Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Dark Side

The Dark Side

A serpent totem lies bleached on Rocky Point,
above muddy flats where bottles jag and polypropylene ensnares;
its eyes stare hollow at the rusted ribs and
concrete carcass of a ferry wharf
abandoned for a distant bridge and smog.
Rancid seaweed reeks the shore as
sand fleas  burrow in their millions and mosquitoes breed in stagnant pools.
Tattered cormorants foul the roost, unblinking at the
mussel mats toxic with infection from manure heaps and
fertiliser to feed the blight of potato farms.
An oyster boat rots; the fishery destroyed.
A behemoth cruises up the sewer,
Two thousand tourist diodes flash as
Annie beckons from her traps.

Bryan D. Cook Ottawa  December 2012

Context for "The Dark Side"

I hope that Islanders will forgive this stark poem. I was shocked by what I found at Rocky Point close to the old Charlottetown ferry wharf. It seems so beautiful from afar, but then........ I love P.E.I. as many of my poems attest...but sometimes you have to describe the yin which goes with the yang.

Rocky Point 

Serpent Totem

Old Ferry Wharf 


Abandoned Oyster Boat

Costa Atlantica passes Rocky Point  (Photo courtesy of Steven McFeeters)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Daily Catch

The Daily Catch

Breakers comb the seaweed rows,
an eagle hangs on thermals high above the
arctic terns in caplin frenzy, as
grey seals lazy up the bay to dive for crab.

My tin boat anchors at the honey hole,
wreck of the “Five Brothers”,
marked on those ancient charts which
guided brigantines of pioneers
past Rocky Point to Charlottetown.

Chum streams in the current
scenting shoaling mackerel to my hooks;
soon six score are in the cooler; but
now the tide is turning and the
others leave as quickly as they came.

Cormorants hang their feathers out to dry
on mussel tenders berthed at Nine Mile Creek;
the sun sets beyond Rice Point as
I head for shore beneath an anvil sky.

Marguerite greets me with her pail; 
warm scones for fish, fair trade indeed!

Bryan D. Cook  November 20, 2012

Context for "The Daily Catch"

I love to catch mackerel in Hillsborough Bay, Prince Edward Island. I fish from a recycled tin boat called "Dumpster Dan" with a recycled 9.8 h.p. motor. Marguerite always watches my progress and safety with her binoculars and we trade after most catches. The evening skies are incredible.

Dawn on the Shore

Dawn on the Shore

Dawn’s blaze fires the cliffs and
tempers water purple, mauve and blue.
My shadow lengthens as I wander
by damp caves and cliff falls
sweetened with the scent of myrtle.
I cross the strandline of a winter gale,
bleached with shells and dry seaweed, and
greet the gentle lapping of an ebbing tide
where tiny pipers scurry shrimp.
Hours drift
in search of gems which glisten in the shallows or
frost in salted wind upon the beach;
lost and found beside my foot prints,
they are my worry beads, my rosary.

Bryan D. Cook Ottawa, November 20,2012

Context for "Dawn on the Shore"
I find the beaches below the red sandstone cliffs of the South Shore of Prince Edward Island a wonderful place to meditate, especially in the changing colours of dawn as I search for sea glass.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012



The tide is low and red sands stretch
out to the oyster beds flushed fresh
by a stream meandering to the waves;
wild mussels cling to rocky footings of once tall cliffs
felled by storm surge and winter ice;
marooned upon the sand,
crabs hide from hungry gulls with sea-weed camouflage,
or side -wind from my footstep in the grassy shallows;
razor fish breathe salted air above their burrows
ever vigilant to dive at my approach;
barefoot, I dance the clam-shoe-shuffle,
feeling quahog cobbles buried in the sand;
caplin scatter at my shadow
and heron rise with frustrated caw.

The tide is flooding now and it’s a heavy catch to shoulder to
the shore, stooping for the balls beyond the final green;
soon the chowder will be thickening on the stove,
I recommend a pinch of curry powder!

