SNOW WET AND THE SEVEN WHARVES- Wharf Street Stories.

It has taken many friends to compile Godfrey’s story- for anyone new to the saga, he was an odd young man who disliked beets, yet considered no meal complete without peas.  He preferred a nest of old sleeping bags to sheets, landing in Canada a youthful, Welsh vagabond, the year before we met, and desiring “only to sit and talk, talk of anything but beets”. He set up a table in a city park, inviting all to join him. Join him they did, including the Original Bus Riding Poet, Ginger Alphonse and devoted partner, Lonewolf. It was a summer of joy, and poetic infamy, until the police took Godfrey away….Ginger has lived most of her life on Wharf Street, down from us, and we thank her for sharing these stories..

GINGER’S AERIE-  Snow wet? I asked Ginger over scones and Chai tea. Quoth she, ” I do not let it worry me, for in my house of many toilets is my woven aerie” Snow coned Olympic Range mere miles across the strait- so close, so out of touch a country, my narrow street of houses old..tussock grass gold on the bluffs below me.

My house of many toilets has a shiny, red tile floor, and when we are home knarled walking sticks wedge closed the door. For like any aerie it is buffeted by storm, snow wet?. Not I , curled up, pen in hand, my aerie warm.

THE SEVEN WHARVES- from Godfrey   – Ginger may have five toilets, but on Worzel’s street are seven wharves. In heavy gobs snow fell, no dainty flakes from sky drift pretty fluffs. With the huddled masses I waited for the #50 bus. Along it came, an hour late, splashed to a halt oer the sewer grate, and being slow to move away, up my kilt went the icy spray. Though I wore thick wooly drawers, chilled every crevice it could get- Snow Wet.

On my street are seven wharves, one a dock bolted to rock, by ancient hand forged rings. Oft we sit down on those rocks warm evenings. Two are considered piers, departure points, familiar with welcomes, partings, tears. Three wharves are down by the Hotel Grand, for great flash motor yachts to moor, and helicopters land.

Next wharf is a lowly wreck, washed by open sea, weathered elephant gray in age where the tumbled stones of a breakwater used to be. Reckless youth leap from the highest planks in bold daring. Old men ignore them, drink from tins of beer, cast their lines for a fat Grilse, rock cod or herring.

From the seventh wharf, a slip in it’s day, is from wence a proud tall ship sailed away. Long about 1953, bound for Melbourne, and Cape Horn round the southern sea. Across every school atlas page- they carried on, sailing into storm wise old age. Sailed into legend, look for the small brass plaque set in concrete- when next you wander down on Wharf Street.

THE PASSAGE OF MR CODD- From Ginger-  I was about 16, when first became aware of Mr Codd. Endless waiting while our parents stopped to chat, we laughed at the cardigan and bow tie he wore, pushing his old bike up Wharf street, with bottles and tins to cash in at Quonley’s Store.   He saved those dimes and pennies , for oars and a dory, took passage setting crab traps from Songhee’s to Rock Bay. Years later we heard the clatter, and sight of long haired hippies, push an old V.W. bus up Wharf Street, on Mr Codd’s  wedding day.

Became a teacher, he did. Long hair now more trim, we oft saw him walking with a troubled kid, or sitting reading on the steps down by the water. Mr and Mrs Codd had a son and daughter, he pushed them by pram up Wharf,  summer nights when festivals were on, with music, fireworks, and parades drum and roar. Mr V Codd, read the sign on his English classroom door.

Few remain from “The Summer of Poetic Infamy”. When Godfrey had his table in the park, he disliked beets, sought peace in a world that called him odd, and on the edge of the circle, not quite ready to engage, alone now late in middle age sat Mr Codd.

Legends will be legends, whispered still in teacher’s toilets by some, how Mr Codd dared to teach- “Off The Curriculum”. He spoke of wisdom, and delightful to me, told his students, alone is not the same as lonely, that he considered the moon a good listener, read to them from the early works of Godfrey…

Parental muttering, beets uneaten at home, and thrown at lunch break. Culprits hurling beets suspended, “Civil Disobediance”wrote Thoreau, quoting from it, Mr Codd’s teaching career was promptly ended.

