Friday, 30 September 2011

Home Children

Damaged collateral of industrial revolution,
abandoned into Orphan Homes,
schooled to cross the Golden Bridge,
wooden trunks inventoried with practical philanthropy,
a Bible and the Progress to guide the Pilgrim’s way.

Adventure beckons as tears fade with the shore,
sick ‘til pitch and yaw delight,
pale faces flush in salted air,
awestruck at galaxies of stars,
chasing western suns into fogged Banks, where icebergs keel;
to Scotian shore and endless miles on slatted seats,
nose-pressed to steamy windows,
as a pioneered bewilderment trundles by,
matchbox cabins replace stone-cold, slate-grey memories.

Ahead, Receiving Homes and Destiny,
labeled for indenture, contract or adoption.

Some toil farms and sleep in frozen barns,
a master’s cur, servile to a mistress,
an option-less survival excepting passage back with slaughter cattle,
or finding that death’s comfort is not always cold.

Others are welcomed to fill the void of death
or sons homesteading for themselves,
brogue yields to Gaelic, Deutsch, Québécois and Valley;
siren-called by new-laid track and virgin land,
staking prairie sod, mining coal, panning Yukon gold,
they fight with pride, volunteer to die for King and Country.

Fame, fortune, families founded by foundlings,
weft woven tightly in the warp of Canada.

Yet they rarely told their tales to those they loved.
Was it for shame of who they were, from where they came?
Or had they long abandoned memories of pain?

Bryan Douglas Cook June 21 2011

Context for Home Children

In celebration of “The Year of the Home Child”; dedicated to the Home Children who played such a major role in building Canada 1833-1939

In 1869, the philanthropist and home child champion Annie McPherson wrote in a pamphlet:
” We who labour here are tired of relieving misery from hand to mouth, and also heartsick of seeing hundreds of families pining for want of work, when over on the shores of Ontario the cry is heard ‘Come over and we will help you’. We are waiting to seek out the worthy not yet on the parish list, but who soon must be; we will see to their being properly started on the Canadian shores if you will give us the power to make a Golden Bridge across the Atlantic.”

Home Children was published by Anglo Celtic Roots of BIFHSGO in the 2011 September edition.

This was my first “free form “poem

Read at Tree Reading Series 27 September 2011

Friday, 23 September 2011

Full Moon Eve

Sea horses have ceased to toss their foaming manes
Before the lashing of an eastern wind.
The anvil clouds of driving rain have fled,
Mist mutes an inky sky,
The air is stilled with hushed tranquility
As the Moon ascends to her celestial zenith.
The ocean lies prostrate and grey in supplication,
Awaiting the command of her full orb to ebb or flow.
Black seaweed windrows line the red sand strand.
A dark canvas on which she casts her pale reflection of the Sun
And scatters her moon-beams across the water,
A shimmering path of ephemeral fractals,
Ghosting bleached driftwood and
Blazing sedge and sea mustard with ethereal light.
Suddenly, a sea breeze heralds night; colour flees;
A cloak of darkness wraps the shore in restless sleep.

Bryan Douglas Cook 19 August 2011

Context for Full Moon Eve
Inspired by a photograph I took of an evening full moon on the PEI South Shore over Hillsborough Bay, while I was on holiday in August 2011. I hope Hester Boyle paints it.

Abby’s Passing

High tide rests awaiting a beckoning moon,
The bay calms to tranquility,
My tears mingle with the brine
That gently laps a requiem of peace.
Your soul sails on the breeze of freedom.

A pup, hair askew and ears aflop,
Gazing quizzically from your cage atop the stoop.
You ‘walked the plank’ searching for a fishing bobber
And were safely netted from the deep.
A patient mother to your errant sister Tess;
Loyal and faithful through life’s turmoil;
Tanya’s constant shadow.

Countless walks along the old Kemp Road
In rain, shine, wind and snow,
Geese, turkey and the coyote were our wild companions,
You always kept a lookout from far behind.
Sniffing spots on River Path and Mystery Park
Demanded your freedom from split- leashed tyranny.
Being lost meant run, panic and then find me at the gas bar!

