Watermark by Ian LeTourneau

     —after Gerald Beaulieu’s installation on the Saint John River

The river purges itself of thinning
tectonic plates of ice.
A great collector of tributes
and tributaries, the Saint John carries word
from upriver: the gossip of snowmelt,
uprooted trees, ripped turf from the banks,
all the collateral damage of its scribble
across the landscape. It swerves
around the latest controversy on the CBC.
And the river rises. Seagulls flock from floe to floe,
which drift like a steady campaign
of EMO advisories. And the river rises.
And soon it unburdens itself,
spilling over its banks,
welling over the trails and streets.
Flexing its muscles, the river continues to rise.

Eleven copper-clad pillars, instruments
that measure acts of God, stand sentry
over the rising water. And from behind
the sandbags of history, we compare
today—and an infinite sequence of future todays—
to the high levels of 1993, 1958, 2010, 2005,
1923, 1994, 1979, 1887, 2008, 1973, 1936.

Once the river clears its throat, and sets
its new mark, the water recedes,
and its song glides like a sparrow’s through the city.
And we collect stories, tall tales perhaps,
like how in ’73 a fish was caught
on University Avenue. And of divers
along Waterloo Row, rescuing vintage wine
from basement cellars. And the controversies
will begin to crackle over the airwaves again,
who knew what and when. Another season of ice
and snow dissolves like a bad dream
into the eternity of the river,
and it is then
we make the startling discovery of spring.