The Delaware River Canal, Erwinna, PA

When I die, I want to find myself on this tow path
with my hair still golden and long.
I want this to be the moment the director died for –
perfect in tone, color and character.
This will only last a few moments: I am alive.
Such a knowledge and such a certainty
a little living has done for me.
So when the popcorn machine breaks down
and the ushers have gone home
I want to watch myself walking here in Erwinna, PA
in this long gown
wet hem sliding across the tops of naked feet –
it is simply good to know
underneath it
I will always be naked, thin, moving.
How softly I’m walking –
It is a freedom to know
I am not heard here
on my eternal constitutional.
It will always be
almost dusk, almost raining.
In this pause the clouds are making
I will be frozen into a moment
by the click of a shutter
in the eye of the universe.
While I want nothing, am nothing
the rolling of the cameras to no denouement will continue:
I will walk forward in retreat,
never to disappear,
A law-breaker in the eyes of perspective.

The Blackbird Circle, Issue Number 4, Spring 1973


The mind of an Ontario summer is liquid.
From the air a thousand irregular mirrors
carelessly thrown about
by the silver magician of the north country.
He comes at dawn with the loons
brings down the dark with the whippoorwills,
holds the sun against the glistening rush
of fish into air.
All is liquid, all is silver.
He is thin as moonbeam,
as the echo, thrice returning,
of the loon’s cry against the cliffs.
Flowing against me when I dive
he is cool and clear,
the first thought in morning.
Holding me in his mouth
I can hear in his throat
the songs he sings through the waters.
He leads me to you
white, long and soft
the underbelly of fish
seen by one planted firmly on the bottom,
draped in silver and green.
I smell of fish scales, loon feathers,
pine needles and moss,
around my shoulders, a robe
of splashes in the night,
echoes, the motions of spiders’ webs in the wind,
lapping of wave,
minute footsteps of a beetle in the leaves,
and in my eyes
the fires of midnights smoldering.

I hear the loons cry.
While the blueberries began a purple flight
we waited on the shore
for the loons to surface,
for a ripple on the mirror of that time,
coming up, here,
so far away from you
they are pushing through the past
through the mind of one who would be magic
telling what the present was then.

My head is a watery place now, silver and green,
the loons are rising inside me,
spiders weaving threads
behind my eyes;
the long promise of the whippoorwill pushes
just behind my ear drum.
The loons are diving again for you,
their shimmering magician,
like feather submarines
just below the skull.
I feel the pressure of your wings
to the right and left.
A pure white fish,
a rush beneath the green of yesterday,
into me again.
When you call the loons,
they answer to me,
a liquid down echo
and you rise upward
without effort
out of that moment
into this one.

The Blackbird Circle, No. 4, Spring, 1973


The Blackbird Circle was a small poetry journal edited by Northern Illinois University English Instructors, Dean Deter and Robert J. Conley, the prolific Cherokee poet and writer, best known for a series of books called The Real People Series. Conley’s poems “Woodpecker Poem” and “To Let Live” were in this fourth issue.

The Texas writer, David Oliphant, whose poem “Against a Dry-Docking” appeared in the magazine’s inaugural issue, mentions the Blackbird Circle in his book, Harbingers of Books to Come: A Texas Literary Life, noting that William Stafford, winner of the National Book Award for Poetry (1963) and the writer and translator, James Hoggard also appeared in the inaugural issue. A double issue (6 & 7) was published in the Spring of 1975, which may have been the last one – at least I can’t find references to the magazine after this nor could I find an online archive.

“Delaware River Canal, Erwinna, PA” and “Memory” have a mysterious and dreamlike quality, reminding me of something Anais Nin observed: “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” These poems are “second tastes” of a walk along a canal in summer and a night spent on a lake in Ontario, Canada.