Yukon River Aurora

An old Renault 12 got us here from 400 Ontario
across miles of ancient bedrock and golden plain –
turquoise girls in Saskatoon night – swinging up
the Alaska highway graded rough toward Kluane,
a chewed-up eel deep in mud and gravel, a lone
German hitchhiker – looking alien in endless reach
of northern Alberta bush – uber-happy to see
our filthy car riding brave towards Whitehorse
and share the joints and jerky into storied Dawson
where the Sourdough Saloon’s lager was eager
to drown a boreal dust penetrating everything.

Mr. Service handled us long before the actual pans
were thrust into creek beds by our unskilled hands –
his glitter more real than any pretending flakes
found in our palms, a trickster crow on the bank
squawking at the grizzly-buddha upstream in vigil
for juicy salmon on a true rush, painting water
in flashing streaks of fuchsia-pumpkin, the far roar
of major-key falls whose words weren’t yet born
in our heads so we couldn’t even think of writing
letters about what this meant or the Yukon’s care-
less beauty cutting into us on route to the Bering.

The night Jimmy took his malamute, Jethro, down
to a blanket of smooth motley stones at the edge
of the river’s grab, I said forget the tabs of acid.
He looked like I’d just demolished the car’s 8-track
or, worse, his dog had betrayed him, running to join
a timber-wolf pack. He was serious when he said
Jethro had spoken to him last time, not in English
but in the language of the local Tr’ondek Hwech’in.
When I asked Jimmy how he knew for certain since
even he didn’t know the basics, he said he just knew.
Watching the sky awaken, I hid the rest of the stash.

Our chilled backs flat on old hard eggs from earth’s pot
belly, tonight’s river a boundary breaking, its scherzo
lifting part of autumn into liquid sky to dilate in its wild
plunge, Arctic streams of spectral fire in parallel snake –
solar flares and magnetic field mattered but not then
with glacial blue, avocado-green, tamarack-gold making
honey up in a bed of black—tentative brushes against
molten arms teasing the star-lust, twisting in to change
our colors, a concentrated splash, feathering and pulsing
in this brief play of radiant sheets unfurled to a magic pole.
At dawn, a moose call and Jethro poetic in his wet tongue

About the author

D.B. Goman, an educator, activist, and singer/songwriter, has traveled extensively, working in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. His poetry, stories, and travel…

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Issue 23 · November 2015

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