Dale Smith

Arch Bridge Notes


The sky was silver and overcast on the water where

cormorants dived with deadly calm. The mouth

of the Humber opens into Ontario and in the distance

vessels kept west where La Salle portaged (1680).

Etienne Brulé even earlier (1615), explored

the “Carrying Place” before Huron captured

and tortured him. They ate him, too. I had biked

from the Don to Humber Bay, and stood there

at the Arch Bridge by the great rivers and waterways

of Ontario in that brutal movement of material. The breadth

of a man’s back strapped with tools and pelts. How it was

to heave from the west branch of the Holland River, say,

down twenty-eight miles to the mouth of the Humber.

Brulé was the first manic white to see Lake Huron, Georgian Bay,

the sault of the Ste. Marie. His eyes held to this point where the Arch

Bridge spans. And where time sinks into linear obscurity, and is all

feeling, absorbed distances. The terror of importation of the norm,

strict standards trained on Iroquois and Huron. Energetic

crises of perception bound the wilder European outlook

to disaster. Now a dinner cruise offers views. Bicycle

grease on my sleeves. A line at a pizza shop. Joggers animate

the shared pedestrian path and shirtless men sunbathe

in thin light. La Salle willed his way south

to the Gulf of Mexico (he was murdered in Texas

by exhausted crew). A city is a transformer

of the energies of its people. Water and sunlight.

A never-ending hunger to eat and increase

birthrights. Look out at the Bay’s ragged edge.

Piled granite slabs. Stand again at the interior.



That September golden look

of dying leaves and wilted tansy

stems so evenly, restores

the suddenly wide-eyed sense

of the changing of seasons.

I rode out today to Leslie Spit,

a long spine-like expanse

branching like lung ganglia on maps

into Lake Ontario. Wind sailors were caught

in frequent and sudden gales. In the air

they did spin, almost turning completely

upside down. A Labor Day crowd of

hikers and cyclists stood under a lighthouse.

The city rose behind us and far. I strained

to see over rough waves the dim flash

of the Arch Bridge beyond the islands to

Humber Bay. I wanted to remember

my dream this morning. It was sexy

before a sudden grip of consciousness

spun me into the room where light

leaked weakly through curtains.

The holy light of September followed me

to pee and blow my nose and try to see

where I’d put my shorts. I wasn’t awake enough,

Etienne Brulé, to earn your harsh and intrepid

claims on the changing entity of earth now

kept by brief identity, Ontario. I wanted coffee

and heated the steal bowl. Thought I’d ride my bike

after the kids woke up a bit. Today is yellow wind.

A weakened summer light turns on. A man on the water

rides the waves. Blue heron hunts by a corner

of an estuary near a bridge where children wave—

they cry, See, see the bird! The Great Blue Heron

sees and feeds, elegant, indifferent, common as the sun.

The Time of the Now

for Roberto

Tonight, quiet. Snow

goes to ice in the air’s

cold skein. No, it’s the skin

of earth’s malleable mold.

Or a stillness shifts

under cloudless, starry

sky crusty chill. It’s old—

the sentiment—archaic

attention to ground, to

insoluble atmosphere.

Streetlights press an eerie

orange on the gloam—

one of those Old English

poeticisms, glowering

in the ongoing modern

devastation of the now.

Photo: Jeff Kirby

Dale Smith

Dale Smith lives in Toronto, Ontario. He recently edited An Open Map: The Correspondence of Robert Duncan and Charles Olson and Imagining Persons: Robert Duncan’s Lectures on Charles Olson. His books of poems include Slow Poetry in America (2014), Black Stone (2007), and American Rambler (2000).