NewPoetry

Don River, Crossings and Expeditions

Anita Lahey

 

1.

A worker honey bee from the abandoned apiary
in the cottage backyard of famed naturalist
Charles Sauriol motors over the riverbank and plunges
into a wall of black swallowwort. One more
newfangled post-industrial invader. (It straitjackets
trees and strangles dogs.) Bring this mighty forager
a blossom all native and nectar-y, bring it
a highrise of goldenrod, an eighteenth-century
bustle of milkweed. On the double. (Where
is the ghost of Elizabeth Simcoe
when you need her?)

 

2.

A skate blade loops
and swirls, unwinding clarity,
movement, joy. When the divide
between water and air is cold-packed
and unmistakable, forces and states
of being may unite. An ancient

corn cob, a dropped
fishing spear, rings fanning
from a cupped palm. Ripples
of a circumspect gaze. Undercurrents
of hoeing, hewing, humming.

 

3.

Do giant slushy pops still exist
or have these plastic Slurpee cups
the size of watering cans been rolling
in brush by the skunk cabbage
at the Todmorden Mills wildflower preserve
housing ants, rain, mosquitoes
and spiders since 1982?

 

4.

The official, thirtyish, bristled chin, wades in,
angling for a grip on the fourth
body this season. Maybe the poor
chump’s better off, you know? His black
boot, a slime-slick rock, careening and fingers
flung through reedy air. Steady, okay,
wait—two hands holding zippo, nada
Was there a splash? His walkie-talkie’s
gone under to join what fell and sank
with buddy from the bridge. Up there,
his partner awaits confirmation,
gloved fingers on the railing, round
black speaker at her ear. Give her
a Luminous Veil. Give her a single
malt, neat. Give her a moment
alone with this feat of engineering
and its larger-than-life legacy.
She wants a word.

 

5.

Capt. Hugh Richardson’s rages and bellows,
caught on a putrid 1834 wind, rising
from the deck of his grounded
vessel at the mouth—
The destroying cancer! Destructive industry!
still fury and eddy with gull screeches
over the head of a repatriated wood duck
traversing the greasy pools
of Keating Channel. (The captain
curses the Don’s impassable silt,
not the tanneries, abattoirs,
paper mills, flour mills, lumber mills,
lantern factories and cattle fields
from which it cascaded.)

 

6.

That particular night heron spent
two motionless hours perched on a post
poking through the surface near a crack
in the concrete that encases the lower bank.
Its grey-blue bill trained on water, head feathers
ever-so-slightly rearranged by the breeze. Mourners
in the hundreds were drifting downriver
aboard kayak, canoe, rowboat, raft, reenacting
the Funeral for the Don. The chief keener,
mid-wail, erect in the bow, spotted
the stock-still bird. Fell
mute. The heron’s intentions
were clear. People stared. Some leaned
so far over to peer (like the bird)
directly into the stink, their
vessels began to list.

 

7.

Sauriol’s memories waft downstream
from the Forks, interrupting the flow
on the DVP. Nostrils lift,
ears twitch. Vehicles (not
canoes) bob and sway: 

the scent of the balm of Gilead—
the sweet tremolo of a saw-whet owl—
the sad trilling of American toads, so plaintive—
dozens of eastern bluebirds dropped
from a sky as blue as their wings— 

 

8.

A Rob Ford bobblehead is wedged
in the Y of a staghorn sumac branch
near a patch of graffiti—I be creepin’
while you sleepin’—on the underside
of the Dundas Street bridge. The sumac
were planted along the once-bleak bank
by sweat-streaked, jean-clad champions
of native species. How long before a
high wind or passing cyclist knocks
the doll free? Its painted-on eyes,
the rerouted shore: now you
see it, now you don’t.

 

9.

