Ice River

Tonight, I fell through the ice. It’s easy to break into light.
Splinters of coincidence break into astonishment.
When we walked along Two River Creek, for some reason
you looked up, and said to me, you skated last week
for the first time in your life. You fell, he pulled you back,
as we once did. So, what is there to see,
but the perpetual shadow beneath? Our eyes adjust
to darkness, not the depths coldness hollows out.
I shiver, clouds chatter underneath, under my breath,
the river pleads, “save yourself, Mary, save yourself.”
We know that loss is the hole of love. But, is this
what we mean when we fail to explain silence, the
wet pearls on your half-moon face, the river of the
milky way, skating amid broken stars?

ph – 17/1/17 (Wellesley, Wilmont, Perth, Brant)

The Gospel of Judas

The shadow

In our hands
Was just a shell. We carried it
Between us, a bucket spilling
Two or three directions.

The moment you were tree-like,
Wind screwed into a nail.
You spoke in tongues of thunderstorms,
Spitting wounds.

Nonetheless, I marvelled. I saw air
Take purchase in the slippery grass.
I saw, in your hands, that birds
Were your hands.

But, I saw, staring up from
The bony sockets of myself,
A beast, settled on drizzled rock, a threadbare coat
In the silent ear of your faith.

They meant to see
The stations of your directions:
A shadow,
Moving in and out of sun,

And still.

Two Friends

The snow does not light the grey
parking lot at Ethel’s Lounge.
The beer is bitter patina, hints of yellow.
The friend admits phoning it in,
the other mentions the woman.
They laugh at each other’s absurdities,
taking similar trajectories to their cars.
They tread in puddles of yellow lanes,
leaking discontent and shame.

PH–12/1/17 Ethel’s Lounge, Waterloo, ON, Canada.

Winter Trapping

I just remembered the red fox
that showed up by the snowbank as we drove
to find a spot that night. It ran ahead in the net of headlights,
drew us out
into the unplowed road
until we listed, a tugboat, you said,
in whitecaps, trying
to push on.
I remembered you too,
that way we were together, your small body
ferrying mine,
and past the window,
empty houses on hills of snow,
a plow
rasping below, salting
streets, and
under your teeth, lament.

ph 11/1/17. Guelph, Mew Lake, Algonquin, Canada.

A River is Not a River

The river where I used to live
is not a river, but the gravity
of exile and retreat. And, my children,
who live there, are not my children,
but the gravity of rings that slip,
where I pull. They circle the banks,
reforming; their leaving is always
my returning. So, I understand
the dark scroll of the river,
and write with black blots of ink,
and these, they are not birds. However,
I cannot help their thin pale lines that descend.
I can only stand here so long, under them — so
let’s climb the trail up to the old garage,
where old wires string through slices of light,
ride the ceiling’s roads of asphalt tile.
And from the standing darkness,
hear old words emerge, like rats. Then, ask,
do birds ever hear that their song is not
anything, but a song?

ph. 9/1/17 (Perth County, Wellesley, Toronto, Ancaster)

The snowplow winding on the on-ramp,
clawing waves apart. Wanting more. Surprised
by the image of the bear on the White River,
you said that one day, like memory, it would
be rescued upriver by ribbons of Salmon,
round its thighs. Surprise us again. You loved
my chest, you said, as if my heartbeat
was a thing that lived another life. Two winters ago,
the river knotted round the body that took you away.
I thought we were birds, but there we are underwater,
flying again. And you are smiling, of course,
possessing a different understanding of air.
A force of nature, you said, my shoulders firm
in your arms, and the rocks below, carrying
that undercurrent of resentment. But, look
at their bubbles, you said, they nearly breathe.
Your fingers and your lips loved the veins of my
large hands. Your love of repairing calloused nets.
The fishes patrolling our eyes. We thought of leaves,
as a kind of shelter. We walked on, we thought.
The feeling of beeswax on our boots. The feeling
of certain dreams. The feeling of light when eyes
are sewn by cold. The weight of snow on pine boughs.
The empty highway laying down beside us,
like us, old rivers, and holding us in its arms.
The simple wind. Forgetting.

– ph, 7,8/1/17, Hwy 11. South of North Bay, Canada

Why Poetry?

​”“The question ‘Why poetry?’ isn’t asking what makes poetry unique among art forms; poetry may indeed share its origins with other forms of privileged utterance. A somewhat more interesting question would be: “What is the nature of experience, and especially the experience of using language, that calls poetic utterance into existence? What is there about experience that’s unutterable?” You can’t generalize very usefully about poetry; you can’t reduce its nature down to a kernel that underlies all its various incarnations. I guess my internal conversation suggests that if you can’t successfully answer the question of “Why poetry?,” can’t reduce it in the way I think you can’t, then maybe that’s the strongest evidence that poetry’s doing its job; it’s creating an essential need and then satisfying it.”
– Richard Ford 


Image, Draft of the poem, ‘Living by the Red River’ by James Wright

What Happens


the snow

was a mountain

that fired 

my lungs. 

Today, I walk

on snow, a lake

of coals.

Tomorrow, it will


into a blaze

of flowers.

It’s amazing

what happens

to ash.
ph 6/1/17 Amable du Fond River

The Orchard

You did not take me to the apple orchard
For no one lives on Settlement Road

Between the deserts of snow, the water deserts,

Other than the apple pickers, and

Wind, which cannot change direction on

A narrow line of bloodshot rotten dirt,

So you did not take me to the apple orchard, and

Snow, like moths, land upon your face.
– ph, Amable du Fond River, ON,  4/1/17

dear river

​dear river,


teach me


lay down

with you,

pray we ripple



the sheets.
– ph, 6/1/17, Amable du Fond River, ON, Canada