For Lauris Edmond Toronto, February, 1989
On the last day of the poetry festival
I took the harbour ferry to the island. Two dollars to crawl across the iced silk of my view from the h?tel window
from the giant stalagmltes of the waterfront
to Ward's back woods.
A sunny Sunday, cobalt, with feathery clouds. Wind at minus eighteen degrees centlgrade
knifing the lake. I felt on my face .
the grinding of its blade. But water tossed hght like fish scales in our wake, so I stayed on deck in my boots and visible breath
watching the city recede: .
silver, jet, gold, porphyry, Jade.
Splendid in the sun, with their mineral eyelids .
the rich banks winked goodbye from a haze of plers.
After fifteen, twenty-five minutes
(it could have been fifty years) .
with a backwash of waves and a shnll admonitory hoot, fussily we arrived. Someone's sleeve threw a rope, someone's caked gloves tied it.
I skidded down a gangway from the b?at to where Ward's little wilderness surVives.
Outcast, silent, down-at-heels, deserted ... )
Whose shacks of rotting clapboard, synthetlc bnck. h h .
Whose mud yards? Whose buggies and broken toys? W ose c airs
left out for a snow picnic, maybe? )
Who stacked the wood so neatly? Who tarred the roofs. ) Whose smoke? Whose cat? Whose bandaged porch? Whose story.
Talking to myself. In that place even the cat seemed disposed to be sad and scarce. Perhaps he was old Ward's ghost
scuttling by in the fur of his past.
I heard my footsteps one by one talk back along a windswept municipal boardwalk: evergreens, benches, tourist views of the lake.
On the other side, the open side, colder.
I saw how ice had hugged and hugged each boulder; the beach was studded with layered, glittering skulls. I kept on walking, with whatever it was I felt something between jubilation and fear.
There appeared to be no traffic at all
on that sea no one could see over;
only to the airport frail, silver insects
sailed from the beautiful air.
Turning, I cut through forest to the canal. Two boys in red and blue padded anoraks skated swiftly between frozen-in boats.
They'd set up rusty oil cans for goal posts, and the faint click, click of their hockey sticks knitted me a coat.
Still, I caught the next ferry back.
A gaunt youth in a baseball cap and two burly men settled themselves and their boredom
in the too hot cabin,
there to spread newsprint wings and disappear. I paced the warmth, rubbing life into my hands. The city advanced to admit us, cruel and dear.