A Dream of Sulphur

A Dream of Sulphur

AURIAN HALLER
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 80
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt819v0
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    A Dream of Sulphur
    Book Description:

    From childhood scenes in Deep Creek to the restless migrations across Canada, A Dream of Sulphur explores the relationship between memory, language, and geography. As a grandmother battles memory loss, a Hungarian is exiled to Canada, the Tofino fishing industry collapses, or August fire in the Shuswap prompts the largest evacuation in B.C. history, the crucible image of a Libby's bean can captures the central theme of flux and the inevitable recasting of home.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6811-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. I DEEP CREEK
    • PERIMETER
      (pp. 3-3)

      We walked the low lead trails

      through our neck of woods to

      adulthood – shoulder checking back

      over the years:

      the way you remember

      which side of your old bed faced

      the ravines, the green

      of spring in every bed

      you’ve slept in since:

      how you arrange furniture

      in unconscious parody.

      Late fall, the clean lines of branches

      (nature’s calligraphy)

      rattle out the bearings

      of the trunks beneath,

      where a bunk-bound logging trailer

      leaned over onto its side

      in exhaustion, its twisted rails

      left to rust, its load salvaged,

      dreaming.

      I lean off the same slope

      twenty years later counting

      four...

    • IRRIGATION DITCH
      (pp. 4-5)

      Three inches taller in my skates,

      I can just see beyond the bank

      over couch grass and thorn bush

      poking through snow -

      the wintery plain.

      So much hoar frost

      I can bite it off twigs,

      duck under and away

      carving long feather strokes

      in the ice -

      push-glide, push-glide.

      Here, even standing still

      takes you downstream

      under cowbridges

      snapping icicles

      sweated from rotten wood.

      The ice bleeds,

      under my steel toe

      I can smell the black soil

      brooding with cattails. I know about the lake

      sinking to a swamp

      a million years ago,

      and this ditch draining

      sulphur and...

    • TEDDY TWEED
      (pp. 6-7)

      The boy on the motor-cross,

      peddling mad between his s-turn

      and our gravel stretch, invited me

      to my first slaughter around the time

      they painted the yellow line down the

      valley, as if the two sides were

      tough to tell apart.

      They sawed the legs off short before

      hanging the carcass from a rafter;

      the belly, hung vertical, sagged

      like a man’s before spilling its guts –

      dirty laundry, unsorted on the straw.

      We found the stomachs innocuous

      as a lawnmower bag beside the bright

      pink flesh, and cut fat off like warm snowballs,

      ducking behind the nervous bulwark

      of the...

    • BURNPILE
      (pp. 8-9)

      The only way to be rid of stumps

      is to burn their dirty trunks and

      leave them smoldering in the clearing

      among new stones, turned up like

      last year’s potatoes.

      All winter the rag-smell

      of snow and topsoil

      hangs its ratcoat over the valley;

      the smoke, trailing its severed tail

      one grey morning to the next,

      refuses to draw up the sky’s

      cold chimney.

      The winters, my brothers and I

      stoked the embers on the heat-bleached soil,

      enough to toast marshmallows,

      the butt-end of a cattail cigar,

      were spent light, like pocket-change,

      all in one place, afternoon shadows

      about our...

    • SAND
      (pp. 10-10)

      The older you get, the closer to

      redcedar roots reclaiming from beneath

      sand boxed in by your dad for the orange crane,

      where the green finger of a cricket’s back

      crooked words from their helter-skelter

      into the grammar of trunks bearing up,

      from the ground, small satisfactions,

      like shadows flushed from behind

      trunks of parked cars.

      For the rest of your life the cricket’s

      will be the saddest, most comforting song,

      surprising you in a wintery country where a rusty door

      has perfected its pitch. In the end,

      the years will swallow each other by the tail,

      taste familiar as...

    • GASOLINE
      (pp. 11-11)

      You looked so unconcerned, gassing up your chainsaw

      with the cherryend of your cigarette kittenstring-teasing

      from your lower lip, the spark-hungry fuel, your knee

      spiderstiched together where you dropped your guard

      while juggling, behind your back, the cold wedge of hatchets,

      under your leg, triple spin and home like a hinge

      in the stiffest joint to the ground.

