Four Poems

On the Turn toward Winter

How silent
and ordinary

the drifting turn

slant of sleet sunny gold

up the old cemetery road

stooping out under
hooded slicker
eye-glasses speckled and fogged

rose-water light
leaves tinged rust-dark

clumps of blackening dahlias

browning common-yard
the old black canals
slipping along

(slightest stir

as once our fingers
through coarse wisps
of our fair and sunny hair)

now these grave-stones
the stepping-stones

time’s ellipsis spine
through dim November

bent over
nose down near-sighted
myself fallen flat
under the heel of things


again tangled deep among
roots and bare branches
of memory mortality

thorn nests in every bush

I wish I was a mole in the ground

torn old orchard

shrivelled plums
pear and cherry boughs

against the low south wall

long-view maze
cold poles and wires
crossroad dykes and ditches

I wish I was a mole in the ground

deep cough rapping out
the unison

the one slowed heart-beat
of the late and
long departed
(I think of
our countless careless times
gearing past

with the heartbeats
of hummingbirds

some among these here
then with us

were all ears and elbows
piled inside time’s
noisy old Toyota)

I’m alone now

pressed against the
blind sky’s vast windshield



I wish I was a mole in the ground


the summer cries
the autumn whispers
not quieted

the grievous angels
never wrestled down

just rustling on through

love and living’s
hard mystery

all the holy aerials
only pulling in white-noise
and static on the car radio

fragments froehlich froehlich
immer froehlich

C-SOS soul station
the sacred ancient
aching oldies
still somewhere playing
heart breaking


and out of this and these
our elementary
leaf by leaf

white golden one-by-one

downstream on murky waters

our winter constructs
our carbon signatures
ghostly imprints on
love’s blessed
brief green poem

space-time ratio

hello goodbye
some signed off clear
some never did

never will


as far above


out of sight
and hearing

over us and these
the poor in spirit

and the holy silent
gliding motorcade
ever lengthening

on the turn toward winter

I threw myself back
face up
to the cold country fog
and half ready
to roll with it

passing through
the endless drifts
all the white leaves of sorrow
and delight

would not
could not finally

for aching love of this

squeeze grip to the wheel
howling heavenward

the old jubilation blues

Bonfire on a Hilltop

lines for a singer

An easy walk below snowline,
above mists of a South Interior river valley.
We were whistling—campfire songs.
Were almost merry.

Times such as those, soul can feel that warmth
serves only to accelerate its longing.
Green mountain lap, blue ridges, river’s reach
can not call it home. Can not reel it in.
Not answer, with anything but another rise, another bend,
another fading echo of some other song resounding…


Should I take that walk into the woods, the rains,
that twilight walk which mortal breath and time demand,
will you find me? How have we wandered?
Tweet-tweet. Twitter. Tweet
. How have I lost you?


When Kooteney bluebirds blur
across strands of memory, against stands
of white-bark birches,
in that moment, between April daylight and dusk,
you are forever striding alongside, whistling, with me.

But in our common book of days now,
just pages the rogue wind’s ripped from place.
(Your illustrated face—fire’s golden pattern playing
with every scrawled word of love and loss rain's written.)

Still I praise you. Through the night,
from repertoire of simple joys. And for your genius,
thank you for your little dry box of matches.

“When the world was in building…”

from Songs from the Lofts (A Cycle)

Quaint old skeleton-
key lost, found, and lost again
perhaps no matter, he’d mused,
remembering the hometown houses of the simple holy

how folks used but a few slight variants of key-bits
off-the-rack at the local
and that with hardly a wiggle or a grunt,
if any be so inclined to trespass
(as if folks locked up or held
any earthly treasure anyhow)

well, you were in. Via the standard key-hole.
While not exactly welcome, more or less expected.
But could just as well have stayed put.
Not one colourful thing
worth peeping in on here, he’d observed.
Just so much grey matter and another lonely soul
in off-white underwear

(no, not to worry child
just some thing or some one misplaced)


So now, a life-time later, trunk upon trunk
—jimmied in his own black attic brain
the archaic grey vocabularies dragged out
—his own standard
thoughts and slurred sentences
like the old Sunday suit, like the coffin maker’s cover-alls,
like a church-choir gown in tatters,
scraps in a jewel box, strings of black mould,
a pile of out-dated lenses, and dull buns of hair,
love and memory chewed over
in a great silent heap
(grave yard sale! cries the soul—the eternal renter.)
Found cheaper rent, and went.


