Sense of Decency

Listening to others, seeing things through their eyes.

The author and his daughter, Ruth, just above a sharp left turn on a rapid nicknamed “The Wall” on the Black River, Quebec, 2011. The wall of rock is not particularly friendly to canoes being forced hard right.

Push Day


Seven portages already, muskeg up to here

Big water, stiff headwind all day

Hands hard, good mates, no fear

Where’s the site, you say

Around the bend and through the narrows


Sun baking down, visions of a place

Esker topped with pine, plenty of space

Shoulders sore, fading daylight

Where, where’s that site

Round the bend and through the narrows


Hailstorm of insults, hate all round


Rights pushed underground, free press?

Where — oh, where — is that new sight?

Round the bend and through the narrows


End of another river day, 1971. Three pots going, and bannock in the reflector oven. Author, foreground, who guided a 50-day canoe trip to Hudson Bay via the Attawapiskat River, opens a can of corn for dinner for 10.

Reaching Hudson Bay by canoe – after 50 days of paddling – takes a bit of work. Even a push day or two.

No roads. And no tolls. Except two-load portages, clouds of black flies, and splitting standing dry wood for 150 meals.

This poem, born by a river in early 2017, is dedicated to journeys that matter. Around the bend and through the narrows. Perhaps we’ll get there.

Mike Fish, former reporter for The Post-Standard of Syracuse, is Assistant Editor of Nastawgan, the quarterly journal of the Wilderness Canoe Association in Toronto.

4 thoughts on “Push Day

  1. John Grau says:

    Nice meditation, Mike.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Janet Gramza says:


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike McAndrew says:

    Beautiful poem, Fishy. It reminded me of a few canoe trips we took that wore me out but were filled with laughs.

    Liked by 1 person

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