

Lighting a Candle Before the Main Altar
Sanctuaire Sainte-Anne


I am still afraid of fire
in principio erat verbum

I am still afraid of the loud
voice of the match
scratching its sudden flare
the whites of my eyes
et lux in tenebris lucet

booming and blooming
igniting the soul's dark night
voice of fire
et Deus erat verbum

unsubtle shout in fear's supple ear
flourishing to nourishment
flames whispering on the flood
omnia per ipsum facta sunt


wool and water
this safety blanket
cold fragile
plush of the pliant teddy bear
staring eyes of the suppliant china doll
et tenebrae eam non comprehenderunt

the lashes of all their eyes
bound together with salt water
doused in a fine silken mist
hic venit in testimonium

still the patterns pierce my sleep
hauling me from opaque dreams
holding my wrists
in this sailor's double clasp
non erat ille lux


oh curse these dumb waters rising

"Not a hair on your head
shall be harmed!" He said
as he hauled my sister up by her hair

only to find her staring eyes
belonging to the already dead
et mundus eum non cognovit

the night waters rising
the moon raising
its pale thin lantern glow
et vidimus gloriam ejus

deo gratias

Graveyard on the Point
Ste. Luce-sur-mer


the man on the cross roads
wreathed in his personal storm

... et discerne causam meam
de gente non sancta...

sea bells pealing their warnings
grief on the grève
sa griffe
ma griffe


ma gritte

mi grito
que no es un grito

cette vie
qui n'est pas une vie

this littoral bay
which isn't a literal bay


... ab homine iniquo
et doloso erue me ...

over bird frosted rocks
a ring billed gull
cries out whose name
on its early journey
to greet pale stars?

göeland muet

on the beach
at the cross's foot
a grey robed pilgrim

... et introibo ad altare Dei:
ad Deum,
qui laetificat juventutem meam ...

the silent sea gull
shoots white arrows
over sea wet sand


who stands solemn
waiting to be blessed
before this graven stone?

... sicut erat in principio,
et nunc, et semper ...

the sea gull sighs for its siblings
tossed from the nest and lost
in the long low swirl of the sea

Standing before the Great Stone Crucifix
Ste. Luce-sur-mer


have they gone on before us
those feet that lay pierced
those bones we numbered?

those minds we guided
those mouths we fed
why they have left us stranded
on this strangest of shores?


these lands around us
emitte lucem tuam

these mountains that surround us
ipsa me deduxerunt

these mysteries that confound us
in montem sanctum tuum

in nomine Patris


I will wander from grave to grave
quare me repulisti?

coarse grass weaving bindweed
columbines combining
quare tristis incedo?

verdant stems unsophisticated flowers
stark between gravestones
et in tabernacula tua


and this churchyard
as steady as a headland
quare tristis es,
anima mea?

its golden chalice
distant from the far flung
malice of the sea
quare conturbas me?

Pilgrim at the Shrine of Ste Anne


clad in blue,
the celestial queen
standing lonely as a sea star
stella maris

a graven image
on her granite altar
flotsam and jetsam
writhe beneath her foot
in the stone oblivion
of the sea's rejection

my fault
my most grievous fault

salt tears turning like the tide
hard rock of the suffering breast
beaten black and blue

what penance can fill the void
left beneath the stars
by these long lost children?


into hedgerow and field
wild geese have wandered

ill mannered pilgrims
they take their fill
manna strewn before them

but nothing is filled by this voice
this void that filters from unseen stars

Night Fall
Sanctuaire Sainte-Anne


is there no sanctuary
between this hard place
and the sea rocked chamber
that awaits?

sea weed binds the feet
hands are helpless
unable now to set anyone free


grey seals
these concrete shadows
stealing up the beach

if they turn
their backs on the sea
will they turn into
our long lost children?

the sulky cry
of their silken grief
wraps round our hearts
chokes in our throats


a thin lace
veils this day dream

a vision lost
then found again
floating in what doting

this veil of tears

Some Survivors Come Ashore
Galérie Marcel Gagnon
Ste. Flavie


what cruel god
unshelled them here
their stone expressions marooned
beneath a concrete sky?

