It had been two years since we had seen our friend, young vagabond Hawken.  “He wrote, I am meandering home to visit my parents, of course, taking the scenic route. Hawken set his life to music, it resonated in him, deeply as his need to be outdoors. He was wintering over, as a handyman, in Wabowden- Northern Manitoba- “A roadside cluster of iniquity”, he wrote, I have found in the the place, a symphony…

            One dos not need city reasons, to stop off in Wabowden, cafe for truckers, “The Dubious Motel”. In remote, northern forest, burnt back in ’79, small, scruffy jackpine. I have, though stopped off in Wabowden, working on my music, to blend with spoken poetry- writing a piece I call “The Wabowden Symphony”.

Tune of winter morning, hiss of air brakes, bass rumble of semi starting cold up in the lot. Squeak of boots in snow. Swear words from Marlene The Cook, slipping on her behind, it is twenty below. “The Dubious Motel”, 10 decrepit trailers, whining with the cold sit in a row.

Midday in Wabowden, clink of spoon on coffee cup, peeping from microwave oven. Sigh of wet french fry hitting hot, deep fat. Hauling in a delivery, hoping that the lettuce is not frozen. Bananas smell of diesel from the driver’s coveralls, news comes of a wreck, bad one in the ditch, turnoff to Pisew Falls.

Wabowden at evensong- wind in the wires, highway tires playing on the bass string. nights like these set the wolves to howling. I sit outside long as I can, I do not fear their slinking shadows, we share the same, untamed curiosity. Spring will come with a pounce, frogs singing, “rivulet, oh rivulet”…parkas shedding, great flock honking over, heading north…

Thaw will turn the mud to dust, will bring the biting bugs,  the paddlers and fishers heading up the singing rivers, the fabled Churchill, up the Mighty Nelson. Many will stop here, the outpost of Wabowden, for bait and snacks and fuel. The waters are cold of heart, fish rich in rapids, and grassy shallows which both delight, and lure the fool, and for poets the likes of me- round every bend adds to my symphony.

Marlene The Cook- the legend in Wabowden. Years ago she drifted north, time worn as the streets of Winnipeg,  Marlene  sought a husband. She has a way with caraway seeds in slaw, liberal is her use in soups and stews, of garlic and coriander. Her humor is ever crude, but the regulars who stop for coffee in Wabowden love her.

Marlene barking at me, a chorus to my Wabowden Symphony.

In a grit blown corner,  motel alcove, a makeshift shrine has been created where the Coca-Cola machine had been, stolen years before. Visitors sit on folding chairs, to pray they are not stuck snowbound,or broke-down long. Faded photos from winter roads, are tacked to a cork board. There is an elegy to “Old Fred”,who braved the bush fires of ’79, got his truck full of fried chicken, diapers, beer, and toilet paper, through, a never forgotten load, there are faded, fly specked missing posters, sad stories of many gone amiss on the big, lonely road.

” This is a country where an echo lives forever, sometimes I can almost hear the singing, laughing, cursing, splash of paddle of long past Voyageur’s, wrote Hawken, easy day today, outside with rag and bucket, cleaning bear slobber off the windows of the cafe”.

“Marlene recalled years ago, a poet like me fleeing from her borscht in dismay- just may have been Godfrey passed through Wabowden way. “When we meet again will all be set to music, neath the “Bug Chandelier”, remember me, and I will play for you “The Wabowden  Symphony”.


10 thoughts on “WRITING A WABOWDEN SYMPHONY-by Hawken

  1. I marvel at how you have found a way to express yourself in poetry in such a Godforsaken land. I grew up in Northern Alberta—tried to put my experiences in poetry and failed. I think you have achieved something amazing here. Keep on writing!

  2. Thank you for the read- every day on the bus I pass the pub, which was the bank where Robert Service worked, and thank his spirit for the joy and inspiration, and the 12 years toiling in “Remote North Places”. Love to hear your poetry- it is probably really good. Northern M.B. is indeed, Godforsaken…

    • Very similar in some ways, stinking hot in the brief summer, eight hour drives between anything, when the ice on the inside of my windows melted in spring, mushrooms grew along the carpet, warmed by the inept baseboard heater. “Tracks only crossed by them that are lost”..to sorta quote the great man. Thanks John.

  3. Worzel,

    Such a joy to hear again from Hawken! To know he’s ever closer to completing his “Wabowden Symphony”.

    As written: “Tune of winter morning, hiss of air brakes, bass rumble of semi starting cold up in the lot. Squeak of boots in snow. Swear words from Marlene The Cook … 10 decrepit trailers, whining with the cold sit in a row … clink of spoon on coffee cup …Sigh of wet french fry hitting hot, deep fat.”

    The music shouts out through his words … a cacophony of sounds and smells assault the senses into believing we too are part of the artistry of his talent!


    • Good morning Miss Marcia- glad you enjoyed the read. I know yours and Lone Wolf’s road has passed through some” Wabowdens”, and you heard the music. Thank you.

  4. So often, Sheila, my favorite line from your story contains high humor, but this time, “I do not fear their slinking shadows, we share the same, untamed curiosity,” caught my eye. It says so much about Hawken and says it so simply. I love it. I also found the entire paragraph beginning “This is a country where an echo lives forever…” particularly compelling as it moved from the lyric to the funny. You know how happy I always am to see Hawken, and he didn’t disappoint.

    • Thanks Janet, I had fun with this one. The wolves in Manitoba and I had such a relationship, until an early dawn encounter that set a high hurdle of a sewer pipe- dash through the snow and kick door open record that will never be broken. The wolf also survived.

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