The Elk Island Park Expedition, April 2004

our car is no sled-dog driven ice breaker
catching its breath, breathing new world air;
our skin does not erupt
in the red wake of Amazonian ants

and yet, we get lost

making a right instead of a left
our destination waves bye in the rear-view,
fill ‘er up the wishful phrase pacing
the tense gas-gauging miles

fortunately, a gas station appears
no mirage, engine purring
with the promise of unleaded
we finally find our place
next to idling families
fuelling this Sunday with butane fires
and holiday smiles, smoke signalling
the envious, forgotten city

it’s a day of kites crowding
cormorants’ air space, of bleached
lakeshore trails tanning
in the intermittent sun,
of playground adults
kidding time

dusk arrives and it’s so quiet
we imagine hearing bison breathe,
their hulking masses just standing there–
are they watching us in the dimming light?

our watches only really start ticking
after dark, when it’s time to go

the only ones left in the park
we hear coyotes and owls lullaby
northern lights,
our flashlight’s paltry beam
upstaged by the sky

we make our way past recent plops
of elk and bison, each dry step a relief
to exploring soles

and there is the car, the last
in the lot, the click of its ignition signals
a successful expedition,
of a safe return

~ Ben Murray

Ben Murray is an Edmonton-based writer whose poetry has appeared in many journals, including Descant, Event, Grain, CV2, Queen’s Quarterly, and The Windsor Review. A debut poetry collection, What We’re Left With, is forthcoming this fall from Brindle & Glass.

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