Twenty-one years ago: you in Normal Illinois and me in Prince George, B.C. - an unlikely geographical connection, your voice on the phone - smooth, subdued, quiet, intelligent and polite - introducing yourself via George Bowering’s suggestion that you contact me - you a poet with a project, making a simple request: you needed an invitation and a letter to support your plan to track the black explorer and miner John Robert Giscome’s journey and life in the mid 1800’s viz. his presence in B.C., based on your serious premise of a family blood tie.
 

J.R. Giscome / C.S. Giscombe


And within a year, there you were in the parking lot of the Downtowner Motel in Prince George. Did I wave first or did we wave simultaneously? (we gave no physical clues for identification. I knew from scant historical information that J.R. Giscome was black/you couldn’t be white (I’d have been very suspicious if you were!


the   blood ties.
 

now, here, your return via John Giscome to begin the long journey - almost a decade ahead of you - into the poem:
 

Giscome Road
 

our immediate connection / spontaneous
 

difficult talk/ easy talk.  We, familiar with similar materials or lack of them, and questions - and a sense of a share in a cursed journey, if it were not for the almost promise that its very activity is what could equally save anyone on it.
 

We talked
 

into the night - back porch beer epiphanies/ and over the years of our talks to a kind of necessary knowledge - as if by articulating a shared skill, concern, and practice, each step ahead be taken more assuredly - give simultaneous courage in the foolish prompt to risk
 

words
 

                  the wilderness                         the nothing         
 

dumbly /  head out
 

as early miners packing each thing for a journey into vast unknowns, up the physical canyons, thru miles of bush I can barely walk a block thru (Cecil, that day on the Giscome Trail in the sheer and wonderful context of the "historical" moment, being with you, I was also being bled by many species of carnivorous bugs - and in fear noted trees shredded by recent hungry bears.  How far did we go until we got the idea: this, now, here, the literal Giscombe Trail/  his portage on
 

to Summit Lake/  the water
 

shed divide at 54 40 - longitudes and latitudes of history.   I watched
 

you swim out    quite a way.
 

our subject?   What tools, what corporeal/ mind/ necessity let us start with an agreement, spit out without a thought, yet a thought we continuously return to by virtue of its curiosity - to a "theme" of sorts: "this is a place we decided, but there's nothing here.
 

        right    and    wrong   
      

the name's the last thing to disappear


    

 

Giscome/ Giscombe

                                                 no more Saturday nights there

 

BAYDAY

 

       Giscome   shack town, no more
Saturday night there.   one man remains

 

       to watch the mill.   he knows nothing
   can be carried easily
                              away.   but the people willingly

   were

             on one month's notice.   . . .  the answer to their problem  . . .    C.B.C.

 

     (some houses are livable yet
      bulldozers to scrape it all away,  as if some natural
      cycle is at work

                              but   people   people lived
     there
                   as C.B.C. goes on:
                                                       we are capable of understanding
                                                         the culture . . . 

                                                                               etc.

 

                  as the local radio goes on jingling
               and jangling
                                          the nerves:
                               you've got 55 seconds
                                           to come out & see what

 

                                          you've

 

                                           won.

 

Note: This poem was written shortly after the town of Giscome was evacuated and bulldozed. A local radio station in Prince George, most likely CKPG at the time, was running advertisements for the Hudson's Bay Company's "Bayday" promotion which involved a roving car equipped with a loudspeaker that randomly stopped at various houses at various times of the day. If a "lucky" resident happened to hear and respond to the bullhorn line:  you've got 55 seconds etc. . . .  they'd win some kind of prize. My sense was that if someone in Giscome came into the street for the "prize" they might have had their house bulldozed while their backs were turned. The italicized radio lines were jotted and spliced as I wrote.