Spring Opening–Lock Four


After hours
on the grass banks of the Welland.

Drinking Billy's whisky,
squinting at black-bottomed lakers
downbound out of Erie.
Glare of white funnels
idle deck gantrys and radar's easy lope.

Six of them squat in the current
where the lazy willows fan.
Their sailors smoking at the rails
watching leggy women with cameras
on the lock walls.

When the siren goes, six horns sound
and a ship descends
like a toy boat in a drained bathtub.

Water spills from the sluice
spring shipping opens
with the great iron gates.

The stack shudders,
pops a cloud of diesel
as the iron-loaded laker
pulls for Montreal.

Beside me, Billy tilts the empty bottle
stares through the long neck
as if we're all sailors
set on this plank of earth,
this side of the telescope,
drifting towards that one day
when we wish we were elsewhere.

One of the sailors sees us
and waves. Billy blows across the bottle's neck,
like a ship's horn,
his eye ringed with whisky and spit.


Bruce Hunter, Two O'Clock Creek: Poems New and Selected, Oolichan Books, 2010.