Vancouver Lights Text of the Poem
by Earle Birney

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Text of the Poem

(Poetry for Students)

About me the night moonless wimples the
     mountains
wraps ocean land air and mounting 
sucks at the stars The city throbbing below 
webs the sable peninsula The golden 
strands overleap the seajet by bridge and buoy 
vault the shears of the inlet climb the woods 
toward me falter and halt Across to the firefly 
haze of a ship on the gulfs erased horizon 
roll the lambent spokes of a lighthouse

Through the feckless years we have come to the
     time 
when to look on this quilt of lamps is a troubling
     delight 
Welling from Europe's bog through Africa's
     flowing
and Asia drowning the lonely lumes on the oceans 
tiding up over Halifax now to this winking 
outpost comes flooding the primal ink

On this mountain's brutish forehead with terror of
     space
I stir of the changeless night and the stark ranges 
of nothing pulsing down from beyond and between
the fragile planets We are a spark beleaguered
by darkness this twinkle we make in a corner of        
     emptiness 
how shall we utter our fear that the black
     Experimentress 
will never in the range of her microscope find it?
     Our Phoebus 
himself is a bubble that dires on Her slide while
     the Nubian 
wears for an evening's whim a necklace of nebulae

Yet we must speak we the unique glowworms       
Out of the waters and rocks of our little world
we conjured these flames hooped these sparks
by our will From blankness and cold we fashioned
     stars
to our size and signalled Aldebaran
This must we say whoever may be to hear us      
if murk devour and none weave again in gossamer:

     These rays were ours 
we made and unmade them Not the shudder of
     continents
doused us the moon's passion nor crash of comets
In the fathomless heat of our dwarfdom our      
     dream's combustion
we contrived the power the blast that snuffed us 
No one bound Prometheus Himself he chained 
and consumed his own bright liver O stranger 
Plutonian descendant or beast in the stretching
     night-
there was light