Friday, August 24, 2012

Into the Blind World (part two), by Barry McKinnon

                    the mountain

ascent beckons     as the    descent beckoned
/ now measured  by measure of endurance equal to its challenge

who   in hell    do you think     you are?

in what is ahead by truth or verisimilitude:

 a road

we will not
come this way again.  the shadow you cast is the past/passed by
heaps / memories rubble weightless – a flash

flesh once loved /now thot lost  -
to the promise you made in the weak sense of what desire it was to be
attained.  the flesh again/ the only light

it’s hope;  driven to its source ( our shadow  cast to the shadowy
figures who beg   to ask   to think we know

our time.   wasted steps?   is all now
direction in what seemed  directionless? – thus: 

one foot/ the other

diminished hope   yet hope still

when darker it gets – now determines how we go


the tyrannical
we met along the way:  their time now spent as burden & weight /for the energy they consumed

we travel   as a secret   to re enter  the world/ a reverse  to those
who judge – & become what they protest
the cowards cowering for all to be correct/ self righteousness  their present
defeat    when our presence brings them forth

the mountain is still beyond.  sun as ... what it reveals -  contours of  what
it is to be    sad along the ridge  shaken by a sense of a complex/ simplified

by what we can not say. 

oh well,  a sigh to the spring still left ... our steps 

closer to what is sought -  the image of impossibility to
become a shape – the female form that waits   
in this same anticipation  


yet this want to erase what we thrive upon, this unrequited sense that drives
me on.  consummations of self, to reverse the nether world made to unfold what

the mountain is  

 the self  -
 the shadow of its weight inside
/out  to form its tangible light -  to form & divine -

the divisive self?

- as when this dark defines its light /escapes from those it shields.  we saw
them in all their forms:  the mountains of self/ the consequence of ego &
what rids us of it: 


sorrow amends pride   to humility: 

the beaten

as in the dream – I hurled myself to snow.  martyred, petulant –
her refusal condemned me.  I trudged  thru snow

snow/   to a darker globe   /beneath    pins   of stars


blind/beggars  propped in a unison of disbelief – a kind of horror to recognize
their condition:  terminal cases / envious.  we pass them by.  if I cared
I cared  / was spared / was them
to bear / & refuse my temptation for delight


I was defined
by those I describe:  the brutes
-  their domain remains/defined by those they exile.  those exiled /no place to go
blackballed to a powerless misery.  then all gets beaten. the beater, the beaten

the godforsaken industrial ditch I vow   I never lived in.


stare ahead:  the distance  up & down  /  me  /  healed by pain I thot
defeated me. did it make me?  or in this defeat I saw more – a perplexity of all thot known
thrown out    the window.   I wanted some outside to reach me/ to reverse
the repel of the magnet force of what closest seen -  seem                                        

in the opaque light  I’m  guideless

in the blinding smoke

the blind world again

 – this path/
our crooked gait - to trace what’s
left behind/ahead

distance & ascent   in mist & veil 

what is our source and aim?


who’s forgiveness  will erase ...

all I rued
- could not see  or find  or vent,  relieve my sense of diminished time

my impatience – these thin cracks
    of light

 ... this fog, the mountains, the hummocks 
thinned and blue – literal/     wordless

must see myself
or be a fool as the illusionists
who cast us out

love /  now crippled –  wrecked (by proportion to its

the world
to disappear – /leave us from the
dark  or blinding light?


mist  /  veil      stone
I become   separate by the sadness that makes me 
this gloomy face hoping

in this weight to pierce
illusion - & when it real  to know

& then be lifted from this gloomy spot: 


my stingy heart  went out

was their stinginess revealed


a  hole opens space for love’s return? 

this dark sky  ripped to another dawn –

light and dark  disengage

so we see the weary self again?


our shadows over
shadows /  hear voices from the starved
in wonder of what their grief is worth – worthless  
their wasted days – the flat/meaningless world without an object
of desire.  this is what I grieve - & fear:  I must become
the guide -  in the unreciprocal world, yet be worthy of its grief. 

