Cherish the day 16 canoe.., p.1
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       Cherish the Day: 16 Canoe Poems for Summer, p.1

           Lenny Everson
Cherish the Day: 16 Canoe Poems for Summer
Cherish the Day:

  16 Canoe Poems for Summer

  By Lenny Everson

  Illustrations by Lois Foell and Lenny Everson

  rev 2

  Copyright Lenny Everson 2011

  For Dianne, my paddle-partner.

  This free ebook may be copied, distributed, reposted, reprinted and shared, provided it appears in its entirety without alteration, and the reader is not charged to access it.

  Cover design by Lenny Everson


  List of Poems

  Come and Share

  Avoiding a Portage

  I Have Crossed Landscapes

  Only a Light Beyond the Ridge

  Hot Afternoon, Long Grass

  Sonnet for a Very Dry August

  The Downwind Dance

  On a Cartwheeling Planet

  Summer is for Love

  But, Oh! So Few Julys


  Like Butterflies, Like Butterflies

  Night Thunderstorm

  Sonnet for June

  To the natural buzz and bite of June

  If We Were Free


  Come and Share

  Come and share the wind with me

  The night is full of tears

  On the last portage, we'll find

  Our footprints on the years

  Come and share the night with me

  Warmth on warmth in dark

  When the wind shakes the tent

  You are fire, I am spark

  You are fire, I am spark

  Against the tears of night

  In torch and touch and sudden flame

  To reach, then hold on tight


  Avoiding a Portage

  With but one portage to go, he said

  Let’s go up the creek instead.

  You gotta be kidding....

  We stomped on trout and sank in muck

  We pushed logs, pulled logs, and straddled logs

  The canoe went over, under and around logs

  We sank, swam, sloshed, and cursed

  Before we paddled away

  But we saved a portage

  Brainless bozo! I wonder

  If we can plan another trip.


  I Have Crossed Landscapes

  I have crossed landscapes

  And am proud of it

  Pushing a red canoe on a July lake

  Pausing on a portage, by a swamp, the frogs

  Hesitating, lapsing into silence

  I have waited out thunderstorms

  And have gone on, the flat-rock trails

  Alive with deerflies

  And do not regret it

  Oh! I would not like

  To be God, always knowing

  What's behind the next violet hill

  Or when

  All the loans of time

  Come due.


  Only a Light Beyond the Ridge

  It was nothing, I tell you

  The wind in the aspen tops

  Some dark cloud that lied about rain

  Some terrible silence of the cicadas

  The tamed man’s doubts returned again

  The canoe too heavy on my shoulders

  The ground underfoot, moving a bit

  The hill, the hill more steep than I had seen

  And I, almost afraid of it

  Sometimes in August, on the first portage

  Moving out of civil ground

  Only a glimpse of aspen, lake

  Separates lost from found

  Only a promise in wood and stone

  And light beyond the ridge

  Changes a portage from an endless trail

  And makes, of it, a bridge


  Hot Afternoon, Long Grass

  I have longed for you

  Among pastures turned to gold

  Where the turning river

  Measured summer growing old

  I whispered your name

  In the lengthening of day

  In the heat of afternoon

  With rapids in our way

  On a wild-tree island

  Between the nodding reeds

  Footsteps traced desire

  Returning of our seeds

  For the rolling earth below

  Runs molten at its heart

  And so I burned, and burned again

  Till we fell apart


  Sonnet for a Very Dry August

  Around the bend, the river hasn’t changed

  Under August skies the river bed

  Grows smaller yet among the boulders ranged

  Upon the promised land, still ahead

  Slippery still those stones which show some green

  Moving slow, we lift the old canoe

  Rock by rock to reach some pool unseen...

