JOE WILKINS


HARDWOOD FOREST IN LATE NOVEMBER: ALL THAT WAS GREEN IS GIVEN

to rot. Consider the wrack
& vise of ice,

then thaw’s sump:
with every boot stomp

or breezy crease
this mat of maple leaves

blackening:
halo of gold here,

penumbra of dying fire there,
& everywhere the useless

pith of living things:
sumac’s green, ground-down

expectoration, last summer’s
raspberry bramble

soft as an old man’s
mouth, unfrozen lake loam

stinking of wine. Still,
this day is dime bright:

I have stuffed my stocking cap
into my pocket, unzipped

my coat. Unseasonable
freeze & thaw:

the other night,
twisting a blue ball cap

in his hands, my father-in-law
said if his old man was too drunk

to whip them his mother
sometimes made the boys strip

& sit in the dry bathtub.
I come down the hill,

slowly, stepping rock
to sure rock, the inlet cove

before me: reedy, liquor-dark
shallows & out over

deeper water, what’s left
of the ice: cut by what looks

a fresh trail. As if some
brave & idiot race

of water-breathers
only moments ago hauled

themselves up: sun-stricken,
wind-scoured, the very air

a vise in the hands
of some sad god, & tightening

down & down: the tracks
disappear: what harm

to say they made it,
slipped back in: say the lake

closing over a failed,
upturned face.
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LETTER TO MY SON CONCERNING CANADIAN FOLK MUSIC

Working now around the great bulk of her belly—
that blue-veined globe, blood-thrummed world
of which we know and know so little—
she sets the dimple of the Alvarez on her knee
and with her water-swollen hand frets
a Gordon Lightfoot tune, the one about the rain.
Listen, little fish, I want to know: does omphalos blood ring
with the quiver of sheepgut strings? Do you bow down
and rise up, the lone ocean of you
storm against some placental sand? Is the voice of love
wavery, waterlogged, beyond us always? With her mouth
she sings, sings, An aching in my heart,
my pockets full of sand.

 
 
 
 



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