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Sea Horse

What is a country, after all,

but the shadow of some mythic beast

projected on the roundness

of a sphere — the two-dimensional

skin of a tale told often.


Upon a time, when my days spun long

and legendary, bedtime was an arbitrary mark

on the clock’s train-ticketing face. My bed

lay flat and quiet as a station platform

after the engine leaves. In the twilight

I curled on my side, stared up at my wall,

at the map of the world.

Found my

country. Imagined it a pink horse rearing

from the sea — Hudson’s Bay like a saddle

on its back, rising to the high pommel

of Ungava.  Its tail lashed the ocean

with arabesque peninsulas — Avalon,

Cape Race, Cape Sable. Names flung

like fine spray on my face.

What did I feel for it? For this

name I sang in the pink-tongued

morning classroom?  OHHH CANaDAH.

The tune boring. The words orotund

as small planets in our mouths.

My map-shadow was big. I liked that.

As though we’d won some competition.

And even though I lived so small

in it. A few streets, a schoolyard,

a ravine with squirrel voices,

sumac leaves.

How could I know      its size

was part illusion, a trick

of flattening, a fiction shaped

by the spreading of a sphere.

Still, it was big. I learned a true tale

of its distance, told in the chuff of train wheels

all the way to Winnipeg. I was baggage, travelling

with my Scottish grandmother. She couldn’t

comprehend a trip of thirty-seven hours and cried

all night, so sure we’d missed our stop.

But, for me, legends wakened with the dawn

in mist whispered from lakes. Sumac scrawled

red crayon fingers at the foot of granite cliffs.

Rock rose from water, pink and fabulous

as my sea horse in the new light of the sun.

What is a country after all

but a tale of lakes and leaves,

a myth of schoolrooms,

a certain size and shape

cast on the curvature

of thought.

– From Lattice of the Years

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