See our feature on Iced Water

Iced Water was published in 2000 by Salmon Publishing Ltd.,
Cliffs of Moher,
County Clare, Ireland

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Balancing of the Clouds

Ruskin and St. Mark's

For more Poets
John Unrau John Unrau

Brother Drychthelm of Melrose

Ecclesiastical History of England,
book 5, chapter12

Bede pictures you
up to your throat
in the icy Tweed
chanting prayers
through the night
then standing rigid
on the bank until
your rags have dried
against shrinking flesh,
and explains that you
abandoned your old wife
to face these trials
solely for eternal gain.

Such cynicism may satisfy
ecclesiastical historians
but many prairie winters
and their esoteric joys
suggest less calculating aims
as I look down into
the darkening eddy
where you once prayed
to the soft calling of owls;
and, old sensualist,
I cannot help
but raise my voice
with yours tonight
for I see you stand ecstatic
in this black coil
of splintered stars,
your blood cooling
pulse slowing
to the chill
of the great stream
the drift
of Orion across the January sky.


Leaning over this old well
I drop the snow-filled bucket
to splinter ice
a hundred feet below.
Again that shifty sky
and alerted silence;
faraway howl once more
of the night train for Saskatoon;
and again
after seventeen years
from beyond all
western mountains
you bringing
unrest upon me
as I haul
starlight and iced water
in a narrow pail.

New-Age Muskie Considers A Change of Lifestyle

”Isn’t it about time for the armaments industry to take advantage
of this peace dividend and retool for peace?”

–U.S. senator commenting on the end of the Cold War

I’ve had trouble digesting lately

funny twinges too
like the other day
when I had that duckling
almost in my teeth and suddenly
swerved aside at the killing moment

a smallish cousin from near the dock
has started nosing around my weed bed—
had to slash his tail today to move him:
word must be getting around about me

karma is the big worry—
law of moral compensation and rebirth:
settlement of outstanding debt

some weeks I butcher and swallow
twice my weight in twitching flesh

even if I could die now I shudder
to think what I’d come back as
but the sportsmen keep sending me
back down into my abbatoir:
two years to go before I’m trophy size

now they’ve banned the gang hooks
that took months to dissolve
from my throat and gills
and helped me feel I was paying

they’re even talking of barbless hooks
to make their sport more sporting

to me this is no game:
I’m hungry all the time
and if anything moves
I can’t hold back

I’ve tried weeds:
they just stick in my teeth

I’m trying to meditate:
my eyes can’t close

it’s almost certainly too late
but please
stop me

Muskellunge–the largest member of the Pike family and most prized of all North American game fishes. It is sought for its aerial acrobatics and hard fight, and also because anglers hope to establish a new record by catching one exceeding 32 Kg—Author's Note.