– for John Walter, Edmonton pioneer york boat builder, ferryman and mining, telegraph and lumber entrepreneur, whose wealth was wiped out in the 1915 flood. At 65, he was too old to start over.
I move about on this dark stream.
Every morning I unhook my vessel
for the day-long skimming,
constructing brief passages across it.
Those who take the passage
give me things to live by:
coins, creeds, and second thoughts.
At night I let the undercurrents
draw me limbs, lungs, and head below the surface.
There I come upon notions:
this will speed the passages next morning,
that will harness idle time.
I will find a use for whatever lies to hand.
I ignore the warnings of my swim,
though I dread the flood of more notions,
more things to do than can be laid hand to,
and my hand stayed.
© 1995 Douglas Elves; broadcast 2005 on CBC Alberta Anthology as part of a prize-winning suite of poems; and used in province-wide final examinations by Saskatchewan Learning, 2007.