About the book
About the author
Vancouver-born George Payerle is a poet, novelist, translator and editor whose parents immigrated from Hungary after WW I. His first novel, the afterpeople, (Anansi, 1970) formed part of his master’s thesis at the University of British Columbia. Unknown Soldier was published by Macmillan in 1987 and remains a definitive expression of a combat veteran’s experience in civilian life.
Payerle’s fiction, poems and translations have found periodical and anthology publication over the past three decades in North America, Europe and Australia. His first full-length book of poems, The Last Trip to Oregon, memorialized the death of his friend, the poet Charles "Red" Lillard.
George and his wife Phyllis now live in Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast. They have one daughter, Bronwen. Alterations constitutes a celebration of Payerle’s new life as an urban refugee among the cedar trees.
Devil's club and salal
pour down the deadfall-tangled valleys
and lead us, lost, thrashing & spine-pricked
to the sea,
where no Coaster can be lost
any more than the Greeks
wise Xenophon led and followed
They came in grace,
angels of the paradigm
strolling madrona beaches of Davis Bay
soft steel unto the blue bones
Of the Island.
This place gives god -
grace of cedar, fir, salal and weeds
a thought containing our absence
into which we make incursion
like Israeli armour into dust of Palestine.
It is among the rocks we have placed our mattresses,
slept with swordfern
and pale copper-green skin of madrona;
Joni Mitchell lives here
yet we are paving paradise.
We become accustomed to
Roberts Creek Wilson Creek Sechelt
accustomed to our rural polity
until three kids in baseball caps
and a broken-down logger wearing shades
seem cool and cynical
as the civic millions.
Daft and hopeless as rain,
the coho flashing silver sunbursts
to leaven with light
the graceful waters of Davis Bay.
like a jump horse going over an eight-foot wall
and it's only a day.
The horse hangs in the sky, eternal
instant of the godforce stamped into eyeblue sky
and into the brain-
four-hooved flight beyond the impossible,
phar lap, which means lightning
and was the name of a horse
murdered for beating the best
America had to offer.
And it's only a day. By midafternoon,
so still at 30° in the shade nothing seems to move,
not even the strip-loin bands of cirrus in the sky,
not even the children running in the shade of the trees.
And not the jump horse
that will never come down.
The night time, the sweet time,
the neither waking nor sleeping time,
the slow erogeny
at any time of day,
real as bricks and bones,
different utterly from the day time, "real time,"
think and do and act time,
pretending only to be all time,
"From Gower Point to Irvines Landing"
The men with bulldozers in their eyes
have mostly gone on pogey now, or into rest homes
or the grave
Mad Frenchy ran
the Gulf Oil in Madeira Park,
Maudzi Anglais! to any customer who looked sideways
or got in his cuestick's way on the plywood floors up
the Rigger's Roost looking over Garden Bay;
fell in love vvith him, or him with me
across the butt-end of that pool cue one hot day
thirty-two summers ago, when everyone figured me
for a cityslick Summer boy with his hippychick,
and I smiled into Frenchy's deadly sea-blue eyes and
we ended up drinking Blue out of bottles down in the
bent-chrome midden he called home out back the Gulf
Tombstones in his eyes And after that
he'd phone and say "Where ya been, white boy?"
and we'd pound down unmixed boilermakers sweating in the sun
while he tried to egg me into fistfights
over T.S. Eliot vs Jules LaForgue or which end is up
when you've been down so long End up in rassling matches
in the dust, him small and strong as a terrier's jaws, me long and sneaky,
lying flat on our backs drunk as skunks staring at the cerulean sky,
"The underbelly of God, white boy, the underbelly of God"
with all his less agreeable friends and foes
who ruled this coast with chainsaws and peavies and
fists quicker'n sledgehammers
We miss them God knows we miss them,
though there never was a damn thing you could do,
except beer for beer, shot for shot, a poem for a punch
in the head
Glad the old Pen Hotel's gone, where the only
way not to eat a pool cue was feed one to the other guy
first, or run No good, the Pen But I miss '
old Gilles Lalonde and the Rigger's plywood floor gone
cutesy Hallmark pink and mauve,
those lean and hungry scruff-faced bastards
who decided I wasn't what I seemed, though I was,
once Frenchy took me under his steel-belted wing
The way I think sometimes
the lonely forests miss
those guys come humping block and tackle up the sidehill
to clearcut the mothers down
Thirty years ago and more,
already this Coast was dying,
though no one would've been left standing
had it lived on And I'm still waiting on a postcard
from Frenchy to say the beer's fine and the women finer
here where the dead poets dance
on the other side of the hill
“It is a fine act of literary juggling to write poetry that speaks with a voice of worldly experience but still manages to keep hold of those sensations of awe and wonder that spark the imagination. In Alterations, a book…” >>
— Paul Vermeersch
“I can get lost here in .42 acres / of pure amazement" George Payerle writes, and it’s this merging of the trustable and grounded with the highdrifting lyrical that impels me to pluck these two lines from his manuscript and…” >>
— Don Coles