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Poetry

and no sooner had the eaves of my eyelids
drunk deep of that water than to me it seemed
it had made its length into a circle.

––Paradiso XXX.88–90

I.

In what now is Beaudry Park, West
of the Forks, the Assiniboine is not so brown
and muddy you can’t see upside-down
elms, shifting in and out of focus
with the breeze. Here the river sickles
twice to form teardrop forests,
tangled and blooming above the wheatgrass,
hanging on by willow roots from being island.

II.

Eventually La Vérendrye sent a man
to slash a way through rose and hawthorn
for a quick portage. But for seasons
it was shoulder crank for shit all.
A Voyageur heaving to Fort la Reine
sees, through willows’ rippling fringes,
the future, and snarls: “we got to go the long
way ‘round just to get to where we been?”

III.

The gradual terraces about the bend relate
spring spates from ages before any mammal’s
mouth had formed “April” or “May.” Alluvial
sand and silt conceal charcoal layers written
by wildfires gone cold before the first formed letter.
The geologist translates gone to relict.
Peering at the current a plains grizzly swats
the water once, then again a different river.

IV.

On the second Beaudry bend, the outer
current glides quickest. No eddy or seasonal
shift relieves the tireless pull
of liquid muscle against the layered
bank. Little globs of clay relent;
a bottle dislodges a clump of gravel;
water needles into an opened channel
as the isthmus thins between now and then.

V.

One wet April when Gregorian names
are buried in philology databases,
Assiniboine will bulge beyond its shallow basin;
balsam trunks will shoot from blue-grey plains.
When the flood abated, the isthmus of the pinched
horseshoe coursed over. Will you believe it? The river
flows round. Then one thing after another
reasserts. An oxbow lake will start going extinct.

VI.

Dizzy on Coors Light and summer break
the magpies roost on the rubber gunwale.
Amidst razzes and hollers one flails
into the current. She picks her way onto the bank
where the belt of land is thinnest and wrings
her shirt beside a dogwood as her friends round
the horseshoe. She feels all-seeing as the sound
of voices fades
—————————–and grows and the dinghy
comes back to where it was but a little farther.

 

 

 

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