North Coast Trail, Vancouver Island
Fire gnaws at split branches cracking
like the knuckles of a greyed man
at a familiar task. Grey-smoke
finds its edges, skulled in by damp.
Over coals rice bubbles in the heavy
black pot and sweet steam seeks
escape as if tunneling through soft
limestone: a dozen post-holes
in white soil, unfenced.
Autonomy of Sitka: miles from
cars, engine-thrum, engine-people.
Our boots drying on driftwood,
chitinous with mud, black-husked.
Joslyn’s head on my lap shivers
as coals close their eyes in the ash.
In each other’s presence we are
white-birds, honest and abandoned.
I find her in the morning cradling
the dry rind of a starfish, washed up.
If we could as easily slip from empires
of flesh, the continuous escaping
into the run of things.
Canoe mirror-edge: blue green steel,
swift-glass, cutthroat trails upstream,
water so cold it burns the dead back to life,
and bone-needle form of the canoe
crosshatching eddies aureoles.
Dip-thrust: binary command of muscles
and the blue muscle it works through,
pantomime, the surge: what the heart
remembers of the hunt, ecstatic lunge of blood
hitting every nerve like hammered posts:
the fence its wilderness pushes up against.
A sweeper ticking in the water scrapes
its branches on the hull, black knuckle
of a rock skinned with water thumps us,
admonishing, its harsh tutelage dispensed.
Clouds rally: nefarious politics in the sky
while we make camp on the northshore.
Damp fire invites the native scents
of the forest, moss-bearded cedar,
snowpack-bleed slick on granite.
Sharply luminous, a blade of moon hooked
on distant slopes suffused with eros,
the chirp of the river as it rubs its legs,
looking for a mate.
Tail-end of summer. River-run
beneath the bridge, stare down blue
eddies mulling over their directions.
Desolate sun off the water projects
private narratives on riveted steel,
errant wasps gather heat-sponged
and dizzy. Indolent thoughts nest.
What I have been working towards.
What I have done and done right.
Childhood under the iron tongue
of the sledge which bears witness
to our adolescence, final shapes.
And yet, there is a lacking. I imagine
a girl beside me on the clipped grass
while a turquoise calligraphy of river
trouts by. On a blue towel reading
from Lorca this unnamed one rolls
against me and picks purple clovers,
pulls out their thin petals and bites
off their sugary heads.
I find no intention in beauty.
Or in solitude, which are both
wielded by an inclination of the heart
to track its bearing in the world.
As if a hammer over and over
has bent my need to be alone
upon itself. Water downhill,
the Dao, establishing.