Sticky, nasty stain from a rotten tangerine, marks the space above the door, where Mr V Codd’s nameplate had been. No gold watch or assembly, no speeches or send off, just a quiet meal of fish and chips, with Miss Shelley the librarian, at a Chinese cafe down on wharf.

Mr Codd’s children now grown. Lecture the old chap, “In a shabby room you live alone, eat noodles three times a day”. Beacon hill Old Man’s Home is not far from Wharf Street, a clean and cheerful place to stay.”There is a billiard table and book case, you will make friends”. So he went, and he did- in a place of ends Mr Codd was happy again.

I am Ginger- considered the patina to my younger sister Cedar’s brass. Roly-poly, always hired, fired over and over again, till my sister found her niche in The Beacon Hill Home For old Men. Mr Codd? Why it was he led “The Great Cheese Sandwich Rebellion”. Conned us into giving them aged cheddar on toast for tea, “The mass constipation that later swept the home was blamed on me”. Then Mr Codd went missing, found in his wheelchair mired axle deep in soft tar, outside Quonley’s on upper Wharf. Someone helped him get there, he refused to give a name, so I- Cedar Waxwing Mae took the blame.

Up on Wharf…in a bus shelter not too far from The Beacon Hill Old Man’s Home, a toilet brush in shiny steel holder, and black rubber plunger sit left all alone. I notice these objects for I to am a poet, take notice because I care, they sat for a week undisturbed, now folded trousers and a fork have joined them there.

Toilet plunger and brush, wheelchair tracks heading one last time up Wharf Street in the slush. When ere we see these tracks on days it snows, or a lonely figure neath the old blue bridge sharing lunch chunks with the crows, and ponder who lives in the dusty old rooms above Quonley’s shop, all mark the mystery of Mr Codd’s life’s passage, from the sea bluffs end of Wharf to its’ only bus stop.

SPRAWL ON THE GRASS- a WISDOM

Worzel here,  He was an odd young man who disliked beets, a friend for 28 years, drifting in and out of my life, but never from my heart before choosing that overgrown fruit orchard back home in Wales, to continue on his way…

I wonder, this January morning, so long hence, what would Godfrey think of the “Whirled” as he called it, now?. Two thousand marched for peace and justice, marched bravely down Wharf street this day, we watched from our window, a decadent experience, redolent of our 70’s youths.

There passed rainbow flags, medi-chairs, all banners and flags, pets in strollers, (Feh, Godfrey would have wheezed). My kind husband, Garnet, reckoned with a squeeze of my shoulder, down there amid the stalwart, in spirit marches Godfrey…

In the park below our window, a hefty brown mutt, perhaps the great, great grand daughter of the dog Godfrey wrote of, pauses in her play, sprawled in the frozen grass, she watches as the marchers pass.

The deep cold now blessedly over, rare ice on the waterway has melted yet small stubborn patches still stick on stone, crusted shadow snow. I, dry and warm, sit and watch from my window. A thread of plaid wool remains of the sock, belonging to Godfrey we hung years ago, to remind folks below, doorbell broken, that we were in. I am feeling my age of late, yet remain assured the promise of spring.

“Souls adrift have always been drawn to harbors”..wrote Godfrey. Quiet the campers tenting in the park these winter nights. This morning the street dwellers played with their dogs, romped in defiance of order and by-law. I was reminded of a half wrote wisdom Godfrey left for to share, I found it on a bit of scrap paper, down deep in side my turquoise chair.

He wrote- “It was cusp of evening, brash ice had gone from the inlet verges, and low was the tide. Days work over, tedious the bus that I ride. And stopped were in traffic on Knockfollie’s Bridge, as habit I wiped off my window, looked out the side. A person, or more perhaps of minuscule mind, I don’t know, had thrown a shopping trolley, off of the bridge and down to the mud flats below.

Water and sky in what I call “Winterset” shades of platinum, orange and gray, and in its wild glory, a Great Blue Heron, had perched on the derelict shopping cart, looking south down the bay.

When troubling images I cannot avoid, and distant bells warn change or danger may near, I recall the beauty no one can take from me, the welcoming places Ive’ been, and know my words will never be silenced, nor will I cow down in fear.

To the Bampot Louts, who threw the cart out, on the mud flats to the park dwellers surviving in  snow, to you wearing fine shoes in the dim halls of power, may you understand what it means to be present …as the brown mutt who romps in sheer joy of living, and the Blue Heron, patient at Winterset, trusts  in the oceans giving.

