The River Again

It is painful to believe in beauty.
It is painful to believe in the soul.
But, it is too painful to believe
in the river. Either it
embraces, or is smoothly cruel.
It is too painful to believe
in your touch. In
the river, it warmly enters,
or cold slits through.
It is painful to believe
in your hate, when
in its depth
I find schools bursting
with resplendence.
It is painful to believe
you are a tiny droplet formed
in the image of an ant’s
humble and alien body
meant to bear a soul
that I must love
for its strength
and its beauty.

– Petawawa River, Algonquin

bar on locke

yes, I just compared
the colour
of this lager to the colour
of a women’s hair,
and the sound this makes
on the curls
of the sun’s
first touch,
as if it were skin
on skin, new
to us,
and a woman with an
ankle skirt’s
crossing Locke
where the sun’s blonde
again
on the street

Corn Fields

Because I am bad at life,
I have been lucky to survive
all this time. Though, driving
between the fallow fields
east of Flamborough Downs,
and see that, since I’ve
come back, they have turned from black
to green, I consider the path
bruises take when blood
beneath the skin
ruptures and is trapped, and that yellow,
you know, can sometimes
be sweet.

Ugly

Because I’m ugly,
she loved me for
my soul, I was
“a force of
nature,” she said.
I look her picture
a thousand times
over. Later, she said
the same to
another man.
She “loved photography,”
she said.
She “had a good eye.”
I thought so.

– McIntosh Lake, Algonquin

Loneliness

This island is so little.
Sharp trees claw out
from clumps of rocks.
An open scalp of grass
imitates a sculpture of
emotion, an alluvial hand
pocked by cratered bowls
and cupped in what could be
sores of broken sky A man
cannot die from thirst.

– Tom Thomson Lake, Algonquin

Woodland

It is raining on us.
Except the tent protects
us with its dry chamber
of oxygen. The tent is
shaped like a lander,
in search of life, in which
to communicate. You are
still unconscious from all
the lakes it took to get
here, wearing my orange
Calgary Flames toque, like
those liners you see
under space helmets.
I’ve awaken, visited
by a woman explaining
she loves me in a language
that means something else.
Falling asleep again,
I listen to the tap-tap tap
of the rain play on the dome
of the tent, let go upon us
from the woods above.

– Queer Lake, Algonquin

Enclosing

Double-decker bus two children propped up against the window
pooped out from Charlottetown mother still paying the driver
all the change left from the binocular machines
Kathy thought the whales were inside of the ocean
the mother felt against her body her husband held
the new camera from the street craned towards the children
in the upper window Paul pretends to be a boat in a bottle
of glass where the shutter closes and opens again without her
there he watches them float away losing them
in his hand the camera enclosing what remains.

High Wind

He had a room of his own when he was a boy,
a big window onto the road, like this one.
He had a house of his own, a wife and a boy
who laughed across honey, hardwood floors.
Now, in this room, the splintered window reflects
the outline of her dream, which he has not repaired.
This made another woman
tell him she was with him only because she was sick.
She mentioned a man she knows who taught Tai Chi,
and as she spoke, her arms wove buoyant, breezy gestures.
That heals, she said.
He saw a crow today quartering a secret surf, holding ground
where there was none.
In the morning, she said, she dreamt she was cooking,
and he came to her serving hunger on a plate.
The storm windows howl from in-between,
and sitting here, he thinks, in his gut, she loves him.
But, he’d like to take her hand and tip-toe down the stairs,
through the screen door, across the gravel drive,
then walk straight up and into the high wind,
so she can hear him over her dream of him.

Woodwork

When I die they will get many poetry books,
which they will end up selling at a used bookstore,
in downtown Waterloo. It will be analogous to
sorting through the rarified tools of
a carpenter.
The grains and rivers of my poetry
will be unnavigable,
except by her — if she’s still alive,
and the bookstore is still open,
if her husband can help her
make it up the icy steps,
and if her cataracts aren’t too bad, and she hasn’t misplaced her
credit card in a certain pocket in her purse,
and the part-time girl from Claire Hills gets just enough
of her accent, and she hasn’t forgotten where
she lives now, not the cabin in Whitehorse,
where she dreamt of moving to in 2016, or her grandmother’s
cottage in the village of Gökçeören,
and, most importantly, if
people
sometimes still read words on paper,
understanding they are letters addressed to them,
in books,
alight on Quebec Maple shelves,
that the previous owner built from scratch
at home before he passed away,
and left behind his mysterious array of tools,
analogous to poetry.