The Boatman Speaks

The Boatman Speaks

The boatman
Looked at me, his hair grown a longer grey, stringed instrument in hand, he said:
You give me hope.
And I knew exactly
what he meant;
Little did he know that
He gave me more.
And as I walked away
His music rang
All that much stronger,
Into currents of the summer breeze
And across all
the flowing waters.

Pier 21 A Canadian Gateway


The day before yesterday I visited Pier 21, one of the two main reasons my wife and I decided to visit Halifax. I wanted to see the place where my parents first set foot in Canada.

This is my first time to Halifax and I am taken with the warmth and forthrightness of the Haligonians. They are a courteous lot. Cars stop when they see you waiting to cross the street and people go out of their way

to be helpful. The city, although studded with budding towers, has a cosy small town feel.

In my hotel room in Halifax on the harbour after making some calls and sending emails, I look out my window at the building called Pier 21, now a museum.
At one time between 1928 and 1971 Pier 21 was the gateway for over a million immigrants and has now been turned into a museum beautifully commemorating all the many journeys. My parent we’re among those that made the week long sea journey to eventually walk through the doors of Pier 21 and set foot in Canada . It is Canada’s version of Ellis island.
During our visit to Pier 21 we viewed an incredibly moving documentary detailing the stories of some of the more recent immigrants who have made a life for themselves in Canada. I have to confess I had a difficult time keeping my eyes from welling up as did many others in the theatre as we watched and listened to real stories of challenging and poignant journeys. I kept thinking to myself if this experience is so difficult in recent times how challenging and difficult must it have been in troubled earlier times with wars, poverty, and greater prejudice. After the documentary, we took a guided tour of the museum led by our gregarious guide George who himself had emigrated from Holland at the age of 17 with his parents in 1951; the very first time that he passed through the doors of Pier 21.

Our engaging host walked us through full size replicas of the tiny tourist class’s cabins on the boats that took many immigrants across the Atlantic, and scale replicas of the insides of trains that many of the travellers embarked as they headed out from Halifax to find their new Canadian homes.

He showed us the doors that they came through as they arrived in Pier 21, as well as luggage, and storage crates of belongings and artifacts that had been donated to the museum by many (including George himself) who had made the journey to their new home. Ironically some of the large storage crates packed full of belongings were never fully utilized because the new residences for some of the early immigrants without contacts or relatives in Canada were often sheds, barns, and other cramped quarters.

My own father emigrated with not much more than the typical suit case and $25.00 in his pocket. One family friend I knew, who has recently passed away, related to me how he had arrived with just the shirt on his back, in the dead of winter; with no coat, no understanding of English, and without any money left over. Regardless of the great difficulties they all persevered, thrived, and prospered in their new found home, to become employees, business owners, citizens and taxpayers.

We had the chance to
speak with our guide George after the Pier 21 tour and he confided to us that many of his contemporaries from the 50’s who had made the journey, found it very difficult to talk about their early experiences and it was only after considerable coaxing that they did open up and tell their stories, allowing them to be recorded. These stories are important to keep alive especially at times when we may become overly complacent or feel overly entitled. We have not really had any great trials of this scale as a generation. At least not yet.

The common theme among the many that made the journey to Pier 21 according to George, regardless of the hardships, was that they were all glad they had made it to become Canadian citizens, to find a better life for themselves, and for their children. In a nutshell, they are proud to be Canadians. Pier 21 is a worthwhile and important reminder. The trip to its’ halls reminded me to be thankful for being born Canadian, and for the sacrifices made by many. As some one once said: Be kind to each other, especially to the traveller far away from home.

Big Sky

Big Skyimage
Big sky, oxygen to grey matter
Of the soul
Expanse of heart
And mind
From the atomic
Marvels of the eye
The spinning photon
in a cosmic
click clack
of an endless mirror
In a reflection of itself

The Journeys Of Peter


The Journeys Of Peter


are the journeys

of Peter

through the darkness

and the night.

Living off the

the fat of his dreams,

and who by imperfect light

sits purifying

himself alone

late at night.

from the black ,

by reading Cavafy

and Layton,

considering Merciful books

of Cohen

surfing the lines

of Seferis,

empathizing with

the plight of Plath,

and considering

the weight

of Pound .

Oh how they made

him suffer

carefully not making him

a Martyr

and ensuring

he couldn’t keep up

or current

with the fight,

while old age,

and decay

did the rest and

put the final stop

on his pipes

and his kindness.

The thought

strikes fear

in his heart .

In the night.

These are the

Journeys of Peter

blind as a bat

he still sees

in the dark

The voice tells him,

just where to go,

exploring emotions

and the general…

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The bright petunias
refuse to admit
they fade
In the course of the
Travelling sun,
in the company
Of striped green
Flowers really know nothing of economics,
Only how to bloom,
cross pollinate,
and look good,
But we all know
About inevitable Keynesian home runs,
About gallows
Good books.