Home >> Volume 7, Issue 01

Reading from the Portuguese in Atikokan

William Walsh

Walking through an Ontario forest to a field of cord grass,
swaying, circular, as I sat on my moss mat, reading,
overlooking Batchewaung Bay,
I wondered why the world fails to explain
how nothing first becomes something,
like a woman’s love for a man or the spark
of an idea to create anything, say a poem
or song or painting.  It is an act of faith
to create, to believe beyond mere existence,
yet, before us, nearly inexplicably, the world unfolds
like a Nodding Trillium.

It is faith these Boy Scouts have that I can lead them
into the wilderness and out safely, sixty miles
from the nearest road.  Faith is a dangerous land
filled with bear, rutting moose, open water
lightning storms, but in time, we succumb to the idea
of pulling a mystery from the depths
as our lures scour the boney waters.
I can call it nothing else as we stick our hands
through the universe, like the Hubble telescope,
to the other side for His, unsure what is out there.
We never know much about the world
until we must explain it to our children.

Then, canoeing to Lake Agnes to the petroglyphs,
with my line dragging behind the stern,
I thought of the man 20,000 years ago
who drew bison, deer, and an auroch,
painted his hand on the wall in red ochre
then left.  Did he think about the stars?
What would he have thought about the fire I built
this evening, the blue walleye sizzling on the spit
and the stories we told, and how we’ve come to believe
in what we cannot see or know, including ourselves.