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.

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.

Reaching

I’m reminded about the togetherness of things
in the way things resemble each other
as they break apart, so that it’s possible
pulling is reaching too, and this
often when the world dies to put us to sleep,
loves us as it smiles,
as it tries to conceal its darkness from us,
the wind, never changing, wandering
across the same old soybean field
imitating hunger’s appetite for the invisible.
I’m walking this morning across Macdonell’s Field,
its trees scraped naked by the thin edges of sun,
and a hardened soil poised to feel
what I might break next. I’ll peer down
the old well the Mennonites dug,
see the watery coin of wish
anyone might have tossed in.
You’re walking too, the other way,
the wind raising you over the dirt
that, like me, will not get caught up in you again.
Still, these days I hope for the best.
Perhaps this morning your words
about reaching will be a simple pail,
that by bringing it up and out into the world,
it’ll echo in the ache of my arms,
and then in the cold, the hot chest.

Because you are a river

And when I learned that I cannot swallow you whole,
that I could only chip you back
into pieces of stone
and feed this river with them,
I learned how you swim back up.
Usually, your eyes come first
settle into another’s face,
and gaze at me like a billboard
to remind me of the life I lack,
while the rest of what they carry
migrate to another — except for
a wave of hair, which in its backwards glance,
mistakes me for the man
who did not swallow you whole.

For Instance, the Geese

There is no name for that song.
There’s no strength that holds happiness.
There is no promised land of sadness.
The fields are gold with Fall,
they are silver with Winter.
The car is trailed with the dirt that led you here.
You note the windshield paintings
of your ancient figures, antelopes of ice melting into lakes,
arms of blue rivers white with the harvest of clouds.
There was some mission.
About the mystery, you had come to
an understanding. For instance,
the circling of geese forming wonder —
so why stay so long with them into winter?
Why not fade south with the others, like tears?
What was the sound that we made,
if not a cry?

December 26, 2018
Wilmont Township, ON, Canada

Bone Dry

The closest I ever came to a river
was thirst. It’s ok, love, I was always sad,
more or less, yeah,
from the beginning,
before there was even you. Sometimes
the river isn’t a river, but a flood deserted
by a storm. You get to know the taste.
You know it as soon it leaves you with nothing
to fill it with.