Baie James Bay
A land of the Cree,
the Great Muskeg stretches a continent still rising from centuries of ice.
We board the Polar Bear in Cochrane for Moosonee.
Where the Moose River widens,
a warm breeze gathers, passes Moose Factory, and speeds our canoe to the bay.
As the sun sets, the wind calms.
A thick blanket of arctic mosquitoes
instantly surrounds the hastily pitched tent.
Beneath the sound of a million tiny voices
you can hardly hear the lapping tide rise to your head.
Tonight is moonless.
In the brilliance of sun and water,
daylight creates a tropical impression.
The far river bank's thin green line disappears
reaching into vast inland sea.
Rolling waves, drenching spray, bay's ebb and river's flow,
bare feet sink deep into soft silt peppered with stones.
We must push and pull the canoe to return.
Tall reeds form thick breakwaters,
their hollow stalks sway in the wind and rustle in a tight forest over our heads.
At the first solid spit, we carefully stake the tent.
Another long day.
Then the shore slowly rises, and the sight of unkempt spruces
encourages us to paddle through the evening calm.
Among dark islands we paddle, searching,
when welcome lights finally appear.
Sunday buffet at the Moosonee hotel -
stiff, footsore, bite-swollen, we come late, fill up,
and dessert, to no one's particular notice.
Paul Eric Johnson