All dogs big and small respected your Scottish bred authority!
No TV Maggie you!
A groomer’s scourge in your dowager years,
And yet a good companion,
Chasing squeaky toys on lawns and corridors,
Rolling for a belly scratch at the sight of Jos’s lean frame.
You brought us joy, health, comfort; requiring little in return.

And so I gaze upon the ocean spume, a thousand miles away from you,
A black crow feather drifts slowly by in a gentle swirl of sea grass,
It carries my prayer of thankfulness for all you gave us
And my hope that we will walk together once again.

Bryan Douglas Cook August 2011

Context for Abby's Passing
Written sea cliff-side as our first Westie, Abby, was being put to sleep in Ottawa to suffer no longer the effects of a brain tumor. Tanya returned to help her in her final days along with Emily and Josiah. The prayer feather actually floated by in a swirl of sea-weed. A sweet and sad reflection for a faithful friend and walking companion.

Read at Tree Reading Series 27 September 2011

Death on a Mountain

The climb sapped Stemmer,
Hypoxia so intoxicated his mind
That he hallucinated a superfluity of nuns
Exalting to engage the Heavenly Host;
He joined them in Final Judgement
To a descant of wind and harp.

Bryan Douglas Cook 27 July 2011

Context for Death on a Mountain
A TREE class exercise in July 2011 in which I had to create a poem from a translation of a German verse, knowing no German, and then edit it. The verse could have been in any foreign language to explore the technique.The actual source was from Rainer Maria Rilke "Duino Elegies"


What’s the fastest way to learn a language?
Act like a baby.
You get lost by being so complex and obscure
that reruns require subtitles.
Shouldn’t a good story just stand on its own?
The nexus of science and poetry
is buried in an in-box, waiting to be found.
Does cash slake the cravings of hearts and souls?
No, rather language, language, language.
So make a difference to your morning
with do- it- yourself word butchering:
Cleaver? Check. Hook? Check.
Hell Yea!
We poets are dismembering language into choice cuts.
Point, click, drop and leap into Warhol’s void
where two heads voice the muse.
Bryan Douglas Cook 20 July 2011

Context for TIME MAG MUSE

This is an edited montage poem from clippings cut from Time Magazine as part of a course taken at the TREE reading series in Ottawa, July 2011
The original clippings read:
What’s the fastest way to learn a language?
Act like a baby.
Lost became so complex and obscure, reruns required subtitles. Shouldn’t a good story just stand on its own?
The eternal clash of science and ethics
Inbox...Lost and never found
Is cash the answer?
Language ,language !
Make a difference in your morning.
DIY Butchering. Cleaver? Check. Meat hook? Check. Street cred? Hell, yea. Why meat lovers are becoming meat cutters.
Point Click Drop and Dive
Leap into the Void (1960)
Two Heads Better


Why me? Why kiss?
When all you want arises from my groin;
Shivered fear engulfs my tears,
Virginity is raped of all its cares.

Bryan Douglas Cook April 2011

Context for KISS
As part of a poetry composition course the author was asked to write a short poem about a kiss remembered from youth....child abuse by a third party (not parents) is not an easy thing to express.

Death Of Elsie

Elsie pined for elusive death;
A showgirl collapsed to living corpse.

Her brain kept time but time kept back;
Terror stalked her soul.

She needed hands to lead, not heal;
I shared her dreams and play her requiem.

Bryan Douglas Cook April 2011

Context for Death of Elsie

Elsie was a surrogate and beloved grandmother to the Cook family who died on the Thursday before Easter 2011 at 97 years of a failing body and a tired soul. Her passion was music and the author inherited her organ.

Forest Before Snow

The naked forest reveals her form, sculpted by ancient glaciation,
Granite ridge, steep slope and bog too poor for cultivation.
Gnarled roots of mighty pines, toppled by summer thunder,
Reach skywards clutching still in vain their granite anchors,
Their broken ribs lie stark along their rotting spines,
Guarded by buckthorn, wreathed in sour grape vines.

