bike ride to the lakeside
You pedal quickly, fingers buzzing hot from cocoa,
The good kind that’s left a grain on the backs of your teeth,
That your tongue can’t quite clean off right.
Your breath puffs in the air like a trail of cumulus cloud,
While the light hits the snow banked high at the sides of the path, winking
Sweet and clever like a face from the bus window.

You pedal quickly, fingers tight around the handlebars
Of the scrappy bike the neighbour gave you for raking her leaves
Two autumns ago. The wheels squeak loud protest
Like the mice you had when you weren’t much taller than the bicycle,
And your choices hadn’t unfolded themselves at your feet like a dirty carpet yet,
When your eyes didn’t hurt from squinting too long into the sun.

You pedal quickly, fingers folding over the brakes as the lake explodes
At the end of the unpaved path, shotgun-fast, like a buck whose grazing has been startled.
The bare tree branches sigh and shiver against the sky like inverted lightning
Branching its way towards you and you want to reach upwards, subconsciously,
To protect your face from the impact that’s never going to come,
Because you are very small and very fast, and trees need time to wake their old bones.

You stop your pedaling and jam your hands into your pockets, bike touching down hard to gravel,
Snow crunching beneath your tight-laced boots as you —
How many times did they warn you against this? How quickly a few centimeters of ice can
Prove to be wafer-thin, how many stories of a misplaced step, a wrong turn of the wheel —
The ice beneath the powder is gritty and rough, aggrieved,
Because it still remembers the way it used to ripple in the willow-wind.

Above your head the sky yawns sleepily as it blinks down at you,
You the dilated dark pupil in the whites of this seeing crater,
The visionary, the medium or the lens, but you cannot be both.
The sun beams down to the eye to the thousand sluggish brains,
Underneath your feet, an arrest of time, a deep sleep where the light doesn’t reach,
But it reaches you just fine, so you cover your face to hide from it.

There is an apocalypse of sleeping beasts beneath the ice,
Fish and frogs, painted turtles, slipstone and brine, measurable salinity,
The bord-du-lac where the beavers come up to survey the wintertime, all of them,
All of them down there, one eye open the other in a dream of summer,
All of them thinking about how your time is up,
Your time is up, your time is up.