fresh from the sea
their press gang faces
fixed on this firmament

they tread watery beds
cockles and muscles
alive alive

night's wheelbarrow
bearing dead brethren
piled abreast
on this breastwork of waves


up this rock strewn path they climb
thankful for terrestrial pitfalls

each ill placed step a stumble
each stumble a precipice

deep knots in the pine wood
rough beneath the hand
thrust splinters
through the too soft skin

night falls like water
drawn from the dusky sea
depths of some enigmatic well


sullen beneath moody clouds
sharp shafts of sudden radiance
rain horizontal
spears of piercing light

roots on this barred
barren ground
temptations to trip them


watcher or watched
what bard lies concealed
his god given words
amidst reed and stone?

what prospect of sea and sky
looms behind this falling barometer?

tap tap of fortune's blind finger
white against stubborn glass


the veiled sun
hides and bides his time
waiting for what winged
sea change
break in the weather?

quick as this mercury
spreading like quicksilver
temperature and the tide dropping
midnight's darkness
swiftly upon them

Morning in the Havre du Bic
Parc National du Bic


daylight steps dripping from the sea's rising
light's fresh waves breaking again and again
rocky inlets filling with shorebirds

migrant geese eyeing a distant horizon
white shirts flapping on a line
these oies blanches flying

lit by the running of this low spring sun
who tells us when to stand and when to run?


though the tide now rises the ebb will soon drain us away
stripping us down to pure clay we will be earthenware bowls
sea polished bones will shine like the sun
wave after wave lonely in the sea's slow honing

mud flattens itself on slipway and beach
our hollow bodies stripped of flesh
break surreptitiously down


sea weed wet sand live things drying dying
this unforgiving father the rising sun
staring into our eyes meaningless merciless

a lone bird walks on stilts across this desert of mud
a semaphore of silver a live fish flapping
predatory heron feasting on the shadows
bread cast on waters and this miracle of fish

those who have gone before us cast no shadows
sharp stones beneath their feet
cold waters lapping at their hands

On the Beach behind the Auberge
Ste. Luce-sur-mer


so douce this dulce this dunce's cap
binding our brains

in the dark of midnight
we covet each sparkling grain of sand
thrown upwards blinding
as we look to the stars


night's darkest hour
nothing remains
no thing
no - res

only le néant
and its giant hand

re - [main] - s


how softly the descending dew
night's cobalt dressing gown
fitful down a winding stair of light

fugitive night hiding daylight
deep in deepening clouds

The Empress of Ireland Lies Down to Sleep
150 Feet Below the Surface off Ste. Luce


ears fill with a metallic scream
iron's voice burdening lost children
something blighted now has left this tortured world

moving in ever tightening circles
hope choking on this rock in the throat
seeking for something long ago lost

three men riding biblical camels
follow a star to the depths of the sea
who can now survive three days in the belly?
this rusting metal whale entombing so many

water and flowing blood go with the ebb and the flow
and the go with the flowing hair of sea weed spread on waves
go gently with the flow


all nightmares end
or are there just new beginnings
the old movies playing
their black and white magic again
and again to empty seats in sordid cinemas
where old ghosts gather to watch worn out clips
in which they starred when they were young and beautiful

blessed are the poor in memory for they shall have sleep

the hand that sacks the cradle reaps what virtues in night's cold wind?

who is left to sit at our tables to hold our hands when night returns?

are we so seduced by the beauty of the young
that we dive to deep depths to find it?

cool pools of water close over our heads
the ship's bare hull sinks deeper into mud silt and sand
playthings of the waves we rock in our resting places

Day Trippers on the Beach
Ste. Luce-sur-Mer


the beach

dry wood
dead wood

sea washed trees
root and branch
for the ritual
august burnings


how clean now
this earthen vessel

ground down by flames
its calcined bones


what strange desires
plucked out their tongues

unsaid words

like harp strings
like a cormorant's wings
on the salt sea fence of this wind 4

sandstone sparkles
diamond chains

sun's crazy clockwork
across the lazy
face of the lie of the land


pale eye of the night

flayed by the splendour
of these northern lights
great wounds opening

how many
crept here in silence
to sing sad songs

to hang san benitos
a garland of immaculate vows
pristine on the circling stars?