A carpet once emblazed with hues of beech and maple leaves,
Perfume laden with the musk of Fall upon a rustling breeze,
Now lies down-trodden, blackened, soiled;
With remnant weeds bent low in final toil to sow their seed,
By scavenging rodent, chickadee or clasping burr on fur.

The beaver dam is rimed with floes,
Its dark pond edged with gnawn aspen boughs.
The shallowed stream chills to icebound stillness;
Marsh pools creak and crack a passing warning
Mud is cast to iron corrugation.

A blight of metal, rubber, foam mushrooms on the forest floor,
Debris of man’s insatiable demand for more,
Plastic baggies ripen on the brush, scoop-filled but not disposed,
All soon to lie beneath a white veneer unseen,
And re-emerge as toxic leachate to the stream.

Biting sleet is driven by a relentless, chilling wind
Trees groan and chafe as limbs are pruned.
Wounds cauterise; the weak and aged are culled.
Woodpeckers drum out the grub and crows clean carrion,
Distant guns hunt duck and goose and deer, no longer hidden.

Scattered on the forest floor lie tales of pioneering lives,
Broken fence rails, rusting wire, rotten stumps and stacked rock piles.
Sweat and toil that was in vain against infertile soil and cold;
They left, perhaps to move out West to harvest Prairie gold,
The forest overgrew all trace; their story left untold.

The pines and firs stand sentinel over this frigid land,
Their green reminds that deep within renewal is at hand.
But though they watch, they cannot defend against the yuletide axe,
To decorate the home with tree and bough so soon to lose their sheen,
Oh hasten Winter, load your healing drifts upon this tired and melancholy scene.

Bryan D. Cook Late November 2010

Context for Forest before Snow
Walking my dogs in late November and early December 2010 in the Mystery Park and woodland along the Ottawa River in Orleans, Ontario, I felt that Fall was over and we were in a limbo before the true Winter season. The forest had so many melancholy overtones deserving of reflection.
Bryan D. Cook 9 December 2010

Is It Worth It?

A writer of doggerel is a lonely person
Whose verse is praised by only those within its phrases,
Established laureates expect extensions of the day’s conventions,
Feelings once again retreat to empty places.
Torn to ribbons but not a page is worn,
Ridicule leaves muse still-born.
His voice retreats to a mirage of silent safety,
His manic roller-coaster ramps and dives incessantly.
His purpose may be for introspection, or
Perhaps he yearns for personal vindication,
Or could both string his soul and muse to hypertension?

Bryan D. Cook September 2010 revised October 2010 revised April 2011

Context for Is It Worth It?

The author is on a journey of discovering his feelings through poetry after years of suppression to the norms of work and the expectations of society. His style is evolving rapidly from late romantic towards more free-form. He still however believes in the values of rhyme and rhythm, which are sometimes dismissed as old fashioned, almost to the point of being traits of doggerel.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

An August Afternoon at the Arthurs’.

It’s hot and still on August’s final Sunday,
When Arthurs’ welcomed explorers of ancestral lore to their home
Upon the curve of a secluded lane, bowered in stately woodland and grassy knoll,
Near yet far from Hog’s Back hustle and Bytown bustle,
Beside By’s Canal where tower- crested Carleton campus lies,
Thronging with busy, wireless youth and tireless energies.

The Arthurs’ home breathes peaceful elegance,
Welcomed by broad doors burnished red,
Within its grounds, a cottage once was hidden in serenity,
Then a canoe trip and a hike through pine and field from Ottawa,
Where Archie Lampman found his muse
And dreamt romantic verse beneath the northern star.

Alas, why have Canada’s Romantics banished been?
Crawford, Campbell, Lampman, Service, Roberts, Montgomery, Drummond, Scott and Carmen
Champions of Nature‘s idyll, the homestead farmer and the driven quest of pioneers;
Alienated urban man found raw expression in Modernistic form: abstracted, stressed and terse,
Academic mores favoured intellect over the vicarious joy of feelings, widely shared.
Survival’s hour-glass has turned; truth calls for telling in the most popular of verse.

The furnishings betray a life of exploration,
A tasteful mingling of artistry from Europe and the Orient,
Antique blended with art nouveau,
Discreetly jeweled with crafted bottles of perfume and scent;
Orchids and geraniums blossom in solarium;
An antique Jaguar patiently awaits its rebuild in the shed.

