First Day of Spring

Are you the lake of two rivers
and, melting, is this the river speaking
for the light?
Is highway 60 ok with
your beauty?
What I mean to say is,
is your face breaking apart
across the car’s Tamarack glass,
opening up like
the womb of a moose
taken down by wolves on
the first day of Spring,
already pregnant with sun
and ice and asphalt.

Rivers Again

Every word requires a second language.
For example, there is no word for beauty,
though rivers are stories
about love, the plot of rafts,
I saw, glued-together by summer’d
Tamarack reflections
under a winter’d disfigured bruise.
Of this language,
rivers are clear about this:
only bodies swim.
Only a body holds a promised land.
Only bodies drown, holy
as the river reiterating the river,
the blood, succinct, inside the wine.

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.

Chukuni River

This morning he sees the river
he has not seen,
because the river swirls
as to sew tatters of thoughts
into shimmering rags of
memory, memory
inside-out of memory,
the way the river combs
the landscape that palms it
so the landscape becomes the body
of its direction
and the limbs
of its intent, the way the land,
it seems to him, comes to love
the mind of the river.

Winterless

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.

Tourists

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?

Draft

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,

a river,

the bright black hair

of the sun cooling my ankles

into pain,

no, not this pain,

this

idea of braille

as falling snow

burning into eyes.

Work Horses Seen from a Road in December

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?

Becoming Winter

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?

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.