an ossuary
this morning beach

a golden board
bordered with bone dust
paved with the chalk
of skeleton and skull

our footsteps follow
a secret sacred way
between wave washed


water's tongue
licking like a big wet dog
salt drying on hand and foot

what bars and barriers
will be revealed
when our own flesh
peels away?


these ears that cannot see

these eyes that cannot hear

in stead of our tongues
a black herald
dressed in fine feathers
croaks out a list of names

this moribund crow
nailed to a barren tree
counting with ink
from a battered quill
the crumpled blades of grass
tumbled beneath the scythe

watching each sparrow

as it tumbles into oblivion

Dream of the Empress of Ireland


what cold light dies under water?

the slow smile on the dream's face
illuminates an uncommon blend
grit and sand

slow hair before the eyes
the cold tides sucking at ankle and heel


celluloid fictions
black and white film
mouths open
in a silent scream

what became of the photographers
of the men and women who stood their ground
clicking their cameras as the ship went down?

the air breaks apart
delirious dots
absurd distraction of dashes


silent on the coast
the lighthouse light
goes round and round


what price the pearl in the oyster?

the nightmare saran wrapped
in its wholesome bedtime sock

salt water to the mouth
wet rock and sand to the lips

that held the bedtime cigarette


books and dolls
and boys and girls and
men and women
spilled untidy
across the beach

wild waves rocking
the cradled headland

silence after the storm
all can now be consigned to oblivion
this land falls into our hands
a pocket full of posies

we all fall down to be gathered in sleep

Sermon for the Empress of Ireland


"Sometimes, in the evening, a golden angel
gilds the waters and walks towards us over the waves.
I have seen him consecrate rock puddles,
converting them to instant glory with a touch of his feathers.

Sometimes, a silver angel walks by his side.
Water turns to fish scale brightness,
shimmering and shivering like burnished
armour in the light of his burning countenance.

When ships go down, the sea turns orange, red, and yellow.
The silver angel strains fresh blood from the sunset
and scatters it with water from his secret chalice.

He turns his back on the world, holds his hands high,
and purifies the air until silver light spins a halo
round our suffering and we place our cares on his plate of sorrows."


"Last night, all the colours of a rainbow:
feux d'artifices rising up from the water.
Diamond pebbles, they skipped the waves
and tipped them with exultation.

Jubilation in the children who were lost.
A new light shone through them and their spirits
walked towards us out of the sunset.

He will take their broken bodies
and heal them, like so many disarticulated dolls
brought to his hospital.

Bruises will disappear. Crushed spirits will be made whole.
Bones will knit back together, bound for all eternity
by the strictest of strings, thin shafts of sunlight
woven by celestial fingers to bring us this eternal grace."


"Light dances blue and green steps,
now high, now low,
on the northern horizon.

Pools of standing water
recall the freshness of spring,
the resplendence of new flowers
sprung to the mystery of light.

Silver and gold, the angels
walk a pathway of light
from earth to heaven.

They lead our children by the hands.
Pied pipers, they have gone on ahead.

We know with the absolute
certainty of revelation
that when we in turn arrive,
we will find them there, waiting."


"My body will bring bread of nourishment.
My waters will spread sunset's wine,
bright red, upon this surging tide.
Many mouths shall come here to feed.

In my death will life be brought to millions.
People whom I will never know will know me;
they will carry me deep within them
and I will build memories in their secret places.

Have no fear, for have I not said I will always
be near you. And the night dark, stark,
spreading like a fear of absence on the grey brown bread
of this abandoned stretch of mud and sand."

A Lost Soul Fled Far from the Empress of Ireland


For many days I wandered lost across mud flats and sand.
The turning tide was an alarm clock waking me to the bodily
needs of self and sun and substance.

Sustenance: food and water stretched before me.
Who broke this stick like a baguette of bread
across the back of night and brought me to daylight?


When I climbed on dry land,
the earth was a tablecloth spread beneath me.
Wild herbs and fresh rain fulfilled my bodily needs.

