Sunday, 23 December 2012

Island Cemeteries

Island Cemeteries

Clover frosts the sod
above the pioneers.

Their graveyard edged by pickets
with iron gates beside the
clap- board church, or
hidden in the fields behind the pines;
Peoples’ Burying Grounds
beyond the village limits,
Protestants  and Catholics
forever separate.

Nameless plots
their wooden crosses lost,
a stone lamb guards a child between her parents
a family claimed by pox and pleurisy,
marble etched by salted winds
faded names beneath the lichen.

Scottish, English, Irish refugees of
famine, war and poverty,
evicted from their crofts and common lands;
farmers, tanners , fishermen,
millers, blacksmiths , merchants ,
lawyers, mayors , Loyalists .

Founders of Island dynasties
buried head-to-toe.

Bryan D. Cook Ottawa December 2010 

Context for "Island Cemeteries"
In the Summer of 2012, I spent some time searching P.E.I. cemeteries for the "Newsome" ancestors of  a friend, Kathy Wallace. It is an amazing way to get to know the people and history of the Island! The stone lamb headstone was particularly poignant. Again , thanks to Pearl and David for excellent comments.

Lower Bedeque Cemetery P.E.I.

Cape Traverse United Cemetery P.E.I.

Thomas S Newsome Family  in Searletown Cemetery P.E.I.
(Thomas S, 1854-1910, Sarah J. Collett, wife, 1854-1922
and Charlotte A, daughter)

Stone Lamb in Searletown Cemetery P.E.I. 
marks the grave of Charlotte A. Newsome, 1896,  aged 4 months



There are exotic creatures on the Isle these days
sharing pastures with the sheep and cattle,
lamas and alpacas far from Andean slopes
and donkeys which have never carried burden.
Craning necks and trumpet ears on sentry duty,
sharp hooves and brays to drive away the coyotes
hunting new-born lambs and calves , as
blue herons spear the voles in fields of soya bean.
Thirty years ago the coyotes trekked across the frozen strait
to raise their pups in scrub-land and black spruce,
driving red fox to ditch and suburb,
in a dwindling space to co-exist with man.
The trapper snared six dozen this winter past,
he ships the pelts to China, we buy them back as parka trim.

Bryan D. Cook  Ottawa December 2, 2012

Context for "Competition"
The summer of 2012 was the first time I realised that donkeys and the lama family are used on the Island as guard animals against the coyote ; that herons hunt land mammals; and that the coyote does not tolerate the fox in his territory. It is now very common to see the fox beside the road  and  on urban streets. I also did not know that pelts are exported from the Island to China. Thanks to Pearl Pirie and David Blaikie for their critiques.

   Lama on guard in P.E.I.  (photo courtesy of "GuyC", P.E.I.)


Coyote on path (photo by the author)

Fox on trail near Hunter River, P.E.I. (photo courtesy of  "PEICycler")

Donkeys on alert near Winsloe, P.E.I.(photo courtesy of  "PEICycler")

Blue Heron hunting voles (photo courtesy of Rick Cameron,

Monday, 10 December 2012

By The West River

By The West River

In Island fields the donkeys guard
the new-born lambs and calves
from coyotes.
Stubby, grey with trumpet ears on heavy heads,
they munch the thistle heads
and clover.
There’s one that’s different from the herd,
solitary in the weeds before a
derelict home.
He’s mute and deaf, he does not move,
gazing at the salt marsh of
West River.
Where herons stalk and cormorants
hang their wings to dry in
summer’s breeze.
Where eels are trapped in wooden cul-de-sacs
as geese skein down to rest before the
winter ice.
He’s burdened with a pannier which never
leaves his back, unknown cargo going
nowhere fast.
His coat is weathered to a patchwork,
white and red and lichen yellow; a
missing ear.
Yet there’s calmness in this beast of beauty.

Bryan D. Cook  Ottawa, December 2012

Context for By the West River
I just could not get this image out of my head; the donkey is always there on my drive from Nine Mile Creek to Cornwall P.E.I., just before the West River Bridge. Thanks to Pearl Pirie for some valued editorial suggestions.