The Mulgrave Road

1If they stay they stay, if they go they go;
2On the Mulgrave Road it’s a choice you make.
3There’s an ax in the stump and a fork in the row
4Or a bag to pick and a train to take.
5Sandy was one of the wandering sort;
6Not for adventure, not for play;
7But a fellow that cut the taking short
8And followed the earth for a season’s pay.
9It was just that his hardwood stand was gone
10From the sidehill woodlot across the creek –
11And he shipped on a tramp at West Saint John
12For Boston, Georgetown and Martinique.
13His hands were busy with sea and stone,
14Timber and tractor, rope and bale.
15The years grew short. And his grin was known
16In Denver and Brandon, Spokane, Trail.
17He knew Dundee and the Surrey Docks
18And the wired shoulders of Vimey Ridge
19As well as the road of gravel and rocks
20From Grady’s place to the Iron Bridge.
21You can see the rainclouds gather and pass
22Over Hadley’s Beach or the Artois plain;
23And dust on the grass is dust on the grass
24In Guysborough County or Port of Spain.
25It was oar and crosscut, shovel and crank,
26Hour by hour and year by year;
27Till he heard, in a dory on Georges Bank,
28Adventure calling, sudden and clear.
29If they go they go, if they stay they stay;
30But once in a hundred a man will pack
31His clothes – and his habits – and roll away;
32Or a lad with the wandering eye come back.
33It was just that he knew, in his tranquil mind,
34He was done with the habit of chance and change;
35And his eyes were eager at last to find
36Something different, something strange.
37You can find him deep in his venture still,
38The green oats growing, the young corn hoed –
39Where the stumps are gone from a hardwood hill
40By the turn of a creek on the Mulgrave Road.
RPO poem Editors: 
Jim Johnstone
RPO Edition: 
Special Copyright: 

Printed with permission of the Charles Bruce Estate.