Thursday, July 19, 2012


Street overpass mural - Vancouver, B.C. (click on photo to enlarge)

- by Thurlow Gowan

Wake, my starving grandson,
And chew this piece of bark
So I can tell you stories
As we shiver in the dark.

Come closer, little grandson,
We can keep each other warm:
That lesson was forgotten,
It brought us all to harm.

I can tell you of a country
That stretched from sea to sea,
For the people sang and shouted
Of the “True North Strong and Free.”

Many were the singers
Who got selfish one by one:
They didn’t like the language
Or were tired of the tune.

They wanted their own language,
They took their little piece,
Our land was segregated –
It was the end of peace.

We burned each others’ forests,
We filled each others’ mines,
We bombed each others’ buildings
Which poisoned all the farms.

Awake, my shaking grandson,
I can tell of better times.
In summer we went camping –
You have never seen a tree!
We camped out in the forest,
We thought it was for free.

There were mighty supermarkets,
You could buy most any stuff,
In a million kinds of packets
But it wasn’t quite enough
For the selfish, grasping people…
Grandson, please don’t cough.

You should have seen the wheat fields
Or the orchards by the lake,
I had a dog and pony –
Grandson, try to wake.

Those broken hunks of concrete
Intermingled with the soil
Were once a super highway
When people still had oil;
How the roaring, crashing vehicles
Went through the overpass,
But pollution from exhaust pipes
Killed all the trees and grass.

As the country kept dividing
The enmities would grow,
What’s the use of super highways
When you have no place to go?

Wake! My little grandson,
The sun is bringing day,
It is the coldest time of night
“The hour before,” they say.
Awake my little grandson!
I see a little girl,
She doesn’t speak our language
But she’s pretty as a pearl.

I see she’s dipping water
With her father by the lake –
We could start another nation
If you could just awake!

(Used with permission)

The writer of this poem, my friend and fellow poet Thurlow Gowan, will be 100 in November. Our poetry club is putting together an anthology of his poems as well as tributes and poems by members. (I mentioned this project in my Poetry Friday post last week.) As co-editor of the project, I've had a chance to read all the poems of his slated for the book.

Thurlow has lived through a lot of changes.  His poetry reflects his deep love of the land and nature, and in more than one piece he expresses his outrage at what we're doing to our home, the earth. This poem moved me deeply, and I thank him for giving me permission to post it here.

The accompanying pictures are of a mural I photographed under a Vancouver street overpass near Granville Island.

This post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted this week by Tara at A Teaching Life.


Katya said...

Gowan's poem brought tears to my eyes this morning. Thank you for sharing it.

Tabatha said...

I love a good narrative poem, Violet. That one begs to be read aloud. Thanks.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Thanks for sharing another week, Violet - Happy Birthday to the celebrated poet!