ChrisHalf400Flute 02

 

 

Open Spaces Chapbook 2001 (by Chris Ludwig)  
Part II can be viewed here:  http://www.chrisludwig.com/other-interests/poetry/open-spaces-chapbook/ii-the-inside-track 

The Ridge

three solitary hikers
on a ridge of blueberry and fireweed
ripe with color and dust
a sea of red leaves
angled sharply
relentlessly
straddled with old fallen timber
and freshly planted cedar
they switchback down
towards the old logging road below them
choked
with slide alder
and ripped
apart by innumerable creeks
and at the base of the ridge
a small black ball of fuzz
moving slowly
in curiosity
towards them
flowing over the branches and logs
as effortlessly
as a light breeze
passes through dense underbrush
but by yelling and hurling stones
the baby is dissuaded
returning to its  mother
who, enraged
follows the three
stalking their footsteps
below the logging road
until finally vanishing
as quietly as she came
into the impenetrable alder
of the clear-cut

Greenhouse

there is a brand new greenhouse
standing on a field once yellow with long grasses
where a rotting old barn used to stand,
a place where small rodents
and the ever elusive barn own lived

a greenhouse
with perfectly clean panes
that mirror the moon’s image
and its dull light
year round

a greenhouse
smothering the fertile delta
with grow lights
reflecting an orange halo off the clouds

in the winter
steam emanates from its boiler
billowing out of a small smokestack
like warm moist breath from a bull on a cold day
or an industrial plant
filled with imperatives
and systems of production:

genetically engineer
modify
B.C. Hothouse
red tomatoes in aisle one at your local Safeway

each little pot of dirt grows boldly
protected from the scourge of
blight, mealy bugs, aphids
and the infamous spider mite
suspended above the ground on benches
their roots
desperately straining to gain a hold
of the earth
lying beneath the concrete floor

Cerise Creek

I punch through snow
between the firs
only tufts of branches and greenery
stand aloft

red algae dots the spring snow
whose colonies flourish
in meltouts and indents

the wind rubs my ear
competing with the noisy creek
for attention
they argue for a little while

the creek hisses and spits
while the wind roars and rumbles
together forming a canopy of sound
that smothers the crunching of my footsteps

then gradually
the creek fades away
with the passing rock outcroppings
and gullies
leaving only
the wind

the algae grows the thickest in the sun
and as the trees thin
the red grows deeper
and more dense
appearing in streaks
and blotted patches

the cabin is at the tree-line
its glass windows face the
mist-drenched anniversary glacier
dotted with ascending climbers                                                

the crumbs in the cabin
feed the rats
despite the sign saying not to
and the lake nearby is poisoned
we call it “lake giardia”

these are only minor problems
nothing a tent and water filter can’t solve

on the way back down
while mindlessly traversing a steep slope
I lose my footing
and free-fall like a stone over a cliff
only to come to a halt
by crashing into a tree

I am
deep inside a tree well
my face cringes and
mimics the broken and uneven
southeast ridge of Mount Joffre

blood trickles from my hands
and splatters on the snow
melding with the algae
sticks and branches
becoming indistinguishable

the forest looks on, says
nothing

Illuminati

in a glass office tower
green window panes
reflect the December sun
a glowing ball
heated ember against glass

the board sits around a curvaceous glass table on the fourteenth floor
the number thirteen denied
the chairs around the table are made of a dull gray leather
hand stitched in the third world

the sun barely penetrates the glass windows
which are tinted --
natural light meets closed blinds
that hide the meeting from adjacent office towers

the air inside is stale
recycled to keep the germs outside

the florescent lights murmur
item 2.3 on the agenda
a loose discussion
I’ll second that motion
a voice from the table pipes up

voices quibble until the late hours
until the sun disappears behind the high-rises
and casts its shadows on the downtown core

Toronto is cold at night
especially inside the board rooms of the city
but on the outside
on the ground
even the littlest of germs
can have free range over the city
perhaps by walking down thirteenth avenue

but one shouldn’t stay there too long
either in the office tower
or on the street
for one might quickly freeze to death
and never know it

Balance

 the tiny metal stove
was balanced in the snow
with a large stainless steel pot on top
full of our pasta and beans
ready to
topple
with the slightest breeze
under the cover of my vestibule