A dusty labourer from the brickworks,
dragging on a smoke; a boy
felling a cedar for his latest
ingenious lean-to; an afterschool
trio hugging armloads of trilliums;
buddy, down on his luck, come
all the way from Nova Scotia to erect
a sheet-metal shack on the Flats.
This ghostly gang follows the river’s
forgotten, curlicue shoreline, seen
only by owls and bats, reminiscing,
foraging, speculating on what’s
yet to float their way, or
surge on by.

 

10.

Taylor regards the clump
of promising valley clay in his palm.

From the protective shade of oaks,
Simcoe turns his gaze on a stand of pine,
sees masts for ships of war.

Davies takes a pig for a country walk.
Gooderham inspects his windmill’s lazily turning blades.
Scadding lays a celery trench, mulches
a bed for tender asparagus shoots.

Gardiner scales a backyard fence to scramble
down the valley. He scrapes his ankles
on raspberry canes, tramples
asters, maps out where
to blast the hill and shove
the river over.

 

11.

I don’t know what to tell you
about life along the Don. It troubles me
to imagine its wild, abundant, free-
flowing past, and how the forms of survival
I was taught to practice have left it
like a dirty, sodden rag. The year I was 22
I crossed it twice a day, sometimes more,
by bicycle, subway, streetcar. On foot,
a friend at my side. We were
cub reporters, I’d taken a call, heard
news meant only for me. He unpeeled
me from my desk to walk me home.
I might have looked down as we crossed,
vaguely noted the familiar, brown trickle
in its trench. I didn’t think of the Don
as a waterway, a succession of histories,
an altered form. The valley was
forbidding, unknowable; to live on
its eastern flank was to score
an arresting view. That morning
I crossed the river one kind of person;
I returned used-up, hollow, littered
with debris, dismal as the Don
but still moving, this way
and that, without
apparent design, braced
for my own Improvement Plan. I was due
to be channelled and dredged.

 

12.

An empty mickey, lid tight, bobs
and meanders, sunlight pooling
in its thick, clear glass.

A corroded nine-volt settles in silt,
kicking up a tiny, temporary, unseen cloud.

The blackbirds’ conk-la-rees
ricochet from willow to willow
skipping over a log so tattered and forlorn
it can never have stood and splayed
into branches and offshoots,
bright green leaves.

 

13.

Ah, here she is, Elizabeth Simcoe’s ghost—
she’s commandeered an abandoned canoe—
Canada geese are splashing and bathing—
she’s giddy with swamp gases,
summoning loons.

 

14.

A Tyee noses upstream, dodging
cigarette butts, coffee cup lids, Styrofoam
crumbs and shards of iPhone
packaging through waters
too warm and up, at intermittent
weirs, precisely, scientifically
angled ladders.

This singleminded chief of all
salmon no way no how voyageured
from the Pacific to this concoction
of road salt and fertilizer, storm sewer
outflow and emptied toilet tanks
propelled by its own fins. No sir. It was
caught, flown over mountains and prairies,
poured into lake water, transformed
into sport for eager anglers.

Ladies and gentlemen of the post-glacial,
post-agrarian, post-Victorian, post-pastoral,
post-industrial, post-landfill, post-
radical-environmental-activist—
ladies and gents of the new-and-improved,
Better-Homes-and-Gardens era of Don River
restoration, please allow me to further describe
the journey undertaken by this pink-scaled
fish of all fishes. This fish

was not game. This Tyee cruised
Lake Ontario’s murk, steering clear
of hooks and bait. It smelled
river. Through the port land’s rumbles
and slicks, eroded soil grit and driveway sealer
aroma, through beer cans and algae, rainwater
spiked with goose shit, this fish
heard the Don’s muted
cough and reeled

in its current. It swims hard and sure—
it belongs here now, it has thrown itself
on the mercy of these ragged, panting waters—
it aims for the source.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn Tower

Jennifer LoveGrove

 

Knots are contagious in autumn.
They chant America, I am jealous,
or congested. Muddy rocks
in the lung. Leaf piles. Anonymous bread.

Remember to listen to your uncle.
His shadow, asleep or awake,
his walking stick. In the tower
or still missing.