      You had no respect for gasoline – it was a way to

      start a fire that wouldn’t start, roast a colony of red ants

      before topping up the lawnmower. Always easier to

      burn through a stump than look for leverage

      around the tap-root,...

    • A DREAM OF SULPHUR
      (pp. 12-12)

      Most valleys around here have lakes where glaciers

      dug out corrugated bottoms like an inverted roof,

      or a half-pipe feed trough. Along banks the

      double line of traintracks irons out the no-passing-lane

      from highwater to couchgrass bog beyond.

      Between these rails and black ties are sulphur nuggets

      dropped from cars carrying things dug up or cut down.

      It doesn’t matter which lake, let’s say it was the Shuswap,

      we gathered up the sunflower-yellow mineral because we heard

      sulphur is used on match-tips and were keen to set

      the whole box alight in a matchgirl dream of voices

      rustling red tongues....

    • RESERVOIR HAIKU
      (pp. 13-14)

      bent by refraction

      dead birch sink between rushes

      last winter’s goal posts

      the motion of skates

      still in the green dregs after

      a summer of drought...

  4. II THE GROUND UP
    • THE GROUND UP
      (pp. 17-17)

      Beginnings and endings are

      born out of a hole in the ground,

      steel toes on the sudden edge,

      loose roots dripping sap, needles

      on the red soil below –

      out of this space, the years

      unfold, a pine cone gone to seed

      where it rolled to a stop

      beside the bull rush ponds....

    • HOME AGAIN
      (pp. 18-19)

      You’re used to settling a piece of land:

      the garden, sown a season before the house,

      sprouted last year’s bulbs and learned to

      live between buckets of pond water

      carried through the hot weather.

      Autumn, you were surprised again with

      what it could grow, taking heart

      in its habit as though it were your own,

      knowing also how board feet and

      cubic yards, skidded from the woods,

      dug up from the bank behind the mill,

      tufts of grass still nursing shallow

      roots – promise comfort in their

      mathematical tongue:

      how a roof’s slope answers in

      numbers to the heavy snow pack,...

    • TO THE PLATEAU
      (pp. 20-20)

      Still half asleep, we gear down the long

      climb to the plateau, diesel pistons droning

      under the weight of the fifth wheel; the road,

      high-bladed and potholed, stops dead in a field

      where someone from Vienna wants a fence around

      a retirement home with an Okanagan view.

      Best moment of the day, when the lake recedes

      into its reflection, and the windows still cool

      enough to fog up with the heat of two coffees

      on the dashboard.

      This summer – gully to gravel pit – we take

      our bearings, one hand on the hydraulics, the other

      propping up half a kilometer of...

    • A PORTABLE VIEW
      (pp. 21-21)

      The drive’s black boughs

      haven’t yet come to bud,

      except for one spec lot whose

      green foundation cures,

      expecting its transplant, due

      down the trans-Canada at four o’clock

      this morning, teetering with a

      “Wide load” on its porch hanging out

      over the passing lane. Grown

      in the Okanagan, the lawn

      waits in rolls beside piles of

      Boston Bar river cobbles,

      planned to give the impression of water –

      as if the tide could reach a mile inland

      to Washington cedars still cowled

      in burlap.

      When it arrives, the house will look

      natural enough, a second spouse

      expecting less; having lived down...

    • CROSSING THE NARROWS
      (pp. 22-22)

      Before gaining the far bank,

      utility van part of the procession

      up the newly shingled hillside,

      he watches the current fold

      like a beaten egg into the tide.

      There is movement in the air

      when he reaches the middle of the bridge,

      sudden as a knot on smooth rope

      through a loose hand, passing –

      a freighter disengages and makes

      for open water, trailing gulls and bilge-water

      like old yarn through an island labyrinth;

      coffee time and shirtless on the tar gable,

      he’ll trace it out of the bay with his chisel

      still covered in meatballs.

      This far west is knowing...

