• LOCAL SUITE from The Witch of the Inner Wood

    in #82 Winter 2016/Excerpts/Poetry by

    LOCAL SUITE, excerpted from M. Travis Lane’s The Witch of the Inner Wood: collected long poems.


    1. Riverside Drive

    The wind’s too rough for the sailboats.
    A cormorant, starting to hang out its wings,
    has had second thoughts. Pale mustard flowers
    shake in the rocks and styrofoam
    of the riverbank. A runner in red mittens
    pounds on past.
                    At the Armoury
    boys play at soldiers. My small dog
    noses the thawing ground. Her thick
    coat flares like thistle seed.
    2. Fredericton Junction
    Last summer’s cattails, shaggy in the rain,
    and blackbirds; a shiny, plywood station —
    a purring bus clogs the parking lot,
    the driver’s gone across the street
    to the new café. In the waiting room
    a girl in a yellow slicker and a child,
    too hot in a pink fur snowsuit.
    The café signs says “Chili.” “Well,
    I’ve got beans,” says the counter girl.
    “What else does it take?” The bus driver tells her.
    She’s set for the day.
    The rain lets up. My husband walks
    beside the tracks like a signal man,
    and the train looks round its corner, small,
    yellow, perfectly genuine,
    and right on time.
    3. Roberta’s Wood Path
    Spruce seedlings, still too small for lights
    at Christmas time, line the narrow path
    the children take. (The grownups bow.)
    Ground cedar overhangs
    a doll’s ravine.
    (The patch of bluing scilla is a lake.)
    The gardener marks her stations with tin tags:
    bloodroot, trillium, shooting-star.
    Above us squirrels in their choir stalls cry
    and drop the stale, wild apples on our heads.
    4. Picnic by the River Light
    Nearsighted, the moose swam toward us.
    Halfway across it saw us, blinked, and turned around.
    We watched it wading the island. Later
    we saw it stumbling in a patch
    of carefully ranked young lettuces,
    a kind of Peter, harder to evict.
    5. Officers’ Square
    With red salvia, purple petunias, orange
    marigolds, a turquoise beaver pondering
    its flat trough, and the plumbing-roofed
    memorial like a bandstand.
    The benches are red and yellow but the grass
    has been left green.
    The girls in their bare feet like it.
    Stretched out flat, with their dress shoes
    under their heads, they are getting
    their lunch-break sunburns. Each
    as pink as a rose.
    6. Needham Street
    Narrow, its dusk closed in with wires
    as if to catch some late hawk-watching pigeon.
    A tiny, tidy house is dwarfed
    by the massive, white datura bush.
    The ancient, crippled apple tree is
    propped on crutches, a loyalist.
    Hopvine, nightshade, half-wild cats,
    the houses crowd the sidewalk, but
    there is Boldon’s light, a stained glass window:
    a beckoning cup, blue amber grail.
    Against it the white budworm moths
    flutter like cinders and beat the screen.
    7. Loyalist Graveyard
    Dust on the willows and raspberry briars,
    and grey seed heads: angelica, milkweed,
    virgin’s bower — a sort of fog. The plot
    might once have been bare meadow. Elms,
    drawing their darkness like a hood,
    have closed it in till it seems hardly large enough,
    only by accident not forgot. The past
    gets smaller the less we remember it.
    This is almost too small.
    8. Odell Park
    The rags of this year’s tartan come apart,
    unroof the old farm’s gravel road. The sun,
    slanting between the tree trunks, looks
    like the last of the tourists. It touches us,
    lightly, its hands already cold.
    There will be frost.
    9. Burning the Greens
    From the post-Christmas pyre of trees
    speckled with tinsel, a steam of snow
    dampens the smell of starter fuel.
    A missed gold ball wags sadly. Flame
    reddens the wet face of a child
    slumped on his father’s shoulders.
    Soon the blaze
    will send the old year toward the sun
    we’ve not seen much of, lately. Dusk
    happened at three. The bonfire’s through
    by bedtime. Like one small, red eye,
    Mars dogs pathetic Jupiter.
    10. The Myth of a Small City
    The myth of a small city where,
    on a snowy night,
    it doesn’t do to walk carelessly:
    the walker behind you with lengthening tread
    has raised his wooden hammer.
    He is the clock of midnight, the bad turn
    someone will do you, sometime.
    By the wall, a shadow fidgets,
    starts to run.

    The Witch of the Inner Wood: collected long poems
    by M. Travis Lane
    Goose Lane Editions

  • M. Travis Lane is the author of 16 books of poetry and has been widely published in literary journals as a poet and critic. She has won the Atlantic Poetry Prize, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the Bliss Carman Award and the Lieutenant Governor's Award for High Achievement in the Arts. She lives in Fredericton.

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