"kîwetinotahk pimâcihowin - northern journeys" by Andréa Ledding
I. fishing trip
we drive north for hours, flash of telephone poles: hypnotist's
pendulum. highway morse code: dividing line dashes,
pothole dots. phrases decoded only by ravens.
strong tea at Moe's where you tell me you've always wanted to pilot
a Cessna, an Otter, a Beaver. something we share besides blood type.
I trace maps and letters in spilled tea, tell fortunes on Formica.
when we skim away a fierce and hollow ache bellies me.
forehead pressed to window we ascend and see where
we've come from: body of water, skeleton of land.
descent in dusk. a bear, muskwa, she always drinks at sunset
down the shoreline. you say she is the reason the sun
sets in piss-puddled fear, and laugh.
you are scared in the canoe.
you never learned to swim.
you think I will drown.
I am still young enough to believe I can save us both, if
we capsize. great boulders swell beneath us,
close enough to walk to shore just now
only wet to our knees.
you are angry over tangled fishing
line. I love to untie knots but remain silent.
sapdrunk forests, resin honeying my hands.
ferns with splayed wings, green birds who grew rooted,
forgot flight. brittle-barked trunks, scaly with laughlines.
a thousand sunlit lakes soak into the northern sky: day outlasts night.
I want it to be a full moon, unsucked peppermint, but it's more
like a discarded fingernail, pale and clipped.
blacksilvered water lapping ashore longing to be dry.
treeshadowed sand sidling lakeward wishing to be wet.
sentinel stars standing guard when we truce uneasy rest.
rolled in sleeping bags filled
with mud-drabbled dreams of ducks: hollow bones
slipdive us beneath sleeps's surface, ebbing and dawn-edged peace.
you picked stones, you said, clearing the land for ploughs. piling unwanted grandfathers aside.
mosahkinew asiniskâw, piskwahew
sometimes you found arrowheads. your father finding caches of dust-dry pemmican.
dead buffalo still roaming.
ka miskamihk kîkway: môhkomânatosâpisk pimîhkâniwas paskwâwimostos
buzzcut stubble, shallow rooted, bristles the snow.
in fertile soil, unclaimed or reclaimed, all things grow.
racketing of crows ebbs away, silence drips from intravenous-bagged sky. cotton-ball clouds
absorb a setting sun.
âhâsiw okitowin, metoni ka kâmwâtahk. mihkwaskâw.
trees soft-broom the edge of all things, ispâskweyâw. woods and prairie. call the month down:
pawâcakinasîsi-pîsim, frost-exploding-trees moon. blizzard moon.
III. kiyam — resting portent
fresh lilacs at our wedding,
they'd been planted by my grandmother.
as though invoking the dead might
resuscitate what was already dying
in us, taken by a cancer. who would believe
what we saw, the next weekend:
two scorpions on our backyard picnic table.
I scraped them into a jar.
you suggested they'd been left by a southern guest,
maybe someone from Punnichy (more east than south).
me, I prayed to a God of signs and wonders,
watched tails poise and swing
through water-specked glass.