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Emma Lake Chronicles


well, i figure i learned something today

there was a couple of logs
in the fireplace here
looking to get crisped
i was feeling cold anyway
so i looked around for some paper
you need paper to start a fire
& all there was
was a pile of folded toilet paper
the shiny stuff
so i took a bunch
scrunched them up in twos & threes
placed them all over the logs
& lit a match

the fire musta lasted thirty seconds, at least

you need kindling to start a fire
paper helps but
there’s no more paper--
all that stuff i wrote
yesterday’s already gone
to the garbage
so i step outside
looking for kindling
‘you lookin to make a fire too’
says the guy next door
arms full of split logs
he plays hockey
‘i got some newspapers
if you need’

i say yeah, great & start
picking up kindling
bark dead leaves twigs & shit
roll up the newspaper
lay it all on top of the logs
& dead toilet paper
& light a match

the fire musta lasted forty five seconds at least
there was lots of smoke
even with the draft wide open

that’s when i got inspired
some call it smart
but it’s an Art this fire business
so i pulled out the half-burned paper
the charred bark
& smouldering bits of kindling
& stuffed them under the logs
yeah underneath & in-between
& lit a match

it was magic


one guy here has a book out
All Star Poet!
with a cheesecake shot of him
in hockey gear
no top
in a lockerroom
his wife’s a midwife in Nipawin
he says stuff like
‘sailing’s a thinking man’s sport.’
one of the women says
like she didn’t hear
& he repeats
‘sailing’s a thinking man’s sport.
or woman’s.’
i say ‘try thinker.’
& that’s a funny thing about english
i can be a writer a driver a teacher
but not
a poet an actor a master
in some dictionaries

how can anyone write
& not be
a thinker


the food here isn’t bad
the main spice is
sugar. yesterday
we had two salads:
macaroni salad
& bean salad
they were both sweet
one was sweet ‘n’ sour
one was just plain sweet
there were canned pears
wet sweet
& a coffee cake
dry sweet
& three kinds of juice
crystal sweet
& coffee
sweetened to suit

my energy lasts
about one poem’s worth


emma lake’s pretty busy
as backwoods enterprises go
somebody even got some mail here
so i haven’t lost hope

our chef charlie
of Charlie’s Chicken Kitchen, Christopher Lake
goes in to christopher lake every day
or so
to pick up & drop off mail
among other things
he also orders sugar
by the tonne
he’d love to see emma lake
a booming concern
another chicken kitchen
a gas station for speedboats

some of us lie awake
nights planning
a counter-enterprise
sand in the gastanks
nets across the channel

emma lake’s
a growing concern

Trivial Pursuits

mostly our days are spent
chasing ideas
mixing paints or
tapping out words

evenings are when the serious work
cribbage takes too much luck
bridge too much planning
facts are something
we all can get a handle on

we pick straws for teams
roll dice for turns
the other guys get 20
right in a row
four pieces of cheese

we get
where was the world’s fair held in 1939
we know
it wasn't poland
& pass the dice along

things are too tense
for flirting


last night i had to eat a slug
twice i remember
it was gooey
& kept sticking to my teeth
when i tried to get it out

there was a woman who said
you don’t have to eat that slug

maybe it’s the six moths
that invaded my cabin
between supper & bedtime
not even a light on
to draw them
i caught them
one by one
in a yogourt tub
threw them outside thinking
thank god the prairies
don't have slugs

this morning on my pillow
another moth


you know, & it’s a funny thing
this caring business
some of us
want the lake to stay
pure, natural, tranquil
for the ducks
the clean water
our children’s
children. we say
don’t those people
care? & we hope
for a while
& we hint
for a while
& we beg

& then one day
we’re madder than hell

you know, it’s a funny business
this caring thing, Degen:
i don’t piss in your lake
why you smoke in my air?

Emma Lake, Saskatchewan, 1983

Published on 08/02/2007


 © L. A. Wolanskyj

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