Mute Relations – Mahler and Freud Meet in Leiden II:I:2

The subject of the poem “Alex” is the inability to communicate. It is the second poem in “Courting the Remembrances,” the opening section of “Covenant of the Lost Arias,” which deals with the irreconcilable omissions of personal and social interaction, and which forms the second part of four parts of the book Mahler and Freud Meet in Leiden

The Lost Arias of Henk van Strijk, Ucluelet, BC, Canada

Ucluelet, British Columbia. 25 April 2010. (Photo: Hendrik Slegtenhorst)

It was written in Ucluelet, British Columbia, in April of 2010, and the setting may have been influenced by a trip made from Kelowna to Vancouver in 1992 with my in-laws through the mountains of the interior. But this is uncertain, for in the poem, we are in a yet earlier time, and in the Rocky Mountains. They may have been travelling to Western Canada from Montréal, but they could have arrived just as believably from Croatia or Russia. But the facts matter much less than the feelings. It is all so very long ago.

Mount Temple, Canadian Rockies, Alberta (Courtesy:

Mount Temple, Canadian Rockies, Alberta (Courtesy:


Wednesday, March 6, 2002, 10:45 am, Vancouver, BC

To Deep Cove yesterday, to hike the segment of the Baden-Powell Trail that links the cove to Indian River Drive. It was a good outing, and the most demanding so far. Massive trees in the forest, and, from the dangerous bluffs, superb vistas of Indian Arm surrounded by Belcarra, Burnaby Mountain, and Deep Cove itself. We lunched on the great bluff as tiny pellets of snow began to fall.

On the bluffs above Deep Cove, 5 March 2002. (Photo: Gloria Steel)

On the bluffs above Deep Cove, 5 March 2002. (Photo: Gloria Steel)

During dinner realized, while they played, that U2’s Joshua Tree songs actually have religious rather than secular texts, and so the better songs, e.g., With or Without You, Where the Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, gloss perfectly when interpreted in terms of Christ, the faith, the passion, and so on. The weight of the song, thus, shifts more favourably when the secular derives from the religious, rather than other way around, which is the interpretation I had supposed correct till then. However, taking the mystery out of the song by introducing the ‘unassailable’ mysteries of the church reduces the songs’ impact; clarity, in this case, not being illumination. And Joshua, the covenanter with God, his tree is in the desert.



It is over twenty years ago. My father-in-law
And I leave the parked car and walk towards
The sheer cliff of stone in the midst of
The Rocky Mountains. He smiles slightly,
Pleased. I myself am not sure what I’m looking for.
However, it is a pleasant day, despite the gap
In communication as high as the mountains
And as long as the years. It is not deliberate,
As both our skills are inadequate. Both of us
Want to say something more, but cannot find
The way. We walk beside the cliff face, looking
Upwards from time to time to make a silent point
About immensity, and it is into this that he enters
Some years later, crazed by life, and all of us
Still unsure what to say and what to look for.


The poem is published by The Nashwaak Review of St. Thomas University, in Fredericton, New Brunswick.  This is my work’s tenth appearance in The Nashwaak Review. Three of the other five poems in this section have already been published, two by the same Nashwaak Review, and the other in Saskatoon’s Grain.


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