Local Smoke

by Ariel Gordon

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer. Her second collection of poetry, Stowaways (Palimpsest Press, 2014), won the 2015 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry. When not being bookish, Ariel likes tromping through the woods and taking macro photographs of mushrooms.

 

I come out of work & the sky is smoky 1
& there are bees all over the flagging fuchsia peony, making short
hops from flower to flower
to flower, the breeze shifting the entire plant, each stalk

a few inches. The bees in the flowers: the yellow stamens,
the beer-bottle sun of late afternoon
on the trampled daylilies, where you can still see
fragments of white shell & the weight of juvenile geese, yelling

from the flowerbed
& then gone. Halfway home, my hair smells like a doused campfire
& there is the school fence where people have hung
supermarket bouquets & ball caps & a grey neck-tie,

where that boy died 2. A knife stupidly secreted in a pocket.
A knife stupidly prised open. The strangely ordinary hum
of that grey stretch where teachers
worked on him.

Late spring works on all of us: heaving lilac blooms,
elm seed, viable goose eggs & the duds left in the nest, knowing
from slow-news-day editorials
that conservation officers sometimes sneak around,

shaking eggs. Beyond the memorial, a dead cankerworm,
neon-green curl on the sidewalk
& then, a single perforated leaf. The rest of the way home,
I’m the person—a week from now—who will be asked to throw out

the ragged bouquets. I’m the goose roosting on the roofline, having lost
half his goslings to traffic. I’m also the peony full
of bees,
knowing I’m safe. Mostly home—

That there are still bees, wearing yellow waterwings
full of pollen. That so much
of Saskatchewan’s boreal forest
is burning that we can taste it on the breeze. That a boy

died because someone stupidly produced a knife.
That the boys’ half-grown fists are swollen
peony buds & this poem
a determined ant.

 

  1. “Environment Canada has issued a special air quality statement for Winnipeg. Smoke from forest fires burning in Saskatchewan has created hazy conditions and yellow skies in Winnipeg for most of Monday.”—Winnipeg Free Press, 06/8/2015
  2. “A lunch-hour stabbing at Kelvin High School on Tuesday left one teen dead and another in custody. Sources have identified former Kelvin student Brett Bourne as the victim in the attack, which happened on school grounds around 12:30 p.m. near the Crescentwood school’s southeast doors.”—Winnipeg Free Press, 06/2/2015

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer. Her second collection of poetry, Stowaways (Palimpsest Press, 2014), won the 2015 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry. When not being bookish, Ariel likes tromping through the woods and taking macro photographs of mushrooms.

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