Creative Writing News

Ursa Minor: Poetry inspired by real Northern news

Arctic northern lights landscape

“Friends, family, RCMP searching for Jake Angurasuk in Iqaluit.” CBC. December 15, 2016.

Three Thousand Kinds

a man goes by

on a bicycle, the chain

needs to be oiled, the sound

of this badly kept machine crying out to be

 

better kept is the only

sound on the street in this night, a night

 

in which a man is dying for want of the same

sort of repair, the man

 

tries to sleep without going to sleep, fears

sleeplessness

 

and cold, above his hatless head

Raven

 

perches in the unfathomable parka the gods gave him, dozing

wide awake with one eye open on

 

a wire which holds a string of white

christmas lights, several of the lights

 

in the line have gone out, the man

looks up at the bird, sparks

 

up his last smoke so that it glows

warm in the frigid dark, says

 

brother

tell me why

 

looking up at the starlit sky alone

puts a hole in my heart sure

 

as a bullet, tell me

the reason i am sad

 

when there is something, sad

when there is nothing, why

 

china tea cups get chips

in their painted rims, explain

 

why there can be a hundred days of winter nights but spring

slips away even before it arrives, how it is

 

that some scent on the wind reminds me

of the loss of her and not the loving, how it can feel

 

like a man is drowning

miles and miles away from any sea, why

 

glass breaks and bottles run dry, candles

burn out, gardens fail, dogs die, children

 

forget their mothers, run away, come

to a bleak unknowable hour when

 

they become men and can never

return home again, why it is there are

 

three thousand kinds

of unhappiness but joy

 

only the sort that arrives

in flickering moments like the light

 

that filters through the wings of birds as they pass

pale shadows over your face in flight, a brief

 

brilliant thing

that is gone

 

in a breath and leaves

nothing but weak memory to hold on to?

 

the questions

go out

 

with the cigarette, smoked

down to a filter, now

 

there is nothing left

to burn, still the man

 

holds the stub in his lips like a coin

he might swallow to hold

 

silent under his tongue

to pay the Boatman, Raven

 

shifts, regards the man with his weary

cold-burnt face, sighs

 

you would think

that i alone

 

as Maker of this broken world would know

but i don’t

 

the man thinks about this, says

i wish

 

i had another cigarette, then

says nothing again, in the morning

 

the cars come, one

on one, crush

 

the tightly packed snow tighter

beneath their turning wheels


Editor’s note: The search for Jake Angurasuk was called off after his body was discovered outside Iqaluit on December 18, 2016. 

Photo credit: istockphoto/erectus

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