Local Art Showcase #1 (Poetry)

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Edmonton-born Douglas D. Elves' poem 'Taut-line and Tow Rope' tells of a 16-year-old William Gladstone (1832-1912), who in 1848, paddled from his hometown Montreal to Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, as part of the Hudson's Bay Company brigade. Gladstone also made a stop off in Fort Edmonton before his final destination, and ended up settling in Western Canada for good, where he constructed fort buildings and flat-bottomed York boats until the early 1860s. Gladstone ended up marrying an Edmonton girl and later worked as a carpenter, before he passed away in Mountain Mill, Alberta, in 1912. If you're interested in checking out any of Elves' other poems you can visit his website edmontonians.net.

'Taut-line and Tow Rope'

I could drag these matters far upstream,
the tow rope slung with rain and slurping wave.
I could pull them up by shouldering the line
against the steady torrent of remorse,
the york boats chucking at the rocks
when drawn to shore by current or neglect.

At every point from Montreal was choice.
I chose to sign, to sit with ale and boasts,
old crews and new misgivings gathering;
to launch past Lachine, row up the Ottawa,
the Mattawa, the French to Georgian Bay.
Even by York Factory I could have turned away.
But no: Forts Norman, Carleton came and went,
each fort a fork for me.

When the keel grounds we have to carry,
a man's weight compounded to one's own,
backpack strapped by taut-line to the forehead.
The longer the carry, the deeper the doubt;
but there's no descent till you pass high ground.

I was too young to understand
how permanent a choice can be.
But by Fort Edmonton I knew how close I'd come
to the continental divide of dream and consequence.

On to Rocky Mountain House, by order;
up to, but not over, my point of watershed.
Just as well: obedience had blurred with choice.


Douglas D. Elves (2009)

POEM WAS POSTED WITH PERMISSION FROM ARTIST
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