Heading back from the hunt,

My canoe cuts through the clear glass surface

Of the Gatineau lake.

The setting sun strikes silver scales

And ricochets to show the flopping fish

On the metal bottom of the boat.

The lake is large, the journey long

And soon the fish lies still,

Its mouth still open, as if gasping

For the cold wet water

Just inches on the other side of the gunnels.

I slow and strike them with my paddle,

The echo coming back like a shot.

The fish lies still,

Its open eye as dark as inky depths

that reach down to granite bones

of ancient stones that go back billions

And form the bowl

That holds the lake

On which I’m floating,

Alone and still myself.

Returning to the warmth of waiting friends

The hopes of children searching for their father,

There I am upon the shore

And there we slowly turn the fish’s body on the spit

Above the sputtering fire.

And silently I thank the fish gods for their bounty

And somehow I am still removed

And like an alien from the deeps,

I watch the humans eat the flesh

That some day might be me,

My mouth kissing the air like an “o”

My dark eye open

And searching for my home.


After the rain I found the chick

Its wings spread out as if for flight

Its head tossed back.

Washed by the storm from out its nest

It fell into my garden drowned.

And so it lay with half lidded eyes absorbing light

The beak still open as if to swallow worms,

But still and soundless in the morning.

And somewhere I know,

The mother bird’s moved on.

This tiny bit of protoplasm left for others

She’ll make some other eggs.

And so the world will turn without our presence

The stars will wheel above

The universe will care for us

As it does for every fallen sparrow.


And after the snow melted

Debris from the winter was strewn on the lawn.

A few paper plates, a plastic cup, the page of an old newspaper

And what looked like a dead mouse arrayed for burial.

The body was stretched out, the nose pointed straight upward,

The forelimbs raised as if in prayer and the hind limbs pulled back. 

The eyes were closed tightly as if concentrating on some greater goal

But the jaw was slack and the front teeth hung out over the bottom lip as if saying the letter “f”. 

“Maybe it was a baby squirrel,” says my eldest son.

It’s hard to tell for sure

Though no other beast has yet used the body for a meal.

It must have frozen in a sudden blizzard

Caught unawares in the fast freeze of the cold.

“Well at least it went fast,

I think it did not suffer”, says my child.

And I thought how death is always sudden

Even when we sit in the kitchen

And expect it.


My father in his casket

Lay wrapped in a prayer shawl

His arms hugging his body as if to keep warm.

The arteries on his cheek had burst

The last remnant of a beating heart

That pumped the blood where it was not wanted.

His eyes closed tight, his chin was slack, the upper jaw pushed forward

To make a tiny “o” through which no doubt the soul escaped.

And just the week before he had lain helpless

As the aide just flipped him like a fish on a spit

and cleaned his bum.

Once proud father,

His wasted thighs were flaccid flesh on bone

Too weak to move, too weak to speak except to groan.

And just the year before

He was so protective of my mother’s dying days,

He would not let others wash or carry her

But did all the necessaries himself

With aging muscles on crumbling bones,

Which now hastened his own demise.

And as he lay and looked at me

I knew I would lie and look at others,

Perhaps my children, perhaps my wife

Staring down at me, the alien

Passing into another realm

While they stood anchored in their life.

The dark curtain would come down,

And they would look at the dead flesh

Like any expired beast

And wonder where the spark had gone

And how dark and deep the blank eyed stare

Might be before the lids were closed

And what the slack jawed “o” of my open mouth might show.

Death does not have me yet but sits

At my table and laughs with me

As we keep playing solitaire and winning.