Tuesday, August 31, 2004

On the beach at Outer Cove

Binoculars are always working.
They sit there, on the stony beach,
waiting patiently for someone
to look through them. A father is
in his swimming trunks, calling
to his young daughter. Now he's
yelling out. What is it he's saying.
He's saying, Where are your ears?
Why do we throw rocks in the ocean.
The arc, the physical action of the
arm, feeling a rock, accomplishing
work, the satisfying plunge and
disruption of the swell.
We spent a night out in Broad Cove.
Had our photos taken underwater.
The seared bars across four hefty steaks.
I listened to a man who had turned
forty say he didnt care now what
people thought of him. It made us
all impressed with the recent
obituary photo of a friend. The
photo was twenty years ago, when
the friend was forty. He had completely
reinvented himself. We could too.
It's windy, grey and wet now. And
soon I'll be spending eight days
driving around the Avalon, living
in a tent.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

My Launch at the Ship

I'm hauling a roasted duck out
of the oven when my sister arrives.
And then, behind her, two other
people. But they are in silhouette.
It's my mother. And father.
Theyve driven nine hours across
the island to come to my launch.
We eat the duck. I look at them.
At the surprise of them.
Then we head down to the Ship,
to launch my book. Where else
to launch a novel, but at the Ship.
Lisa Moore reads something from her
novel in progress. Something
dangerous happens in the waves
off Australia. I like how this
danger is spoken of in a bar in
Newfoundland. It reminds me of
the comment Glenn Gould made,
when he was taping the soundscape
"The Latecomers." He was recording
waves off the Newfoundland coast.
But it didnt sound good enough.
So he stuck in a taped wave sound
from the Galapagos Islands. The
permission he gave me to inject
my book with anything, as long as
it felt emotionally true.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Rockwell's House Revisited

I'm burning up on this back deck,
the white clapboard in Salvage
beating down upon me. I have a beer
and a hardboiled egg. I douse it
with salt. Someone says, No it was
always changing. The weather. I
remember, the woman says, when you
couldnt sleep indoors, it was that
hot. And you'd get up at midnight
to go to the wells with a bucket
and skim the wells for water.
The reading went well. My first
reading in Newfoundland. Someone
tells me the owner of the
house that Rockwell Kent lived in,
that owner, Jake, just died. My god
he must have been ninety.
The house will go to Parks Canada.
People are lined up to buy that house.
No I think he left it to Parks.
My son Parks dont want that house.
You mean.
I'd say they'll tear that down and put
up a line of cabins.
We drive out to Brigus. It happens to
be the annual blueberry festival.
Everyone I know in Brigus abandons
Brigus for this weekend. They let
the hordes take it. It reminds us of
Pamplona. The humpbacks in the bay.
The carnival frenzy of the
heat-deprived. We have to walk
in. We eat a mooseburger
with a can of Black Horse beer, under
the black cap of shadow from a canvas
tent made in Ann Arbor. Then we
walk out to the Rockwell Kent house.
The house at the center of my novel.
When you walk over here,
you lose sight of anything modern.
There's just the hill and the
trees and the shake siding of Kent's
home, the quiet humpbacks parading
in the caplin and mackeral. Will
they tear this beauty down? One
of the oldest houses in
Newfoundland? Are they still that
savage with culture?
I am carrying a copy of The Big
Why. At the gate to the house there
are two lovers sunbathing, her
head resting on her yellow purse.
Do you know about that house,
they ask.
I tell them.
I tell them about the book.
Can I buy that off you? he says.
And I sell my reading copy of The
Big Why, at the gate to Rockwell
Kent's house.

Monday, August 09, 2004

A dim image of me

People still hold things in their mouths. Mail,
a pen. It's a primitive act. They tuck laundry
under a chin, they use an elbow to loop
rope. Their thighs pull a cork or they uncouple
a fishing pole behind bent knees.
I was floating in the Delta hotel swimming pool.
Floating on my back. And I saw myself in a
panel of dark slanted glass above me. A dim
image of me, floating, and it was in a place
not directly above me. I was about sixty feet
away. And it looked just as it does in those
dreams, those afterlife memories where youre
dead and you float above your own body. It felt
like I was dead now, drifting, a faded body
way beneath me.
I walked through Stanley Park. I stood by one
of those big redwoods. When I got close to it,
the sound in the world was turned down a few
notches. That room noise that they inject into
a film's sound mix. The air felt absent of it.
I put on my coat because, in the shade, I was
cold. There is not a tree in all of Newfoundland
with this girth.
They say that my book is done. It's an object now,
and that it looks beautiful. It has end papers
and someone in production called the dustjacket
the "case". Thank you Bill Douglas and thank you
Anansi for making a good-looking book. I can't
wait to see it.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

The wrong coast

We sat on the floor of a canoe and listened to the Victoria
symphony play the 1812. Those first sad long sounds,
the heavy wet feet of Napoleon's army, while scoffing chicken
sandwiches and pinching a plastic cup of Mission Hill
merlot between my knees. That was last week, and now,
this night, we boogie on the fly deck of the forty foot Someday,
docked off Vancouver, watching the fireworks sizzle, die and
freeze into grey ash streaks. The panelled waterfront condos
catch this light, it cascades down to their feet and is deposited
with a shiver into the gentle harbour. One of us is preparing for
root canal, another used to have a charter boat that took salmon
fishermen out of this very harbour -- a mere thirty years ago.
Have I ever had "another life"?
The students of publishing are bent over the beer coolers,
eating cheezies, embracing the captain and the five game
writers. The silhouettes of pleasure craft, their collection of
furled masts, the blimp hull of a Russian tanker with its
impressive rudder. How scale does not alter the need
for a rudder. I wrench my knee taking a stair to the toilet.
Shall we continue to the Railway Club? God yes, let's. It is
someone's birthday and we are stealing aboard a boat she
used to live on. I end up scaling a welded shut Sherman
tank. This does a great service to my wonky knee. I pray
we are steering back home soon, to Newfoundland. Get
me off this coast. It is the wrong coast.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Water-skiing on Shawnigan Lake

He has a shoulder in the water, a curtain of lake between
us as he's pulled behind 200 horses of outboard motor.
The woman in the bikini and flipflops who let her bicycle
fall to the grass then sauntered into the cordoned-off pool.
The three girls in big lifejackets huddled in our bow, the
ski planks I was on ten minutes before, on the floor of
the boat. You were so funny, she says to me. You couldnt
stand up. If you'd just stood up on the skis, you would have
been okay. My god I was so scared for you, but I couldnt
stop laughing at you, either.
Then we're towed behind the monster boat, in tubes.
We hang onto the tubes as the driver guns it. The velocity
of the first surge, the dip of the back of the boat, the
tug of the tube beneath me, as we are driven into the water,
then trimming the tips of waves as
we zoom down the lake at thirty miles an hour. A sea-doo
passes us, a woman dressed like she's forgotten a bag of
sugar at the corner store. She's kneeling on the sea-doo.
All this water, in the middle of Vancouver Island. All those
wasps we left on shore, tearing out chunks of ham from
our pineapple pizza.