Bryan D. Cook    Ottawa    November 13, 2012 

Context for "Foraging"
On my summer holidays on the South Shore of P.E.I., I forage for my supper from the shore at low tide. It is a great feeling to be going back to early human development as a littoral creature forced to the Africa's eastern shore by a combination of climate change and avoidance of open range predation.It is quite likely that on those shores innovation in the use of early tools evolved rapidly. The references to the balls and final green describe one of the many beautiful coastal  golf courses of P.E.I. and the rain of balls which overshoot the green and end up in the sea!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Sea Glass

Sea Glass
Mist shrouds the light of Prim,
a fog horn moans across the calm;
heron holds vigil on the beach
rhymed with foam from an ebbing tide.
Stooped like the crows, I search for mermaid’s tears
of amber, turquoise, aqua and milk white,
hidden in the wrack with pebble, periwinkle and hermit crab.
If I look for tears, I do not find them; they find me,
time travelling from mystery to soothe my melancholy. 

 Bryan D. Cook, Ottawa, November 12, 2012

Context for "Sea Glass"
I wrote the original "sea glass" as homework for a Tree Seed Workshop on imagist poetry given by Lise Rochefort. I was pleased with it until I  met the maritime and political poet Peter Sanger at a meeting of Ottawa’s TREE Reading Series who, after hearing it,  advised me to tighten up my diction. Friends Jennifer Pederson and David Blaikie reinforced this view. I applied this wisdom  with the above result. I will now be going through this form of editorial process for every poem I write. I think part of my problem was that I had been so stultified by writing legal documents and memoranda to Cabinet that I was releasing my pent-up muse in a gush of metaphor, adjectives and adverbs.
I later received a very insightful  letter from Peter which I can precise as :

"get rid of all self aggrandising solipsism taught at creative writing courses, poetic detritus and nineteenth century clich├ęs. A poem requires the truth, not the nidnod of mutual cowardly complicity!"

He would distill the poem to its essence:

Stooped like the crows, I search for mermaid’s tears
of amber, turquoise, aqua and milk white,
hidden in the wrack with pebble, periwinkle and hermit crab.
If I look for tears, I do not find them; they find me,
time travelling from mystery. 

I think I could now write an interesting piece on the evolution of an imagist poem!

Mermaids' tears are gems of hydrated and smoothed sea glass, often a century or more old, washed up on the beach and coveted for  jewellery making.

A heron 's lone vigil in the mist

Dream Wedding

Dream Wedding

I dreamt I walked the tidal strand at the dawn of a wedding day,
Lulled by a calm serenity across the Hillsborough Bay.

The perfumed scent of new mown hay drifted from the fields,
A misted curtain hung in the sky, scattering pale moon beams;
The water gleamed a plankton green and flashed with mackerel sheen,
While the lights that guided ancient ships back-lit this tranquil scene.

On a grassy knoll above red-stone cliffs at the end of Blackberry Lane,
Where fairies dance in mushroom rings and golden mustard flames,
The Island clans had gathered to hear the wedding banns
Of the flaxen maid Christena and Dan the fisherman.

With fond embrace they pledged themselves for all eternity,
Then sealed their oath with a lingering kiss of love and constancy;
And with that kiss, a minstrel sound was heard across the bay,
Swelling to an anthem in celebration of their day.

The waves they plucked a Celtic harp in crescendos of ebb and flow,
While fiddler crabs bowed a Gaelic reel as they scuttled to and fro;
Whales in the deep Atlantic echoed a haunting bass,
As the oysters sang soprano and the mussels a descant low,
While ‘neath the sands, the striped bar clams gurgled a soft alto.

Tuxedoed crows and snow-gowned gulls danced a ballet so divine,
As herons rose in single file, a plumaged chorus line;
The lobsters tap-danced on the rocks, snapping their claws in time, and
A troupe of acrobatic seals turned somersaults in the brine.

Then up from the curved horizon brimmed the morning sun,
Its warming rays roused me from my haze; the new day had begun;
From Stewart’s barn came the merry sound of revellers full of cheer,
And the first to waltz was Christena fair and Dan, her husband dear.
For Christena and Dan with love and
 a wish from Bryan that all your dreams may be fulfilled.
Ottawa, June, 2012

Context for "Dream Wedding"
I was honoured to compose and read a poem for the wedding of Christena, the daughter of Stewart Darrach and Hester Boyle, our friends in PEI, to Dan Lemelin, an avid sport fisherman. I did not realise that it had to be given from the pulpit, but it seemed to go over well with the congregation. It took a lot of composure to read as my eyes were misty from the previous  beautiful singing of Leonard Cohen's "hallelujah" by Diane MacRae!

The happy couple

Best lady and Christena

The "clan"

Dan fishing afterwards!