Shred his tuxedo, save each leaf
for chewing. New homicides nestled
in loaf, in bonsai.

Trace each loop, rib, and knuckle.
Touch your hand to his —
in cement, then water. Cough,
then jump——

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature Poem

Meaghan Strimas

 

Seriously, who doesn’t want another poem

about the fern fronds who wave farewell,

(weeping, perhaps?) as some backpacking

sap leaves the forest for the highway.

 

I like nature, too. I like the birds who

shit-bomb my balcony, and I like the parks

we’ve “saved.” Good thing, for us, this greenery

exists. Yes, we do make room for the squirrels

and the chipmunks. It’s a little more delicate

with those skunks and raccoons. Still, we’re good

to leave the nests where they’ve been built.

We’ve a healthy respect for avian architecture.

Plus, it’s a real effort to climb that high.

 

I know a guy who claims he’s going to live

off the bounty he’s growing in his yard.

You should see the two plum tomatoes that hang

like sagging nuts from his leggy vines.

Last count–six whole peas. But why romanticize?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another View

Phoebe Wang

 

The evening, served on a blue-glazed platter.

The window admits as much of the slow parade

as it’s able: white moths folding like napkins,

soaking in the sun’s drops of oil.

Clouds open their gates. Crows clock

by thick as captions. It grows late.

I, too, want to be heading somewhere.

The hours roll off the table, my four-cornered life,

out of circulation. Out of the frame.

I have more than my share. Still I reach

for any excuse to leave the task at hand.

But what can other windows offer?

Boxed herbs in a flutter. Buttery light soaking

curtains as if they can’t contain that much richness.

Behind them, the shadow-play of husband and wife,

and love sits down for dinner.

My view is selective, allowing for the unseen.

In another room, I’ve made an incalculable vow.

Darkness drops down like a double-barred caesura,

between this day and all the others I’ll toss a coin for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contemplating Your Progress

Molly Peacock

 

…………….Thomas Crawford’s sculpture, 1856
…………….Brain Bleed, 2012

The New York Historical Society.
Huge white marble sculpture in the lobby:
“Dying Indian Chief Contemplating

the Progress of Western Civilization.”
You duck beneath him with your wobbly cane
then upturn your face toward his, contemplating

his sober view of hysterical society.
“Something terrible has happened!” you say loudly
as a teenage girl to the sculpted dying man.

“He’s so sad!” you repeat to the empty lobby
where you make a pair, a society of two
(plus a volunteer and a guard) contemplating

the mystery of the new you, brain torqued
from your stroke. You connect without history
—but with feelings whole—to the agony

of the Dying Indian Chief in marble.
Your fresh response remakes his catastrophe.
Yes, something terrible has happened—

we amble on. “That’s a very sad man back there.”
Progress comes. With a cane. Without piety.
Wake up a statue. Then repair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuttlefish

Michael Prior

 

I meant to acknowledge what you hadn’t yet confessed.
Just as a dog will tolerate strangers who approach
him sideways and with an extended hand, we’ve let

inconveniences beget emergencies. Phones closed,
switched to airplane mode, the atmosphere returned
us to our proper sphere. How could I have known

I was still broadcasting on descent? The slow burn
of aluminum scattering that which lacks mass
at lower pressures, temperatures undiscerned.

I cycled through my states, wore an ill-fitting mask.
Regret thickened asthmatic in a chamber of the heart;
its porthole was a small aquarium. If I tapped on the glass,

bright denizens below swam in and out of the dark
like fallen constellations treading water,
about to flicker out. The impossibility of disembarking

stirred an eel in my ribs. Our departure
forgotten, ambient-lighting asked for patience, pleaded
for continued understanding, as the unclaimed future

rattled in the machine. I saw what was needed,
what I had felt: the dim glow of resignation through
the tint of night—as if clarity was time’s unheeded

toll: the porthole’s algal shrouds pulsed with the blue
of wave and wind. Who rewrote our dialogue? The same
words recalled in different coloured ink. Confused,