    • THE CREW
      (pp. 23-24)

      High on the city’s west bank,

      we sit for the twelve-thirty break;

      stud walls offering enough privacy

      to eat lunch by:

      Sihks on paint cans, bent over

      tupperware, the tiler and his

      Hungarian son on boxes of grout,

      Nigerian Joe-boy on the grass

      next to the dumpster,

      and us on the stucco-crusted balcony,

      dangling legs over the seawall where

      dark smudges stroll dogs and children.

      When you’re sub-contracted,

      you take meals how you work –

      one trade at a time, a pyramid of

      bit-parts fixed together with

      construction glue, nails, lag-bolts;

      each begrudging the owner his

      God’s-eye view. Every morning we...

    • EAGLE BAY STONE
      (pp. 25-26)

      She shovels sand and cement,

      washes the hearth rocks free of

      the muddy cove she found them in,

      (as if stooping to the beach, she’d planned

      to string them together like giant beads)

      while I fish the trowel from

      a bucket of limewater and spread

      the mortar she passes up the ladder,

      its extendable rails just long enough to reach:

      like Michelangelo’s God and Man

      stretching fingers out across

      a smaller universe,

      we hold between us a molten world.

      Wood before stone.

      Our chimneys need something

      to stretch to: suggestion of a wall,

      thirty taut feet of string-line

      dividing up...

    • THE SUM
      (pp. 27-28)

      High noon slips

      cooly through windows,

      doesn’t do justice

      to the work’s

      exquisite flaw.

      The angles diverge,

      oxbow lakes

      lonely in the landscape.

      He learns to sculpt with spare time.

      “Downsizing”

      was the word used

      to cut him off,

      filings and rock dust

      piled on the floor.

      “Let go” by the company

      leaves a man unarmed,

      responsibility,

      grown heavy in the hips

      like his wife,

      resounds dully when it’s gone. How have his arms

      grown so thin

      and that lump under his rib,

      he can almost pinch it.

      A dollar bill is

      collectible, worth more

      than its exchange.

      Even the...

  5. III WHAT PLACE IS THIS?
    • THE STANLEY
      (pp. 31-32)

      Once a month, Saturdays were doled out

      in dimes: at the barber’s, candy store,

      and eight blocks to the palace for the Matinée,

      bronze sconces, ice-cube chandeliers –

      fixtures against a true-to-life newsreel,

      stuck between cartoon and feature presentation.

      Royalty was cheap: silk-pantalooned

      usherettes selling peanuts, suddenly exotic

      where giant urns brimmed with Arab sand,

      Moorish hangings stretched to the ceiling,

      light-shades scalloped from the sea –

      the world larger than made out to be.

      We cracked open Toffee bars on the

      armrest, a Macintosh drum-roll, greasy hands

      prying apart the curtain while the organ

      wheezed through its last verse, raised

      the...

    • UNDER HUDSON’S BAY
      (pp. 33-33)

      The speed and flux of the metro

      refines crowds and billboards into a

      single apparition – waifs brooding

      in denim, giant cans of Coke

      sprouting from their shoulders.

      Across the line of tracks,

      stretching into the dark where no one

      walks along their dank corridors, spray-

      painted buffalo gallop.

      Sitting on my pack, feeding

      french-fries to the blind woman’s

      seeing-eye dog without asking,

      I string it together like tin cans,

      cupping one ear for the sound of a poem.

      The train arrives,

      doors open, close.

      A bell sounds....

    • DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE
      (pp. 34-34)

      Where streets’ medusa cables,

      constrictor and conductor, marked

      an older frontier, their backalley limbs and

      brokenwindow grins have been weeded

      out, run underground.

      On the blue map, one way glass,

      rubber tire streetcars, new

      antique gas lamps, brass plaques

      commemorate the shiny heritage.

      And all the while the wilderness

      held at bay by Grizzly security systems,

      free syringes, green areas.

      Pioneers want new names for places

      grown moldy – using old brick they graft

      fresh wings to a dogeared hotel and send

      the locals inland to shells of younger buildings.

      Summer sprouts a bumper crop of tourists

      come to see historic...

    • REPLACING TIES IN THE ROGER’S PASS
      (pp. 35-36)

      Kneeling ear to rail

      for the approach of prairie

      oilcars, you hear only

      the jug-sound of clam-holes

      sudding up.

