Make Fire

Tutored by wind, rock, lake, sky, stars,
still questioning as we peer at first spark;
the blaze of the casting of the firmament,
the revelation that we can steal fire.

Fire Breaks

Clouds roll beneath the stars
and leave us blind.
Fire makes.
Barren rock, pitiless rain
Fire makes.

In the dark I sign silhouette,
sing those who will yet
singe an alphabet.
Fire makes.
Defines the shadow,
defines the night.
Fire makes.

What breaks dark,
dares create light.

Fire makes,
Fire breaks.

Tops of the Trees
(for Lake Kashagawigamog)

Lying upon the surface of the lake I watch
tops of the trees sparkle in conversation
with the wind. Poplars flutter, hundred hands
gesticulate with jewels and appreciation;
White Pine needles in baleen rank, go,
then stay, comb and sway, sift their stories
and prayers, from native Northern airs;
Silver Maple leaves chatter, surge, one the other
after, make the opinion of each other known;
Cedar placates and shushes, “don’t listen,” hushes,
“where there’s wind, the whirlwind is sown.”

Each voice adds to the whisper rushing, building from
quiet roar to moan mouthing, washing back and forth
where wind and tree tops have merged into … whatever,
no, never, you said, they said, the ripples eddy and echo.

I listen, and hear a murmur of delight in the ignorance of trees,
each foolish branch twig needle leaf trunk root not knowing
how they only reflect the sound of the water that laps at their shore,
and me? I shimmer on the surface of a lake that is laughing.

Fish Man

When I fell out of favour with the sea
I was a dead fish, a bad odour,
banging against the shoreline,
rot wheeling in the wake of boats.

No longer fluid, I become effluent,
torn from the stream within the deep,
the great rolling against the mass of this world,
the grinding down of implacability,
the smack in the face of indifference.

I had to find my own way, stand up,
step out, live high and dry, not alone,
just apart. Constantly searching, I cast
my net in where once I would see
forgotten treasures; hope I will find one.

I no longer gasp, move my mouth
silently, constantly, shamelessly.
I do not gill or dive, scale or strike
in public or in private. I know
what is private is the secret sea
of each other, so I embrace the other,

even though in the end I only embrace
some other. I live in the home I built
at the top of a hill. I do not invite my
neighbours over for tea. The sight of tea
bags floating in a teapot inexplicably
moves me to tears that drench the
sandwiches and cookies I have made
and suddenly everything tastes like the sea.


Clouds are time. Not stories. I float
on my back and infinite variables of gray
collapse, enclose, twine layer on layer,
in a never repeating variation of all
that is the moment.

Dust burns if the fire is hot enough.
Anything burns if the fire is hot enough.
I burn in this lake waiting for the rain.
I rake in the day with the sweep of my hands.
I will a cloud to take form.

I swim across the lake expecting tomorrow
will be nothing like today. Clouds remain
impossible to explain.
The current is electric,
this the stroke of my arm. I do not hesitate.
Nothing hesitates.

A mountain of gold beams seen through an aperture
within endless grey. It is sunset. I have swum across
the lake, through the day. I float between land,
sky and the telling. I turn to return, face the rising
moon, its yoke of infinite stars.

Green Madagascar

I wander into the surf, quixotically
ponder the poems I like best,
as the cold waters of Lake Huron
cause my nuts to rise up to my chest
I think my favourite poem is Red Car
by Apollinaire,
or Blue Guitar by Wallace Stevens,
and then I know:

all I need is Green Madagascar
and life will be complete.


Describe the ripples on a lake.

First, disregard the word shimmer.
too rapidly, it decays into simmer,
then slimmer, slumber, suddenly slum,
lumber, snicker or worse. It will not
stand, it will dissolve upon reflection.

Beware the words wash, wave, lave, dash,
for they will not withstand the toss of one
into the other until all that is left is dander
and lather, as they ladder into each
other in discord with pitch and variance.

Forget scintillate—it sets the same trap
as iridescent and brilliantine. Discard
dappled, flashing, sinuous, prismatic,
though all susurrate, the pronunciation
will not sustain amplitude or frequency.

