The Mountain Speaks

mountain pass

Through mist and shadowed hope we toil

each foot


a step toward success

eyes certain

chins firm

shoulders straight

no thoughts given to the negative space

to the freefall of uncertainty

to the sure death of anticipation

just inches from our trail.


“Ji six-mukws n̍iin,” rumbles Sgan̍ist

~ listen carefully ~

Over our heads a boulder whistles

followed by the clatter of lesser stones.


The mountain speaks.


“Ji siix-mukws n̓iin”

My clearest memory of school when I was a child is the yearly project on culture. I say, yearly, because it seems like every teacher in the world thinks that they have developed the “BEST IDEA” to get kids to not only explore their personal histories, but to appreciate the cultures that they come from. I wouldn’t say that I was a cynical recipient of the ever-present “culture” project, but I wouldn’t say that I was enthusiastic either. In fact, my general thought was that my culture was pretty boring, and I’d really rather study someone else’s culture. Any culture.

Paper That Makes You Want To Do Something

Dutiful, obedient, compliant – I would trudge to the front of the room to collect the large sheet of white paper that my teacher wanted me to fill with the patterns of my cultural background. Then, there I would sit, wondering just what was my culture? As I had already done this project the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that I already knew what my mother would tell me when I asked her for help. “You are Canadian,” she would say, “just show what it means to be Canadian”. And I would sigh and stare at that big piece of white paper. Are we Scottish? Irish? English? Continue reading

The Challenge

Adiantum Pedatum

We’ve just started working on poetry in my writing class, and (meanie that I am) I decided that we would start with an ode rather than with free verse. Although I love the versatility of a free verse poem, I thought it would make an interesting challenge for my students to start with more, rather than less, structure. Also, considering the sometimes moody nature of teenagers, I wanted my students to really focus on a positive subject. Finally, I figured that I would cure myself of my antipathy for rhyme.

What I remembered while writing my own ode, is that rhyme is not easy and that conforming to an iambic pentameter rhythm sets certain constraints on how you express an idea. In short, writing an ode is no easy task. It is an intellectual puzzle. It requires patience, thoughtfulness, and skill. The emotion is still there, but, is dressed in more sophisticated garb. Also, I have learned to appreciate the subtlety of rhyme.

The Glacial Ishkinish


Adamantine, turbulent Ishkinish

Carving granite troughs through boreal groves

Of shadowed fir, mossy pine.  Relinquish

Your leaping, swirling, foaming fandango,

And pool aloof amidst the opulent

Black-stockinged adiantum pedatum.

There, sing of pragmatic and poignant

Travels … serpentine, green and darksome.

Teal coated transient of veiled origin

Stay. Drink. Partake. Until elsewhere bidden.


Unspoiled, scarlet-tongued, dewy maids of spring

Growing to frilled, black-gartered madams

Of summer.  Linger long in cascading

Syllables of effervescent freedom

Then furl your pinnate fans…

Impudent coquettes.  Wayward tomboys. Dip

Your emerald skirts into depths unfathomed

And from glacial waters let earth acquit –

Oh, you red-shoed girls with faces aglow

Teasing cool Ishkinish to sweet furlough.


Curling round in a lazy promenade

Through sun-sweet shadow and dawn’s breaking mist

The colonial beauties his measure sought ~

All ~ to charm inscrutable Ishkinish.

Fruitful in part. The mighty river pooled

In shallow eddies on their fields of green.

Marshy maidens let down their hair – tenfold –

Then, the brackish beck, his solitary stream

Continued. . . Leaping, lunging, laughing

Into the adamantine spray…