Adelaide Literary Magazine


ADELAIDE Independent Monthly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Mensal, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  








by James Deahl



Down from Lookout Hill, walking out of sunlight,
the woods seem to darken. A dank scent rises
of spruce and moist soil the sun has not yet dried.
Beyond these shadows, a slope of autumn maples
catches fire as sunlight ignites each leaf.
And still beyond that, the blue, nearly purple,
of a far-away hill, like a lake suspended in fantasy.
Every October, fire and earth meet, mate, and
following winter’s six-month confinement, give birth
to spring. This afternoon the hills where these lovers
rolled smoulder, releasing the smoke of autumn.
The forest radiates a heat no northern lake can chill.
The farther one descends the higher October’s flames soar,
maples going from green to bright red to an even
deeper red laced with black resonance: nature’s canto negro.
Algonquin Park, a grand cathedral where voices echo,
each succeeding reverberation softer, more intimate:
the voice of a lover as the curtains are drawn.
Through a screen of paper birches the tale unfolds,
its plot gradually moving towards ecstasy
as daylight’s final bonfire elevates and conceals.




Autumn Ducks, Late October

                for Raymond Souster,
                January 15, 1921 – October 19, 2012


Another autumn, and mallards
blanket these secluded waters
of Chipican, sheltered from
the sharp gusts off Lake Huron.

They arrived from up north on their
journey to the Gulf of Mexico.
In afternoon’s sun they bob
on water surrounded by the gold

and burnt red of maples,
the yellows of locusts touched by frost.
All our flowers are finished,
even the brave asters have folded.

You have been gone six years, Ray,
and every year at migration time
your spirit comes on autumn’s wind
with the mallards on their way south.

Ducks tarry on Chipican, safe
before whisking away as winter
advances with its teeth of ice;
they sanctify each year since you were here.




Burnt Country, Evening


The great fires have swept past
bringing purification to the forest,
and fields of ash, mounds of toppled timber,
and broken stumps left to rot
when the rains begin in May.
The few trunks that remain upright
are seared and blistered, sporting only
charred stumps where stout branches grew.

Soon jack pine cones will open
to reclaim their land from the hand
of flame. All remains still
where fires have danced, the sky
as grey as smoke. Eventually, insects
will return to colonize what once was forest.

This is the ballet of rebirth
that continues without us,
even without anyone to bear witness.
Infernos burn, and as luck would have it,
a painter records, and life returns
without his help. Creation’s wild song
echoes down the billions of years
since that first fiery act of love.
Yet, it’s here, under this implacable sky,
that we discover ourselves:
we end in fire
and in fire find our beginning.






A big sky: blue-grey and orange clouds
cast their colours into the lake
to restore the unity of heaven and earth
within one vast sunset embrace.
What bare sky remains shines light blue,
almost pale yellow, still lit by
a sun sunk beyond black pines.

The clouds in the foreground hang darker;
they yearn for night to stride forth
from the forest to pull them down.
It must have been like this
when the first Canadians followed
the melting ice mountains north:
land, lake, and sky bound together.

In the quiet of dusk, one ponders
the origin of evil. How could
our separation from goodness arise?
Can evil exist without us?
Could cloud and lake have also fallen?

The evening grows cool. Only the slap
of water on rock breaks night’s reserve.
Soon the lake will be black as the forest.




In Times Of War


Canada’s autumn skies go on and on     
above these lakes that are truly great.
And wars, too; the wars carry on and on,
refugees drowning every day
between Tunisia and Sicily,
between Turkey and Greece.
Bodies drifting in the Mediterranean
and Ægæan Seas, bloated by salt water.

We enjoy the lassitude of calm waters
for our autumnal gales have yet to start.
We know they’ll arrive, and winter, too.
We know the wars will continue.
Wave after wave of death will come,
with winter closing in; so many dead
they can hardly be named, bodies piled
along the ragged edge of southern Europe.

Along the eastern edge of Huron
one great blue heron after another
passes by, enormous wings slowly flapping
on their way to the Gulf of Mexico.
There will be no bloated corpses awash
in Florida’s mangrove swamps, nor frantic cries
from those who cannot swim. Nothing moves
but our silent herons feeding.




Prairie Wind

                Midterm elections, 2018


When the wind slants off
the Great Lakes in November
it sings in the telephone wires
and rips the final leaves
from a line of cottonwoods.

Fodder corn stands in rows
in the gathering dusk,
stands tall through the prairie night
as the invisible wind
rises with a hint of frost.

Across the nation people vote,
embracing either fear
or forgiveness. They vote
and all the while November
comes down with its blade of ice.




Quite Early One January



and the bells of the village
become a garden of sound:
      bright chimes of metal
      the water-soaked
      greens and blues
      the older, darker bells.

Reverberations across water
      lake becomes river:
      a charm bracelet of delight.

How vibrant churches
seem,        every bell
different —
            an outpouring
      over neighbourhood homes

      neither clapboard nor frame

      but all possible shades
      of brick, staunch
      as those early farmers

      who broke unbroken

Sunday morning’s
such a joyous possibility

even snow-lined streets
and the battered trees
torn by hurricane Sandy

      cast a light
      of their own.



Last night my wife
and I ate lake trout
fresh from Purdy’s fishery
slow cooked in pure olive oil
and parsley

      today we’re awakened
      by bells over snow
      and the backyard windmills
      of our Dutch neighbours.

Once stirred to beauty
this village will not

Never numbered
among the unfaithful

we arise to attend
the Gnostic rite
of the sun’s return
      from the realm of death.

Every footfall in January
draws the sun closer

evokes life and song
      — pure incantation —
from resounding metal, cast
and hardened
      by the dexterous hand
      of an angel.

In the dawn that is breaking
      spirits of goodness




The West Wind


Like St. Patrick’s Purgatory
or the curved journey of Stonehenge,
we come ‘round again to outcropped rock
and lake and tree. And the insistent wind,
of course, there must be wind.
As with other penitential pilgrimages,
we discover love transfigured,
clarified, enkindled anew.

But love as we might, we can
only fail this land; the beauty
of trees shaped by wind — this celebration
of the moving and the fixed — transcends
our understanding. Painters always fail
their pigment; poets fail the words.
In sunlight’s stubborn gleam, whitecaps
spirit up from slate-grey lake.

These winds crossed a thousand miles
of prairie, Lake Superior, and
the abrading Bruce, to curve
the smaller tree into a spinnaker
billowing out and out as if to capsize
this promontory into Lake Cauchon.
Unrenounced life flares into dance.
The land’s forever claimed us.

Like Andromeda’s light tumbling
through two million years
to strike the eye, a cloud mysterious,
we have finally arrived.
Winds shift from north-northwest to southwest,
and riding the heady spring gusts
a mated pair of northern goshawks
heads ever further north.








About the Author:

James Deahl

James Deahl is the author of twenty-seven literary titles, the three most recent being: Red Haws To Light The Field, To Be With A Woman, and Landscapes (with Katherine L. Gordon). A cycle of his poems is the focus of the television documentary Under the Watchful Eye. He lives in Sarnia, Ontario, with his partner Norma West Linder.









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