Bluff- hidden, overlooking the lush greens of farm and arboretum,
Where a brook lazily confluences in willowed haven, there once a trout rose to the fly;
A brook, which had meandered free through bush and open glen, is now culvert-drained to will of men.
Here ducks dabble, fatted contentedly on summer’s rich aquatic bloom,
Turtle and muskrat plough a watery furrow; carp and silverside roll with occasional splash,
Tree frogs resume their nightly trill, once stilled by force unknown; kingfisher dive with blue-hued flash.

We ate and drank at leisure beside the water, celebrating those that paved the way;
Diverse were our reflections on global interdependency, of sharing common bonds and life experiences,
Of man’s valuation of news, hopes and aspirations.
As if on cue, a skein of geese flocked honking overhead, heralding the end of summer and our reverie;
A fountained pool, embraced by a mighty basswood, gave final reflection
While seated on marble and cast- iron, gazing at the follies of the industry of Campbell.

Fitting closure to a Romantic afternoon.

Bryan Douglas Cook 29 August 2010

Context for An August Afternoon at the Arthurs'

On Sunday afternoon August 29, 2010 Bill and Jeanette Arthurs’ hosted the DNA Study group of BIFHSGO to BBQ at their home at 1228 Lampman Crescent Ottawa. Bill chairs the group and Bryan Cook attended as a member. The meal was held in delightful surroundings at waterside. The home is on idyllic, secluded grounds beside the Rideau Canal where the Late Romantic Canadian poet Archibald Lampman had a cottage. It is also where the Campbell’s,of Ottawa foundry fame,had a retreat around which they adorned the heavily wooded grounds with iron gazebos. The sound of tree frogs did indeed disappear for 4 years and has only recently restarted.....mosquito spraying is the suspected culprit.

Kaua’i Seduction

Garden Isle, a tapestry in green,
With flowered thorn, Jurassic fern and buttressed tree,
Cloaking razor ridge and crater bowl
Once over brimmed by lava, flaming red,
Now canyoned down to torrent beds.

Mighty Wai ale ale bathes in warm Pacific rains,
Flooding crystal falls which from her summit drain
To hidden azure pools, cool retreat from tropic heat;
Mists shroud the mystic cliffs and clefts of magic Napali,
Echoing thundering breakers fetched from far-north Bering Sea.

Trades first beached Cook upon Waimea’s blackened sand,
Delta threshold to a Canyon, deep and grand:
Feral goats graze the sun-burnt, rusting precipice,
As white-tailed tropics wheel above, and
Wild boar tusk the upland swamp for root and grub.

Waterfowl and taro share valley ponds, sustaining poi traditions,
Above are Princeville mansions, manicured by millions;
Bali Ha’i and Hanalei recall romantic film and magic dragon,
Turtles laze the sheltered drift along Anini beach,
Boobies dance cliff thermals at Kilauea light as humpbacks breach.

Leeward, fertile coastal plains of weathered ancient reef and lava soil
Once grew sweet sugar under plantation rule and toil;
Hanapepe’s weathered face reflects a youth of opiate escape from cane field misery,
Abandoned mills and rails rust in the tinder grass,
An ancient garbage dump transforms into shimmering sands of glass.

The Spouting Horn trumpets its rain-bowed plume
From rocky shelf above the pounding spume,
Mere shadow of a giant blasted to desalt the cane;
Beyond in dark, gloss- green descend the bushy rows,
Coffee, aromatic brew from black earthed lava flows.

Before Koloa’s dappled, eucalyptus-tunnelled way,
A post trades beads of pearl, fire coral and shelly lei;
Monkey pods frame the board-walked market square,
Roosters rule the beach, villa lawn and mountain brush,
Crowing dawn to dusk in territorial lust.

Monk seal and turtle green haul up on Poipu’s beach tombolo,
Boards boogie surf and ride the curl,
Below, in coral rock and foaming surge,
Wrasse, trigger, parrot, unicorn and moon-idol
Medley with tang, goat, trumpet, butterfly and moray eel.

