Tuesday Poem: Union Local '64 by Tim Bowling


Last night I caught the boy I'd been
in fishnet and gutted him
on the government wharf
by the light of an oil lamp
hung from my dead father's hand.
Above the dyke, over the road,
the town was just the same:
weeping willows, widows,
whale-stains on the cheesecloth walls
of the first houses
and an overwhelming sense
of a last breath being taken.
The worst of it was
the ordinary blood
on the ordinary wood
and my father saying
as he gazed out to sea
"It's no good.
The companies won't pay.
They didn't pay for mine
and they won't pay for yours."
I watched him through my mother's eyes
as he sighed and bent
to the stiffened body of our time
together not worth one red cent
to anyone and picked it up
and took his life and mine away again.

From Circa Nineteen Hundred and Grief  (Gaspereau, 2014) by Tim Bowling

(Photo by Barry Pettinger)

Cross-blogged from Véhicule Press

"Tim Bowling has published numerous poetry collections, including Low Water Slack; Dying Scarlet (winner of the 1998 Stephan G. Stephansson Award for poetry);Darkness and Silence (winner of the Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry); The Witness Ghost; andThe Memory Orchard (both nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award). He is also the author of three novels, Downriver Drift (Harbour), The Paperboy's Winter(Penguin) and The Bone Sharps (Gaspereau Press). His first book of non-fiction, The Lost Coast: Salmon, Memory and the Death of Wild Culture (Nightwood Editions), was shortlisted for three literary awards: The Writers' Trust Nereus Non-Fiction Award, the BC Book Prizes' Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize and the Alberta Literary Awards' Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction. The Lost Coastwas also chosen as a 2008 Kiriyama Prize "Notable Book." Bowling is the recipient of the Petra Kenney International Poetry Prize, the National Poetry Award and the Orillia International Poetry Prize. Bowling was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008. A native of the West Coast, he now lives in Edmonton Alberta. His latest collections of poetry are Tenderman (Nightwood),  and Circa Nineteen Hundred and Grief."


  1. Woah. I love that opening and the rest that follows -- this glimpse at this family, that time, that life... Watching the father through the mother's eyes... I like how he does that.

    1. Me too, Michelle, and I love how he manipulates words to make you think about them.

  2. What a powerful poem and a stunning photo to accompany it. Did you take the photo, Kathleen?

    1. I'm afraid I didn't take the photo, Ben Hur - it's one of those unaccredited images floating round the web. But it's quite beautiful.


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