The end of Canada

We went to the end of Canada:
By foot to our cars
from our homes
filled with loved and little ones
by our cars to Gordon’s
home where Sheila watched us
load provender into the land shark,
into the trailer with its tiny wheels
and its greasy tarpaulin.
By land shark to the highway
that connects upper to lower Canada
by highway to Montreal
by Montreal to night
by dawn to Chibougamou.
We were not at the end of Canada.

We went to the end of Canada:
Clouds had settled in.
Because the clouds could not fly,
they ate dinner in a buffet restaurant
that served frogs’ legs and giant prawns.
And then the clouds went to a motel room
where they slept two to a bed
in a double room.
They all masturbated and went to sleep.
They were not at the end of Canada.


We went to the end of Canada.
We went in an airplane that had been designed
by Leonardo da Vinci,
drawn on a piece of parchment
with chalk that Leo had dug out of the earth himself,
thereby blackening his nails forever.
The pilot knew nothing of this.
The pilot sat with huge foam mouse ears on his head.
Every so often he would pick up the radio transmitter,
and speak in a foreign tongue.
Electricity would answer.
Electricity would report that
storms claimed the welkin,
and although we were welcome to the land,
electricity could not guarantee safe passage.
That was all right for we four,
we who wanted to go to the end of Canada.

We wanted to go to the end of Canada.
One was young and lean and smoked cigarettes.
One was a little older, a little meatier, and didn’t.
I was older still, much meatier, and I smoked cigars
and also the young man’s cigarettes
every so often.
The fourth man was the oldest.
He had been to the end of Canada
when he was young. When he was a young man
he went to the end of Canada.
He fished at the end of Canada
and caught a fish of such brilliant hue that he went blind, in a way. Although he could still see,
he could only see certain things
and then only when the sunlight glanced off them
just so
or if they were hidden behind waterfalls
or buried in the earth beside poisonous mushrooms.
It was to get his sight back—
it was to go blind forever
that he went to the end of Canada.


Up the river by canoe.
The trees that stood by the river were naked.
They were black and shrivelled burn victims.
Fires had burned the edges of Canada.
And overhead, where God,
wearing the old cotton shirt which He never takes off—
not even for company—
overhead there was fearsome energy.
Storms waited at the end of Canada,
thuggish storms, still angry
over some misunderstanding,
that happened years and years ago,
years and years before the end of Canada.


In the river an island waited for us,
and had been waiting for what seemed like forever.
The island had passed its time
doing watercolours.
Although the island’s technique had improved
over eternity
the island’s subject matter had grown


The men made their camp and went to sleep
and in their sleep fishing dreams came.
Fishing dreams come to men,
just as running dreams come to wolves
or walking dreams to fish.
So fishing dreams come to men
especially when they are near the end of Canada.

They awoke and climbed into canoes.
The river was pissed at them for being
awake so early...
so it roiled and bubbled and bounced them
rudely over rocks.
The river didn’t care.
Sometimes it made two of them walk
along the cling of the bank
while the old man and another
rode the dare
with the old man in the stern
hooting like an owl with a shillelagh up its arse,
the other leaning out over the bow
waiting for something to be stuck up his own.
The river didn’t care.
Sometimes the river made them all get out,
the river made them bind the boat
with rope, fore and aft,
and lead the canoe like slaughtermen lead
cows to the hammer,
bucking and bulky and hard to handle.
The river didn’t care.
The river laughed.
But they were almost at the end of Canada.


Right before the end of Canada,
the very second, the instant before
was an island.
It was the most wonderful island
because there were beautiful fish made of gold
in the water all around it
and peanut butter sandwiches grew on the little bushes there.
The peanut butter was chunky and the fish were fat.
The men all ate and grew stronger;
then they paddled
the last few moments
to the
end of Canada.

There was a waterfall at the end of Canada.
Beside it was a stream.
The stream tried to be like its big brother,
but it was just a stream, not a waterfall.
We began to walk alongside it.
And the fish saw us and waved
and the fish said,
“Psst, buddy, want to see a picture of my sister?”
but we kept walking and then
we were there.

And at the very end of Canada
there was a pool.
I dropped a Despair through a cloud of black flies
and it was taken
with a sound light as a kiss—
but no kind of kiss that you or I
have ever given or received—
and at the end of the line was a brook trout
that weighed two perfect pounds.


And then I turned away
and Canada
went on forever.