      A head shake, and the other

      ear, but it’s been breached like a

      diver’s, trilobites in the

      rock around here.

      It must be something you ate,

      or took in slow: the breadth

      of mountains through your lungs which,

      like a smoker’s, are coated with

      landscapes that have stuck with you.

      Synesthesia is a disease of the soul,

      like hibiscus under the tongue,

      fuzzy and familiar as a dream,

      where ties sling together two shores

      under its gunbelt, the approaching

      oilcars beat...

    • TROUT LAKE MINES
      (pp. 37-38)

      The bear left shortly after the floor got damp,

      now damp has grown further up than you can

      roll a pair of jeans, tendons taut as cold chops

      in the mine shaft, whose boarded mouth sags

      over mossy gums.

      You’ve come looking for leftover echoes of

      picks and ponies; the stalactite’s drip,

      lime-heavy and speculative, is the only

      miner still angling for minerals, the

      big catch just below the surface;

      you might as well be hiding out from

      the rain, along with cardboard boxes

      and tin cans stolen from camp sites,

      innocuous as abandoned prisons,

      with their lids missing.

      The...

    • MT. SWANSEN
      (pp. 39-39)

      There are pockets of rain

      cradled in granite

      every surface a reflection

      of the stone beneath

      carrying the stench

      of old flowers

      or a vague taste in the mouth....

    • FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN
      (pp. 40-42)

      August sheets hung over windows

      like gauze against the Fly Hills’s fire –

      by day a dark cloud, by night

      x-ray limbs stretched towards Ida

      in phosphorous embrace.

      Lost if the fire gained the ridge,

      the old house and its outbuildings

      crept back into our conversation;

      across the valley we packed boxes,

      listened to the radio. I spent two days

      fixing the fountain which leaked into the beet-patch.

      Dressers, lamps, paintings crouched in trailers

      like children to a new school where they wouldn’t

      know where to sit; the neighbors,

      having once come home to a chimney stack

      smoking alone like a...

  6. IV IN PRAISE OF ISLANDS
    • TOFINO SUB MARINE
      (pp. 45-46)

      Noon on a Sunday these days along the coast

      is much the same as any other:

      meeting the boys at the bakery,

      swapping who’s mortgaged their boats,

      or started hooking tourists on whales.

      Larry walks in all skinny like he hasn’t eaten since he left,

      waves a red innertube so he doesn’t have to hide it –

      wants to know the news, but nobody bites.

      You got tubes in there?is the only things comes to mind;

      have to know the score beneath his grey jump suit

      before we carry on. He says he’s all hooked up:

      Enough pipes for a...

    • NIGHTFALL: THIS SIDE OF PORT ALBERNI
      (pp. 47-47)

      What is it makes a house a home,

      puts onus on the ridgepole to stand straight or else

      we’ll all walk slanted into the street,

      laugh at those who think Pisa leans

      too heavily to the side.

      What is it makes a guest stay on;

      these gardens which are good enough to die in,

      smell of leather garden gloves on the firebrick,

      chamomile and dill,

      and the bishop’s chair in the foyer

      worn to a rounded seat,

      gives airs of just desserts,

      excuses the guilty-minded afraid of

      wearing out their welcome

      as if it were a doormat.

      What is it...

    • OFF SALTSPRING
      (pp. 48-49)

      It was at the observatory,

      staring through ground lenses,

      which are really microscopes

      turned backwards from the

      smaller denominator,

      he saw that a star’s shape is

      dependant on its scrum of planets,

      orbiting like a potter’s hand the

      soft clay;

      the way his wife beams

      from behind her busy stall

      at the Ganges market,

      surrounded by seashells

      she’s drilled and wired into jewelry –

      setting bits of herself afloat.

      He told her later it looked like

      a long highway lit up every

      hundred kilometers – nothing of

      note but a cup of coffee and a

      bag of doughnut holes, the way

      nights,...

    • PLANTED: 1988
      (pp. 50-51)

      From Sooke to Port Renfrew

      clearcuts grow back

      wispy as an adolescent armpit

      among the bones of giants

      where bears wander

      aimless.