Squirrel

black squirrel meets highway 99
it dashes out from the shoulder
tale arched forward
and comes to a startled halt 
in front of my 3/4 ton
black Ford F250
rumbling along,
15 clicks over the speed limit

the chassis thunders over the tiny body
dead center to the grill
tail tucked
back arched
so that its body’s a ball

I see it spin off to one side
in the rear-view mirror
then
an attempt at running
another car
a miss
and then another
now out of view

squirrel
lost in the blackness
of the asphalt

The Boundary Bay Cemetery

I)

a grave sits near the gate
on a plot
separated from the others
by a grid of cement roadways

although the lettering is faded
this stone is etched to resist
the wind and the rain
and the cold of a long winter
that day in and day out
takes its toll on even the most constituted of memories

but on this August day
a few visitors wander to and from the placards
deep and black, the glowing marble
radiates a warmth
that can be felt without touch

small clusters of flowers
roses typically
mark the surrounding stones
each petal triggers a memory
or an excuse perhaps
for mistakes gone by
of time poorly spent

this stone
is marked by one fresh rose
placed earlier in the afternoon
by an elderly woman
dressed in her best
Sunday church attire

she carried that rose
across town
all the way from Harris’s nursery

II)

on top of the hill
overlooking the bay and the houses around
is a faded monument of granite
its parts in various stages of decay
nameless and formless
polished smooth and shrouded in
weeds and uncut grasses
its rough edges now gone

does anyone remember the man
who survived both world wars?

this tombstone carries no baggage
like its younger counterparts
it will not accept flowers
to ease past pains
or to serve as a beacon
for someone’s life story

Thetis Island Ferry

I)

hasn’t changed in twenty years
it is still flat bottomed
its deck
open to rain, wind,
and corrosive salt water spray

the small bridge sits elevated on the port side
accessed by an open flight of stairs
of perforated metal
to let the water run through
with a boom in front
painted black
supporting a search light

the ship’s propeller spews white foam in all directions
from its spinning blades
propulsion in all directions
you can see it from the car deck
a roaring tiger
trapped within a wire safety cage

II) 

the captain I knew was
plump, with a demeanor that seemed routine
he knew my father, somehow
and so I got to steer the ferry

he put his hat on my head
a captain’s hat
with golden stitches
and brass bars
but the hat didn’t stay on very well
it leaned to one side immediately 

on the horizon
I could see the countless trees of the inner Gulf Islands
and the gently sloping hills
extending around the cockpit
the small channel felt as though it went on forever

I piloted the Thetis Island ferry
alone
following the direction of the captain’s index finger
aiming towards Chemainus
until it was time to dock

III)

one day
the captain was unsteady
his eyes were glazed and his forehead sweaty
he was approaching the dock too fast

in the past he liked to throw the propeller into reverse
at the last moment
for sport

this time, however, he was too late
the tiger caged beneath the car deck
began to lash out
white foam spewed out uselessly
until the bow of the ship came smashing into the piling
crumpling them towards the shore

the cement causeway
the guard-rails and wooden bumpers,
all crushed

into a jumbled array of elements
coming to rest
on the rocky shore

the captain’s hat
now rested upside down on the floor
next to the steering wheel

and there was no way
that I could pick up that hat
I knew
that it no longer belonged on my head

Night on the Straight of Georgia

a smattering of flashing lights
the city
too distant
glowing beyond the mud banks
shielded by the trees

you try to pick out the light at the river’s mouth
sandheads
the strongest flashing light
pulsing like a heart beat
red
mounted on a small weather station
amongst the buoys
and wooden dolphins

it flashes
faint hope
when the waves surge in all directions
frothing at their tops
walls of water
laden with river silt
breaking over the cabin
the fiberglass hull
shuddering with each trough

the wind blasts
striking you broadside
the bow noses off course
you compensate
sandheads swings wildly in the horizon
your steering becomes frantic

you grab the marine radio
set it to channel 16
the coast guard’s station
you clutch the transceiver tightly
just in case
instinct suppresses fear
you angle the bow north of your target
ease on and off the throttle with each wave
let the wind and the current push
you in the right direction

and you bear down on that flashing light
the river jetty at the south arm of the Fraser
where the rocks suppress the surge
that thrusts and pounds the shoreline
all night

© 2017 Chris Ludwig