I lived a new existence on this distant horizon.
Faith was within my grasp.
I lived from the hand of charity.

But I was alone on this barren headland.
I lost all hope when I saw the bodies of my children.


Blood thicker than water, thicker than cocoa,
thicker even than this chocolate river of mud!

Who will walk with me, at low tide, on this water?
Who will tread this liquid firmament in search of peace?

A sharp arrow flights its way to the exact time of tide.
The daylight will shine for a short while yet.

How long, dear friend, how long?


Here's a toast to my lost friend
drowned within sight of the shore,
to my storm-rocked friend
weary on his cannibal raft,
to my star crossed friend
tossed sky high
in what unknown agony of cloud?

Here's to the plaintiff
cry of the despondent child
dashed from incinerated lips
with vinegar's sharp shot.


Oh water and blood!
Eau red rocks dying
again and again
in these crimson sunsets.

variegated striations
strata across the sky.

Each bird:
a letter of the alphabet;

each morse code dot and dash:
a meaningless gesture
tied to the blue kite of our lives.


Where now the merganser?
Where now the eider duck,
chugging in his carefree crêche
across the dark tide of the night?

Where now is the sun's bright
match that will set this holy book
alight with the celestial flame of love?


feral gravel bent
beneath animal bodies

spring splash of energy
and the new host
too young to know
the virtue of that long
slow wait for summer's sun


the sun's hand
clenched in a cerulean fist
blue is the world
the sea
the sky

the earth dressed drably
in a shabby robe
mist on the headland

brief dance of light
enhanced clouds
little children lost at sea

Suite Ste. Luce
Ste. Luce-sur-mer


Black backed gulls,
nature's alarm clocks,
waking the seaside
with their glaucous rattle.

High tide? Low tide?
We have drifted on our life raft
far from the grasping hands
of the city clocks.

Gulls dine on the beach.
Day's rhythm all at sea.


6 am? 7 am? 8 am?
What do they mean?

The planet's slow revolution?
This sun arc sketched in its stretch of sky?

Salt spray combing seaside fingers
through a young girl's hair.

A man in a red boat,


Bare toes grip
damp wrinkled sand.

Worms have written
runes in their arcane
wriggling script.
What do they tell us,
these secret messages?

Sunburnt now,
the bare beach itches
like tanned leather,
like salt on a fish skin
nailed drying to a frame.


The salt air knits the freshness
of its needles through my chest.

Slowed heartbeat,
dormant strand.

The tide's blood flowing,
in and out,
inflating, deflating
the beach's sandy lung.


Early morning mist:

a shadow heron
clacks its beak
at a ring of mobbing


When the mist clears,
heron draws
his neck into a bow
and fires
the arrow of his beak
into a fish.

The gulls run wild,
clawing up the sky
on a ladder of sound.



a coat-hanger, hanging from
a blue sky-rail,

white wings braced
against the flow of air.


Herring gulls hovering,
round the old man's head;
a halo
of clacking red-ringed beaks
livid against the sky.

Brazen voiced,
mewling for their daily bread.


cormorants pinning
their wings to dry
on the wind's
rough cross-beams.


The dead crab,
alive an eye blink ago:

body exit left
(with the black backed gull)

legs exeunt right
(with herring gull attendants).

Crowd scene:
a chorus
of crows-in-waiting.


The beach compacts
smaller and smaller.

The tide jostles
sand pipers
into a dwindling world:

this shrinking pocket
of sand.


Happy the kite's face
with its child
dangling far below.

Kite bounces up and down
on a tight-rope of air.

Below it, the child
walking the beach,
nose to the wind,
obedience on a leash.

The kite
in the blue above
its long, bright tail.


When the mist thickens,
it closes a window in the sky.

The church on the headland
steps plainly into sight,
then out again.

The old man wraps himself
in a cloak of rain.

Suddenly, the sun
drapes itself,
like a golden sou'wester,
over his head.


Summer lies abandoned
under rain-soaked umbrellas.

Red bucket, bright blue spade.

cast like a pair of sandals
on this cold, damp sand.

Return to Creativity