Returning

When Ulysses finally reached that homeward shore
It was alien to him, for the land had grown sere
And his servants knew him not . . .

I asked the question again, pointing across
the small lake at the massive hill: “Are you sure
you never heard of a ski club over there?”

The clerk, possibly all of thirteen, regarded me
cautiously. “No, but I heard there was
a hiking club there once when my father was in school.”

She looked at me for a moment
with the same noncommital smile
she gave to all the tourists
and then repeated her question:
“Would you like anything? Hot dog?
Hamburger? Coke™ Ice cream bar?”

“Thanks, no,” I said, and headed out
to find the place just a half hour hike
around the lake, the ski hill
where I had spent my entire youth
every northern winter weekend.

The great hill towered above me
just as years before it had dominated
the trees above us as we had hacked out
a road through the bush around the lake
In winter you could look across the ice
and see roughly brushed in jagged strokes
among dark trees the steep white twisting trails
I had learned on, competed on, worked on
through steaming summer and bone-cold winter
with horses and augers and hammers and saws
and had strung copper cable we had harvested
on climbing stirrups from abandoned power lines
and dragged in supplies and built the tiny chalet
and tow-line and when finally winter came
we stomped in weekend mornings and coaxed
the frozen oil drum stove to send the sweet smoke
of cedar, birch, tamarack, jackpine up the stovepipe
and over the silent endless coniferous woods
then nursed the cantankerous ski tow’s old gas motor
and ate frozen sandwiches and icy apples somewhere
white and silent dusted by cascades of crystals
encouraged by breezes to simplify our patterned wool toques
it had to be here somewhere in the tangle of
wild twisted bush that hampered detoured me
through unfamiliar muskeg and ancient roadless wilderness
I came upon swampy remains of a rotting plank duckwalk
and at one point a weathered broken sign,
lying half-under a fallen tree: “Kirkla — king Club”
there was nothing else but bush and swamp
no hut, no ski shack no towline no trails
a little farther on, I came upon a clear narrow trail
that meandered over to the lake opposite the camp grounds
it featured a wealth of unpicked blueberries sweet and ripe
but although it was well-travelled I had to duck in places
Finally I realized when I reached the beach
and saw water just starting to fill in large fresh
bear tracks that I had to retreat.
Cautiously but quickly I headed back to the camp
layers of wood and water had grown over
my youth; there was really nothing left there:
no pyramids, no tombs, no bodies no
records — no place, just
what I hold in my heart
and bring to life in dreams
on my sweet island.

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About riverwriter

Poet, playwright, duplicate bridge player, website designer, cottager, husband, father, grandfather, former athlete, carpenter, computer helper for my friends, theatre designer, backstage polymath, retired teacher of highschool English, drama, art, a baritone singer in a barbershop quartet, who knows what else? wordcurrents is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wordcurrents/ Doug also has a Facebook page, "Incognitio", related to his novels.
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