  I read the map - the part we’re at shows blue

  Very far behind we left one car

  Endless hours ahead the other waits

  Rolling crazy cricket cries surround

  Dry fields, and those who haul canoes too far

  Rebuke with laughter he who calculates

  Yesterday’s rain upon tomorrow’s ground


  The Downwind Dance

  To the downwind dance and cabaret

  Of August wind and sky

  To the sunshine ballroom of the lake

  Came my canoe and I

  We waltzed on tumbling whitecap wave

  Bobbed past shoreline tree

  Pirouetted when an island swell

  Whirled us to its lee

  To the great applause of aspen leaf

  We rolled to granite shore

  Quickly bowed, then made our way

  Out the portage door


  On a Cartwheeling Planet

  In a madness of moonlight I tore from the tent

  And caught all things in their tumbling flight

  Pine-barbed eastern hills dropping hell-bent

  The west storming up a ladder of night

  Cartwheeling around a now-hidden sun

  Pushing up through galactic dust

  Tilting towards Virgo, tumble and run

  In a maelstrom of starlight turning to rust

  Blood pumping, frogs jumping, the trees in a sway

  The air sliding fast, the lake rolling slow

  Clinging to a rock, up, up and away

  Out across nearly nothing, blindly we go

  A frog on the canoe saw my bug-eyed expression

  Croaked at the slithering night and the stars

  Dismissed my panic, announced his secession

  From mad canoeists and intellectual bazaars

  On that hot August night I crawled back to my cave

  Carousel, tumbleweed, rider and ride

  No thrill, no poem, no song of the brave

  Just one wondering mind looking out from inside


  Summer is for Love

  There were clouds folding sheets in the skies up above

  And branches entwining in the trees

  Waves caressed rocks, murmuring love

  Your dark hair tempted the breeze

  There was a long afternoon by Seven Mile lake

  Rocks growing warm in the light

  Carp rolled in the lotus out past the point

  The glare, on the water, too bright

  We found a long channel at the end of the bay

  Left the canoe pushed into the reeds

  Climbed the hill, hands furrowing bushes

  Our feet carelessly scattering seeds

p; The butterflies danced in the soft honey light

  The flowers pressed down to the ground

  The planet tumbled willingly, slow as the day





  But, Oh! So Few Julys

  The little waves like passing days caressed

  The bow of our canoe. The land so old

  That we felt young. I fished, Dianne slept;

  The heat and the summer sun spread out like gold

  The necklaced loon then called to question why

  We stroked his lake and chased his silver prey.

  I pulled my lure from out the shadowed deep!

  Did we belong to the lake and smooth-rock shore?

  But then I laughed to tell the loon that I

  Was wild as wind and here like morning cloud

  And gentler on the darling lake than he

  Nor had I need to call my summer truth aloud

  Too many lakes, beneath the summer skies

  Too many lakes, too many lakes, but oh! so few Julys



  I was wind

  Rippling water

  To the shore

  I was the budding leaf

  New this year

  To the lake to the trail

  I was the sun

  Yellow canoe traversing the lake

  East to west

  I was a day in June: in my canoe

  I was a day in June


  Like Butterflies, Like Butterflies

  So we tumbled across the landscape!

  Dashed the riffles, poled thru reeds

  And came to camp, like butterflies -

  As gently as maple seeds

  So we turned the canoe upside down

  Tented on a moon-born rock

  Our shadows, and the shadows of trees

  Were hands in a landscape clock

  And sunrays bronzed the summer hills

  Painted us July

  Till the rolls and tolls of thunderstorm

  Sketched charcoal on our sky

  That night the pines touched jewelling stars

  Bass happened from velvet deep

  We slid the canoe on granite pillows

  And, in wonder, fell asleep.


  Night Thunderstorm

  The fire’s down to an ember by now

  The tent flaps open to encourage a breeze

  I’m almost asleep in the long July night

  When a rumble of thunder rolls among trees

  Flashlight? Flashlight! My boots and my hat

  Lecturing myself once again

  Chucking some goods beneath the canoe

  Feeling the first drops of rain

  “Always assume that it’s going to rain”

  I’ve had the rule drilled in

  But I’m out here doing my flash-dance again

  Lessons dripping off of a glistening skin

  Dry myself off, crawl over my stuff

  Zip the windows up tight

  Pledge to restructure my before-bed rules

  And wish the thunder goodnight.


  Sonnet for June

  Mosquitoes, at daybreak, I take in with each cup of tea

  I breathe them, I eat them, I brush them from off my skin

  And they take their turns, while I pack up, and fill up on me

  But out on the lake, there’s only some loons and the wind

  On shaded portages I’m ambushed by blackflies all day

  They chew at my ankles and gnaw at my wrists and my eyes

  They crawl down my neck and they swim in the sweat on the way

  But out on the lake, we’ve got me, my canoe, and blue skies

  In the evenings, the deerflies come cautiously circling in

  To land on my bald spot or tear at the back of my knees

  While I put up the tent, they make off with chunks of my skin

  But in the dark on the lake, there’s only me, and the stars, and the breeze

  Canoeing the northland is part of the life that I choose

  But in June it is clear to me why they invented canoes!


  To the natural buzz and bite of June

  To the natural buzz and bite of June

  I donate my blood for free

  And give, on the portage to Ragged Lake

  Some better parts of me

  Ecologically, I rate

  Reasonably high

  Many fed and darned few squished

  (Despite a thoughtless try)

  Some part of nature’s inner peace

  My heart takes home, I guess

  My soul inspired, my body weight

  Just a little less

  In honour of National Blackfly Month

  I do my noble part

  And, autographed with polka-dots

  I graciously depart


  If We Were Free

  If we were free

  Of time and due

  Then you and I

  Might never canoe

  If life were long

  And had no end

  There’d be no call

  Of river bend

  If we never had

  To age or die

  There’d be always tomorrow

  Or next July

  A bit too warm

  Or chance of rain

  We’d find ourselves

  At home again

  Paddle long, my love, and

  Do not dwell

  On the gentle sound

  Of distant bell

  Cherish the day

  Sun and rain

  Tomorrow may not

  Come again



  Come and Share. A camping poem for a dark night when Dianne and I are in a tent on cold rock, beside dark water and a forest behind as dark as all our fears. And above, the sky stretches upward to infinity. When the wind comes up and the tent shakes, we reach for each other.

