The Houseboats

A Coyote poem by Peter Crane

The Boathouse
The Boathouse

sharp rectangular houseboats floated in queue along the channel
armada of families traveling the lakes in fluid community
each approaching the resort’s marina for fuel and night’s mooring
children of all ages gathering on the decks longing for firm land
captive audiences on Georgian Bay cloistered in parental proximity
Coyote watched children disembark gathering on the boathouse lawn
freely running the full circumference the girls turning cartwheels
fuel tanks empty and septics full allowing time for captain’s yarns
but high-strung and nervous mothers were all down to business
inquiring into docking fees departure times and the price of ice
while the men spoke of sonar gadgets and desired secret locations
unfolding massive maps and charts hoping for pin-points of plenty
one captain Coyote’s age escorted a harried mother and some sisters
“the old man is flying in tonight to join us for the rest of our trip”
“you’ve got to be kidding me—that’s a VCR you’ve got there”
“Yes, sir.  It is.  And we’ve got tons of movies for the girls, too”

as the afternoon sun fell from the sky the ice stores depleted
houseboats were fueled and tied to the docks to suck current
Coyote sat on the deserted dock dangling his feet in cold water
occasionally a sunfish would swim up to kiss salt from his skin
wild children fluttered in and out invading his peripheral vision
annoyed and amused by how loud the little creatures could be
and their curiosity for the heap of fish guts at the cleaning table
but Nirvana revealed itself in attention from prison-released girls
emerging from nowhere they touched his arm and asked questions
“My dad wants to know if you’d like to come to our fish fry”

Later Leila showed up on the dock with cigarettes and a letter
she smiled and as always brushed the hair from Coyote’s eyes
“it’s like we’re running a friggin’ provincial day care here”
she smiled and pointed at two boys pounding a weaker one
“anyhow, I meant to give you your letter at lunch, but forgot”
Coyote held the envelope from Tamar and longed for its contents
Leila reached out and touched his shoulder transferring care
he watched her beautiful sundress walk back up to the office
Coyote sat behind the cash register devouring every word
a girl’s news never far from rumour and small-town gossip
each word savored prompting remote hope for home’s return
the place so long departed but still bursting on new horizons
long letter culminated with the suicide of a friend’s brother
Coyote regarded the community of houseboats for a moment
vibrant flotilla dwelling in summer’s time birthing memories
Eden-like doppelganger of the other crying out in knowledge

Coyote slumped at the pump to watch himself slip into water
in stillness the channel’s cool water consumed him without care
slowly sinking many curious sunfish and perches investigated
liquid atmosphere’s alluring peace beckoning non-existence
provoked by death’s intriguing caress that drained pain away
aching oxygen-depleted lungs turned to self-indulgent pleasure
Coyote watched the smooth surface water as the girl approached
fresh evening air blew across him as she peered into the water
to witness his submission under the weight of absolute nihilism
he returned the gaze to see the old sun reflecting off the surface
distorted floral-patterns of a sun dress shimmered over the dock
he rose toward the light and gulped the air upon his return
the concerned dress, “what are you doing in the water, Coyote”
“I slipped on the hose of the septic tank and flew into the drink”

boathouse locked he sped over to the cleaning tables soaking wet
green garbage pails were loaded with fish guts heads and tails
old Indian guide sat quietly fervently smoking hand-rolled smokes
nodding greetings he then loaded up the waste in his motor-boat
accustomed to the bucket of death not even old enough to putrefy
severed heads and distant eyes seemed remote and unreal
the old guide said, “they always give you the shit jobs, Coyote”
“Bill, you gotta be kidding—this is the highlight of my day”
beautifully old still face allowed a rare cackle to leak into it
inhaling deeply he rose  to walk towards the channel’s edge
he turned back to say, “I saw you swimming off the dock”
Coyote blushed and focused on adjusting his bins in the boat
“some decisions are better left to the Gods little man
we don’t want you stinkin’ up the channel,” and he laughed
Coyote began to push the motor-boat back into the water
and the old man grabbed the bow pushing and then jumping in
Coyote quickly followed suit pushing himself over the gunnels
the old fella smoked into the bow’s wind his face unemotional
seagulls swarmed in the air over the boat delivering lectures
pellets of white goo exploded into the water all around them
magically day-in and day-out the boat remained immaculate
a ways off from the mouth of the channel in Georgian Bay
Coyote watched the old Indian who had insisted on the dumping
wild cigarette hanging from his bottom lip as he spilled the guts
then sat and listened to the seagulls’ hysterical screeching
watching them dive and swoop to scavenge their supper
all the while the white discharges splattered their periphery
sinking slowly into the depths of the bay returning home
ancient laughter for the third time enjoying the moment
“fuckin’ birds—eatin’ and shittin’ all in one damn go”
Coyote nodded and turned his thoughts to the houseboat fish-fry