      Here is where I built

      down near the shore

      with the sea as a moat

      and a mountain high wall.

      It is safe, at least

      for another eighty years,

      until skidders shake me free,

      urge me further north

      into the hinterland.

      Lumber is groomed for salvage

      while young tendons already burn

      with the promise of inflamed joints,

      young men carry old backs around;

      things keep slipping out of place. Smooth as an amputated limb,

      a round table is...

    • PORT RENFREW: THANKS GIVING WEEKEND
      (pp. 52-52)

      A blackbird beats his wings

      against the deck window

      eyes bearing dumbly

      the beam

      of a car headlight.

      Events are sudden desperate things

      on the road

      out of overgrown ditches,

      slipping away –

      the blur of winter shorelines,

      easy to slip into

      carrying relics to the family:

      kidney stones intact,

      children’s teeth shown at weddings.

      The neighbours,

      who keep their mother on a shelf,

      argue on occasion,Bury her for Chrissake!

      These battered pines grow thick

      from bending....

    • POD
      (pp. 53-54)

      Fiddleheads slip underground

      to the drip of threaded faucets,

      dogs whimpering by the stove.

      The two of us asleep,

      murmur woodenly at the

      thin shield of ice

      muffling steam off the lake.

      Tomorrow to Anchorage, then south

      as we leave the cabin behind,

      dark windows retreating

      under the eaves and early snow:

      albino shell

      a hermit crab’s

      borrowed.

      Our awkward migrations

      from the city, over

      five thousand miles of wilderness,

      are small and sad,

      restless as wolves

      pacing the shoreline, waiting

      for a crossing.

      In the northwest passage

      tankers sink quickly

      one end at a time,

      while you dream of...

    • THE COTTAGE
      (pp. 55-56)

      While Ship’s Passage,

      just off Winter’s Point and Samuel Island,

      flowed seven knots either way

      twice a day

      with the tide,

      the Ken Kon Maru

      loaded with barbed wire,

      railway ties bound for Russia,

      bared its belly to a reef

      like a choking man

      folding onto the back of a chair.

      Local island events:

      one white woman raped

      one tribe’s genocide

      sudden cheap beach frontage

      inclusion in provincial ferry route

      on the top of the only mountain,

      a helicopter pad

      a heron beat straight waters

      in lift-off towards the lighthouse

      the islands moved

      one inch closer

      to main land.

      Inadvertently,...

    • ISLAND ELEGY
      (pp. 57-58)

      That was the summer the west coast was invaded –

      convoys of Korean sports equipment washed

      up like beached whales; newly manufactured and

      hardly the worse for wear, runners found themselves

      mismatched on the feet of island dwellers who are

      used to making do.

      Children bartered at school while the hot weather

      held off and mushrooms, grown large as pancakes,

      poisoned two greedy dogs who crept quietly into the

      thimbleberry to die, only to surprise themselves

      by regaining their appetite, and returned home to drink.

      That was the summer people were as prone to melancholy

      as a hill settling into its...

  7. V THE LONGEST STRIDE
    • EAST
      (pp. 61-62)

      Fresh from a myth of cedars,

      we’re an hour late for everything east:

      the barbed wire sky reddens too early;

      with its stomach sucked in, the land

      settles like dark honey, slow to peak.

      After the pass and foothills,

      nothing tall to rest your eyes on –

      clouds disguised as snowcaps

      sham-out home ranges like

      fridge magnets on the horizon.

      We’re standing still at one-twenty,

      dodging jelly rolls in the meridian,

      watching for oil-wells and elevators –

      a one-hose station pulls up

      onto the shoulder and parks,

      asking after the majestic coast

      they want assurance is really

      as grand as they say,...

    • ARC
      (pp. 63-65)

      The rain started when we met.

      Our umbrella a spilled clam, streets

      awash with kelp, curtains, the roots of trees –

      we drifted into the fluid dark

      like halves of a green apple.

      You had left San Francisco and

      your husband, draped like a

      slicker over a bus seat when

      summer dried the city out ’til it

      rattled loose its pip, a season’s

      flower and fruit reduced to the

      bare essential, hand-luggage

      on the plane.

