January 23, 2009
Lament of Margaret Nicolet
For so many years, Jean,
you lived among the natives,
ate their food or – like them –
went without, learned to survive
a week on bark. They schooled you
to prevail against snakes,
swarming insects, blizzards.
They taught you to hunt, walk
through woods unseen, unheard,
paddle a canoe silently upstream
or down the raging rapids of spring.
You learned their languages
and became their friend.
Tell me, my beloved, why
in all those years among men
who lived with nature,
all those years canoeing,
you never learned to swim.
I sit here in Quebec, alone,
picturing northeast wind
across the St. Lawrence spinning
the launch like a top, over and over
in freezing water, your strong hands
struggling to hang on to the side,
your husky voice telling
Monsieur de Savigay to save himself,
to watch over me. My body turns frigid
every time I see you pulled down
into icy waters whose language
you never learned.
We were young when we bought
our piece of paradise, land along
the bay. Water and eyes reflected
starlight. Reflected moons stretched
out paths to all our dreams.
Our small boat swayed
in wind and gentle waves,
bobbed in the wakes of larger craft.
Fish caught our hooks and hung on.
Now the old dock sits on dry ground.
We walk several hundred feet
through weeds to the water’s edge.
They bay has shrunk.
Like our lives.
stark white snow
across the hill
sharp cold wind
against damp cheeks
austere white casket
lowered into brown earth
Wilda Morris resides in Illinois, but escapes to Wisconsin several times a year. From the first time she set foot in Door County, it has been one of her favorite get-aways. Her book, Szechwan Shrimp and Fortune Cookies: Poems from a Chinese Restaurant, was recently published by Rockford Writers Guild Press.
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