Dry socks and coffee handed out from a van, round in circles the brown mutt ran, pursuing a stick her person had thrown away. She bowls over the lesser black lab who has joined her in play. I chuckle at the scene, wisdom only a street dog can know- “sprawl in the grass, fear not the bigot, the greedy, the arrogant, exalt in your freedom, remember the brown mutt, when you are weary -“Sprawl in the grass and pant”.

 

LITTLE OTTER IN THE BAY-Bye Worzel

Godfrey…yes, he was an odd young man who disliked beets, even in middle age he disliked beets and was odd, but he could make friends in an empty room, or old lurching bus…never had my feet been so cold, never had I so longed for home.A broken water main had extended our twenty minute bus ride to a two hour nasty. I stood wedged near the door, prodded by a bundle of hockey sticks, blasted by arctic wind when some lucky soul was disgorged, and far too close to Mr Goldmoss Stonecrop, a very large man in a very wet fur coat, his name indelible in my mind as he bellowed it regularly to the poor driver, about the state of the bus, and fact he was bringing the wine.

I lost Godfrey in the morass, a bag of oranges had been dropped, and gentleman that he was, took up the task of rounding them up. The aroma of citrus penetrated the B.O. fug of cold #50 bus. Godfrey was under the dubious rear seats, rolling oranges out, some that may have been down there a long time. Finally, we were popped out at our stop. Godfrey had a cinnamon bun for me,(no nuts, raisins, or icing), a sun smooth stick from a beach in Panama, two holy cards, and tickets to a cat show.

“There was a lot of wet eck”, he reported, I nearly lost my kilt snagged on a rusty bolt, and feel somewhat decorticated”. “Let us go home Worzel, he took my arm, cake and pot of tea are long awaited”.

What I learned of living simply I learned long ago from Godfrey, though the wisdoms came slowly…as did this morning’s ferry, over bitter harbor water, and sky an oatmeal foam gray. All I need is good hot coffee, pen in hand, winter storms, Blue Heron, and my little Otter in the bay.

Oh, that I may return a wild creature, blade of grass, or the rollicking sea otter, she has found a tarped rowboat to use as a slide, down the snowy canvas otter plays over the side. Born to cold water, my little otter.

I learned stillness indeed not from otter, but from Heron, feathers blue, tall and stately he stands, perched on neighbors balcony, middle of the city. I’ve a new ache in my knee that was not there yesterday, hot coffee, pen in hand, winter storm, blue heron, and my little otter in the bay.

Errands over quickly, snow in harsh driven pellets, reminder of walking arm in arm with Godfrey. “He said, “one at a time, each step we take,brings us closer to warm home, turquoise chair and cake”.

There is a higher wisdom in the patient, wading heron, we can learn to take it slow by winters storm, Reckon it’s what Godfrey, if he was here looking out the window would say. It is turning of the year, I have pen in hand, good hot coffee, blue heron, and my little otter in the bay.

A POET PASSES BY-From Worzel

My friend, The vagabond Godfrey roamed with a genuine acceptance of all people, a lifelong aversion to beets, and fondness for the street we live on still, Wharf Street, with stories of it’s own- and where now, I am elderly, and in memory still walk with Godfrey.

It oddly was not bitter cold, as one expected mid November in Canada. I sweated to the bus stop in my bulky, old coat. The street lights in old town oft were burned out,so still vivid the stars, peaceful glowed the candles in the homeless camp tents, quiet the looming blue bridge and the harbor front bars.

Time waited for me this day, rain all night had rinsed the words in chalk a passing poet had left away.

IRISH  –Rambling the journey from home a far in Galway, cold the streets of Winnipeg to the shelter down Rock Bay. Outdoors in the park dwells “Irish”self described bard, hear him singing if you listen, above the city din, his old sad songs echo, from posh hotel cross the water to junkyard.

  DES-  Most mornings when about Des chats with me, keeps suitcase safe by her side though we both know it is empty. On her corner in summer, for a dollar she will share her poetry.

