From Nightshade Climbing Limbs of White Birch
I waited for you in the dark
by the woodshed. The moon’s tongue a blue flare in the pines.
On the beach road, a wound in a kingly
fallen spruce is a home for debris;
emptiness filling with field-
weeds and sand.
In the ditches, wild roses. The butterfly’s
mouth. How long can the summer between us endure?
If you come, we’ll sit at the table.
Stars can wait by the window;
the sky down.
You say you waited with me
inside you all winter.
glass the night can be.
We’re sweetly fed. Fat from each other’s
letters scenting our hands.
In the morning, I can walk only steps before
being accosted: the sea’s beauty—
once, the pockets
of my eyes were empty.
After the worst of it, after the days of the black nets
that entangled you, that wrapped
themselves around your will as you lay
in the starched anonymity
of the new bed in the nursing home,
I see you at the end of the hall,
just reaching it—the white vinyl-
plastic window that gazed directly into the woods,
filling with wild green light.
You were bent and curved like a fish’s
mouth, down-turned, ferning into
yourself as you gripped the sides of the hated walker,
hanging like an empty shirt.
I know you won’t succeed in this, but there’s
something in the measured gait,
the shuck forward, as if you
could escape the swelling sky of circumstance
if you just kept walking.
Like a man who’s overdosed
and mustn’t sleep, you swim your
ruined body forward, each glittering
step a sand-shoal
holding back the sea.
Margo Wheaton’s debut poetry collection The Unlit Path Behind the House won a Canadian Authors Association award and was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award, the Fred Cogswell Award for Literary Excellence, the J. M. Abraham Award, and the Relit Award. Margo’s an associate poetry editor at The Dalhousie Review.
Wheaton will be reading her work live during our free online anniversary event on December 9. Click here to register!