These are my remains

I am a skull battered
with a toy drumstick and an old ape’s broken chin,
I am rung and battered, like a bell, from inside.
As if an impetuous child
is drumming the dead thing to come alive!
the long dark ledge of words and images
toppling, and all the looming shakey-legged spectres

So at first from flat on all fours,
then, from perspective somewhat upright
and forever dashing swollen lobes against
crawl-space floorboards
and attic rafters,
space and time’s cloud of dust, storm of stars,
still unfixed unsettled…
Dim bulb, but a soul has its sight

bottle bottom
blood shot visions,
dark-stained panes where breezes never blew
beautifully smashed through,
(small attic window)

and something running wild

in these shrouded rooms and spaces, these walls,
like a bracing cold draft
like good news riding out on the skinny backs
of the creepers and the leapers,
hanging on the tails of the field-mice
and the steeple birds on the wing from black eaves

illumined pages turning burning
long beautiful braids of thought undone,
loose-ended like the flame, re-braiding,
strong, supple things. Like hope. Like prayer.
In a tangle of madrigals

I hang here by these ropes
barely half a heart no head for heights
the scaffolding, ghostly whistling
through my teeth, please Lord, to raise

sky-high—the glorious roof,
and only this prayer to wait out the endless storm
with a drunken hymn and dim forecasts of truth.

Making the Rounds

At the Rodin exhibition
twinned timeless hours in a thoughtful round

You go on circling (in play of patina and shadow)
the circuits—the laps of the gallery may blur into slow-motion
hallucinatory ride on this apocalyptic groaning bronze-black carousel.
Loaded down with full complement
of postmodern shades—citizens of any of your cities
here wearing Vancouver’s rough elbows, shoulders, knees, necks and noses
nudging, craning in, leaning back, circling
for the greater dimensional view

Harried young mothers, squalling stinking babes in arms.
Neat giggling touring class, foreign-language exchange,
furious notation. Elderly couple—the shuffling old fellow in clogs
with arthritic limp and cane, his fiery-eyed lover with stumps for legs
in gleaming wheelchair. New Agers—hung with beads
and the moon and stars, reeking of patchouli tar. Any of them
neither worthy nor unworthy—potential sitters in our Master’s studio.
Riders on this Rodin-go-round.
Even loud Michelangelesque businesswomen, one leaned with
elbow on sculpture’s base, her flesh-pink purse sagging on Adam’s black toes,
oblivious, them talking real estate

About the third go round may be
these two reappear, not somewhere muted behind the gates of Hell
but morphing in ardent postures of the kiss.
Even as the moms with infants all seem to reassemble, disembodied
collections of sculpted hands, ghostly-white
fragments—grasping or contemplative.
The troupe of young students, in the circle of hours, grown old
ennobled in stance and visage—wearing
the bronze-black masks of surrender, now the citizens of Calais.
The paraplegic woman on wheels, imposing
as the colossal Balzac giants. And her beautiful old gent, with limp,
with gap-tooth grin, pale morning sky eyes, inverted, tragically falling, falling
falling from the top lintel of Hell…

And I was them all

In centrifugal hold. The spin and the blur. Rough dark patination, lustre,
meta-chemistry of fired blues, greens, red ochres.
Naked, standing planted with fists thrust down, defying circumstance,
full anger about to burst, yet leaning balanced in the perfect swing and
sway, towering tall, towering in spirit, full presence with love’s countenance,
craggy, discordant, booming out from the heavy cloak of space, time
and matter

You go on circling
laps may freeze into this timeless focus, a life’s perfect round.
Maybe in such a full-stride moment—about the seventh circle
in our turbulent awkward beauty—we were moulded for our dazzling casts.
And heavier and lighter now, walk on.

About the Author

Larry Nightingale

Larry Nightingale was raised in the Mennonite village of Yarrow, British Columbia to fruit-farming parents (Toews-Nachtigal). A decades-long resident of Vancouver, he is a trained library technician, working in health sciences research at Simon Fraser University. He acknowledges a special debt to the vital hum of his old community's hymns and prayers as well as to the rattle of that era's late night rock 'n roll radio. His poetry has appeared in W 49, Rhubarb, and the anthologies The Dry Wells of India: An Anthology Against Thirst (Harbour 1989), and Half in the Sun.