Monday, September 27, 2021

Saying the Names With Love*


* (after the famous poem "Say the Names"
by  the beloved Canadian poet Al Purdy)

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 the Old Ones
under threat by
corporate greed.

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, Ashousat,
Kakawis, (Basket 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 grey 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 Lennard 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 home at twilight.

Say the name 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 fat salmon.

Hear the eagle's call
at Tonquin,
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 surge returns
to cover the mudflats.
Pull into the cove at Windy Bay.
Shelter there awhile.

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 corporations
who would clearcut and strip
these beloved, necessary
and endangered slopes.

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

for my prompt at earthweal: Say the Names, inspired by Canadian poet Al Purdy's famous poem of the same name. I wrote this poem when I lived inland, missing this beloved place, with every name singing a song of love and longing inside me. And now I am here, so grateful. We blockaded in 1993 to stop the clearcutting. Since then, so many trees have come down due to over-development. And a mining company was eyeing Catface Mountain, to our horror. One never has the assurance that forests are safe, when one lives in an extractive capitalism society.


  1. Your words transported me to this place that I have never been, Sherry, and how I would love to see it! Your love of this land shines through your words, Sherry, and my heart stands with you and all of the forest defenders.

  2. Oh, your places smell of salt water and wildwood and wilderness. I want to be there.

  3. You would both LOVE it here. I am a lucky lucky girl!!!!!!!

  4. I love this so much Sherry and the passion and love for nature that stirs the heart to poetry.

  5. I feel the love, Sherry! Beautiful.

  6. Lush and lovely I am awash in it all... carried joyously away. Thank you and Bravo!

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  8. To say the names is to speak the heart of place, and your weaving of them is magisterial. Poets are the memory of landscape and as their lovers the ones best equipped to teach us to fight those who would destroy it for distant profit. Great challenge and wondrously sharp response, Sherry.

  9. You post the prettiest pictures and the names of all those places sound like they must look. The forests are never safe, nor our lakes or streams. Never safe from the "extractive capitalists".

  10. Very beautiful Sherry - one of your best I think. Your love for these places comes across in the every line and image you create. I get a real feeling of what it must be like to live in such a wonderful place. Suzanne - Mapping Uncertainty

  11. This place lives for me through your words - so much love bound in these names. Beautiful.

  12. The names themselves are mesmerizing, and conjure magic. May the landscapes they are attached to live on.

  13. Sounds like a magical beautiful place. I have seen a few of them in movies. Stunning.Your love for this beauty shines...Let us pray for a miracle so that it remains...that image of the black bear strolling along the beach in search of a fat salmon is remarkable.


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