True North Safari

We made our way in Muskoka,
not Serengeti. Sauntered with paddles
through deep pools of white and rose
pond lilies and “NO FIRES” signs,
climbed the east face of Stormy Lake
to gaze toward the Restoule River.
Walked through birch and dark-needled
firs among the beasts: does, eyes wide,
with spotted fawns; and near
the shore young otters. Watched fish
gather like an audience to watch us.
Supper was whatever we could heat
over an open fire, washed down with
gin and bitter lemon. We read books
afterward, or played magnetic anagrams.
Nights we made our own secret fire,
vermilion and green, cool as the night deep
inside the blue tent. Slung our sack of
food onto a high branch to outwit
raccoons (though we left scraps to
appease them). Bears kept their
distance. Perhaps they knew
we each carried two knives.
Days were for the lakes, their
depth and cold, their dark forest
hugging the pink Canadian shield
where we docked the kayak. We burned
black except for our brows. After we
had swum, eaten sardine sandwiches
washed down with canteen iced tea,
we put up the sail and jibbed
our way back to the campsite.
We didn’t fish. We didn’t race.
We killed nothing. Just lived the lakes.


About the Author

Gay Baines has a B.A. in English from Russell Sage College and has done graduate work at Syracuse University and SUNY – Buffalo. He won the National Writers Union Poetry Prize in 1991, Honorable Mention in the Ruth Cable Memorial Poetry Contest in 1996, and the 2008 Mary Roelofs Stott Award for poetry, as well as other prizes. His poems, essays, and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in over 50 literary journals, including Atlanta Review, The Baltimore Review, Bayou, Cimarron Review, Cloudbank, Confluence, Crate Literary Magazine, Dislocate, Forge, Grey Sparrow, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Hypertext Magazine, Jabberwock Review, Louisiana Literature, Nimrod International Journal, Oregon East, Phoebe, The Pinch, Slipstream, South Carolina Review, Talking River, The Tampa Review, The Texas Review, Tiger’s Eye, Verdad, Westview, Whiskey Island, Willow Review, Wisconsin Review, and Zone 3.