Map of Wilderness

This map flows river after river,
creeks popping through them, like bent nails.
I read its mind on Evelyn again,
wind stealing it from your hand,
stuffing it down its pocket of rapids.

I’d go to those rivers once.
It didn’t matter,
you’d never stop finding me.
So, I believed that what the tongues
and grooves of water had to say
was true,
that you loved a wilderness
more than I could ever.

You’d just come to me,
you, your invisible map,
the one
only I could see,
so that nothing, I thought,
would steal it.

Small Brightness

All you were ever good for was going
on and on,
arriving in between
neither
here nor there,
legs always knowing
the way
to turn stone into the shape
of motion,
to hunt, to close in on,
to step into
the place of distance stationed
the eyes,
and to rest beside
the star-freckled nakedness
of a river, or tamarack,
which talk in their sleep,
guessing you will wake
to start again,
to blink into
the small brightness of a fire
that is always
haunted with hope,
a head, forever,
full of hunger.

Portage

From the eleventh floor at my desk in Toronto,
I watch a band of Cormorants fill a landing place,
like a bracelet on the edge of a small lake.
It’s somewhere near Misabi, where the river,
like its twin, runs alongside the Nastawgan portage
that brings you to Obabika. I could hardly find it this summer
and on the video I’m watching, it’s nearly not there.
I’ve been thinking what somebody said recently,
Cormorants aren’t indigenous here,
so you can you blame them, they’re bloody,
and they’re so strangely beautiful.
I recall the trail again, from the window,
birds peeling away, as I do,
and below, the streets bare things the way fire bares
ruin and the skin of a heart, peeling away, too,
from every mark, like a blaze in a tree
whose writing is always about the path to water.

Old Growth

I always felt it was in the looking,
though waiting seems better now
that time has narrowed, like the trail
I’ve been following that goes through
the old growth pine of Shish-Kong Lake.
I’ve been here a thousand times,
but the path keeps changing.
The lake below spins faster than ever.
The trees seem to root into blue above,
as if the water could be desperate for sun.
And the birds climb their branches,
leaping southward, though more and more
I notice the ones that stay
as though, for some reason,
the best way to save their lives
is by not returning.

Summer Day

If I could take back
every word,
now,

to settle
back between
us,

our
silence,
our highest
branches,
thinly touching.

Like beauty,
no word for ‘us’ —
only the wild guesswork
of wind, the
tips of our tongues
grasping for the
taste of it, already
tasting the end.
 
Remember that afternoon
we left together,
coming off
Lake Opeongo
the wind busy
scattering
 
its big islands of white clouds
crossing the
dash like
Thomson’s ‘Summer Day,’

you turning
to peer away,
drawing me in, then,
to the reflection of
you — green and
blue hills
of birch, nearly
transparent,
 
tamarack,
slender and
teetering.

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.

Beauty Lake Rd.

All afternoon
and near night
this deer
inside me
scenting for
its place
to die and lay
together,
this
deer, this
me,
we search
the sky
for it, or
the light
of each place,
to enter earth
’til finally
we see,
stepping
into
our tracks
to take us
there, the bird
that turns
air into
rivershape.

Firepit on Lac Dragon Island

I find the old firepit
that looks ancient.

It’s fifty at most,
a broken bobbin of weed

and blueberry.
Moldy blisters from fire

are spooned away
in a broken bowl

of a skull, fingers sucked
to their stone seeds.

The wind seems to find me.
It circles my arms,

then confuses them with cedars,
it seems, coaling their bitterness,

orange gruel, and crab water
crawling in

the salty beard, spreading
the unnameable colour of lichen.

Constellations of the Backcountry

If it could, the water snake would see
how it lives in a mirage of reeds,
flat on Lac Grande. I, on the other hand,
saw it the night before, unknotting its
meteor tail through the milky way,
like a net we, before me, used up the air,
I imagine, to throw there. It made me
wonder about these sounds, too, that
this morning I hear disguised as waves,
and the particles, I don’t see,
pretending to be me. What can they reveal,
now that I am gone, and so that I may
come back? Nothing comes to me now,
but perhaps the way is to measure silence
by the years, listening for that signal to say,
“I was here.”

– Lac Grande, La Vérendrye, Quebec