Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saying the Names With Love

I stumbled upon this in the archives yesterday, kids, and decided to post it for another look-see. It was written for a prompt in 2012, where we were to use the first two lines of a poem we loved and write our own poem. I chose Canada's unofficial poet laureate Al Purdy's Say the Names, which he wrote shortly before his death - an elegy to all the beloved place-names of his life. The beloved place-names of my life are those of Clayoquot Sound, so this poem rose up singing in my heart, in response to Al's poem, which you can find below. I am re-posting this for Kim's prompt at Verse First : Say the Names of a place you love.

***** ***** ***** *****
My version:

Say the names say the names
and listen .........
these names that forever
sing through my soul,
that came alive for me
in the forests
and along the wild shores
of Clayoquot Sound.

Bedwell Sound and Lemmens Inlet
Fortune Channel and Sulphur Passage
those names ring through my heart
in kinship with those who put
their bodies on the line
- and still do -
-No Pasaran!-
to protect this endangered ecosystem.

Drumbeats in the early morning
along the Kennedy River bridge
still tap tap tap in my heart
along with my passion
for the trees, for the wild shores,
for the curving slopes
of my wild spirit's home.

Hesquiaht, Ahousat,
Kakawis, Bay of Berries,
sound and resound
in my heart,
like the marine radio
my heart was once attuned to,
fishermen repeating the beloved names
above the static,
laughter and messages
and "Choo!"
the Tla-o-qui-aht goodbye.

Wickaninnish and Rosie Bay
and Combers,
Ahous Bay
where the gray whales
stop to feed....
riding out in a zodiac,
the seaspray in my face,
the eagle's cry in my heart,
blue herons on the rocks,
little puffins bobbing on the waves -
every inch of land and sea and sky

Rain slickers and rubber boots,
the endless winter rain, and gusts of wind
that bent us over as we struggled
across the streets in winter gales
and the wild wild roar of the waves
crashing on the shore,
while the foghorn mooed
at Lennards Light
and all the seabirds hid themselves
to ride out the storm.

Lone Cone standing tall,
and Catface Mountain,
peeping across at the
womanly slopes
of Meares,
the sentinels and guardians
of our village,
orcas breeching in the channel
to our joyous shouted "thank you!"
and, across the bay,
the twinkling lights of Opitsaht,
little boats chugging back and forth
across the harbor,
heading for home at twilight.
Say the names of the wild Megin River,
carving itself through root-packed shores
of cedar and salal,
and watch the wild wolves
pacing down to drink,
a black bear ambling along the shore
looking for wild salmon.

Hear the eagle's call,
hear the waterfall singing
at Tofino Creek,
or point the bow of your canoe
up the Cypre River.
Paddle hard for Browning Passage,
beat the tide,
or turn off along Tofino inlet,
when the tide returns
to cover the mudflats.
Pull into the cove at Windy Bay.

Say the names say the names
and my heart weeps with love
for the otherworldly beauty
and the kinship with the wild
that lived inside my soul
when I lived there

My heart will say
these names
for as long as I live
and, when I die,
say these names over me
and bury me on a windswept dune
beside the sea,
so it can forever sing
me to sleep
in my heart's home.

Say the names say the names
cherish these wild and pristine places
Stand against the mining companies,
and those who would clearcut and strip
these beloved and necessary slopes.

Say the names, my friends,
before they all
are gone.

                            *****                  *****                     ****
Here is Al Purdy's memorable song to the places he loved:

by Al Purdy

say the names say the names
and listen to yourself
an echo in the mountains
Tulameen Tulameen
say them like your soul 
was listening and overhearing
and you dreamed you dreamed
you were a river
Tulameen Tulameen
--not the flat borrowed imitations
of foreign names
not Briton Windsor Trenton
but names that ride the wind
Spillimacheen and Nahanni
Kleena Kleene and Horsefly
Illecillewaet and Whachamacallit
Lillooet and Kluane
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
and the whole sky falling
when the buffalo went down
say them say them remember
if you ever wander elsewhere
"the North as a deed and forever"
Kleena Kleene Nahanni
Osoyoos and Similkameen
say the names
as if they were your soul
lost among the mountains
a soul you mislaid
and found again rejoicing
Tulameen Tulameen

till the heart stops beating
say the names


  1. Both poems are splendid. I would love to be at a live performance of yours-or second best--I beg you to record it! I feel its congruence but want to hear the words dripping with love through your voice--even the moo of the lighthouses. Record it so you can hear it too. Or call me and read it over the phone?

  2. Sherry, this is powerful writing. I appreciated hearing all the legendary names, but the phrase that spoke to me most tied them all together:
    Keep the big bad boys out of the wilderness. They see a wetlands and dream of building a mall; they see old-growth forest and hear "ka-ching!" They are, in short, bastards!! Amy

    1. Bastards they are Amy! I'm with you on this one!

  3. Wow! This is so cool Sherry. Just fantastic the way you so lovingly share these places that are so special to you. I could picture each setting...and that close made my heart thump! You have me so inspired to try writing something like this!

