Vancouver by Night

Even by day the port hides
its toothy face from the city,

it is impossible to describe
for it is never seen to us,

only to stevedores, sailors
and backseated children

strobe-glimpsing it, southbound
through the balustraded bridge.

I know it only by sound
and by sound only at night,

for it is muffled by the hustle
of the day and of the traffic,

and the night sounds are those
of my father’s Glasgow.

This night, there is a fog
a dense mass, white-aglow

curled uncanny, at the hillfoot
like a great white dog.

From its belly come the growls
of doubled diesel trains,

Chinese toys ride squeaking rails
to Calgary, Regina, Thunder Bay,

the clank of humpshunted grain
its malty wind reeking of the prairie.

The fog is a loudhailer, it
shouts in many tongues,

longshoremen’s curses hang fresh
on its wet breath,

it brings the yankbuzz of crane arms
jibbing out over bulkers, containerships,

the turn of their great propellers,
the chant of turbine rooms,

the bleeps of giant forklift trucks
(that as yellow beetles scuttle
in the high strobed-child’s eye.)

The port never sleeps, but sings
rich lullabies through opened panes
to the city at its back.

By Colin Begg
This poem was Highly Commended in the 2013 Poems Please Me Prize competition.

Artist: Harry Ibach

Open a slideshow by The Artists’ Quarter of all the illustrations created for this particular poem. Vancouver by Night.