Winter Tracking by Renée Francoeur

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When my father saw his tundra wolf
In the winter of 1985
He didn’t know it was me
Rotting purple in my belly
Krummholz trees
Reflecting in my pupils
Wreathed in mustard
Fur the colour his beard would turn
Plastered to the ice road
Tongue turned white
He stopped his truck 
And held my head
In the middle of nothingness
Nahanni’s black spruces
Reaching from the shadows
The ashen snow covered stew
Deep inside the pine encircled 
Bear Rock
There was a buzzing in his ears
He laid down on the McKenzie
Listened for the rushing
My heartbeat

When my father broke down
That year 
The ivory crust clung long to the ditch
Outside Meander River 
Northern Alberta
On a barely graded camp route
—Earthmoving up here is for the gods 
—The roots talk back 
I was watching him
Standing between jack pines
Eyes neon 
I heard the engine choke
My grey coat dappled in white
Like a ceiling crumbled above me
Like Icelandic ash
It was minus fifty-four
With the wind chill
Waxing half moon
The pine needles pregnant
Holding breaths
The slamming of his rig’s door
A crisp cut
Frost already sugaring his lashes
The ones he’d later give to me
He was twenty-four
Just his elephant white work boots
Heavy on the scratched path
Just his crunching along
Hands deep in stiff pockets
Framed by pointed soldier lines 
Hooded and waiting
I followed him the few hours it took
Followed him silently right into the camp
Till he tumbled into an unlocked cabin
A musty bunk
And the pines closed in

When I was born
It was howling
I was covered in dark hair
Except a single white whisker
A sword in a grey mole.

Renée Francoeur is a 31-year-old Canadian journalist and magazine editor. By day she writes for law enforcement and by night she bakes, paints nudes and writes poetry. @refrancoeur


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