Retreating Ice

Count on it, every spring
you will find the river again,

rocks at the edge will re-emerge
like loaves of bread salvaged from your freezer.

Our genial host will press the river into taking off its hat and coat,
just as the guileless stranger in the story
is persuaded again to take off his hat and coat—

Between the sun and the others, it’s clear who’ll win.

If you look closely into the water, you’ll see the young fry swarm
newly hatched from their jelly, and mudpuppies lurking by their broods.
All manner of things will come near
if you stay very still.

The plaintive sound you hear vibrating through the valley
and touching your core, if you let it,
that’s the anguish of departure.

I’ve been in retreat for a long time, shrinking back,
leaving farmland, rivers, new creatures in new habitats—

But you—how could you lose your place in the world
when the world so persistently calls you?

from Twenty Views of the Lachine Rapids (Gaspereau Press, 2012) and The Rapids (Brick Books, 2012). Image by Klaus Pfeiffer.