On this hill that sails tamarack woods,
my shoulders are a clove-hitch ache.
Thirst overflows our calves,
we portage the camel bone it’s made
that slowly says, along the way, this
is a rough bowl
hand-sewn by hands
that still would like
Like everything at 53, even the thirst
is heavier, the creek in the palm
of the valley,
as I climb,
overflowing with leaves of air,
a little stonier, the darkness of it
shouldering creases of light.
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.
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
that you loved a wilderness
more than I could ever.
You’d just come to me,
you, your invisible map,
only I could see,
so that nothing, I thought,
would steal it.
All you were ever good for was going
on and on,
arriving in between
here nor there,
legs always knowing
to turn stone into the shape
to hunt, to close in on,
to step into
the place of distance stationed
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.
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.
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.
If I could take back
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,
the wind busy
its big islands of white clouds
Thomson’s ‘Summer Day,’
to peer away,
drawing me in, then,
to the reflection of
you — green and
of birch, nearly
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
of another planet,
the warmth of the island
I once discovered at
its very centre.
and near night
to die and lay
for it, or
of each place,
to enter earth
to take us
there, the bird
I find the old firepit
that looks ancient.
It’s fifty at most,
a broken bobbin of weed
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
the salty beard, spreading
the unnameable colour of lichen.