How little beauty catches at the throat,
Simply, I love this mountain and this bay
With love that I can never speak by rote,

And where you love you cannot break away.

“Reason for Not Writing Orthodox Nature Poetry,” John Wain

All colour has drained from the scene, though the image
of the heron in the shallows rings sharp and clear. Midnight
snow obscures three freighters alight in the bay. The salt
water slips toward ocean, sighs toward shore, whispers sepia,
sepia, sepia. How incongruous to see a great blue heron in inter-
tidal moonlight waiting to catch a falling, frozen mote,
standing, head cocked, ready for winter’s gifts to come, crystal-
line, from above. How exotic and floral appears this patient
stalker turned stalk; how reedy, diaphanous, remote:

how little beauty catches in his throat.

How your window opens to early spring sounds and container-
ships in the harbour. Song sparrows, yellowjackets, melt-
water from the eaves striking wind chimes. As if twenty-three
days of rain hadn’t just threatened the water supply. The word
rising to your lips, despite the view, is turgid. Turgidity.
The water you’ve been boiling all week comes to you today
from Capilano or Seymour or Coquitlam Reservoir. Kilometres
away from the ships you watch and hear through the windows
that are always open and the starlings that hear you say,

simply, I love these mountains and this bay

the way tiny creatures making home at a clearing’s edge love
the clearing’s aloof refusals of summer’s crowded growth. Japanese
knotweed and Himalayan blackberry compete along a bog’s
violent boundary while volunteers replenish an urban carbon
sink with spongy native sphagnum moss. Cosmopolitan salal, mean-
while, vies with ubiquitous fern for understory lore, neither apt to gloat.
On the bay, sun shines on five lichened, heroned rocks bordering five
idle freighters. A sixth, yellower than the rest, and emptier, passes by.
A love for this place and its inhabitants lodges in a distant throat,

a love that I can never speak by rote,

except to say that every place inhabits its inhabitants. Pet hairs
and other hitchhikers on autumn trips to islands whose great blue
herons and familiar flora remind of home and other places where
you might have loved. Every place inhabits its inhabitants, becomes verb,
becomes home. Contains freight. Places in relation to other places,
other histories spread like gill nets, the chance of entanglement a way
of mitigating loss. Loss a place where fear of losing hovers like winter
wrens’ broken singing. Where the possibility of breaking listens intimate-
ly to what you love. And where you break you cannot not have loved, I say.

And where you love you cannot break away.

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