The Spiral Tunnels

 © David Watts



A line between two points may be a spiral

Connection takes a common plane of view

A line that’s stiff and straight may break with tension

A spiral helps to work the difference through.


Canadian Pacific through the Rockies

Came up against two hurdles in its course

The one was on the pathway found by Rogers

The other at the pass of the Kicking Horse.


        The Big Hill at best was temporary

        A stopgap to get traffic moving through

        And twenty years near misses were reminder

        The Kicking Horse was a stretch they must re-do.


The Railway adopted a proposal

Put forward by its Master of Design— 

Switzer’s plan:  a pair of looping tunnels

To halve the grade with twice the length of line.


The Swiss invention fitted with precision

For in our country when we have a goal

We need to find a kind of sideways thinking

That comes from looking at a larger whole:


“Une société distincte” in a Dominion

—the  compromise our Fathers wrestled for

And “conscription if needed, but then only”

—the only way we made it through the War.



We earthlings caught in our divisions

Must not dismiss the subtle turn of mind

The spiral that may seem to skirt the issues

Encompasses the hopes of humankind:


The galaxies, unfolding, trace a spiral

And in their arms, the line and circle mix

Our spiral tunnels, end-to-end outreaching

Inscribe a Three-Dimensional Ninety-Six


The spiral is a sign of resolution

In colony and cosmos it bestrides

And Canada enshrines this evolution

In the double helix at our Great Divide.