Song Of The Elk River

Delightful kayak,
Slender vessels of joy!
Although the river rages,
In ribs of driftwood
We’re delivered safely
Over ice-cold rapids and
Through the traps
Of countless ages,
Whitehorse-west and
North of thawed
Townships where
At torpor’s end
Aubading lumberjacks
Sing with hair of the dog
Of a haunting elk,
Its chimeric proportions
Known from Manitoba
To islands beyond
The frozen shelf,
And where the great
Mackenzie roars
We roar with little
Echoes back from our
Purified alveoli.
We reached the launch
By chartered flight,
Land of caribou herds,
Mosquitos rule
The endless night;
We shared the aurora
And an insect bite.

Days at one with the rocks
Rampaged by torrents,
Branches and crags
And this great river
Blend all the same,
There’s no distinction as
The foam fizzes and spits
At paddles and rig,
A whirlpool’s teeth
Sprayed the wherry
Where precursors
Of the Łutselk’e once
For pike and burbot
Fished, long before
The European explorers
Hired scouts to forage
For exportable coal
And a chieftain’s wife.

Our bodies were given
As blessings to the water,
The force of the river
Steals our breath as a
Payment for sensing
The riverbed’s soul.
Submerged and turned
In unison, my thoughts
Under the surface
Roll towards the Aleutian
Baidarka, inexplicably,
The scent of seal-fur
In the nineteenth century,
Pursued by light rains
And the hunger of huskies,
We come up for air
And in time the waters
Quietened, it’s an
Imperceptible shift,
As if the river
Did not so much lose
The argument, but is
Attuned to the level
Of cloudberries and
Lilacs, into still waters
We steered, a lagoon,
And there on the shore
We fleetingly caught sight
Of that wonderful monarch,
King of Bugle-Calls
And bull-thistles,
Eyes as bright in
Their patronage
As unearthed lazulite
Lifted up to the bright
Limelight sun from
Mines much further away,
With vestigial tusks
And antlers as wide
As prayers from a Trappist.

That mythical elk,
Unwinnable prize of
The lumberjacks song –
Their drunk serenades,
For not before long
Evening is tidal
Many moons behind us.
Blind to our surprise
Encounter with spirits
And garlands and nectar,
It would soon be time
For the touring company’s
de Havilland turboprop
To rendezvous
On the nude strip of
Southern plains,
And we would not have sight
Of that magnificent emblem
For more than a minute
Nor ever again.
We rubbed tired eyes
As the flight surpassed
The days and nights,
Into sunsets we flew
Like two sea-eagles
Pregnant with conjecture,
Your head on my shoulder
And in the eyes of our mind
The Song of the Elk
And the language of pine.

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