my hope /
lachrymose – a deluge  

the loss  – what one had, never had? 

me no longer me?


the cliff
above/below -

I’m barely tethered   
by dimming light - my measure  of time
- a road with out impediment to some final light to confirm
its end



the seduction seemed
meaningless/remembered for its exhaustion
- that threw me
further into  what I cld not redeem

I learned opposites.  refusal as action
silence its speech. 

lost to be found again?  held  that time would let me go
in what knowing we’d be

if we knew time ahead exists as we hope it now:

a brighter path / the crooked world 


loathing what I had to enter

my restraint not equal to what it needed -
my fear sent me further -

what was it
you saw sent you –
into the world


nowhere to nowhere

to what you thot  not meant

amidst the fire, buzzards, beasts & this blind ascent to breaking light ahead

Part Two

Part Two is jagged meditation prompted by various lines from Dante’s The Divine Comedy: Purgatory, translated by Dorothy L. Sayers.  As in Part One, I’ve left out literal details or reference to the various characters being punished for their various sins, or the specific imagery of Dante’s ascent into purgatorio’s mountain landscape; instead, I wanted to get to some measure of my own thought and experience via fragments/statements, or as Robin Blaser said - a “reopening of words” - to let them go their own way - & to be ahead of any thinking that might hold them back.  The task & pleasure was not to immediately understand what was written, but to sense what I hoped, a kind of frayed truth about my own emotional life and experience.  I wanted the abstracted language/ loops to contain and reveal contradictions, ironies, cruelties, & various forms of human folly anyone with eyes open will perceive daily in the present world.  Another task with the writing:  to avoid the presumption that one is exempt from the various conditions described:  “the world is blind /And thou are of it”(Canto xvi).  The presumption was to enter the beauty of Dante’s knowledge and truth as the basis for whatever inspiration I was given in an attempt to speak within the themes of exile and desire.  

Dante in the last Purgatorio Canto xxxiii is renewed, and again, as in Hell Canto xxxiii he is “Pure and prepared to leap up to the stars”. In both Part One (and Two here) I make no reference to “stars” but I do repeat the phrase “light ahead” to indicate the onward journey.  

 the ascent beckons/ as the descent beckoned is a variation of the first line in William Carlos William’s poem “The Descent.”

“what was it/you saw sent you – /into the world/packing” is a slight variation of lines written in a notebook by poet Katia Grubisic during a conversation in the Arc Lounge in Ottawa (March 2012).

My conversations with artist/poet/teacher Graham Pearce prompted other thoughts/lines/considerations. 

Barry McKinnon [photo by Red Shuttleworth, Moses Lake WA, spring 2012] was born in 1944 in Calgary Alberta, where he grew up.  In 1965, after two years at Mount Royal College, he went to Sir George Williams University in Montreal and took poetry courses with Irving Layton. He graduated in 1967 with a B.A. degree. In 1969, he graduated with an M.A. from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and was hired that same year to teach English at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George where he has lived and worked ever since.

Barry McKinnon’s
The the was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 1080. Pulp Log was the winner of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Award for the B.C. Book Prizes in 1991 and Arrhythmia was the winner of the bpNichol Chapbook Award for the best chapbook published in Canada in English in 1994. His chapbook Surety Disappears was the runner-up for the bpNichol Award in 2008.

His most recent trade collections include
In the Millennium (Vancouver: New Star, 2009) and The Centre: Poems 1970-2000 (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2004). above/ground press published the first section of this poem as Into the Blind World (above/ground press, 2012).


  1. ...hard-won words from one of the finest.

  2. Almost 40 yrs ago, we churned out Sea Wall/Salt Air - Western Tantrums and The Dump together - heard you have recently retired from the College of NC - great years - wanted to thank you sincerely for your friendship/encouragement . So nice to see that you are still active and getting out there - holding a note you stuffed into a copy of The Pulp Mill (1980) and couldn't help but say hello and thanks! Richard Kaulback - retired teacher