      You had no furniture.

      Your apartment like a hotel, clothes

      folded under the bed, as if you

      planned to leave, as if what you had

      left...

    • LA BICYCLETTE
      (pp. 66-67)

      These days, speaking your mind

      is like riding a bike – it’s not that you

      forget how to pedal, but that streets,

      once familiar, leave you poised and

      uncertain, fenders rusted from winters

      under the plum tree’s drip.

      Halfway between one language

      and the next – all four slowly

      taking back their words – you wonder at

      old letters written in the full

      bloom of syntax, effortless on the page,

      while even your mother tongue is now

      spare with the present.

      Words belong to the time and place

      you lost them – the bakery

      where you broke your arm

      when you first arrived from...

    • POSTCARDS OF AN OLD VIENNA
      (pp. 68-68)

      Dead people smile

      on your dresser,

      so many strings tied

      to your fingers

      they’ve knit into gloves

      secured with a cord

      along the inside of your jacket.

      TheStock im Eisen,

      where soldiers hung their colours

      signifying safe return,

      stands alone and bare

      in Vienna, where even the woods

      are clean.

      Everyone knows

      Polaroids fade in time,

      something in the chemicals

      makes them suspect,

      something in the events themselves

      has played Judas,

      like postcards bought at the station

      changing hands....

    • LATE LUNCH
      (pp. 69-70)

      Frying spinach and eggs

      late afternoon in May, sluggish

      with the rains hardly over,

      you caught yourself preparing

      your mother’s last light meal

      over again,

      calling up with your hands

      what the heart shelved

      short years after to make room for

      dried sprigs from this fall’s walk

      in the endowment lands.

      Limbs count back their revolutions,

      odometer numbers,

      turning together

      a watch of circles.

      She leapt with her green belly

      off the sill, two stories to the asphalt –

      abandoning a moving ship

      to keep from drowning,

      while you felt the apartment

      cast off into the harbour,

      a sudden arctic front...

    • TOUS LES HOMMES SONT MORTS
      (pp. 71-73)

      Churches, bookstores and the

      public pool confirm your suspicion –

      the men have given up or

      died, no use to anyone at all

      you say, and shake your head.

      Tous les hommes sont marts.

      Pacific Street,

      that’s where the French stayed,

      seven young men living

      à la Bohème and dancing

      until morning,

      sleeping late.

      Even on Nelson Street

      in their two rooms,

      they talked and laughed at

      Mounties in the park.

      Les garçonsyou called them,

      and like children they went away,

      grew old somewhere you wouldn’t

      see them.

      Tous les hommes sont marts.

      When they left it was Edmund asking,...

    • THINGS WE KNOW
      (pp. 74-74)

      Things we know are an index

      in a volume

      where important passages are

      marked out, isolated

      for future reference:

      how grass blazes in the corner

      of a mirror,

      how cucumber rubbed on a burn

      soothes,

      how a spidercrack in a windshield

      weaves across the countryside

      separating the fields

      from the sky,

      how small and silent the place

      between two navels,

      the short stretch between the river

      and the ocean,

      how reticent the voice

      on the first word spoken

      after prickly sweet obscenities

      have surfaced, made the mark

      in the throat....

    • MIRAGE
      (pp. 75-76)

      In the desert you discovered a city

      seen at certain times of day by those who,

      wandering among changing dunes, yearn

      for palisades of mud brick to keep the wind out,

      a preserving calm in.

      All these books explain how soil

      mixed with straw is kilned by the sun,

      with the notion that knowing how the thing

      is made will help keep it in sight, this

      small comfort setting you off –

      even while dreaming – watering can

      thirsty for the overlooked, the somehow

      neglected, waiting in its cold clay pot

      on the edge of green.

      When you’re really old,

      you’ll wear...

    • HUNGARIAN BRANDY
      (pp. 77-78)

      Your homeland stays with you under the fingernails

      It’s hard to take root with the

      miracle of escape still fresh

      on the sleeve, dirt from the

      steel barbed border,

      recounting how maps were

      stapled to abandoned buildings,

      the new nation cored

      out of the old –

      a violent red apple.

