Ryan In The Woods

Ryan loved water
that Christmas when I worked with him
He would take my hand and pull me
out the institution door
down through the forest
to where the river ran.

It was Toronto in December
and the dirty woods were grim
but there was nothing else he wanted
from his long blank day
and Ryan was blind
and needed hands to guide him there.

He was laughing as I led him
down the narrow path
through the ruined city woods
by the highway,
the haunt of prostitutes
down by the addict’s Humber

He held my hand and followed me
down to the river,
roaring brown with winter rain
and he stood there
and forgot me
and listened to it roar, at last.

When it grew cold we turned to go
back up through the forest
to the institution,
brick red upon the hill
to lunch, and a bath, and Barney,
though I could not tell him so.

So we were halfway home
when Ryan turned on me
inner tides reversing
inner weather growing grim
his laughter ceasing
turning over into rage.

His face a wordless curse
he began to scratch
with ragged nails
to strike with foot and fist
at the one who lead him,
through what he couldn’t see.

So I pull Ryan through the woods
threading the narrow path
as he spits and strikes at me
he is being lead
to the doors of warmth and safety
that he cannot see.

And I can’t be angry
and I can’t be surprised
For daily I am blind
and daily I rage
and daily I wound
The hand that leads me.


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