Giant limbs glimpsed through steam, dangling
slab-muscled bodies so unlike your own, white
as the birch logs they, laughing, send you outside,
naked and important in the chill dusk, to poke
through a hole in the hut’s burning belly, beneath
orange-gilled rocks. Pink-slatted too, those
great flanks, welted as if branded or flailed, pink
as woodland flowers you may have glimpsed, pink
as parts of women you haven’t dreamed of yet.
Lake Nipissing, when you run with them whooping
into it, feels—just cool. Start of May. The ice ten
days out. Sauna is that strong a sorcerer. Keeping the
black lake back, then letting it creep in, and in, until,
a long half-minute, ice-jar shock makes you splash
and holler and run howling up the snow-striped muddy
slope to dipper and steam, radiant rock cradle.
Dreams so single then: to play as a utility forward
on the Montreal Canadiens’ fourth line. To kiss
Kathy Lawrence. The trick with dreams, you sense
without thinking, is to shorten their distance from
reality, trim the fuse-chopped gap to crossable. But
life more mountain-strange than dreams, more
chock and various its constant drops and vistas.
Those men, one my father, both gone now. And
yet as they live in the sweating mist, young enough
to be my sons, though I have had no children.
Dreams, shy deer, pick unseen places in the woods
to curl upon themselves and join soft dark. After
ransack years, skirting death upon a narrow
wobbly beam, you become an ink man, poised to
spot the drop where steam and ice-water kiss.