Water and rock for twenty minutes
The Great Ice Road unfrozen
indigenous villages always in long view,
smoke of trash fires the only hint,
of the terrible thing that can’t be undone.
Big water and sky, a labyrinth,
rocks islands, trees with roots of steel,
ancient abundance, and too many fish to count.
Saltwater strong and big and from the depths, they
come from gentle taps, hard sets, pump and wind, pump and wind.
Hunter orange and pine greens on land, lichen, fish and fin,
Six-pounders for shore lunch, woodsmoke cowboy coffee and grease,
trophy grayling appetizers waiting for potatoes to cook.
Ancient caribou camp where we piss, offers clues: stone tools, bones.
Thirty-pound dinosaurs on cod-jigs.
Musk Ox sentinels gaze down stoic, ugly, proud.
Camp again, our rods religion, whiskey our sacramental water.
The Aurora three nights in, trash fire embers can’t compete.
Whiskey and a campfire,
A river and world between us
Gun shots in the dry town across the reach
Canadian Fulls, filters ripped off.
Dirt runway, sullen men wait on both sides.
Water and rock for twenty minutes,
In Yellowknife cheap booze gives way to meth.
Panhandler village kids twice displaced.
Future artifacts of that great sin that can’t be undone.
© J D Clapp