The tufts of grey fur lie on the spruce-lined path
like a taxidermist’s slough, an afterlife in the works.
Look closer and you’ll see shards of ivory bone,
bits and pieces of what once was scurry or slide.
Kill site, tableaux vivant, chills turning into
second thoughts. Your eyes stray to the orange
lichen on the limestone, captivated more
by living chemicals than death’s debris.
What if these were human remains, a corpse,
cadaver? A finger, perhaps, on the verge
of shrivel. Or the custard cup of an ear,
ready to spill a whole chorus of rain.
Picture stumbling across an entire torso;
not even the Venus de Milo that blatantly
pale. Would you scream a little, let shock
paralyze until the blue between the fans of spruce
reminded you the sky is climbing still,
maybe even a raven with a missing tail feather,
a wild crease in the utter flatness of recognition?
The next turn in the path is insistent. Snapping
sound in the distance. You are most alive
when you don’t know what’s going to happen
when the stilts of the heron suddenly unfold
into parachutes of wings. Around the bend,
a shrew becomes a momentary glimpse,
something that will suit your here-and-gone
relationship with time. The greyness
at your temples flashes silver as vision
darts into the forest, a shard of self-
awareness like a bone stripped to its ghost.
Published online April 01 2013.
Barry Dempster, twice nominated for the Governor General’s Award, is the author of sixteen books. In 2010, he was a finalist for the Ontario Premiers Award for Excellence in the Arts. A new collection from Brick Books and a novel from Pedlar Press will be published in the fall of 2013.