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?
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.
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
towards this mothy shore of trees,
its claws that cannot root
or tracks stretching
to the room a deer
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.
I am too close to the fire to write about it,
my fingers are charred with night. Flames light
up the paper, like stars collapsing in my hands.
It’s hopeless, my words are the claws of bears
scraped on trees, or the revolutions of branches
erasing satellites, clutching near galaxies.
Maybe in the morning you will find a way to help me
understand. I promise I will write it all down. In
the morning when you swim up through the glare
with the minnows who become our breathless
constellations we see in light.
Now that you are happy
I would have thought the weather here
in Madawaska would’ve changed.
And I wonder if you wonder now
what a waste living can be,
the clouds only landing
to take us up into rain.
But, you know, I almost believe you; perhaps,
it’s just the weather, undecided,
that says otherwise, its backtracking,
its circling, taking one more look
for the thunder we may or may not
Days scratched-out, driving north, its roads
ground down to rivers
to bare all,
or, at least, tired
of their distance.
Another sun, re-dealt, high
as god searching
the place of
an undying faith
that once it’s tamarack-speared
and disembowels into
the Opeongo, we’ll hold
Likewise, they do not hear from me, or
I them, but how can any of us
the beautiful and gaudy birds
arriving from the heaven of roadkill,
as if the world must revolve
around returning to what’s gone.
There are some things I cannot hope
to touch; these bridges, for instance,
of rain clouds between the other earths,
this river, too, brownly swelling,
like a new root burrowing in the soft air
of a newly wet sun. Meanwhile,
the prayer I make with my fingers
in the damp ends of your hair
on this humid day is not
a poem about love. It could be, though,
sitting next to you, waiting
for it to come any minute,
to touch down,
take hold for the time we’re here,
like this, yes, and like that, the same way rain
from those worlds do.
I keep looking for you here.
I am on the edge of a sharp pine cliff
on Eagle Lake.
I wish I could fly.
The way you taught me that day:
become silence, you said,
it is the same conductor as a wing’s.
Maybe you’re on the next lake,
streaming into this one,
or the creeks have dried,
leaving stepping stones between us,
for weren’t you once the bird
my feet listened to, the green mossy creek?
Now, the clouds chalk the sky,
and I sit by a small fire,
a golden ring inside a silver feathered nest.
Sometimes the wind comes
and flies together with the smoke.
I want love that when you
get too close, you’re blinded,
it stings, and you weep.