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Vancouver Lights

Earle Birney
From:   Fall by Fury. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1977. With permission of the Estate of Earle Birney.

About me the night       moonless      wimples the mountains
wraps ocean      land      air      and mounting
sucks at the stars      The city      throbbing below
webs the sable peninsula      The golden
strands overleap the seajet      by bridge and buoy
vault the shears of the inlet      climb the woods
toward me      falter      and halt      Across to the firefly
haze of a ship on the gulps erased horizon
roll the lambent spokes of a lighthouse

Through the feckless years we have come to the time
when to look on this quilt of lamps is a troubling delight
Welling from Europe's bog      through Africa flowing
and Asia      drowning the lonely lumes on the oceans
tiding up over Halifax      now to this winking
outpost comes flooding the primal ink

On this mountain's brutish forehead with terror of space
I stir      of the changeless night and the stark ranges
of nothing      pulsing down from beyond and between
the fragile planets      We are a spark beleaguered
by darkness      this twinkle we make in a corner of emptiness
how shall we utter our fear that the black Experimentress
will never in the range of her microscope find it?      Our Phoebus
himself is a bubble that dries on Her slide      while the Nubian
wears for an evening's whim a necklace of nebulae

Yet we must speak      we the unique glowworms
Out of the waters and rocks of our little world
we conjured these flames      hooped these sparks
by our will      From blankness and cold we fashioned stars
to our size      and signalled Aldebaran
This must we say      whoever may be to hear us
if murk devour      and none weave again in gossamer:

                                                These rays were ours
we made and unmade them      Not the shudder of continents
doused us      the moon's passion      nor crash of comets
In the fathomless heat of our dwarfdom      our dream's combustion
we contrived the power      the blast that snuffed us
No one bound Prometheus      Himself he chained
and consumed his own bright liver      O stranger
Plutonian      descendant      or beast in the stretching night--
there was light


1941



Earle Birney's works copyright © to the Estate of Earle Birney.
Reprinted with the permission of the Estate.


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