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Woodcutter returns, smelling of pine sap and salt while

the pong of rotting animal wafts in behind unnoticed


like humidity in the dead of mosquito summer

Woodcutter leans his axe by the cabin door and crosses

a floor of hand-hewn planks and eats cold soup and bread


at a simple table of his own manufacture

Woodcutter faces the empty chair and thinks of

how things would have been oh so very different long


on that final day if only he had been there for her

Woodcutter lies in a bed narrow as a canoe and his mind

sways to the rhythm of waves licking the pebbled


then retreating, unsure of the taste, to the deep centre

Woodcutter awakens to the call of loons and caresses

the tender meat of his palm where the long sliver is still


afraid that if he pulls it out the pain would stop forever



Western sun blinds us, hot sizzling tar top, road turns soft, weeds encroach gravel shoulders, wobbly line horizon emptiness, smells like hell

Even the song on the radio doesn’t like the look of this place

Here’s what I say

Let’s turn this thing around, point it back home, shitty old van sprayed amateur gray, puffy tires black sprinkle donuts, cracked leatherette seats the colour of chewed toffee

C’mon, turn it around, let the low sun push from behind, back across la frontière du Québec

Just turn it around

Tonight we’ll unfurl threadbare bags, lumpy pillows of shoes rolled in towels still damp from the river dip, shiver to sleep on the Plains of Abraham, you snoring at constellations, me dreaming aloud till morning comes, together keeping wolves away

If we’re lucky

Boil a pot of sunup coffee in dented percolator aluminum gray, pack up and split before cops come banging round, keep going going

Let’s head back east yes yes I changed my mind, one thing I can still do, don’t wait for an apology

Yes, you’ll turn the wheel and say but darlin’ the past will swallow us whole, as we slide down this long throat of highway

Cars will pass going god knows where, children waving hello goodbye from backseat windows smudged little faces pressed, I want to smile but don’t

Stop along the roadside quick, squat among flowering Solidago beside chittering insects, then tune in a station we know, hear a song never heard before

We’ll lie in wet green grass / we’ll blow the borrowed cash

We’ll live on the edge of a storm / change our shape, shift our form

Put away your gun, baby / you won’t need your gun

Maybe we’ll be invisible / I want to be invisible

To everyone but you

Sudden rain hits windshield, wet shrapnel cracks against glass, wipers flap drowning crows, won’t see a goddamn thing as we pass but the sign will say



We’ll get cold lobster, store-bought mayonnaise, pass it back & forth in the front seat, stick fishy fingers in deep and suck clean, share the cider we stole from the dep in Montreal, spill it in our laps and laugh and keep driving

You can’t replant, you say, those softened rotten roots from seeds unseen unsown ungrown

So you say

I say let’s get back in time to hear the tide roaring up the chocolate river, muddy floodwaters returning as shorebirds circle under clouds, waiting not leaving

I am a smudged face child on a swing trying to see over the tops of houses, I am playing hide & seek, running, trying to see around corners, I’m a child painting pictures–sun blue, sky yellow–trying to become invisible


Penny Sarmada (they/them) is from Ontario. Recent stuff in Versification, Cotton Xenomorph, Roi Fainéant, and Sledgehammer. Twitter: @PennySarmada

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