Current Issue Excerpts


The Notion of the North

My parents wished away their lives
in their winter States over moving south
to Florida or west to the California coast.
But I dreamed of north, always north.
I knew just where I'd go - North Dakota:
First to Bowbells then across the border
at Portal, and on along the railroad trunk line to Churchill by Hudson Bay.

Then east across Quebec to Chicoutimi
where Highway 175 makes a circle
around the town as if giving travelers
a chance to escape before overstaying
their welcome. Towns I'd visit for no other reason
except for the sounds of their names.
Places I read from the Texaco roadmaps
I saved like other kids collected baseball cards:
Moose Jaw, Flin Flon, Saskatoon, Yellowknife.

I'd stop in cities I couldn't pronounce
on a bet: Antigonish, Cocagne,
Tatamagouche, Musquodoboit, and of course,
Middle Musquodoboit. I knew I could
sow my wild, winter oats in Fertile, Saskatchewan,
and that they'd have a parade for me in Welcome, Ontario.
That I'd sit for a while, find my karma in Peace River
until I finally made it to Paddle Prairie where it stays
light all night in summer. I'd travel these towns

where rumor has it that ponds freeze
over in September, where the only two seasons
are winter and the first of August, where they won't
let you play hockey unless you speak fluent French.
A guy once told me it was so boring in Newfoundland that the only things to do were drink, watch television, and screw,
and I remember thinking: What else could one want?
But I never went, never did load up a VW bus,
catch a Greyhound, take a puddle jumper
to Red Deer or Regina, Moncton or Trois-Rivières.
Never made it past Ohio, Indiana, save
for the occasional foray to Seattle. And now

too old, landlocked in these dreams
and living in a California desert lost
among brown, burning hills, I long still
for northern nights, basso winds tinged
with frost, fence posts that dress up on Sundays
in their best winter hats of snow. I search
the sky and watch for the chevron flight
of Canada geese and listen as they leave faint,
distant cries of their wish to make it all the way home.

RICHARD LUFTIG is a professor emeritus of educational psychology at Miami University in Ohio who now resides in California. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals in the United States and in Europe, Asia, and Australia. Two of his poems have been included in Realms of the Mothers: The First Decade of Dos Madres Press. His new book of poems, A Grammar for Snow, has just been published by Unsolicited Press.

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