I thought of the cuttlefish, struggling to reflect the inane
geometrics of a scientist’s whim. A life spent matching
exteriors, while the interior remained unchanged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howl #28, #44, #49, #61, and #68

Eric Zboya

Howl #28.jpg

Howl #44.jpg

Howl #49.jpg

Howl #61.jpg

Howl #66.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adagia 300 – 348

Daniel Nester

 

300. The tough guy is always African American.
301. The fatherly anvil is always feverishly ached-after.
302. The freelancer is always busty.
303. The apartment of a sucker MC is always gentle.
304. The sucker MC is always peaceful.
305. The crank call from a sucker MC is always kind.
306. The blue-balled kind is always wrong.
307. The blue-balled nutcase is always sweet.
308. A do-nothing tough guy is always to avoid sexual contact with a priest.
309. A peaceful shy brownie is always accurately hairless.
310. The Angel of Equations is always faggy.
311. An All Cows Eat Grass is always faggy.
312. The Texan is always sharp-dressed. And faggy.
313. The red wheelbarrow is always inexorably bitchin’.
314. The red wheelbarrow is always faggy.
315. The red wheelbarrow is always gentle.
316. The red wheelbarrow is always myself.
317. Act your age.
318. Grab your age.
319. High, lame, ink, lamas.
320. I’m a uniter, not a drinker of water.
321. Up in the air, fish go and marry.
322. Raise questions about rocks only underwater.
323. The tenth time you see someone nude, you must provide your own shirt.
324. Answer and measure at the same time.
325. Out of the house a funky nectar.
326. Relax on your own ass.
327. The ass responds.
328. Leap, regret, question.
329. Where your pud goes, fire follows.
330. Shapely, piggish, make your own fun.
331. Locks littered, vents, clogged.
332. Last words come easy.
333. Sturdy canes in a made-up story.
334. Your cans frustrate.
335. The lap of loquacious, the parents of the loquacious.
336. Nudge the farmers.
337. Inchoate jock itch.
338. Can’t your dolphins lighten up a bit?
339. Grab angry causes by the thorax.
340. Filthy books hold the angry.
341. Hold on to your gold.
342. Newborn dolphins unite.
343. Go with God, question him.
344. An ode in haste sings off-key.
345. The water’s hair.
346. Many caddies at the milk counter will see The Giant Labrador.
347. Inside of us and off somewhere.
348. At the start of a fight, no prayers for one’s cause.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAKE BIG MONKEY WRITING POEMS

Stuart Ross

 

Big Monkey watches over me
as the blistering clouds bang
against my window and I dream
of you again and you are alive.
We are in a snow fort on my lawn
on Pannahill Road and we pretend
we are soaring through space.
The rumble of a 1967 Valiant
station wagon passing by my
driveway is the roar
of a meteor hurtling toward
earth and narrowly missing our
craft. We know now that
everyone will die except for us,
because we are in space. Except
our ship has turned into a womb,
its hot, sticky walls pressing
against us until we can barely
move our arms. We are crushed
together like conjoined twins
and because you are dead, I
wonder if I too am now dead
and I call out to Big Monkey
but he is bent over my desk,
rolling a sheet of yellow paper
through the platen of my
1952 Underwood, so intent he
cannot see us in the TV set,
our palms against the screen
from inside, and vertical hold
starts slipping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer

Amanda Jernigan

 

Waiting in the hall
I tried to recollect
a mother’s prayer: the Hail
Mary? Now and in
the hour of our death

not right. And anyway
what right had I to say it,
who had it on faith from my atheist
father, a locked box.
Or, rather, open:

ladies and gentlemen, you
are free to inspect the contents
of this box, ‘sickness
and suffering, hatred and jealousy …
greed …’ (yes, also hope).

What is the right prayer
for Ethan? I thought. And thought:
‘What is the right prayer
for Ethan?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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