Questions on how to live from a campsite east of Pinetree Lake, Algonquin in February

If your name’s Nick, does it hurt
to have a nickname? Is it strange that fire,
which can’t be touched,
can bring feeling back to hands?
Why is there no word for beauty?
And, along the same lines,
why is certain wood called Ash,
long before it burns? You would think that love
could at least let itself be held
(yes, you, backwards magnet),
like the bundle of firewood
I carry in my arms,
ready to give it up for
its revelation of warmth.

Madawaska

I carried you inside me,
frozen river carrier.
But I leave ice to bury
the current it will bury.
I leave pines to stand for me,
fly their ancient flags.
I will let stones be stones,
feel their hold release
their million birds of silence,
their shadows lain in snow.

The low fox trails

I see how the low fox trails,
like sister currents,
cling to the pauses of
birch creeks,
and in them, my heart,
tired of its flesh,
my tree-and-snow country
leading away from the down commas
that blot the seat next to me,
leaked from a winter coat.

In the Car

Words between us are like birds
that have not returned.
We drive by the ice ponds
on the undeveloped land.
You take a left at the lights.
They circle, they cannot land.

Weight

W
The weight of forty kilos in the sack of flour I carried on my shoulder
and you waiting in the no-parking zone on Wyndham.
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.

Rain Lake

All night it rains morse code on the dome of the tent.
It is a vase of air, a lander in search of life,
transmitting this, “here I am, speak.”

For hours, I sleep, curled into a shape of a lake,
until I wake, turn into another, and because I am cold,
a lake more southerly than the last.

I wear my dark blue Toronto Maple Leafs toque,
reminiscent of the liners astronauts wear,
and divers also, which they fit beneath their helmets,
but the cold, another body now, embraces me.

Perhaps she can sniff a damp animal.
With my pores wide, I might admit
she can enter my skin,
divide, leave again

because this is her route,
bodies of rain traversing
lake after lake, letting mist
become dreams

of another planet,
the warmth of the island
I once discovered at
its very centre.

Black Sea

When I typed,
“what are you up to?”
there was nothing
at first,
until, illuminated in a cloud
of text, she arrived:
“I was drinking in the rain.”
Of course,
I understood,
this
was normaI, her layer of metaphor, I
had known her more than…I
had been the closest, were
we to have swapped voices
we would surely be
no different. So,
it was almost
nothing
to put my face inside,
find hers there,
the usual planet, glassy darkness,
a tongue of oxygen landing,
like the feet of a reptile,
only to be swept back into the body,
but the eyes, too heavy
to be moved, remaining
like twin fingerprints on glass
touching stars,
like the shells she had collected,
as a girl, after the storms on the Black Sea
had risen up, and left them. So, I said, “I know, I know.”
“No, no, you don’t, she said.
“I was actually drinking the rain.”