Old Growth

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.

2:59 a.m.

Been some time, but I just saw you
this morning on Spadina Ave.
Not sure what I was doing there,
let’s say it wasn’t a coincidence,
since you were there, too.
Btw, talking about bullshit,
a friend and me were guilty of it,
remarking how a touch
can guide a man back
to the surface of his skin,
as softly as that city of yours
takes flight from
the grey shadows of its towers
over Lake Ontario.
I wanted to tell you this (‘cause,
mostly, I know how you like a man
who makes you laugh), but I woke up,
and its 2:59 a.m. and, damn’t,
you’re too far to feel my way back
through that darkness again.

This is How it Looks When it Looks Like This

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.

Summer Ends as a Woman Takes her Coffee Break

Like Autumn,
I will need to change
my life again. For this
woman, how she leans
on the black chair,
as if she had always been
a girl. The dry creek of
her back,
the naked feet, both have
waded here
together from a shallow river of sun.
And spearing through
her hair, a birthmark,
like a reflection
of an arrowhead,
the first
leaf bruised with cold,
but pale, as if
she had been painting,
in case winter
was coming again.

Where the River Takes You

I had hoped the scratches
on my back you left
would remain, like

a grassy floor
a deer leaves,
after a night. But

you showed me
a moth’s wings, instead,
the deer knowing, then,

to stay quiet, within,
to lay in the breeze.
See the wings greying

to mirror the burn
around us, you said. Yes,
though you do not

seem, yet, to sense
the creases of
the old river skin’s

hands, fingerless upon
the brown bear
swimming

towards this mothy shore of trees,
its claws that cannot root
into marks,

or tracks stretching
to the room a deer
wakes into.

Upper Hatchet Lake

Parts of my body suffer
in place of
my heart.
This may be because
the heart is not
a muscle,
but a bone that
is constantly broken
and reset.
But, what if we knew,
really, what
the heart was,
its endless echo,
its foreign language of
splitting wood
for a fire on a table
of rock cut in two
by the ice age?
If we knew how
many tries
it had left, the heart,
who would we be
then? Who would we
be if we learned
finally that
the sun, the centre of
the world, was also
96 million miles away from
this stone-hard bone?

Today

A drive to another city.
Getting lost in a forest.
Your stillness
in the grass.
And, maybe
something
else? Like
the sumac
in your
hair.

My Country

My left shoulder shares its pain
with my elbow. Hand is clutched by
the seismic rumours. It draws the hill in
the maple forest we portaged
that continues, like a camel’s back,
to carry the thirst down
into these days. Like everything at 53,
even the thirst is heavier,
the creek in the valley, as I climb,
years on top of years,
stonier, deeper, nearly bright.

Firework

Say, I love you, in darkness,
and it will mean something different.
Wonder: is awe the spark of friction,
emptiness on flesh?
Ask, how true this is: the heart’s the sting
evaporating in
the atmosphere of the soul.
Then remember, fireflies float
like ash.

left

And later when I photographed you at the water,
when on the rocks the wind came for your blouse,
I pictured the idea of a soul hewed
in the pliocene bodies of cormorants alight
on the water image of those distant rocks —
too many shadows to know for certain
whether they were returning, or instead
vanishing into the skin of our memory, like a
pictograph sinking into the face of a stone, or
the fading bruises on your breasts my mouth left.

– ph