  Avoiding a Portage. I had a good idea what the route up the little creek would be like. But an adventure is an adventure, and I was tired of portages, too, on this trip. So I took Al Daigen's suggestion. We did figure out why other people took the portage instead of trying to canoe up the little creek that linked the lakes.

  I Have Crossed Landscapes. I really like this poem. It reminds me of a solo trip into the wilderness north of Peterborough. At then end of a portage, I could see a summer thunderstorm coming, so I put up the tent, stuffed the pack under the upturned canoe, and went to sleep. When I woke, the sun was shining again, and I went on.

  That day, there were two lakes I’d never been to, only two more portages in. The first portage was a short one, and it took me to a small lake that, for some reason, I didn’t like.

  The next portage (which I took without the canoe or pack) was almost unmarked, but a compass kept me going the right way. It took me to a larger lake, with no sign that anyone had ever been there. That lake was dark and mysterious and I promised myself I’d come back to it someday.

  Only a Light Beyond the Ridge. A portage into a lake that has existed, for me, only on a map, is an adventure. If the lake is off the normal routes, there’s a little thrill of apprehension in my heart.

  Sometimes I become a little too aware that I’m only a stranger in the woods, passing through.

  Hot Afternoon; Long Grass. When you canoe in summer, there’s an erotic touch to the landscape. You can almost hear Pan playing his pipes somewhere in the bushes.

  Sonnet for a Very Dry August. The Salmon River, running into the Bay of Quinte near Napanee, looked like a good bet for a canoe trip. A nice blue line crossing the landscape. A day’s paddle downstream. We learned about maps, and alvar landscapes, getting canoes over fences, and how to hop from boulder to boulder without dropping the canoe more than once a minute. In mid-afternoon, Vance jogged back to get
the car we’d left at the beginning. I’ve done that again, since. It’s nice how much shade you get on a canoe trip when you’re carrying it.

  The Downwind Dance. When people ask me about my canoe poems, this is the first one I think of. Most crossings are upwind for some reason, but sometimes you do get a tailwind. I remember a smallish lake, a tiny island made of a split rock in the middle. I aimed the canoe for the split and sailed through. The poem’s a metaphor for a dance, of course. The “bow” in the last stanza is merely me bending to put the canoe on my shoulders.

  On a Cartwheeling Planet. When you add up the rotation speed of the Earth, its speed circling the sun, and the sun’s relentless barreling around the galaxy, a man who thinks too much can get a little shaken up. Especially when he realizes the sun never sets – that’s just the western horizon tilting up….

  Summer is for Love. When you add up the rotation speed of the Earth, its speed circling the sun, and the sun’s relentless barreling around the galaxy, a man who thinks too much can get a little shaken up.

  Especially when he realizes the sun never sets – that’s just the western horizon tilting up….

  But, Oh! So Few Julys. Actually, I’ve always felt this sonnet was a loser, except for the last two lines. But I liked them so much I kept the poem. Maybe I should have kept just the lines and added a picture.

  June. This is just a happy poem about canoeing in June. Up above, Apollo is riding his sun-chariot across the sky. Down on the lake, I’m riding a small yellow canoe. Brothers.

  Like Butterflies, Like Butterflies. A poem about the way a summer canoe trip should be.

  Night Thunderstorm. Another camping trip in the Kawartha Highlands area. I’m such an optimist, or maybe just spotted-hound lazy.

  To the natural buzz and bite of June. Blackflies hatch out when the first blossoms appear on the wild apple trees in May. By June they can be a torment, crawling into ears and eyes, and hovering as a cloud around your face. In Canada they carry no disease except madness. Or, for a canoeist, more madness.

  If We Were Free. Possibly the best poem I ever wrote. Or at least in the top ten. Memorize it; you can use it in a thousand places in your life.

  This is one of six books of canoeing poems:

  Cherish the Day: 16 Canoe Poems for Summer

  Fierce and Fine and Free: 18 Canoe Poems for Spring

  Fireplace and Wine: 15 Canoe Poems for Winter

  What Last Golden River Run: 17 Canoe Poems for Autumn

  No Ordinary Waters: Canoe Poems from a Strange Mind

  Canoe Songs

  [email protected]

  *** END ***

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