TUESDAY: Leaving Home

BY MARK CLEMENT

Mark Clement is a member of the Ontario Poetry Society. Copyright rests with the author.

Listen to the author read his poem

Dad hands me fifty dollars,
we say goodbye, as men do,
and with a one-way ticket
I board the train to Kapuskasing.

This is a time alone to dream
as small towns and unknown lives
flow by. Time to remember
the shrill eagle cry and sunlit woods
where I was a hero.

Towns turn to trees that grow in stone.
In between, little round lakes
and swamps filled with life
must surely vibrate to the clack,
clack, clack of this passing train.

My path through these warm woods
seems an idle city street. I carve
my new dreams into the dark mystery
of this northern landscape and walk
on the undisturbed pine needles,
certain of my direction, certain
as this train on unyielding steel rails.

Night rises from the thin forest
and settles between the stars,
the very stars that pulled the prows
of sailing ships and inspired meaning
for many frail lives, stars that glow brighter
from mountain tops and my grandfather’s
wornout stories of his heroic times.

The rattle and clack of steel on steel fades.
In the morning, fog between the small trees
keeps the night secrets hidden
and when it lifts to the sun,
they are gone, buried in the land.

Then there are roads, cars, shacks,
all the brick-a-brack of a northern town;
Kapuskasing, with a paper mill that steams
in the blue morning light.

It is too familiar.
Not a hero’s destination, just a place
I’ve never seen. A town with smiles,
frowns, corner stores and a hotel
beer parlour with a “Men’s Entrance” sign.
The Chinese restaurant has not quite
made it into the twentieth century.

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