Drive south into spring
where May snow shelters on the forest floor,
cross the border and drive out from under
into hazy interlake Ontario
roosterruled farmyards composed like Flemish masters
snapshots of lives that never stand still
long enough to know.
In the bulk food store:
a bin of pencil stubs,
a stack of ecoposters
printed one side only.
I wrote a letter home a letter away a letter home and so on
until I ran out of paper and
all the letters I had to write
were away away away.
I drive the wide arched
bridge over the seaway and down
the valley in the road's hypnosis.
Beneath me flows the wealth of Chicago Detroit
and all the prairie states – la fleuve
opens like a French kiss to the Atlantic
even Bosnia at last – wherever
an American has interests
the marines will mobilize in days.
How long do you suppose to secure a seaway
two hours from the statue of liberty?
I ask this of a radio caller
once outraged at the sight of a tank.
Citizen A veers across three lanes of traffic
to thrust a poster in the face of Citizen B
ignoring B's child in her wobbly stroller
and politicians talk of amiable divorce
A people so angry a cyclist brakes
to argue with the ones he nearly hit
speeding under the bridge
... over the edge no matter.
In early evening hot air balloons drift overhead
little moons reflecting sunset over the green plain
over a city of rivers/spires/streetpeople
brainy people with no idea
people of two minds who go years without writing a letter
people hardy in their foolhardiness
people who say but but but but
beautiful people skin deep
with their past imperfect
sociable people with significant others
who dream of leaving it all behind
If I could say my people
I walk your sidewalks again
no wider than last year
and rather than smile as we pass you look away
make me a negative integer
a cataract, a blank on your screen.
I jaywalk, forget to wear a hat
leave my umbrella on the bus
stand in front of a deputy assistant in an elevator
and feel the fear like rain.
Averting eyes we make of each other
the negative image of a country
too busy to look
I have tried sometimes as tourists say
pénétrer la vie des gens
outside my own door,
have tried to know these reluctant people
so much part of me.
Headlines land like grenades on doorsteps each morning
but the joggers aren't home, they're out with the newsboy
sleek thighs delivering them
round the leafy lagoon and home to showers
while my coffee cools on a windowledge
overflowing with pencil stubs.
They pass my window running/walking,
on cycle/skateboard always somewhere,
backpacking grade schoolers,
inline skating/online surfing high school juniors,
retirees fending brooms,
young mothers with childseats on bicycle fenders.
Who wouldn't have a soft spot for them?
deputy assistants in blue and red
power suits already threadbare,
on the way to the bus stop with Globe under arm
though more cynical the more they understand
of anything they read.
I know their clumsy minds lost transitive grins,
have heard my own hollow echo
theirs in a goodbye hug.
These folk so unclaimed they refuse to be called folk
with their silence and immense disappointment
arrogant people hugging resentments like stuffed toys
people of ice and irony
who know the cost of everything but silence
close-lipped people lonely as indefinite articles
who have never been asked to forgive before.
The cost plus tax plus tax plus
the gross cost
Some welcome home if
that's what you call it
– a head turned away
and this blank page.
Joke or prophecy?
Rain falls so hard car alarms cry out
all over Parliament Hill.
"Having read this book
tie a stone to it and throw it in the river
lest what is written here shall come to pass."
After rain the forests between us incense the air
with birth and death, copulating blooms,
and hot air balloons drift by and on the river
hatchlings kick boldly into the current.
We meet on shore,
each with a bag of crusts
to spread on the water.
Colin Morton is a writer/editor/poet.
visit his website at http://www.cyberus.ca/~cmorton