Monday, December 05, 2011

muskrat party no. 1

This is the Sturgeon River in early November -- at sunset, with the first ice film glazing the still water, like mica-isinglass, the brush and sedge bleached and bowing low towards the water.

When I took these photos, the muskrats were still very active, swimming to and fro near the bridge...

There were only narrow, frosted edges of ice flanking the slow current, and the little muskrats would clamber gingerly out onto the platforms to nibble on shoots and riverplants before heading into the water again.

(This evening, the moon was full and the sky pigeon-grey)

(Small luminous pearl in the aspen-corals)

Around sundown, great numbers would gather in conferences, washing their paws and smoothing their whiskers, but never getting tooo close to one another (I did witness one muskrat-squabble, it involved snorting and splashing).

And perhaps they admired the last light illuminating their water-slicked, oily fur...

They swam like winter was approaching, busily plucking plants and traversing the channels beneath the ice sheets -- it was amazing to watch them swim beneath the translucence, the murky green water pressing up against the glass, their webbed feet pushing off the film, following the trail of water bubbles as they slipped into their bankside nests.

Muskrats don't hibernate, rather they continue to slip out from their tunnels into the flow beneath the ice to find decaying plants and small mud-buried larva; though we won't see them until the melt comes, they will follow the same water-paths under the frozen surface all winter.

They seem more at home beneath the surface than above it -- it was the muskrat, after all, who dove down in many Algonquian and Iroquoian creation stories to fetch the earth from the bottom of the great lake in order to create the land, when all the other animals had failed.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

autumn chronology: beginning of november, riverlot

* * *

After great pain, a formal feeling comes--
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs--
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?

The Feet, mechanical, go round--
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone--

This is the Hour of Lead--
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow--
First--Chill--then Stupor--then the letting go--

(emily dickinson)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

ways my father did not die

field grass remnants, riverlot, early november 2011

* * *

(poem re: two nightmares, and the fact that when he dies in them, i can't wake up and tell myself that it was just a dream.)

ways my father did not die

it was not as it was in dreams:

not hypothermia, not from the cold

water seeping into the cloth that

bound his feet – he did not walk

miles and miles to the hospital

through icy pools sprawling malignant,

to die with the dark winter light

on the inside of his eyes –

brighter than that medicinal fluorescence,

than the room where we unwrap the

layers, strip his body like a sodden onion

but find him not there –

he did not die as in the second dream:

on the side of a mountain road,

gravel digging into my knees

with each spasm of his back –

his arching body contorted

like a trout diseased and whirling,

bent nearly to snapping, trying

to shift shape out of this –

to a fish to a bird to anything

that could relieve him of his

aching form, leaving me with the

pulse of absence in my arms.

i was not there. i can only believe

what they told me, that it

was swift, that he shifted away

in a last exhale that still hung

mist-like over half-lidded eyes

when we came in the early morning.

i will never know what he was

thinking. if he knew it was coming,

that silent white meteor

searing through the window, stealing

his gaze, leaving his quiet head

slumping towards the door.

i do not dream of how it

happened really: not of the day before

when i brought him blankets

and the paper, warmed his feet

and kissed his whiskers,

brought the smallest bites of

his last dinner to his lips. and

i will wake and wake again

with the ache of these remainders,

of these ways it never happened,

of the dreams that are not only

though they cannot change the dead.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

my father's house

geese gathering over the woods and the house, early november 2011

* * *

my father’s house is gone

and all the houses in his town

have crumbled [...]

and what will be ours

to do today

is to name everything we see --

after what we are

and who came before

and the things that run in fear

from you and me...

* * *

--from 'there will be spring', by bonnie "prince" billy, on the album wolfroy goes to town

(download and listen here. til nov. 24)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


whitetail. (poem sketch)

it is autumn, and he is missing. leaves

are falling, and he is not there. you

look for him in the drying clink of summer

coppers, their hollow-throated rattle, the

pecking of a flicker, search

the leaflessness for pulses of rose-hip,

an intermittent semaphore of chokecherries,

reddened eyes of the crane—you cannot stop

the shining plain of grief rising

inside you, a shoulder-blade sharp

and jutting, like under the soft skin

of a stalking animal,shifts with a

pained loping amongst bloodless grasses.

always a presence, there in the field,

waiting—for the sky’s empty weight,

falling from bent branches in the chest,

settling on the thin limbs of lung

those clouds, marrowless.

you have seen in these trees

what we are made of: sinewy nests

strangling each joint as grief attaches,

makes every breath ache. reminds us

that what connects us, moves us apart.

further and further between the birches

the last sunlight in your fingers, division

made visible. always reaching

for something that can never be touched:

grasped not with your hands, your mind,

not even in language. like the deer

disappearing, boundless into woods at sundown,

leg-splaying leap and soundless landing –

(o maybe if you are really quiet,

really still, he will come back to you)

no. just a whitetail brushing the air

with anxious snow, vanishing flag

in the aspens, absence.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

autumn chronology: mid-october, lower riverlot

the bright sedges by the river, sky still blue

cloud reflections in the beaver-dam stillness

shadowy muskrats, or perhaps beavers...

beaver, i think... i never got to see the tails...

in the nearby field, the old barn...

oh hello whitetails

the luminous skeletons of asters
hay-roll detail in the fading light


the moment of saturation warms me every time

Monday, November 14, 2011

shop sale

vintage carnelian and coral beads from ukraine, on various textures of brass chain

A wee note to say that recently I have added a few more necklaces and such to my shop of stones on Etsy -- and that I have a sale there, 20% for the rest of the month.

To get the discount, you just put in the coupon code SNOWFALL when you check out and the deductions will be made from the regular price.

Canadian shipping is free (SHIPMEFREE is the code) and if you want local delivery for your treasures, it's IMLOCAL. Perhaps you will find something to brighten your November?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

autumn chronology: thanksgiving, riverlot

gold sea in the treetops

bright kalyna

mushroom mushroom

small flecks and pulses

aspen trembling copper on the blue sky

stacked hay pillows

freshly harvested field

cut wheat spindles

the gold and the red
golden fluttering

shy chickadee