Cayo Santa Maria & Once upon a fast… in the bush

Cayo Santa Maria

(Written in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba in February 2017, right after meditation on the beach)


Crashing wave

reaching high up

on to the beach,

then disappearing 

like a dream,

like some understanding,

into silent sand

(a galaxy at dawn).

But three pelicans,

bobbing on aquamarine,

breasts bloodstained,




Once upon a fast… in the bush
[October 2017]


Hungry, I suddenly noticed you’d been observing me,

waiting for me to wake up.

You drew my confused gaze towards you,

as sunbeams caressed tattoos

etched into your silvery bark:

thus an old dancer has her life story revealed,

the skin of youth roughened by resin blisters cracked open

and long recovery from alcohol.

But you wouldn’t leave me there with such beauty.

Your light pulled my eyes to the next balsam fir,

the sister you grew up with.

Remember how you used to laugh together

when the first snows blanketed your feet,

and moose nibbled your toes?

Now at the end of summer,

red squirrels hang upside down from your outstretched arms

to fetch tender cones the whisky jacks overlooked.

But you won’t let me look upwards too long –

that’s not where You reside.

Your light brings me to another sister, a black spruce:

her trunk hidden by tangled twigs catching every ray,

a maze of barren filaments now glowing with your power.

You ask me only to pay attention,

but my fingers fumble, filling the bowl of my pipe.

Tobacco is lit and I blow sacred smoke towards you.

Your light dances, leaping from twig to twig, branch to branch.

You tease my senses, with your hide-go-seek in slow motion.

But then you whisper that you have leaped down from the branches.

I must follow you below,

in the underbrush, in the shadows,

in the damp mud stained by your leafy clothing,

shed every autumn, when the Bear sighs before becoming still.

I don’t want to leave my humble mountaintop.

Your pursed lips and jutting chin

direct me to my shadows, into my darkness,

leading me with a lone beam of afternoon sunlight

to the muddy feet of other sisters,

guarded by crumbling stumps,

who remember past battles to embrace future life.

My footsteps awaken sleeping logs, wearing patchy coats of lichen.

One log used to be a marten, until a spell froze it

and turned its fur into emerald moss.

Its eyes can now recognize Your ineffable presence.

It whispers to me, Be still, Be still.

Born in 1951 of a French-Canadian mother and a father of Irish descent, Brian grew up in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve working-class district of Montréal. In his twenties, he lived for three years in Kolkata (India) and then studied law at McGill University. Called to the Québec Bar in 1984, Brian has been director of social action at the Catholic Archdiocese of Montréal since 1994, working in human rights, restorative justice, refugee advocacy and international solidarity. He served on the regional advisory council of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission regarding Indian residential schools and has maintained a keen interest in Indigenous cultures and spiritualties. Since 2002, he has been a part-time faculty member at Concordia University and has been involved with the Thomas More Institute based in Montréal. Brian has four adult children and two grandsons.