I read messages on walls, rude words imply that the poet Des is of “ill repute”and “Doubtful reputation” “A woman of the night”, seen around back of the old bus station. See her shoes on the path where they lie, below the sea bluffs, Des has shed them for to fly. On this fog blessed beach many a poet has passed by…

There is verse in the stooped, ancient couple on the curb across from us.Growing in even the most shrill child’s nursery rhyme chatter on the bus. Words ooze from the bookstore, not subdued by bag or shelf or cost..and headlines stop me in my tracks, report a poet passing, passed yet no, not lost.

Must have been him, in the warm wind I felt down on Wharf, a poet passing by, another icon gone, but never lost.

OH BUT YOU LOVE ME..By Beatrice

Worzel here, this is a timely story from Beatrice in Wales, any new readers to “The Saga”, now nearly five years in the compiling, and in my recent absence, who may not know, it is the simple tale of a vagabond, and his lifelong search for wisdom…

Beatrice here, What can be lower than Turtle pat in a murky pond? Life devoid of humor, I informed the dour copper as I collected the elder pair Adelaide and Benny, from yet another spell in a village cell.

Harmless jackdaws, yet cheeky at avoiding laws, “We had to get them out of a pear tree”, the police explained with a tired sigh to me. “We thought they were apricots”, said Adelaide innocently,” by a lovely yellow house”, Benny always spoke softly.

We headed home, Adelaide and Benny’s wagon and steamer trunk behind the car in tow. “Your Godfrey’s wisdom stated, “when you find yourself arrested for creating a nuisance, thank the cops and offer apples before you go”. Knowing I was irked made Adelaide more obtuse- refused to get in the seat, hands on bony hips, steadfast, Oh, but you love us, I know belched the tiny old rogue.

“Do not bandy those words lightly with me- they are part of an a long old story”.

I warned Worzel, of trusting our book to a “Modern Computery Thingy,”..where I bank, the teller behind her wicket taps an adding machine, and updates my bank book by hand. I refuse to have a phone in the cottage, I enjoy the amusing verse written on the phone box walls, outside the pub.

“Grizzle De Mundy, Bockety Old Maid, Badger up Sonsie Hedge, I have heard muttered rudely these taunts as I pass, names do not worry me, for I was childhood friend, ate beets and faced bullies at the side of future vagabond Godfrey”.

Oh, but you love them, I know!. The dinner lady loomed above us, spoon full of beets, smiling down on six year old Godfrey. His faded, damp kilt was wrapped about him three times, defending his potatoes with one grubby hand, too shy to speak above whisper, “I DO NOT”…I ate a heap of beets, from then on this happened a lot.

Word spread through the “Nere Do Well”, bampot urchins in our small village, that odd little Godfrey indeed disliked beets and spoke only in rhyme. Oh but you love them the yahoos chanted while pelting him with beets in balls of snow.  Most days his rubber boots left a crimson trail of beet pulp, and oft the green tops were stuffed down his wooly shirt, or in the kilt he wore below.

Oh but you love beets, you do !, sneered cruel uncle Lou, rubbing Godfrey’s nose in garden dirt. Every school day for years, at dinner hour he’d ask, “excuse me Miss, are beets in this? they lurk in lentil soup and hide in Haggis”.

He had a sister, six years older, born a prankster, Alice wrote an essay. “For The love Of Beets”, and signed it with her brother’s name. Clever with words, it was printed in the local paper on the children’s page. So appealing was the story he was asked up to read it, at the Batley town pageant  on stage.

Oh, but you love them I know- Ma wedged Godfrey into itchy knitted outfits, as Alice made up songs of beets, to tease her brother, she played them loudly on the family piano. Those who never met Godfrey, often asked of us why he never, ever fought back…

Rolled he was in manure, forced to fetch his kilt from treetops, thrown down an open sewer. “I attribute in old age my healthy robust state, to the joy found hill walking, and all the childhood beets that I ate.” I ate beets Alice strung on the Christmas Tree, ate them every funeral and wedding we were dragged to. I ate them roasted on sticks, summer picnics by the sea, yes, he never lashed out. “I simply do not like beets”, was the first coherent thing, while spitting them out Godfrey told me.

I ate the beets, as I was brought up to be kind, to save him swat across his head or paddled behind.Who ate the beets as a child for you?, At your side boldly fought with sticks Autumn Apple Dragons?, Silver Top Trolls, the dreaded Outhouse Ogre Pokers?, Did it when dared to dash, and touch the bull’s snot nose?, Did someone hold your hand when teacher called you “Dim”?  Held his when boiled beets were dropped on him.

