Books·CBC Literary Prizes

"kîwetinotahk pimâcihowin - northern journeys" by Andréa Ledding

Andréa Ledding was shortlisted for the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize for "kîwetinotahk pimâcihowin - northern journeys."
Andréa Ledding was shortlisted for the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize for "kîwetinotahk pimâcihowin - northern journeys." (Sweetmoon Photography)

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.

II. cree'd

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.


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