restricted access The Northernmost Road
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The Northernmost Road

“The Northernmost Road” is the second section of the long poem Giscome Road. Giscome Road is about the constellation of places in northern British Columbia that were named, directly or indirectly, for John Robert Giscome. Born in Jamaica in 1831 and coming to B.C. with the California black migration of 1858, “he mined the Cariboo and the Omineca country with considerable success.” The old arrivant, the “discoverer” of the Giscome Portage route from the Fraser River into the Arctic Watershed. Died in Victoria in 1907, buried there at Ross Bay. The locations in the north continue to exist and, though remote, are reachable. The G in Giscome Road is hard, in keeping with Cariboo pronunciation; island pronunciation of the name varies.

1

Having wanted to drive out to the edge, right out to the mutest edge out there, the mutest edge, the emptiest soundstage, out to the invisibility there, out to all that “up” there in Canada that took place up there— Giscome, B.C. all unincorporated now up on the Upper Fraser Rd off desolate Rte 16 to Alberta, off the Alberta-bound road the Yellowhead (for Pierre B—, the blonde Iroquois who’d arrived at the mountains there at the Alberta end, the source of the road): miscegenation’s the longest nuance, the longest-lasting open secret (in old B.C., Gov. Douglas was also “a man of colour,” “a West Indian of racially mixed parentage” out at the end of a pier in Victoria, welcoming, “creole,” pragmatic

2

The past is a skein of rocks. The past is watery. The past is tree’d. The past is a list of houses. The past is a fat metaphor sitting down to dinner. The road so rocky & so long (the song repeated) the explanations got dense on their own: the past names nothing anyplace: [End Page 176] sites got pre-empted: at the river-landing the field name verges on the day name: at the river-landing’s the place where the river’s “noble” in a description of it there— the river’s aimless self & the portage trail are something else, one goes off into the trees

2.5

A real word for the talk between Europeans traveling far afield, our little palaver, and the Africans themselves, some story “intended to charm or beguile”: tell me it’s creolized, tell me that it’s a bridge between designations. No story gets elucidated in the song & no one talks or waves from the stage: hands & the lips too stay on the horn, that’s human nature.

2.7

Names rise from locations, the metaphor comes from water (what water does), is the verb for that kind of arrival, the verb for location. There’s no remote source to any of it & you never know how consequence will appear or seem to take place here or here or here (being described as arrival)—

3

The water there goes on & on like nobody’s business, bounding water, furthering water, eating the heart of water, water drains & edges in, the gouge of water at the bottom-most levels, a bridge waiting at the bottom of each hill the road descends, centerless water but with an edge, that trill to it, an osmotic line, jagged & minute & strange, no word for the way blood will tell, the edge of some line disappeared out in the water

4

—Giscome Road’s a real road, “the path made by a moving point,” the lips of the pavement, the centerless inflection, the return through the same bends which isn’t sweet: across a river’s the way up in Canada too, the link looming in the trees over the divide, but then along the helix of visible little ridges: the long song’s wordless & necessarily rolling, the long song’s that commotion, rolling (wordless): the long song’s a series of greetings gone astray, muted, a caravan of horns, quotidian, rolling (wordless): the trees gave way onto an exact location of the place furthest away, the trees gave way [End Page 177]

5

“Spanish” was always a euphemism, the word used among planter families down in the Islands, now...