The Poems

Tofino

From the Winter, 2019–2020, issue 

(No. 44)

I

At the brick barrier of YVR arrivals, you stand

impatient and imperious in designer sunglasses

car keys hanging by the crook of your index finger.

Mad at me for the flight delay and lost luggage,

you tweet your displeasure @AirCanada.

We have a time booked for the ferry.

West of Port Alberni, the rainforest envelops us, wet and green,

darkness slows an already long drive.

Two lanes slick and bumpy, ridges in the road vibrate under our seats.

It feels we could spin out at any moment.

Water tumbles along granite shards, gathers across

pavement dropping into the lake on the other side of the road.

Verdant growth invades cracks and openings.

If I stretch my hand out of the car, I could touch the waterfall

feel my fingerprints get worn away.

My playlist is incompatible with your car, so you regale me with stories of the

famous hockey bruiser whose team paid him off when he asked for help—

of the drunks and druggies, the sex addicts, the anorexics and cutters—

can you imagine hurting so much that you cut yourself?

I say nothing.

We hit the coast and laugh at the road sign—

a little blue figure scrabbling up the side of a hill,

an oversized arc of a wave cresting overhead

entering tsunami hazard zone.

II

Waking early, we walk the edge of Cox Bay.

Follow the arc of the beach to an ever-retreating

horizon of overcast sky converging with murky ocean.

Water pulls underneath our feet as the current recedes

standing at the end of the earth, waves wash over our words.

At the sandy inlet outside our balcony, we find

remnants of yesterday’s wedding,

a limp boutonnière discarded on a craggy rock shelf,

a heart traced around “tofino” spelled out in shell shards pressed into sand.

You tell me of a summer night, a tinge of fall in the air.

As the oldest it was up to you to investigate the muffled

thump that echoed up the stairs.

You wrestled with the limp weight a drunken body holds.

Felt the clamminess of your mother’s bare thigh

pressed against the kitchen tiles.

III

I wake throughout the night,

the bitter grit of Zopiclone clinging to the inside of my cheek.

A giant slug crawling outside our door

its black and beige mottled body camouflaged by the pebbled walkway

traversing the little rocks, knowing its slow path.

At dawn I shrug on a yellow

slicker to walk the crescent beach alone.

In the sheltered tide pool, clusters of barnacled mussels glue

themselves onto igneous shelves.

Their shells razor against my palm

jade anemones cluster into crevices, tentacles undulating

as they clone themselves into soft blobs.

Above them, I find two magenta starfish exposed to the air,

the diurnal tide stranding them there.

The soft warm arm of one hugging the other against the rock

waiting for the water to return.