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The Word on Cootes Paradise

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


The bay was called Cootes Paradise after
an Englishman named Coote. A foot-wide path
loses the last, stone-grey, staggered roof-tops
with a casual turn and does not fold back

until across the break it stands in clear
prospect of Arcadia. Below the hills,
the thumb of a small lake might seem to press
(from where a passing coot circles above)

into the soft dough of the wood, rising
on three sides around it, lightly crusted
and browned by the November fallen leaves.

The pond-side gathers debris like tea-bract
at the brim, glinting ciphers from the stirred
duff and sediment that I have come to read.

A sudden night frost has dropped in the bay
a clear, brittle patina, an ice-skin
that puckers on the water, where the coot
now circles down, goes out and prints its name

with dibbled steps in the snow and flies off.
That sheen over the bay's black element,
for a while, will brace the morning's flurry
where it fell, and rose winded like cold down.

But by noon the ice will have long darkened
to lake-blues, and the mild light will sop up
the nervous, scrawling, dotty signature

of our English migrator, long gone,
who anyway always made it a practise,
so the word goes, not to walk on water.


Jeffery Donaldson's works copyright © to the author.


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