I
 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.
 

II
 

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.
 

III
 

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.
 

IV
 

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.