The books of poetry tower
from the bedside table.
At night they are a pillar,
the rib of
a lost colosseum,
or occasionally, when the moon comes,
steps of a cathedral.
Some nights the moon comes and
carries them to
the ceiling, mirroring
I have this very old dream: they are waiting
for me in a bright current
so that I can find the words
to read to them again.
At night, they are a bridge.
Yesterday I saw my canoes,
three still lives trapped in snow.
I thought of you, the ice
that keeps alive the dead.
But today, I see you differently.
I view you as haiku,
then as three crosses from the hill,
silent but forsaken.
Now in the Spring the geese gather on
the shreds of ice. At the end of winter
you said to leave you alone. I drive up
to Algonquin and pass the melting lakes
where I stopped to show you. I watched
you as birds blackened the trees.
Now I’ll be grateful for the fair weather,
like any other Spring, knowing the time for it,
not the place, when the birds landing
are an image of your black hair.
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
and past the window,
empty houses on hills of snow,
rasping below, salting
under your teeth, lament.
I forgive you for your innocence.
I forgive you for the blood under your tongue;
it is the flesh of your other heart.
I forgive that you bury it,
turn it to a thing that grows underground
in the way a promise promises itself
to die inside.
I love the drive up Perth County Road
to Wellesley with the snow not quite covering
the shaven waves of soybean crops,
and every so often a Mennonite farmer,
like a black speck on a camera lens
waves at a horse he’s calling, as I pass.
A philosopher said our choices are who we are,
but all I gather is that there is night,
there is morning and then there is night.
I’m not quite old, but it’s harder to see the light,
once you’ve seen it. I can only guess now that
choosing involves trying to forget what your
body recalls, along the way; we are constant
traitors. So, maybe it’s a good thing that all I do
this morning is describe the world around me,
like a child’s first day in front of the shiny
letters of an alphabet that some season will replace
the trillion phrases of his own inborn tongue.
Here, though, as I drive further, asphalt gives
into gravel, then over little bridges meant
for buggies into towns that tried humbly
to exist. There’s no truth in them. They don’t lie.
They carry on, playfully vanishing
back into a lived innocence, which I guess
is how winter is supposed to make you feel.
The sameness of snow, it appears, makes
itself a landscape offering no choice, just
an unheard calling. I’m glad it’s winter now.
I suppose it makes sense. The fences are broken
with ice, and glued with it. There is light
falling from the sky, and a horse has wandered
into the road. A man is passing from fifty years ago,
a blur streaked with snow.
I point to the lake we came to.
Summer, your ankles stalked in brake
and yellow goldenrod,
red sumac in your hair,
aura of mosquitoes washing in emptiness,
silence’s low flutter,
lighting the edges of things.
Here, then, is winter.
Atmosphere’s distant talk mixes
over pale unworldliness of ice,
yields to its close-fitting jacket,
buttoned with rocks,
their white-pointed backs,
stepping stones, shining with arrival.