I now mixed up some vermillion in melted grease, and inscribed, in large characters, on the South-East face on the rock on which we had slept last night, this brief memorial
From The Journals and Letters of Sir John Alexander Mackenzie
the aluminum boat bangs against the steep rock face
chucks me into salt water
a cliff like others
unlike others, made famous
by a man-made message.
No longer able to stand, reduced animal-like on all fours
alarm and excitement propel me zig-zagging up
Tevas slip on greasy yellow seaweed
then perilous black mould
finally, a carpet of thin turf.
Trembling legs push me forward.
A classroom memory of drawing explorers’ routes
across the continent, black and coloured lines on paper
imagined distant rivers, lakes, forests and mountainsides
to the Pacific, history at my fingertips
And there it is
22 July 1793
granite rounds down onto a narrow plateau
grey and smooth as silk
ends in the chiseled-out letters
vermillion and fat activate the words,
the story underneath
I trace the rough letters slowly with my fingers.
I lean against the wall and smile
sunwarmth envelopes me
I too made it to the sea.
- Helen Gowans