It was Godfrey built fine saddles from string, and imagination, broke trail beside me, who refused to wash dishes lest it harm the fairies in the foam only oddly he could see….

Worzel wonders why when I write, I oft begin at the end of a story..Oh I loved him you know, just a lifelong habit I learned long ago from Godfrey..

THE PERPETUAL SPRING OF MRS BENTLEY- from Worzel

Our young vagabond friend- so full of Godfrey,  Hawken, had come full circle home to Winnipeg for the summer. Saving for Ireland, his next big adventure. I had received a packet of fragile drawings, and story from his old school mate, Dr “Twinkle” Wembley- Fadge, who had read excerpts from “The Collected Wisdom”, Hawken was still too shy to share this story- still working it out …I hope he will not mind my telling.  

Yes, I went to school with Hawken, in Mrs Bentley’s 5th grade class, she made him sit front row, furthest from the door and where he could not see out a window. Kids worked on Hawken, Mrs Bentley did not intercede, he wore his fair hair long, faded flannel shirts, and Hawken oft shared with me the books he loved to read.

Mrs Bentley was an elderly, old school prairie teacher, she read us poetry, napped at her desk all morning. Every day in deepest winter, she had us draw a spring picture. She had two dresses, for spring yellow roses, the other red wool, in retrospect I wonder if she drank now and again , oft befuddled, wearing only one stocking, the only boy  who did not guffaw at teacher’s farts was quiet Hawken.

Even then, his spring pictures were vivid in color and detail, he drew the brown revolting city slush at thaw, rush of Grey-lag geese over muddy fields, he drew the post office at Crocus Hill, drew a shiny new seed drill.

Mrs Bentley never hung Hawken’s art work on display, and though she did not pick favorites, dismissed as rubbish, the little boy’s dream to live out side one day.. “Doomed to social failure”, this young nipper said she, to his parents on visiting day.

Hawken worked on his spring picture, as all about him set to bicker. Father claimed- “It’s his name- Hawken for his uncle who left home at 17. Never called or wrote those 3 years in between, whacked him with the fry pan, did my aunt Marcia Mae, when he strolled in asking, “Whats for supper?, like he had never been away”.

Ma griped- “His hair is long because of you, swung him high and bonked his head, left a long scar, and Hawken only two”.

Grandma added- “He will knock out those expensive teeth, hopping a moving train”. “He will wash his flannel shirt, in a bus depot sink and put it back on damp again”. “I will wield the fry pan, should Hawken at 16, ask for a Volkswagen Van”.

Grandpa, (whom everyone ignored), thought, “I wish I’d had a teacher, such as Mrs Bentley, all you need to learn is found in art and poetry, history, myth and maths, courage and colors, how to work, love and get along with others”. A poem memorized you have forever, and perpetual spring too, in painting or picture” . .

Hawken read, over and again “Kon-Tiki”, he understood “Thoreau”, followed the sea path of the yacht “Dove”, and “Peace Pilgrims” epic journey..draw a spring picture, no mere tulips in a vase for Hawken, much to the dismay of Mrs Bentley. She loved poetry, set us verse to memorize- “Francisco Pizzaro”, “The Flower Fed Buffalo.”

“When your poem is set to memory, she said, draw a spring picture”. Closing her eyes, head on a book of sonnets she would snooze, until the final bell rang, or someone had to ask if they could wee. “Recite the poem first”- firm in this edict was Mrs Bentley.

Then came an early spring morning, cold and dark, snow on icy tar, and Mrs Bentley slipped, alighting book laden from her old car, fell hard. It was Hawken kneeling in the slush, holding teacher’s hand, flannel shirt for a comfort where she lay, talking softly, he never said of what, until help came, and took Mrs Bentley away …

“Our substitute held a math book up, asked how far along we were, “I told her, don’t bother, while we memorize “Fort Frontenac”, put your head down and nap, we will then be quiet and draw a spring picture”.

“The janitor cleared out the desk of Mrs Bentley, young Miss Avis, across the hall watched sadly. Lesson plans she never used, some faded valentines, ancient gift of cheap perfume from student long forgotten. They found last a thick, brown envelope, marked Hawken. All the spring pictures he thought she threw away, all the multi-colored skies and ducks and tractors she would not tack to the wall. Mrs Bentley, ever the mystery kept them all.