      My country is now so small

      it does not have its own weather

      After Versailles and Communist tanks

      ploughed up the muddy plain,

      you fled in the dead of winter,

      through the shelled-out villages

      of the liberated, a family of ghosts,

      under the guarded fence.

      It is the face of the...

    • BEAUHARNOIS
      (pp. 79-80)

      I leave the island in the morning

      and go looking for you in Beauharnois.

      Expecting to find it draped,

      queen-sized like a sheet you’d hung

      for the old projector back home,

      I see the lake which had flooded

      our living room, is only a river’s hernia

      looping out and in again towards a narrowing.

      Where the grand dam and canal locks

      barely foam the water, a freshly painted

      burger stand serves ordinary fries.

      At the service station they tell in French

      how les Anglais left with the factory,

      a jumble of bricks under grass, but that

      four blocks down, their...

    • LAVAL
      (pp. 81-83)

      Backyards under Laval’s yellow banks,

      have kept their neglect about them;

      their owners, tired of picking up

      where last summer left off,

      are still here.

      You name them easily as the

      five flavours of snow:

      sugar, powder, hail, sleet, slush,

      melting into the season of your life

      when you mouthed street names

      to know where you were.

      It all had to do with snow then,

      and waiting. Your sister has practiced

      since you left, at the kitchen table,

      with the same patience.

      Only men had cars.

      The parts of town you know best

      are bus stops, south-bound

      across the river...

    • MATIN ROUGE
      (pp. 84-84)

      your lips are dark red

      swallows in the toilet bowl

      paper wings unhinged...

    • SLEIGHT OF HAND
      (pp. 85-85)

      Pointing to a pile of boulders,

      she traced their mossy humps

      from where she stood,

      Do you see the camels?

      as if she’d painted them there,

      huddled against the wind.

      I waited for them to

      give themselves away,

      like hungry stomachs

      growling for food.

      And when I looked again,

      four loaves of bread

      rose from the gravel oven.

      So I lied and kissed her finger –

      magic leavening wand....

    • A MOTORIST’S ELEGY
      (pp. 86-87)

      I knew the power of men

      who push buttons to maim

      a hundred miles away,

      when I turned the key

      and heard screaming.

      Part of me would like to drive

      off and hope a dried cocoon of fur

      drops through the rest of the

      fanbelt’s guillotine before I’m

      forced to check the oil –

      a hit and run I drive around,

      a still-born waiting to

      dislodge.

      Mornings, I hit the floor running,

      but am too weak to make it as far

      as the fridge, as if the body were

      a factory, shutting off its lights

      a window at a time.

      The...

    • THE BENDS
      (pp. 88-89)

      The river tests its banks,

      looking to shorten its path –

      a prisoner, muttering at the foot of a wall.

      I’ve watched you stand over the hole

      all this pacing has worn, and cast

      kitimats and roe over the troubled dark,

      until it’s a sign for the source

      of a hunger you’ve only begun to read;

      weekdays on the mountain, the

      emerging damp of fresh-cut saplings

      smells of eggs between river cobbles.

      Until the day you land it on the counter,

      where we witness the frozen arc,

      gaff-hole along the gill, oyster eyes

      staring blue, like a tv screen’s

      frosty residue,...

    • APOLOGY
      (pp. 90-90)

      white icicles chime

      under trees – all this morning

      last night’s brief downpour...

    • WEST
      (pp. 91-97)

      A star falls

      sideways, follows

      the earth’s curve like a

      pitcher’s arm

      into the swing,

      below its bright streak, the car

      pursues a broken trajectory,

      setting its sights on half-moons

      of torn truck tires, fingernails

      left in the sink.

      On the move again after

      a night in Spanish, early

      morning breakdown in Blind River.

      The cats are hunting wipers;

      mistaking the blur of trees for wallpaper,

      they’ve gotten used to a world,

      distilled from nine months

      in our blue apartment.

      Strapped to the roof, soggy cardboard

      peels off the diningroom mirror,

      flashing signals into space,

      (all it has seen at...