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.

The Hunters

You were the animal that
trapped them with your eyes.
They killed you for them
but thought you’d try
to live through that.
They skinned alive the desert
for the inland sea.
When they saw you
from the blind,
they stroked your coat to say,
you were not theirs.
Animal,
how could you understand?
You were a story
they did not tell
about themselves.
You were the tracks
that lost your way to them
that they followed as
they went into the trees
that took them to the river
that you could not cross.

For Instance, the Geese

There is no name for that.
There’s no strength that holds happiness.
There’s no promised land of sadness.
The fields are gold with fall,
They are silver with winter.
The car is trailed with the filthy snow that led you here.
You note the windshield paintings,
the 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 geese circling forming wonder —
so why stay so long with them into winter?
What was the sound that we made,
if not a cry?

Because She Danced

Yes, the windows have needed replacing for years
(she had said to him a thousand times.)
But she left them, their tenuous existence,
half-reflections seeing to her forgetfulness.
She will remember when you’re
elsewhere, though, you’re sure,
how much she spent on the necessities,
like the fence to keep the dogs
from tearing up the riverbank at Christmas,
decorating their bodies with burrs,
and dance lessons for the girls
because, well, she danced once, too.
She’ll find it difficult to date memory,
the algebra of the two-sided gaze, here
minus but also plus back there.
She’ll know it’s been some time, though,
how she’d go to one,
and how opening made her different,
that for a time it changed her life,
feeling something more come in.

november 27

Light, cold rain

Wind-shield wiper swipes
the geese overhead.
It’s nice, now I need
not persuade, nor make believe
it’s possible
to stay.
The needle will cross over again,
and find north.
When winter’s scrubbed away,
geese will conduct
the sky.

This World

In this world
the snow falls
in your hair.
How to explain
touching
strands of light,
a body holy as mist.
It dissolves in my hand
and hovers.
It blackens the road.
In it, you weep, a lost world
vanishing
as it appears.

Until There Are Words

Her footsteps stand
at the top of the stairs,
I pretend
I am asleep.

I stand, too,
in my mind’s imitation of me
in the corner
of the room.

I see the dark shape of her ghost
traversing the room. I am frightened.
I can no longer
see this through,

her dream

in the body of a dead man
that wants to breathe
for me.

So for now,
until there are words,
this is how
we shall speak:

we will leave love behind,
it will take us back.

Daily Deal

I punch in, “love,”
let Google search for it,
between the lines of cached results
and feel-luckys.
I’ll stay right here, instead,
talk to Dominos,
let Amazon listen in: “this is
who I am, as if
you never new.
Here’s my password, how
can you forget?”

Drain

It’s October and I have not
used a word in two weeks.
I don’t count the tiny clouds of Bashō.
So, I’m beginning to pick up
a few lines of silence,
sitting on the old sofa,
listening to the sound of orange
in the rain, the sidewalk
composing pretty, rotten leaves
on a bright yellow page, flooding
with chamber music from
the sewer drains.

Perhaps

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?