I am fifty this year,
after Christmas, the late buds
assemble their small hooves
in the wind of the dead season.
The Mennonites with their black horses do not walk
out into the uncovered fields,
or step over their roots tarred in muddy flesh.
We cannot love whom we must,
yet cannot imagine another;
the earth is wrong for this place.
It looks like it’s me,
this yellow couch
in this window of particle and light.
Can we be sure
or do we confuse certainty
with things that stay?
When I hear you call my name
like a lighthouse,
like a shaft of dust in sun,
does that bring us nearer
to an answer,
or to that bluff
we’d never perfectly pronounce,
the capital of emptiness,
that place we’d see, sometimes,
up above the bay?
I remember the pain.
Now a thought, like a pillar
cracked down the centre
holding a roof that leaks
into the basement.
I listen for
the tiny letters
the steps of mice
write in stone.
I feel a draft this evening.
I felt for more, of course,
the bright black hair
of the sun cooling my ankles
no, not this pain,
idea of braille
as falling snow
burning into eyes.
The horses seem to be blackened grain in grainless fields.
Perhaps their watered eyes have frozen this world to stone,
the whites having seen to it that it blinks with snow.
I assume they know they cannot plow forever,
cannot continue to turn over sky matted with foreshadowing.
They must expect eventually it will overtake them,
outgrow their fields, see birds defect through contrails,
or, rather, fence lines withering under a lifeless winter sun,
not blinding but as it probes our night,
reveals the braille of what we are not able to see.
I stare at these second-sighted beasts,
groomed in weather’s imminence. Is truth beauty,
is it in their knowledge that this world will melt,
and though there will be no new world,
this is the one always leaving?
Yesterday I felt statues of deer tremble
from boughs of cherry trees, snow-feathered,
leg-trapped in sticky paths of goldenrod,
creek-oiled flowers of ice. And a white sun
swimming in shines of icy prey. Nothing is
what it is with me. Falling snow’s a gown,
the morning a luminescent fox.
I sway, gut-shot, in blizzard growls. I call to it, cull, cull,
a gizzard, ripe with heart of make-believed blood.
I cannot choose, I choose what comes to me. But choose.
Let each lie ask the beautiful questions of the hunter,
what man did I kill, what beast am I?
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.
Perhaps if I start by telling you,
your face is another moon, a rock, bright,
defying all, gravity, most of all,
carving paths of a billion worlds
across the outskirts of this lake,
you would see how far darkness travels
to find light. Perhaps if I drew your hands on my back,
you would understand how birds,
touching down, make stillness out of tumult.
And, have you heard that words are stones,
chipped away from fault lines we cannot read,
but which whisper, write me? Can you understand
that when you lean into my arms
all that you are is a root, curled and naked,
climbing from the boulder split,
which cannot drink the rain it feels,
or see, in spite of sun that pours on it,
cannot understand, only witness, the scent of its silence,
the magnitude of its flower?
This morning I heard from you.
I watched the window, wind possess
the bodies of trees,
comb the yellow hair of stripped cornfields.
I opened every window to let it come
and steal what it could,
rub out the things inside.
It’s evening now, and the cold the day’s left
sleeps in the chair beside me.
It breathes quietly as I write.
We never see ghosts, we only feel them.
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.
From the window, the dogs are barking,
at nothing, really, not a woman crossing the road,
or an animal, a fox, say, that comes in from the fields
by the highway, that sometimes sleeps in the shed
(the mutts always smell it),
with the machinery.
I look a little too long, there’s less and less.
Except for the overgrowth sharpening into
spools of wire and foothold traps,
the cornstalks gutted on the plains,
the cellphone tower possessed by voices,
and the street lamps where each night
crowns of light are crucified, I regard only
their instructions for departures.
So, if I could bark with them, that is what
I would start to see, what I don’t,
runways where things go where they go.
And, I would hope, too,
I’d find a way to chase away the fox
that sneaks back nearly every night,
that’s there, camouflaged by
the invisibility of things that will not expect
to be found.