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Deep River, Ontario, Population 4,325

Jeffrey Donaldson
From:   Waterglass. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1999.

                                     for Jeffery Peter Haindl
                                     Born 5 June 1988

We're often homesick, Jeffery, for the place
we first try these mild waters that distil
in time. To stay put's a hard thing the body
can't do for long. But there are chimes and chants
you might hear tell of--the trees, the river--
for nights when you must dream yourself to sleep.

What else will remain of this time when sleep
gives way only to a hunger your body
surprises you with? (It means another chance
at that nipple you worry to replace
what Freud defined as our forsaken Stille.)
Not at home, it's streams that we're forever

coming back to, when the mind's dark river
begins filtering the silt and the chance
leaves of memory that never stay in place.
Light and faces that flow now past your body--
like shapes on a pendant mobile--while you sleep,
are saved there; sometime, in a hostile

world, you'll seek comfort in those fleeting stills.
But how have you come here in the first place?
Small wonder. The hospital at Deep River
was more a sick bay! A few beds for sleep,
a car lot with some cars in it: nobody
but your mother was there. A good chance

to get comfortable alone. But as chance
would have it, motions of that patient river
weren't lost on you, and the watery sleep
you had just spilled from are within you still.
We see it as we watch you in your place
how well you've grasped, more than anybody

here, the quiet, the strangeness of a body
left just beyond you at the door of sleep,
like a child in a basket, quite still,
to raise each morning as your own. A river's
good to keep in mind: whatever you chance
to make of yourself, it will have its place,

be that place far away as Come-by-Chance,
Newfoundland, or near as the body that now sleeps
off the stillness in the waters by Deep River.

Jeffery Donaldson's works copyright © to the author.

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