After Tim Lilburn’s poem, “Retreat.”
When I was in Desolation Sound, during the pandemic, holed up in that bay,
its mornings and green tides and ravens, reading Tim Lilburn, it was so cold
in the mornings I’d put on five layers, feed the woodstove
until the kettle started to tick.
I’d stack firewood in the afternoons, the alder bark with its islands
of sepia and grey overlaid on cream, like an antique map
but studded with woodpecker holes
like tiny machine gun bullet holes,
as though attempting to obliterate the memories
of the world we’d just left behind.
Then I’d go rowing out into the Sound
toward the Unwin Mountains, rows of blue peaks receding into mist.
Also, I was tucking into Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium,
literary values for future generations, his parliament on light
and the imagination. There was no hockey,
the NHL having cancelled the season, indeed, all seasons cancelled
except for nature’s, getting a reprieve with this new quiet,
fish now visible in Venice’s canals, the gondolas neatly stacked
across from the Basilica di San Marco.
Early morning rain fat with snow, unusual for April.
I didn’t know exactly what I was lonely for.
Inchoate, this rite of passage into the world’s ruin.