poems as hand- and foot-holds on a glass mountain

No Lake


Late afternoon out on No Lake in a canoe
of red molded plastic though in spirit
she resembles rustic native canoes
made of birchbark patches lashed together
with spruce root
and sealed with bear fat mixed with spruce gum
this one made of random memories held together
by whim and hubris for a journey of no known duration
nor destination, fueled only by a misunderstood
urge to travel
a journey of waking dreams as what isn’t

The sun dips low enough to hide behind a mountain
its light re-routed and filtered over the big rock-pile
before it fades out edging a little at a time
down into the lake
we imagine it hissing and steaming, plunging and stirring
the dark water, nudging fishes aside before sinking
into bottom mud-mind

We’re out of sight of shore and would be getting back
if we knew where ‘back’ was
we’ve neglected taking stock of the moment
with its major indeterminates:
lake, boat, ourselves, and journey

The lake we’ve named after Jow-joe’s dog
famous in some circles
the one if asked after has No Buddha-nature

the lake is now large, now small
puddle or rolling sea
its shores move in and out as did Walden’s
sometimes it has a bland river’s current
draws in wind and sky or is drawn in by them
a wide net cast or fisher casting

The canoe comes with two long paddles
wrapped in old newspaper
resting beside us across the narrow benches
unwrapping them we find
they are all and only wrapping
wind and current have driven us this far
and we have let them, thinking we’d row back

now we reconsider, we of a thousand faces
wrapped and sealed in birchbark words
hidden in a vanishingly singular body
drum-skins stretched over an echoing hollow
we of a day’s delivery into lowering night
we of a raft of quotations, of cries unheard
we of unknowing, of faith and doubt
wanting resolution

No names please, asks a mermaid
drip-sliding into the canoe beside me
out for a late swim, become disoriented
in foggy darkness, heard low waves slapping
against my boat, headed for her
she checks out the faux paddles
we’re a blue-ribbon pair of fools, she says

We bump into a dock after lengthy
wordless introductions
she chuckles, climbs out and is gone
I tie up the boat and stumble off
into this:
a now-familiar moonless darkness
of unknowing
wherever we arrive is strange

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