Ripples on a lake must be teased from
each word to present themselves not just
as they are—but who they are—to describe
ripples each must be acknowledged as an
individual—then ripple’s message will be clear—

each one says, “do not be discouraged.”


The curve of your gunwales a pair of lips that skirt a kiss,
point into the wind and you cut through like a beautiful
smile cuts through a room of empty compliments; see if
you can keep up, as you are tested on the crest of each wave,
as the full mouth of your canoe sings into the storm,
and you propel into the words of its song.

A Very Important Stick

A stick is the one
you use to poke the fire—
you don’t care if it catches on flame.

The Very Important Stick is chosen
from many at hand, perhaps
it has a useful crook, maybe
it can hold many marshmallows,
or has a Y branch – ideal for hotdogs.

After the coals have been raked,
last lumps gathered into a final pyre,
the Very Important Stick is tossed in,
a last gesture before night is done and it
is finally aflame, that which it had

so cleverly avoided, until then.

She swims in gold

That the world moves, the moon still visible,
dawn mist rises from still lake waters does
not matter to the swimmer. She swims
surrounded by the gold of sun’s first light.

In the spotlight, her place alone,
the displacement of her passage,
marked by the V of her wake, adorned
with gold ripples on her lake, attends her.

Soon there will be boats, jet-boats towing
skiers, children on rafts who will fly by giggling.
Canoes, sail-boats, pontoon boats, bathers, paddlers —
there will be rivers of gold across the lake —

but now, alone with the Sun, lake steams still cold
she swims in glory, and she swims in gold.

The Sun Is A Boy, Or So Says My Son
(for Bella Lake)

“Is there still time, after dinner,
Is there still time to go for a swim?”

Close of summer, sun sets earlier, moon rises higher,
the still aquamarine sky we have tried to emulate
fades; we clasp it to our skin, beg to race to the water
with it as it gleams in our arms as the impatient sunlight wanes.

It is a need — we must hold onto these luscious rays
of light, cleave to our suntans and swimsuits,
douse ourselves again with fresh waters, to slap
our face once more with a cold immersed plunge
out of drowsy beach sun-funk’d sleep, again, let it
take your breath, rush your blood, make you leap
for the sheer joy of awakening to dream of summer.

But — we are past that now.

We have swum the frigid waters
beneath the dam hidden half a day’s hike away.
We have canoed and explored each beach,
sand bar, island, desperate for a cave,
willing to take any rock within reach
beneath the surface, “good enough” we cry, anchor,
shout, “watch me dive” though our toes barely push
off our new found (slightly submerged) island.
Our mouths anxiously gulp air. We have become

fish, our mothers, our fathers, our sisters, and brothers
say so, neighbours, acquaintances, actual strangers
we meet on the beach as we float up to shore,
spot us and say, “Look, fish!” as we greet them
mouth bubbles from the water and examine their toes.
All adrift in cutoff jeans, bleached hair, nut brown skin,
serene as we gulp air, blow mouthfuls of lake water….
We are fish and do not know we will be men.

It is begun — we hear it, we feel it,
the turn of the sun, the begin of undone.
We want to hold it for just another minute.
Caress it, gather it in our arms and transport it
home as company, into our sleeping bag
a secret only we know, that is kept between us,
birch, and the dark pine that ring the shore.

We stand, wildly pummel the surface into cascades,
heave enormous armfuls of water at each other,
each spray a burst of transparent eggs, lenses
that foretell the future; we fling fire at each other,
taunt the light not to flee but play, sun birth’d
boys ripple in this, our moment of radiant time.

We Leave the Cottage

We leave
fire wood to replace what we used
the canoe back on the shore
water tank refilled at the spring
cottage clean, everything back in place

We leave
two swims a day
beachside fires
splay of the Milky Way
lull of the wind and waves at night

We take
seven more days of our lives
solitude, company, reflection, laughter
seven sensational sunsets
seven misty dawns
mouthfuls of lake water
clothes that smell of smoke

We take
a sense of somewhere
that is nowhere else
memories and plans
pictures, sketchbooks, postcards
a sense that we put it all together