Our First Trip

On a cutbank in Cree country the river-sheared earth

Gave up whole skeletons. Three sided nails peppered

The dirt between the ribs, the coffin wood long reclaimed.

Since they came feet first—the graves had been dug that way--

The skulls sat upslope and atop their bones

but tipped upstream to see what was coming, which couldn’t be good.

Or they rolled to the stones at river’s edge and filled

Their unresistant minds with water. After a few, we paddled past.

And since we were not yet married and you conversed

Convincingly with loons (I was afraid one might fly in and try to mate you—

I called you Leda) and I steered us through the rapids pretty well

We were charmed apace and didn’t dwell on death.

Death can kill a courtship, among other things.

Well, we loved each other. I for the human laughter you unloosed

Between the birds, and your unruffled kindness. Your beauty, too.

You—I don’t know why. I know I made you laugh.

January 10, 2009