Craftsbury, no-man’s land,
on a plateau above birch forests, an empty commons,
men carrying axes, women with children in rotting papooses.
A hard, fast drive east to 91, 91 to 55, 55 to 10,
10 over the St. Lawrence into old, old, OLD Montreal …
She had descended into a fugue state
before passing through the fog-towns—
Niagara on the Lake, St. Catherines—high-beams on at noon,
the lake a debris-field of broken picture glass through the trees.
She knew what she wanted—
knew it when picking over trinkets,
ornaments in a gift shop
while the bells of Notre-Dame Basilica rang, rang, rang,
she turning over a bauble with a silver hook in her hands—
something for her great and future Christmas tree.
Not our Christmas tree.
A tree. Some tree. Their tree.
Something with a hook for something with a loop …
Did you know about these trips to Canada?
She–mute, prostrate on a bench by the lake, aching…
The Tragically Hip were in town, had been, would be again,
playing the Royal Military College—
a fading poster, one corner curling in the wind.
She was prostrate;
she didn’t want to wander anymore,
or be with something that wandered, wasn’t burred,
wouldn’t send down steely roots, or couldn’t quite yet.
She wasn’t explicit, and she didn’t need to be.
Not eager to pass back over the border,
over the line of scrimmage.
I hear a wrist snap, armor colliding;
the next play begins.
First, though, buy a few bottles of ice wine,
drink one, think about doubling back on the 401.
She would need to get back over the border,
back to the hospital, back to the unit,
put her makeup on, go to the children’s wing:
the good clinician.
I wanted to go further North, home—
north on the 400, but didn’t say so.
She was quiet.
There was less to say.
Something in the engine was ticking.
Under her feet—unfolded maps, broken jewel cases,
a Styrofoam cup (‘Styrofoam’ with a capital ‘S’).
A cramped bed in a triangular room
on Rue Saint-Denis, Saint-Laurent? One of the two.
Over dinner, the sound of Velcro tearing …
A ride in a carriage under blankets
down Rue de la Commune,
black barges in black water,
shuttered concession stands.
Rolling over cobblestones, her life beginning,
my Earthly life beginning to end;
I could barely hear her through the music,
the trilling, destiny’s horns blowing hard, harder.
Once more, the sound of Velcro …
“Velour et Crochet,” called the driver over his shoulder,
then whipped his horse.
✖ From the Novel, Orchard Park and Other Works