The boy stood weeping in dismay,
Duffle-coated against the cold,
Watching his sailboat bob away
On a pool vast and granite-bowled.
No aid was asked, but seeing him,
I rolled my trousers to my knees
And waded from the basin’s rim
To where the boat had sought the breeze
And, like a giant, lifted her
Up by the mast and centerboard.
Still sniffling, with “Merci, monsieur,”
The boy walked off, his loss restored.
This happened thirty years ago.
The trees were pollarded and bare,
The benches empty, and light snow
Fell to the flowerless parterre.
For several weeks, I’d launched campaigns
To every tourist sight I could.
Most I’ve forgotten. What remains
Is how the boy drew up his hood,
Cradling his boat in winter light,
While I sat down and bowed to muse
Upon the gravel and draw tight
And tie the laces of my shoes.
They paddle through expanding
And overlapping wakes.
One glides in, cleared for landing,
And, with his breast for brakes,
Skids to a cushy halt,
Then makes a smooth turn shoreward.
Another, in the mood
To try a somersault
Or dabble for some food,
Pitches abruptly forward,
Tail straight up from the water.
Others appear to be
Content merely to potter
About in buoyancy.
Still others extract oil
From their rump glands to preen.
(Bills digging here and there,
Their lithe necks coil, uncoil,
As they check out, repair
And keep their feathers clean.)
Just a mile off, two freeways
Cross like scissors’ shears;
Likewise, flyways and seaways
Have narrowed with the years.
Still, in this watershed’s
Low marshes, the ducks range
With cormorants and coots,
With grebes and buffleheads,
At home in old pursuits
And salutary change.
A mother leads the newer
Flotilla of her young,
Who, swivel-bonded to her
Mood (and direction) swings,
Veer neatly left and right.
On water-spanking feet,
A scaup sprints and flaps wings
And wills itself to meet
The requisites for flight.
Who wouldn’t, though the day
Decline, be slow to leave
This place where egrets may
Remain on the qui vive,
Through chilly water plants?
Marsh wrens swoop after midges,
And the sharp eye can see
How fallen reeds are bridges
For hurrying-homeward ants
That cross a rivulet
Emptying in the pond.
Soon, darkness; but as yet
Birds call and, called, respond.
And mallards drift serenely
On the fresh inland tide—
Speculum feathers flashing,
Males lifting their heads greenly,
Some, as they’re swimming, splashing
Their bills from side to side.
A luxury sedan sways round the curve,
Scattering roller-blading hockey players.
The driver’s wearing sunglasses, though night
Is gathering; his Great Dane, riding shotgun,
Leans from the window and barks furiously
At a bewildered terrier on the sidewalk.
Libidinous inanity! Woof! Woof!
I’ve got a Lexus and you’ve got a leash!
Driver and dog, quite clearly, haven’t learned
That anybody can achieve an ego:
The real trick is resolving to transcend it.
Innocent ids, the boys regroup; one cuts
A circle sharply, swings his stick, and rifles
The plastic ball that serves as puck between
The pair of soda cans that serve as goal posts.
The superego’s representatives,
Six ravens mob the disappearing car
Before they peel off, cawing, to the trees
While the small terrier—hair in his eyes,
His toenails clicking pavement—trots away,
Leading his owner homeward from their ramble.
Steele, Timothy. “Poems.” The New Compass: A Critical Review 2 (December 2003) <http://www.thenewcompass.ca/dec2003/steele.html>