“A creek is more powerful than despair.”
— Jim Harrison
Do you remember the moments before I knew you,
when neither of us existed in the manner in which
a creek does not before rain?
I’ve been dreaming the last few nights that I found your door,
and it was a narrow boat that would not,
as it floated up, receive me. Stars swam in my eyes
and dotted them with ancient arrowheads of trout,
and I felt the pain of breathing then.
Remember the moment you no longer believed
we could find air in cloudy whitecaps of waves,
or in the rain that now does not see creeks?
I wonder, is there a fifth season, wandering,
a twisted creek that, with its long fingers, no longer feels
for a spring?
The Falls are sluggish as Jupiter, the formless unfurling,
rocks jutting out imitating the broken spears of our tribes
who tried to subdue what we saw as a roaring beast
because we did not like its imperfect face
pocked with contradictions which we wanted so maddeningly to love.
Stroke after stroke, braids, colourless as the blind,
and a mute tongue which says to all of us,
this is where we belong, in our loneliness.
We are helpless against the unstoppability of the flow.
We see it fall and we hope to be children. This will save us,
we say, because falling was nothing then and
we recall no loneliness, even as its vague mist touched
down on our feeling skin, saying, this is your soul spreading
into the oceans that you are, the skins of pale and black surf,
riverveins, and between them unmovable boulders,
which might be hearts, and not quite impenetrable yet, if only,
against the current, we could lift them.
There are paths into ourselves like this, vanishing, carrying light.
There are falls that take us to a mist we nearly feel.
I am too close to the fire to write about it
and my fingers are charred with night. Flames light
up the paper, like stars collapsing in my hands.
It’s hopeless, my words are the claws of bears
scraped on trees, or the revolutions of branches
erasing satellites, or clutching the nearest galaxies.
Maybe in the morning you will find a way to help me
understand. I promise I will write it all down. In
the morning when you swim up through the glare
with the minnows who become our breathless
constellations we see in light.
Sitting on a patio with a friend on a hot
June day drinking pints of Wellington IPA
and after a few he doesn’t seem to notice,
as I do, sunlight spreading on the table,
or appearing in the chair between us, you.
Men become drunk in different ways.
Some are drawn into currents of the past,
others name fear hope as a spell to
make fair weather out of turmoil.
Some men sleep, dreamless, unimagining,
and others wake, startled by the unrecognizable place.
My friend says you and I were too much,
that living as we did had no place here.
I wish he could peer up and see you,
mild in the orange summer light,
a ghost shaped in pastel softness,
who brought me back to life
by warming the bare arms that
knew once how to hold in this world
the invisible and the weightless things.
You are as invisible as pain.
I note the idea of your cruelty.
Instead, your capacity for the unseen surfaces.
I love most what I cannot see,
Making cruelty vanish, pain silently return.
Yet I think I hear your voice sometimes.
And I write to it as it spreads memory.
In its silence, I hear it, its air, thinned,
Its rivers, deeply cut, and to heal,
Narrowing in each mark. The words too far apart
to take hold.
But let me ask an impossible thing.
How do I recognize you in your absence?
Are you at the coffee shop on Wyndham?
Is your back turned as I photograph you
While out the window you look to the road
At someone I can not see?
Do I picture you picturing yourself disappear?
11/6/16 – Wellesley, ON
The road is a road from here except there is no road.
There is only the spray of the cold high river.
And the accidents, though these
are purely anecdotal, as philosophers posit there are none,
given choice can only school in currents of freedom.
Their stories are identical to the god I wept at this morning
who insists on his own nonexistence,
his oxygen that presses down around me,
choking my soulless animal sounds. So,
I can only believe in what occurs here,
my own face crumpling into tears, its own exegesis:
that I ought to live,
a little while more, perhaps,
or even carry the weight of a simple stone
into another day,
though, I think I see the mergansers glance up from
the just-melted river and the branches
from its wintered trees hang like
stained casements of ruined structures
as if the polite world has borne this argument for centuries,
simply by waiting for stone to settle
somewhere else, nothing
holds. The olive fields
are tree-stitched and twisting into
shapes of wind, spilling
at the river
pulling at the roots
and at the stepping stones
digging away. I’m
unsure what will be left when
you take me back.