Past Brennecke and Shipwreck Beach where cast nets snare in ocean’s boil,
Past stately Hyatt’s lawns and pools of koi,
Stand fossil cliffs, carved by Pacific gods into mythic gargoyle beasts
To guard sacred warrior beaches beneath the gaze of mighty Kawelikoa,
Where wind-gnarled bonsai cling to cliff-top lava.

The crimson orb of a setting sun sinks gently to Pacific rest,
Silhouetting anvil clouds above the luminous ocean crests,
At silent vigil lovers, young and old, kiss farewell to a balmy day;
Half sun crescents to a final flash of green,
Night falls; calm darkness lit by Kaua’i’s moon bids serenity in dream.

Bryan D. Cook February 2011

Context for Kaua'i Seduction

Bryan, his wife Tanya and family friends Keith and Alexa Brewer spent a sunny winter week (January 29 to February 5, 2011) on the island of Kaua’i in the Hawaiian archipelago. Though located very comfortably on the south shore in Aston Villas, thanks to villa owners Mark and Ann Riley, the quartet was seduced by Kaua’i’s rural beauty and wild variety of land- and seascapes. They travelled extensively, armed with Andrew Doughty’s Ultimate Guide (Wizard Publications Inc), a truly honest and detailed companion. The result was this memory written at 30,000 feet on the return flight to Canada.

Winter on Granville Island

Eclectic Isle of winter mists and rains,
Sheening boardwalks and ancient rails,
Relics of colonial trade;
Now yacht and cruiser haven past the deco span,
Safe from Pacific swell in False Creek’s calm.

A western silhouette of snowy peaks graced by English Bay,
Hosts setting suns to amber the clouded haze and
Pierce the rusting girders of the Granville Bridge;
Iron gateway to the Island streets
Where life’s pace slows and urban stress retreats.

Ringed by a million dollar condominium view,
A kaleidoscope of grays, yellows, greens and blues,
Nurtures in its heart the vibrant passion of Miss Carr;
Leather, fabric, gem and fine art studios
Neighbor metal foundry, boat dry docks and concrete silos.

The Island once was under docker rule,
Hotels of notoriety, thirst quenched by local brews;
By-passed by trade, vagrant and flower power shared her abandonment,
Now reborn, she welcome's all who seek her charms
In parks, in floating homes and experimental theater barns.

Incessant water beetles criss-cross the bay,
Ferrying daily shoppers to the Open Market’s maze
Of stalls, overflowing with the fruits of land and sea;
Aromatic coffee roast, vibrant orchid sprays,
Pacific seafood brined and smoked in tempting ways.

Island dining is a secret poorly kept of maritime menus:
Here, a hotel brews fine ale to quaff with Salt Spring blues,
There, a fishing smack hangs raftered over sushi, ocean fresh.
Aztec pipes echo haunting melodies from the row,
An evening stroll sees floured bakers raising morning’s dough.

At the point stands sentinel a silent cargo crane,
Ochre-yellow, tracked witness to the Island’s heritage fame.
Before the dawn, black scions of those who haunted once her wharfs and railcars
Now flock her gantries, there to recount with raucous caw
The continuing saga of the Island’s times ‘til drawn by market scraps once more.

Bryan Douglas Cook January 2011 revised November 6 2011

Context for Winter on Granville Island

Bryan and Tanya Cook stopped in Vancouver in January 27-29, 2010 at the Granville Island Hotel, on their way to Hawaii. Once again the misted, winter jewel of the island captured their hearts. They dined locally with long-time friend Irene Goldstone who graciously shared her beautiful city with them. This poem was written over the Pacific heading for Kaua’i.

Student Days

The Sixties Bloody Eve
Birthed War: We Cried for Peace and
A Bright Alaskan Light Was Killed
On Tessler’s Chariot Line.

Soldiers Marched in Montreal
As Bombs and Curfew Reigned, and
Psychedelic Experience Turned To
A Young Confusion High

But No Matter How I Rage
There’s No Turn’in Back The Page
And There’s No Coffee Brew’n
Underneath The Ghetto.

