LOCAL SUITE from The Witch of the Inner Wood

Nearsighted, the moose swam toward us. Halfway across it saw us, blinked, and turned around.

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

Written By

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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LOCAL SUITE from The Witch of the Inner Wood

Nearsighted, the moose swam toward us. Halfway across it saw us, blinked,...
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