To Northern Ontario Towns (first letter)

Descendants of conquest keep wandering your streets. I think I’m one of them. Even when I leave you (hoping to escape and never return) my heart stays within your borders. I’ve internalized your limits.
Some of us hurtle past you anyway, fueled by our shame and ignorance, a lack of control and grace. We accumulate panicked traces of indentured servitude.
We’re waiting for something to happen. We’re like a zombie mob but we’re not in a movie. We’ve never wanted an allegorical existence.
Old men on ten speeds circle us as we drift. Their seats are too low. They’re looking for the next party. Cigarettes and beer cans hang from their handlebars in plastic bags. No one else joins us for very long. The winter, minimum wages, under-employment, aesthetic indifference and black flies ensure exclusive engagements most of the time.
Visions from elsewhere seep in despite these barriers and we mop them up quickly. Every broadcast and publication, screening, product, web page and email conceals an illusion of choice we’ve already rejected. We refuse to collaborate. We claim your obscurity as evidence of personal integrity.
We’re intimately familiar with how modern life works and we won’t compete for rights and privileges within it. We’re self-appointed ghosts and you serve as our graveyard. We haunt the conceits of progress, possessed by arrested development and dead lakes, mining cancers, crudeness and hunting permits, the friendships made and broken with people who were here before you ever existed.
Reserve suicides are reported like serial monologues. We hear them and nothing, over and over again. We pretend you’re a numbing bubble that eventually bursts.
We look down with you at the Golden Horseshoe. We see an expanding wound across the earth. Train cars leave its deepest recesses to rattle up and through you, covered in the rust and malice dividing North and South.
You’re a threshold between destruction and the eternal. Everything at your edges sees this in you. The trees and undergrowth, the animals and rocks, daybreak and darkness — they’re all waiting for an understanding to be reached.
The moon has turned a blind eye toward our violations because of this. Eventually we’ll be asked, despite our fragility and origins, to become something else altogether, something whole and at peace.
I state all this with such certainty, but you know I’m not certain at all.
I’ll write again soon.
jeremy