the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Deena Linett

(On Not) Believing in an Afterlife

— (Terrasse Dufferin, Québec, on my birthday)

This easy day I can't imagine the St. Lawrence
under heaped and broken slabs of ice or driven, gray

beneath the Northern Lights. Our tour-boat's dwarfed
by the ice-cutter Amundsen, bright emblem of extremity

in red and white, her ensigns shivering in gusts
of summer westerlies. Above the river on the promenade

sword-fights, mimes and acrobats, history replayed
on makeshift stages, jugglers tossing sticks aflame.

In months to come I will appear in strangers' photographs,
the figure no one noticed then, woman at the edge,

white blur facing water or the sky — a life without a text
brought home to Saskatoon or Seoul. Thus I move

about the world. Success! Einstein said
if you could travel fast enough you wouldn't age.

Like seashells, foreign stones and images, I collect
names of places I will never see: Christchurch,

Madagascar, Kenya, Chile's ice-green seas, the Straits
of Magellan. Strait: isthmus in negative. I want

to leave without looking back, to go
as I have always gone, mostly unafraid, gaze direct,

hands open in momentum gathering like wind,
leaning onto the perilous blue: What next?



Battered after surgeries, I prowl nurseries
for plants I know from youth a thousand miles
from here: sweet droop of banana leaves,
gardenias' mad excess. Oleander, clematis,
like music names come back — surprise
of scarlet bougainvillea after half a century,
color's note a voice you cannot fail to recognize,
like strings'. Soft clatter of bamboo. Scent
of earth allays as wasn't possible in days
of perpetual summer, and I know now:
this is where I'm going. I choose cut blooms
whose stalks go bronze in heavy rains, peonies,
their soft mop-heads bees' wildest fantasies.
Petals drift for days onto my tables and my floors
as if a mythic bird had been my visitor.



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