  4. Your passion really comes alive here,makes me think of other times and places I've been. So many doors you've opened up.

  5. Kudos...This is creativity, Sherry...!!What a way of sharing the names of the 'wild and pristine' places special to you. I got to know a few places through the poem. Lovely...

  6. Beautiful poem of love, Sherry.

  7. this def is a powerful poem...first there is so much in a name...a remembering and a recognition that happens when we use them....ah lets def keep more nature and let the malls be the ones going extinct...

  8. "and bury me on a windswept dune
    beside the sea,
    so it can forever sing
    me to sleep
    in my heart's home." this part really got me.. so sweet.

  9. Beautiful Sherry! "bury me on a windswept dune...." so lovely!

  10. Your love of those places most special to you, just shimmers through your words, Sherry. And I want to see them all! There are so many places that hold space in my heart. Thank you for reminding me.

  11. Names that survived through time, Sherry - but maybe not greedy humans.

    We feel so much, and that will be our legacy?

  12. Your love of your country is very palpable. thank you for taking us on this lovely tour!

  13. Oh this just sings of a deep and abiding love of your home among the endangered wild places and things! I am inspired to take this prompt and make it my own. Thank you!

  14. 2nd read. I'm going of to write out some names. Love.

  15. Your words ache with love and longing for this beautiful place...just beautiful.

  16. " My heart will say
    these names
    for as long as I live
    and, when I die,
    say these names over me
    and bury me on a windswept dune
    beside the sea,
    so it can forever sing
    me to sleep
    in my heart's home."

    this stanza totally sums it up. a work of art indeed. :)

  17. This is most excellent. Like a walk along new waterways where I've yet to tread, yet to flow into.

  18. Sherry, reading this gave me goose bumps. Names have power, and they can be lensed smaller - or greater, as in your poem.

  19. Very evocative work, Sherry - I'll be back for more... Regards Scott

  20. This just gets better and better as I move through it--powerful, powerful piece Sherry!

  21. Sherry, this so moving and each time you mention a mammal or bird a thrill runs through my heart ... or soul. And then pain for what may come.

  22. Your poem is magical, Sherry! Perhaps my favourite of your poems.

  23. Sherry,

    You have a vast array of most exquisitive name places and descriptions. You leave the reader wanting to explore...
    Very fine writing Sherry:)

    Happy New Week Ahead,

  24. ...WOW Sherry! what a treat... you managed to retain the same feel of Al's poem in your version... and yet you both speak differently.. the ending notes did the transition of your intentions... yes... while Al's intention was to enjoy & savour all these good places & things before HIS death... yours speak of enjoyment of all these wonders before THEY may be gone... ah, both poems to me are a favourite now..excellent... smiles...

  25. I love the sea. This was a marvellous read. My favourite lines were about the marine radio. Oh the stories the sea would say if it could radio us. Loved it. Love it. Am going to read it repeatedly. :)

  26. love 'these beloved and necessary slopes'.............

  27. thanks for the tour of this wilderness. and those excellent sights you snapped in your poem.
    yes, say those names before Big Business cast an eye looking for ore, lumber and oil.

  28. These names seem to be engraved in the soul.
    A beautifully drawn poem :)

  29. I am sorry I missed this one, but happy Kim showcased you on Poets United~

    Wondrous-I love it!

    Thank you Sherry~

  30. both poem send chills down my spine. I have kayaked all through Clayoquot Sound and there is a small Island right in the bay with a eagles nest on it where I used to go feather hunting.

    Right now I live between Kleena Kleene and Horsefly.

  31. Love for one's home.We cannot measure that.
    'say these names over me
    and bury me on a windswept dune
    beside the sea,'

    My heart sings with you.This is actually a song I'd love to hear...Ami de manila


  32. courtesy Kim........ i can go through this great poetic experience again... :)

  33. So many instances where you seem to grab our hand and take us with you...

    "the seaspray in my face,
    the eagle's cry in my heart,
    blue herons on the rocks,
    little puffins bobbing on the waves -
    every inch of land and sea and sky

    And of course, the entire idea of all of this, these memories will stay with us in spirit - long past the time when our bodies turn to dust ---

  34. Sherry, this is definitely goosebump-worthy! Oh my goodness, I have tears in my eyes. A beautiful, beautiful poem. Hugs to you :-)

  35. names that calm, give courage and direction
    as inspiring the second time as the first

  36. You allowed me to visit a place so vividly real, I had to wipe the sea spray from my eyes.

  37. Sherry, this resonated, no it hurt. I went to a place I loved online, a community I seeded, cultivated, loved. Reminded me of the work and love and connections. As always I felt an ache because I can't go back. That's what loss is, you can't go back. Still, I am glad for the space and the love. Thank you.


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