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The days are handed off like bright batons.


A runner stutters into dark, the night
ahead. Ahead, dawn tucked beneath her arm,


someone else begins to hammer
the pulsing slope of mount grief,


while, in her wake, another navigates
the barberry thicket of what might


have been achieved. Who she was or will be
keeps her company the far side of the track,


winded, lurching forward, looking back.

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Sotto Voce

Into the Humber River


Someone tore the hands off a big round clock, familiar
as a classroom compass & abandoned it
to the weeds. It took the time right out of us, poured
it through the small black circle in the clock's
centre & underground into the river.
It was a blessing to watch the hours & minutes
drain away. We didn't miss it the way we'd miss
our own hands. That sudden calm when time
disappears, the atmosphere soupy with fish & bug
& bird busy-ness, the glare of springtime green.
If you spoke into that empty hole, it would hold
your words & breathe them back to you
in the sensible prose of granite & bridge,
in bird vowels, cloud song, river.

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Devil in the Woods

Letter to Cherry from Denis Crowfeather's Garage


Dear Don: it's been some time since last time
we saw eye-to-eye on anything. Maybe it goes
all the way back to big pay checks and Rocky
Mountain highs, maybe it's locked up in that
golden eagle strut of your Pow-Wow-infused
fancy dancing outfits showcased coast-to-coast
Saturday nights. Every eyeball busting thread
makes me understand that most all of us share
the need to strut the goods that Creator gave us
as we turkey-step our lives on the old turtle's back.
Old Denis and I were taking in the battle
of Ontario in his Curve Lake garage when you
came flashing through a bad V-hold and started
hollering about Bobby Orr and knowing your past,
and the importance of face punching a guy
when the right moment comes. Damned if we
didn't talk about the time the Odjick boys
roughed up some of Kahnawe fancy dancers
at Silver Lake couple of years back. Cree boys
reigned down snow like it was the last week
of November and did it because they swore
Edna Puskamoose lost the Grass Dance final
on account of a stick left in the circle by one
their boys the previous round. Grapes, you
gotta know that eastern Ontario Pow Wows
play heavier than an Adam Division final.
Intent in any competition is only an eighth
of any penalty. Old Denis and I laughed
like the Pow Wow spectators we are, both
knowing that Edna had the grace of a blind
heron and that it's easier to think well enough
of taking a shot or twelve to the head
so long as your suit makes you look like lake
showing off to the world and best things
you ever did were thirty years before you
started hollering advice into the night.
Always remember, we are nothing without
linesmen who talk quick enough to keep us
honest and ensure that second late game
hits the air before the V-hold breaks for good,

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Unidentified Poetic Object



As in black seed shards under bird feeders sizzling
Into snow scattered type messages for Virgil or Dante or
Kurt Schwitters as in dizzy blonde as in Lady Luck as
In coming upon a line of reasoning so pure it
Intoxicates the afternoon as in drunk with mindlight everything
Speeded up each becoming its own energy only light houses light
Years as in what is the difference between a true
Fact and an imaginary one one hundred and thirty-three percent of
Hannah Arendt's book written in English and the other
one hundred and thirty-three percent in another tongue or so
It would be in one of those true dreams we never understand as in
A moment of longing so intense I'm scooped out by love feather
Flame of scar that flickers up your belly oh I need more grace
Than I thought as in the solitary cricket winding its watch under heat lightning flicker
As in the wind chimes warning of the place the two worlds
Collide with a sudden jangle
Clatter and things slip from the one world to the other
And possibly back again

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By Hand



This music goes a long way back before the needle
coasted in its groove on your grandfather's black vinyl
before the bow sang from valleys in the flexed sawblade

of his grandfather before ancient breath fluted from
the vent-holes ancient tools notched in the small vaulted roof
of a hollow bone back to where a flintstone burin

etched silent scales into softer stone or to the beach
where a pointed fragment of shell gave the hand's airy
motions a home in driftwood the way the waves in their

ins and outs hold the rhythm of the wind's breath this hand
makes music with the world around it but not without
an instrument chisel or gouge to transpose the mind's

notations to the range of pith and grain wood pushing
against the carver's flexed wrist retorting giving back
its own resonance to the tuning body duet

of earthbound songsters that becomes a trio when long
after the woodshed stills you run your finger over
the carving thrill to the flutings and you're in the groove

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Our Latest in Folktales

At Arcadia Dump, Later On


We meet a shepherd among a trail of discarded electronics, staff assembled out of PVC pipe. Impressive, his change from a parabola of methane to a camber of mercury, summing up the whole landfill season that stretched before us. When I started, he says, I had everything I needed in the cloud. The smell of sulfur caught in the art of natural selection--a breezy genetic drift. We watch a few beady-eyed sheep play off the dumping ground (darting noses, probing hooves against the slag heap edge, wool newly wet). Avian swimmers dodge steam-powered waves. Country folk dressed in hazmat suits search the undershow, snoop through garbage bags. At a yelp they huddle to marvel at a crunched statistic or a shiny zippo. The siren signals the next level of hide ye mouse and seek ye cat. Soon, the falling sky will be so close at hand. /PP

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Wild Madder

3 O'clock, October


Half an hour until the school bus brings the children home.
Water boils in the kettle
and the dog ticketyticks into the kitchen. My heart is busy
sawing a butterknife across my ribcage
in its low-paying afternoon shiftwork of despair
while the chickadees gossip in the yard. They pause
once in a while to assess
and argue the flight risk to the feeder until fuck it
one of them can't help but dive--all the world fluting through her feathers--
for the promise of beak vs. shell,
the satisfying, determinate crack
of splitting open.

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Yellow Crane

Yellow Crane

also available: Paperback
tagged : canadian
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