A Highlander, a Whitebeam

A Highlander, a Whitebeam

The first stone plummets. Dust-stain’d dread
smears fingertips confess’d;
skarn weighted like pins; nettled barbs
prick the heart, shrapnel-torn—

The clang of a cairn born, beaten.
Knotted at whitebeam’s root.
I remember. Let the winds howl
mad whispers to sea’s bend,

words crashing of you wildly warm,
cast into the spent world’s
blossom ethereal, crest-fell’d
by torment and dirges thick.

Reverberations, loss to be
echoed across curly
eons of your everlasting
absence, beheld peace still.

The sole footprint of your death stalks
the threads of sanity;
a skinny despair eyeless slits
our kindred stitch-work, botch’d:

one of flesh, the other troubl’d mind.
Discord, empathy-blind,
devours our heart-lines beset.
Wounds visceral, made bare.

I was struck by your waning fall;
the wolves of Blackwaterfoot
fed on my tarred knot, pinned shale-blue.
I remember. All those…

cold, crashing nights sweat, deeply soaked,
with hazy dreams of you,
and for a second, I believed
you had returned to me,

but no—the fir’d heartbreak of hymns
and madness stole you, scorn’d!
Beside this whitebeam, I am grief,
born of this seed, slag-bless’d.

This budding pain, rooting inside,
will never surrender
your sweet mirth, that spurs me to be
brighter, honouring your depth.

I remember a highlander, star-bloomed,
As I place spring’s stone on your cairn.


—in memoriam of Martin J. Whittles, beloved mentor and friend. Ballad included in the Beginnings and Endings: The Creation of Meaning chapbook, December 2nd, 2016. Writing workshop put on by the Arts Council of Central Okanagan (ARTSCO) and Central Okanagan Hospice Association (COHA) in Kelowna, BC.