Saskatchewan

I stand outside your house, thinking
we could take a walk tonight.
The only signs of winter are your broken
concrete steps. And the cracks on my lips.
Instead, we go back inside; the living room.
Still, you look at the glassy outside,
and stare through the window versions
of you and I. We’re not who we are; you’re
elsewhere; you won’t hear what I’m about to ask:
Do you remember our trip last year
through Saskatchewan, that train, you said,
long as the prairie night?
It’s somewhere in your dark mind, too, isn’t it?
So quietly it’s travelling, yes?
Let’s wait here, then. If I don’t, and turn away,
I’m afraid I’d turn into something else:
a blur of breath on glass; and on it
a bird black as a comma
in a plain’s low sky.

ph, 17/1/17

Hooves

Birds collapse into whips, burst into galaxies.
Everywhere is somewhere else; trees
that stitched together fields admit
they are legs of the wind’s mane
and hooves of planted storms.
A horse takes off, welts of snow on its back.
I ride for a while, holding on to what is left of me.

– ph 13/2/17

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.

Two Places, South of North Bay

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

Blizzard in a Field

I shut my eyes, the whiteout’s
there. Lashes are fences,
openings that close.

Trees are brooms for snow.
Buoys of snow circumnavigate.
A streak of woods, a train.

This place is the missing you.
The passion of this field
is the emptiness of its light.

– ph, Sheffield, Wentworth, ON