I am not a hot Canadian
the first time I sat alone in a hot tub it was
not a hot tub and I was not alone.
the first time I sat in a swimming pool filled with
Canadians no one was swimming.
the first time I sat in a hot tub not a hot
tub but a swimming pool dense with
non-swimming Canadians I became a paper pouch
packed with dark fragrant leaves releasing
its dark fragrance to saturate shiny white
northern North Americans growing
pink with heat and sulfur.
the first time I became a tea bag I sat
alone while not alone. the first time
I resisted swimming in a swimming pool I
seeped and sucked the breath of rotten
eggs without complaint. the first time
I released the conviction of my loneliness
I soaked among Canadians as a woman
my exact age and not Canadian dared to
swim where no one swam and directly toward
me. the first time I made tea of myself with
someone else and flowed with the sulfurous hot
spring that percolated into the heart
of alpine mountains I nearly ignited.
the first time I'd in the weeks ahead enter
another body and discover myself a cup of
seething fluid I'd fail to believe it.
what I'd come to believe is that what
swims toward one can easily swim
away. the first time the tiny dark leaves within me
began to bleed and leave me drained till I'd find
a loneliness that my loneliness had not known
began with my sitting in a hot tub not a hot tub
but a swimming pool not a swimming pool
full of North Americans not North Americans
or tea bags like me.
pine needle breakfast
full of vitamin C with
notes of sap and Christmas –
a warm fortification against the frigid
surf and surge of gripping winds
among the Douglas fir, Sitka
spruce and coastal redwoods,
the lodge pole pine offers
the only real hot beverage option.
first I'd seen of the Pacific.
first I'd seen a forest crush
up against a sandy beach,
reaching densely to block the sun.
the idea had come from one Seattle
camper I'd met. I can barely get
to its lowest limb to grasp the prickly
twigs I hope to seep in camp-fired waters.
Long Beach, Vancouver Island – I've recently left
behind my too-long-lived virginity and one to whom
I hadn't intended to love and hand my vital organs along with
my farewell at the end of a trek across a country not ours.
Canada – land of escape for those like me with no
interest in becoming soldiers in Southeast Asia or
anywhere for that matter. tea – I surprised as anyone to find,
like my Celtic island ancestors, I turn to tea.
first thing in the morning washing out my mess kit the sudden
tide drenches me. the chill seeps to marrow, finding pain
of soul as well as that of waking body. this wave,
nothing short of a betrayal, I begin my brewing.
somewhere out where I stare west, Japan – this ceremony of hot water sacred
there. my saturating of pine as much a prayer as breakfast.
the temperature and fact I've nothing else to eat leaves me to sip carefully,
gratefully. this tea is not deciduous. I too determine not to shed.
Jacob, his rock a pillow, dreamt of angelic ladders.
my bed a desert, my body begins
to pixilate and dispense as sand.
crusty lids opening to glare, I find
I'd not dissolved across wide Arizona
to snag on spurs of saguaro cacti body
sculptures. thirst quickly stirs memory then.
my canteen remaining in the pickup of the
Jesus freaks, who picked me up the night before and
insisted on praying over me. obliging,
in the moon shadow of a stationary
cement mixer, I whispered
amen when they finished –
more for them than me.
the bartender in the rundown place
off the interstate insists I pay for water. I pass.
shaking out my sleeping bag I note
I'd kept a scorpion warm for the night
– a tiny, translucent one whose venom might have left
me forever in my dream of sandy existence.
hitchhiking once again, I spy
a state trooper on the horizon and begin
a trek across the desert floor in avoidance.
soon a cloud stirs and makes its way
in my direction. when a plum dune buggy
applies its breaks a voice arises from the
settling sand: Get in and I do.
when the long black curly haired and goggled
angel of the lord within hands me a bottle of dishwashing
liquid, I stare at him. Drink it, he says, but I do not.
quick energy, he continues, looks like you need it ...
honey, my friend, pure honey.
I coat my tongue and swallow to become
an instant believer. lowering the lemon yellow
plastic bottle, I read aloud its label; Joy.
again I say amen – this time for me.