They’re a stretch, / these contiguities between land and mind— / but consider the speed limit: / over a hundred the whole way back / to Hope
March 24, 2020
White Noise Machine
He can’t sleep without the sound, and I can’t sleep
because of it. Driftwood itching seashore, sleet
muffling a skylight’s December dark.
This: not art but element. He can’t sleep apart
from it. It’s the wind that winds the birches’
phantom limbs, their arteries of sky. Who can hear
for all our static? The highway hums across the glass.
We flicker past a pair of swans nosing trash
along a ditch. The windshield’s tint of blue, the hue he seeks.
Blue: the reason he can’t sleep.
I sit with my father beside the lake, as the lake
renews its boundaries. We watch a pair of gulls trace
figure eights. He can’t wait for sleep without
its pitch, without it sieving air. A decibel oscillates
his mind, then mine. He can’t sleep
without the sound. I can’t sleep because of it.
There’s a wedding today.
Groomsmen in rented carapaces
stake signs beside rotten porches
and scintillas of RVs. This way
to the reception. We watch as they straggle
into a Jeep, retreat behind tinted panes
past where the shacks once stood.
the highway’s hush hush of wheels
and a breeze that sways sedge and skeleton weed,
dandelions and thistles—soil’s
indifferent genius. By the creek,
red-winged crickets flutter and snap
like fans. Wasps rest on sweet peas’ trellised lips.
That ancient agrarian insists, It’s time
to lift the harnesses from our horses’
lathered necks. They’re a stretch,
these contiguities between land and mind—
but consider the speed limit:
over a hundred the whole way back
to Hope. There’s nothing to see, really.
There’s nothing to be seen. North, northeast,
fires metastasize through the Interior,
though we can’t glimpse the smoke.
I want to say something callous
about the heat. I want to ask when will it begin.
Excerpted from Burning Province by Michael Prior. Copyright © 2020 Michael Prior. Published by McClelland & Stewart, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.