I read one poet, then think of another,
and then from her, another.
You mention you dislike poems
about poetry. I do, as well, but tell me,
how many poems about poetry
can you show me are about poetry?
Think about every author of the Old Testament,
stone mazes of words, their numinous millennia,
yet forbidden to enunciate or to spell out,
for the faithless eyes,
the full name of their beloved.
Now think about the plague of crickets
outside the window, me turning from
the moth-glow of the computer on the table
to enter the unlit yard so that I may listen as they
arrange their utterances on the strands of reeds,
fanned out along the creases of the river,
so that I might hear your name mentioned
by the darkness.
I watch as my son
on the tongue of
stirs his feet over
that tease their
the underworld, who
rise up to feed
in his country
of dance and shimmer
to plunge for a time
in the ocean
of his world.
The last thing I said was, are you awake?
You watched me out of your darkness.
Last week, you painted your bedroom black.
Said it made you feel yourself again.
Brings back storms that scared you as a girl,
Made you sneak to your bedroom and sleep.
These days you dye your hair, to stain time.
You were always back there, luster
on the wet dark grasses of the silent-smelling
stars and the oval nests of birds and the weight
of dreams, wading up to my heart.
Wild blackbird in your tiny cage,
wake inside me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.