“I was only about ten, wrote Hawken, but I understood this thing, I knew that when in peace did Mrs Bentley pass- it would be, for her, into perpetual spring”

MIKE’S FAVORITE DRAGON- From Godfrey

This story was found, rolled up scrollish, in an old, water tight film canister, tucked in the niche of a driftwood log. I pieced the brittle scraps into a mosaic, and glued them to a cedar slab Godfrey had brought home, long ago for our beach sandal  and travel bag window display. Missing bits of the narrative are my own, we have never located “Plump Bay”. It is very early Godfrey, inspired by his beachcomber dreams…

” I shall take you a winged journey, back to the long fallen log that nurtured me.” The wee seedling I was, first feel of sunlight through the canopy. The snow bed in winter, scorch of fire in summer, felt earths every subtle shifting, deer trail turn to track, to skid road through the grove where strong I grew.

I’ll spare the details how the mighty ones about me, gave themselves to whipsaw and axe. I was young! despite fear of lightning I still sought the sky, my limbs held raven and eagle, I shaded skunk cabbage, salal and bracken fern, but of this fine life, I will not prattle on, for tree no more, in twisted old age, I am now Mike’s favorite dragon.

Twas the vagabond, Godfrey, first noticed the tall man, on Plump Bay Beach, they walked in different directions, they walked that summer each day, as persons walking oft do, a polite nod in passing,” good morning “is all usually either chap would say.

For Godfrey was a young poet, all full of himself and the freedom of a backpacking roamer, Mike had left irksome society behind, in the city for the “Good life of a full time beachcomber.” No shorebird or shell escaped his keen eye, no jasper or jade, or polished glass in the scrum of the surf , he often knelt, just thinking, at the low tide line.

On the teeming streets,  people passed Mike by, or looked twice in curiosity, silver hair, long gray beard. His silent way, in Plump Bay made him blend with the mists, the sandpipers and herons, he sought wisdom in the tide-pools,  it is I held Mike, and Godfrey to, in times of deep thought or sadness, they leaned on me looking out to the horizon, many weathered driftwood logs are strewn along the bay, but I alone was Mike’s favorite dragon.

“I was ancient long before Mike or Godfrey were born. Spared the saw, alas my roots grew tired and weak, when I finally fell to the October gales, and high waters in the flood of Ayum Creek.” “Full forty years a bridge, for bold hikers to cross my mossy back. They dove deep in the swimming hole below, many a young adventurer, rested in my shade, dreamed of the lovely places they would go”.

“I drifted down to sea, when the river released me, stout, twisted I broke free, but my status in life reduced now to a “Dead Head Log “. Sad years stuck in the flat, lonely, muddy estuary. “Now and then tide helped to move me, I let otters rest for an “Otter’s Breakfast”, meaning a scratch and a look around, I was a patient perch for herons when aground, sun and salt smoothed me clean and true, kindly tide and wind, placed me one night forever, high up the sandy beach, of Plump Bay, in Coltsfoot Sound.

“I’m part buried in a dune, free of mudflats mire, arch of my back still strong, long broken smoothed out branches protrude from golden sand, my tail singed,  the breath of a recent Bonfire night. “What a lovely, old log dragon, exclaimed the cheeky young Godfrey, at first sight.

“Indeed, he wrote, there is mirth and life still in this weathered log, it’s long neck reaching for the sky, and on her  tail have hung my kilt and socks to dry”. “There is even a knot-hole, where someone has placed an Abalone shell chip for an eye”. “In the curve of the dragon’s belly, out of the wind I write, and plan to camp here for the night”.

“Mid morning…soft footfall on the rubble, I awoke looking up at the loner, the passing beach combing man”. “See you’ve found my favorite dragon”, he taps with his hobo stick, above the shell eye, tips his feathered hat and moves on”.

Farewell, farewell, eventually bid Godfrey, the odd dragon shaped log, and his time by the sea.

“I’m a place to rest, a monster for the young to climb on, I am a landmark, a shelter from the rain and sun”. Still a living thing- I shall remain here forever, Mike’s favorite dragon.