Across Drifted Cars Down Sherbrooke
We Skied to Drummond’s Bars
To Drink, and Play and Sing
Those Irish Lancer Tunes

Israel, She Came Dancing,
Her Hashish Smoked Our Minds;
We Jammed Until Our Fingers Bled,
While She Traded Souls in Kind.

But No Matter How I Rage
There’s No Turn’in Back the Page
And There’s No Coffee Brew’n
Underneath The Ghetto.

Fredericka’s Trial Is Over,
She Pines For Love No More; and Oh
What Hearts Were Torn When
Graceful Russia Knocked Our Door?

Friends Parted, Sad, Stone-Hearted,
Choosing Paths Which Each Believed In;
Perhaps From This Delusion
Some Joy May Come Some Day.

But No Matter How I Rage
There’s No Turn’in Back the Page
And There’s No Coffee Brew’n
Underneath the Ghetto.

Bryan Douglas Cook Spring 2010

Context for Student Days
A poem of memories from the author’s student days at McGill University from 1967 to 1971. The Chariot line refers to the suspicious “death” of a professor in Alaska immortalized in the book the “Firecracker Boys”. “Russia” is the author’s future bride Tatiana Marokin. Parting friends and many of the experiences were shared with Don “Paul” Prozetsky.

Walking our Westies

Ten thousand paces to the rhythmic tap of trusty walking cane
The panting patter of eight tiny paws split leashed in double rein;
Our faithful Westies scent out the hidden trails;
Where passing coyote, dog or skunk have sprayed their signs.

In Spring, we take the old Kemp Road, before the seed is sown,
Over sandy hill and shaded bush to pick the fiddlehead fern.
Wild turkey flee in single file, and deer a distance mind,
We keep close watch on coyote for an ambush from behind.

The Summer route’s from the parking lot behind the grocery store,
Through balmy pines of Mystery Park where crows and ravens caw;
Along the winding river path of roots scalped by spring-time flows,
Back along the sewer line, fragrant incense to a canine nose!

As Summer drifts towards the Fall, sweet raspberries and tangy blackberries entice
My stick to clasp luscious clusters from ivy’s poisonous embrace.
Elderberries droop heavy, and the rosy crab-apples signal jelly-time,
Wild mushrooms beckon those who for their earthy flavours dare to dine.

Back we wander to a long forgotten sandy excavation
In a fossil dune-rimmed beach from ancient Lake Champlain,
Where sandhill cranes nest amid the rusted frame of an abandoned truck,
And, sheltered near the Mer Bleue Bog, a sedge-lined bed for white-tailed buck.

Hidden by the corn field, we hike the deep ditch line,
Past stalks trampled by marauding deer, and cobs gnawed by porcupine;
We maze through towering corridors of rustling stover and golden ears,
In peaceful separation from a world of fears and tears.

Hips and haws of thorn are mock holly garlands of hedged fields;
Where goldfinch and the chickadees forage ‘mid the butterflies
On carpets of goldenrod, aster and thistle down;
While burrs maddeningly knot white fur to gnaw and comb.

We rustle a mosaic of autumnal leaves; sweet is the scent of their composting ferment;
Beavers splash the ditch dammed over an aging railway culvert;
A red-flashed blackbird calls raucous indignation from a bulrush,
While dogs roll with oblivious contentment in the fetid marsh.

All too soon, the swamps and paths ice in Winter’s time,
Our breath steams, trees glisten with their coats of rime;
I stamp out paths through drifts for tiny paws to follow,
Finally, we retreat to truck-ploughed ways until return of geese and swallow.

And so, ten thousand paces more to the rhythmic tap of trusty walking cane
The panting patter of eight tiny paws split leashed in double rein...............

Bryan D. Cook September 2010

Context to Waking Our Westies
Bryan and Tanya Cook have two West Highland Terrier bitches, Abby and Tess. Bryan has walked them every day, all year for the last 14 years. This poem touches on the highlights of the usual walking routes; not specifically on the natures of the dogs themselves.
I was honoured to be named poet for February 2011 by the Poet Laureate for Canada for this poem.