Day and Night

There is less time to write now.
I leave the office at 5 and at the gym
run for an hour on the treadmill.
I drive to your house with flowers,
kiss you, and try to kiss you again,
and I leave, and I don’t call because
I make dinner for myself, wash.
Then set the alarm, and I look for
the matches to light the candles,
so that I can sleep and which
I will set on my desk where
I spent all those nights writing.
I tell myself, nothing is wasted.

– ph 11/2/16 Morriston, ON

Another Life


“We should meet in another life, we should meet in air, me and you.”
— Sylvia Plath

On Earth

But what on earth have you
gotten yourself into
what happened to the province
that held the mottled islands
in the rounding rivers below
and the wrens that plotted there
or slept in the contrails of providence before them
Where do they scatter in a sky that
surely must be falling
Now what shines with rhyme
their far cries of the world
trawling head first
into stems of rain
Now what

Haiku for Winter

Under frozen pond,
muted leaves are falling.
— sparrows, motionless.

Close Enough

I supposed it was supposed to matter.
In the way the words formed from
atoms split.
The burst sought in a new light. Small
recognitions. The wind that passed
by the door into the garden, astonishing.
The dog’s paws tapping across the
floor, then stopping
in mid-air. Close enough.
Out there, the whiteouts aren’t
going to stop. I should know that now.
It seems I’ve been looking from
30,000 feet for weeks, the warm breath
of the furnace keeping me
from burning into the atmosphere.
How the house speaks to itself.
Do I hibernate and simply dream
all of this?

I must. It’s hard to get things
figured out. The air. The world
that is not transparent.
The ice on the pond sketched with
the rough faces I knew,
like fossils buried alive by ash.

And these Mergansers that glide in,
the first to usurp the silence.
It’s hard to tell what they mean, or
whether they notice as I turn to go back inside,
the world behind me exploding,
falling in with the reluctance of an uprooting
tree, losing its balance maybe in the
dizziness of all its years.

City & Country




Between the computer, a pencil and a notebook
my time passes. A half a century has just come and gone.
I’ve moved to other towns for love
and sometimes when I’m alone I talk
with strangers about matters that follow me.
I dream a lot: the covers of books, silverware tucked
inside black napkins on a table, the face of a woman.
I photograph nature a lot: the light slipping between
the trees and the night the ravens steal from the creeks.
I see three elements in nature: beauty, indifference, and survival.
The fourth is a voice that I cannot hear, only sense.
I read poets, living and dead, who teach me
tenacity, beauty, and pride. I like good red wine
and small galaxies of light that curves around it in its glass,
like a plum, red sun.
I like hockey and how each period
is a chapter that makes up an arc of a story.
I like to paddle on long, narrow lakes
and watch the jackpine fall over as if to play
a trick on the wind,
the way the bullfighter fools the bull.
And to see through the trees to the
end of the portage and the lake that
takes me to another.
I’m absent minded but I remember every sound
from every memory, and what it means.
Black birds rise and fall slowly in front of
my car just when I speed by.
I write with candles now so that I question
not how the flame dies out but the
nature of air in which I breathe.
I’m no longer young, but I think there is still time.
I like her against my chest, when we cease to exist,
and dark nights in a tent and white blankets of smoke
enlarging from the fire of birch and cedar.
Sometimes I understand, and ambivalence vanishes,
for example that sadness and loss is sometimes
the choice that you must allow to win you over.
I often gaze at her face.
I have not called my father in some time.
I have not spoken to my son in weeks,
thus proving my withdrawal and regret.
My country grew up slowly and tolerates
others more or less but its
spaces are wildernesses are a beloved.
I’m not a child of the air,
as Adam Zagajewski wrote about himself,
but a child of lakes, the adventure of a woman’s laugh
and men drunk and happy in a bar,
and not all the roads of the spirit
I’ve travelled on, and on those I did
I did not proceed far enough,
wanting always the physical.
I don’t believe in life after death but
I said once I’d be born again to
be with her, just to hear her laugh at that and
so that I could live again right there.
I’m a blind man who needs to touch.
For a long time, I thought I needed to be loved
but what I learned was that
I needed simply to love.

(after Adam Zagajewski)


Like them,
I gather you’ve died again,

The birds in the window
I’ve not heard from since November.

Leaves beside the snow,
Like moths.

I had a dream you were unfaithful,
You asked to what?

The candles reflected from my table,
In my window an oil field at night?

You’ve dyed each flame
To cover up strands of snow.

There are no birds, I admit.
February is just the breeze in your hair,

The dream you decided
Not to tell me.


The weight of forty kilos in the sack of flour I carried on my shoulder and you waiting in the no-parking zone on Wyndam.
Other things are heavier.
The notes in a song.
The traffic.
The sunlight.
Your small hands on the
steering wheel and their
bees-wax stain in my skull.
The question, what is it inside this
I haven’t said and that I’ll say once more,
to stamp out its flesh.
The maps of nowhere in
the side pockets of your door.
The weights of balances and off-balances.
The delicate china of your medieval language,
aşkım, aşkım, aşkım.
The emptiness of faith, its freedom weeded by the certainty of the barren things we walk beside.
The bicycle leaning against a stone wall,
I should have taken.
Like the million poets in a single flower,
each forgetful and beautiful and the
cleaned-out trunk empty
and ready to carry it all away,
as if I no longer cared who
witnessed me murdering
the thing that carried this thing
between the lines of a spot
where no one, heavier by the second,
waits this long.

Coming Back for Air

I have the frame that held the picture of you
from Toronto. When you looked, closely, emptiness.
Even the blind can see, you said, past beauty.
I imagine wells.
I see them running under the roots of
the tamarack trees and upwards your gaze
floating the way two stones can loosen
and jet in the cold and fast currents.
You had been making your way upriver,
walking among shoals recalling the feeling
of being carried back to something unexpectedly
distinct, like suddenly recognizing a thing you
always knew, or an inexplicable moment of joy,
or love, and you decide all at once
to dive very deeply and to move beneath
the muscled spirits of those currents.
When you come back for air, the river is
frozen, like a mirror, and the frame is
white and empty, and in it are your eyes.


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