a west coast tango, of sorts

dance with me

nods the wind, with all the intent
of a milonguero, hungry for the tryst
and so it begins, glances exchanged
the first chord strummed, the unmistakeable ruffle
as an ocean gathers her skirts, flourishes them
at the fluttering fan of the trees, branches sighing, tempted
by the thrill of it, innocent
still innocent

 Ocean storm, Tofino

and so it begins
pressure falling, stormwind rising
rushing the ocean in sudden runs of steps
the sea’s skin darkening with every gust
air like blood squeezing through the bellows of winter
and the wind swings wild, wilder
singer and dancer surging together, apart
crescendo, glissando, and oh! the supple backbends of the trees
bark peeling, branches spinning from the strong arm
of the wind, whirling toward the climax, the deep
red centre of the low, the sudden silence
before the roar
heave, surge, spill, devour
sea-licked channels penetrate the shore, reach for the dark
rim of the forest, each groove deepened by the in-and-out
swell, the in-and-out tide
all eyes on the dancers now
the reaching sea, windmilling sky
the whipped-up shrapnel of froth, jetsam,
tangled mounds of dark coiling kelp
and oh! the shooting spark of a white bird, emerging
soaring through the tunnel of waves, the dips
and curves of the dance, and the weighted fist of clouds
unclenching, falling open

 Ocean storm, Tofino

and after in the forest, the wreckage of trees
finery of branches far-strewn in
the chaos of rapture
oh! the chaos

©Joanna Streetly

Ocean storm, Tofino

Milonguero—title given to a man who embodies the essence of tango.
Cabaceo—the invitation to dance, usually a nod or a glance.
Bandonéon—musical instrument, like an accordion used in tango dancing.
Abrazo—the embrace.
Cortina—the end of the dance, the parting of dancers.


Long-time Tofino resident, Joanna Streetly is an author, illustrator and poet. Her 2018 book of non-fiction Wild Fierce Life: Dangerous Moments on the Outer Coast has been acclaimed by reviewers across Canada: “With its gorgeous prose and adept storytelling, Wild Fierce Life captures life on the outer coast in a way that few recent titles have managed — and celebrates how this life can test the limits of who we are and how we understand the world around us. A must-read for all the adventurers among us, armchair and otherwise.” The Vancouver Sun.
Streetly is the inaugural Tofino Poet Laureate and was recently awarded the Rainy Prize by the Pacific Rim Arts Society for her contributions to west coast art and culture.

Read more of Joanna’s work at:



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