Valancy and the New World

(for Isabella Valancy Crawford and L.M. Montgomery)

Nine loons in the bay,
she knows it is a sign
of fertility, eternity,
white and silver rings
looping the water forever.
She curls around her lover’s body
as their laughter slips down the lake
like quick canoes.

The honeymoon in Europe
hurts her cool round vision,
the sun brilliant on old ruins.
Who ever thought stone could look so soft?
She meets a man, his voice
jeweled with history, places,
wars. Desire locks
the scent of cedar in her,
perfume in her throat so strong
she feels like a new-made box,
the ax finished with her.

At home, the evergreens seem to heal.
They rug the valleys,
stitch the rifts,
and knit tight dank wool into sharp rock.
Her flesh grows moist and supple again
but age has penetrated her bones.
She feels how fast things grow old
though they be deathless.
The thick valleys bury her in their haste to seed,
thundering rivers drain away her skin like silt,
fraying cedars, drinking from the lake,
shed splinters.

In the cabin, under furs,
shadows crackling in the night,
she thinks of the man from Europe
and her organs dry out.
The hook of the new moon slices
through her brain and rises dripping.
Water lilies aren’t sharp and sliver, she thinks.
Water lilies are how his hands used to be,
white and tender on her skin
in their tent,
lilies on her thighs
and in her mouth,
the red, warm cedar paddle.
Married love, the moon:
endless circular silver
sliding in and out of dead wood.