On your knees in a boat with sweet rocker and no keel, water pillows
up against the red hull with its silt hiss. You sight the drops between
boulders, gear and your yeah-buts, your okay-maybes lashed tight, and
you heel the canoe on its side for the swift eddy-in, the river’s leggy coltgleam.
Spruce reel by, the limestone peaks, skids of outwash. The river
sticks a coin behind its ear, pulls two from its wrist.
You’ve brought food from far away, burned fuel climbing the passes
to the Great Divide, ramped, crevassed, the great glacier spilling three
ways: Pacific, Arctic, Atlantic. You’re taking the low moan of miles
home, heading east, northeast, the winded push to the Interior Plains.
Even sandstone and the shale beds of the foothills weather in.
River of mixed tongues and guns traded west, frayed edge of the
muscle-old herds chewing the hills, fringe between grassland and aspen
parkland. The river opaque in all seasons, cartilage, cash flow. When
Peter Erasmus first tried the ford, his horse shook him loose and he
would’ve drowned but someone yelled, Grab her tail.
River of last hunts,
the Thirst Dance, the broad forehead of Horsechild, just a boy sweating
at his father’s side on the long walk to surrender at Carlton in the wolfy
breath-heat of the downcast grass.
River, slab of the weathered-down, low under the long hunger, low to
the bulked-up meat of the farms, low now, low under the berms of the
fat lip. Thick backs of murky sturgeon, sinew of the who-knows-where.
And the river slows, gull-flush and scavenging, and you cruise on the
gaze of deer, lowrider sliding the afternoon in the valley of the willow
of stealth. Opal. Inner wrist of what’s left.
You carry water from taps and don’t know how to eat what’s here. You
haven’t built your boat, still you take a bearing in the magnetic field of
runoff, beam your signals to the satellites of fallen birds. And this boat
grafts you to water’s big-winged glide, its giveaway, the cool salve of its
going-going-gone, pushing to a wavering long-held note. Inner wrist,
underworld. Water on the downgrade, flowing loaded and filmed.
-- North Saskatchewan River
Excerpted from Deepwater Vee by Melanie Siebert. Copyright © 2010 by Melanie Siebert. Excerpted by permission of McClelland & Stewart, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.