Questions on how to live from a campsite east of Pinetree Lake, Algonquin in February

If your name’s Nick, does it hurt
to have a nickname? Is it strange that fire,
which can’t be touched,
can bring feeling back to hands?
Why is there no word for beauty?
And, along the same lines,
why is certain wood called Ash,
long before it burns? You would think that love
could at least let itself be held
(yes, you, backwards magnet),
like the bundle of firewood
I carry in my arms,
ready to give it up for
its revelation of warmth.

Madawaska

I carried you inside me,
frozen river carrier.
But I leave ice to bury
the current it will bury.
I leave pines to stand for me,
fly their ancient flags.
I will let stones be stones,
feel their hold release
their million birds of silence,
their shadows lain in snow.

The low fox trails

I see how the low fox trails,
like sister currents,
cling to the pauses of
birch creeks,
and in them, my heart,
tired of its flesh,
my tree-and-snow country
leading away from the down commas
that blot the seat next to me,
leaked from a winter coat.

In the Car

Words between us are like birds
that have not returned.
We drive by the ice ponds
on the undeveloped land.
You take a left at the lights.
They circle, they cannot land.

Weight

W
The weight of forty kilos in the sack of flour I carried on my shoulder
and you waiting in the no-parking zone on Wyndham.
Other things are heavier.
The notes in a song.
The traffic.
The sunlight.
Your small hands on the
steering wheel and their
bees-wax stain in my skull.
The question, what is it inside this
I haven’t said and that I’ll say once more,
to stamp out its flesh.
The maps of nowhere in
the side pockets of your door.
The weights of balances and off-balances.
The delicate china of your medieval language,
aşkım, aşkım, aşkım.
The emptiness of faith, its freedom weeded by
the certainty of the barren things we walk beside.
The bicycle leaning against a stone wall,
I should have taken.
Like the million poets in a single flower,
each forgetful and beautiful and the
cleaned-out trunk empty
and ready to carry it all away,
as if I no longer cared who
witnessed me murdering
the thing that carried this thing
between the lines of a spot
where no one, heavier by the second,
waits.

Rain Lake

All night it rains morse code on the dome of the tent.
It is a vase of air, a lander in search of life,
transmitting this, “here I am, speak.”

For hours, I sleep, curled into a shape of a lake,
until I wake, turn into another, and because I am cold,
a lake more southerly than the last.

I wear my dark blue Toronto Maple Leafs toque,
reminiscent of the liners astronauts wear,
and divers also, which they fit beneath their helmets,
but the cold, another body now, embraces me.

Perhaps she can sniff a damp animal.
With my pores wide, I might admit
she can enter my skin,
divide, leave again

because this is her route,
bodies of rain traversing
lake after lake, letting mist
become dreams

of another planet,
the warmth of the island
I once discovered at
its very centre.

Six Million

When I was a boy
I told the girl
I was bionic, legs,
arms and my eyes,
and the boys,
they could kick me
between them all,
for I would only dive
in the dust
until my cheeks turned
to rain. Little boy,
you will miss
the places you’ve never seen.
You will not see the man
you made
with your six million oceans
of sky. You will try
to come back, you will go away,
you will change your name
to try to name
what made you worth
reaching for.

Reaching

I’m reminded about the togetherness of things
in the way things resemble each other
as they break apart, so that it’s possible
pulling is reaching too, and this
often when the world dies to put us to sleep,
loves us as it smiles,
as it tries to conceal its darkness from us,
the wind, never changing, wandering
across the same old soybean field
imitating hunger’s appetite for the invisible.
I’m walking this morning across Macdonell’s Field,
its trees scraped naked by the thin edges of sun,
and a hardened soil poised to feel
what I might break next. I’ll peer down
the old well the Mennonites dug,
see the watery coin of wish
anyone might have tossed in.
You’re walking too, the other way,
the wind raising you over the dirt
that, like me, will not get caught up in you again.
Still, these days I hope for the best.
Perhaps this morning your words
about reaching will be a simple pail,
that by bringing it up and out into the world,
it’ll echo in the ache of my arms,
and then in the cold, the hot chest.