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.