» Poetry

Boundary Waters

Donald Platt


Accessible primarily by canoe, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, in northeast Minnesota . . . extends 150 miles along the U.S.-Canada border, covering approximately 1,098,000 acres . . .
— Explore Minnesota


I want to go

to the Boundary Waters, canoe its one thousand lakes,

hundreds of miles


of rivers. So many places I’ve never been. I’d like to see sunset

reflected in Tuscarora

Lake, when it’s so still you cannot tell the difference


between sky on fire

and water on fire. Rosanne and I could paddle together

in our red canoe


to the very middle of the lake. Her hair would outshine sunset.

One loon would call

to another loon with its otherworldly wail from across


wide water.

That’s all I want to hear. But Rosanne, who has been to the Boundary

Waters and back,


tells me gently, firmly, matter-of-factly—in the voice

I love more

than any other woman’s voice—that no, I will never go as far


as Tuscarora

Lake. My body with its nerve pain, unable to walk anymore

without its rollator,


would not be able to do even one long portage.

She’s right, of course.

And even if I were to canoe that cold, aquifer-fed water


so clear I can see

twenty feet down to the rocky bottom, always another

waterway is waiting.


Night calls me with its unanswerable cry. Death’s loon

cries out

to me to come, come. Canoe to him alone across


dark, starlit water

where the moon now rises. Keep him company upon those other

boundaryless waters.


Donald Platt

Donald Platt’s ninth book, Tender Voyeur, will be published in 2025 by Grid Books. His eighth book, Swansdown, won the 2022 Off the Grid Poetry Prize. In the last year and a half, two of his poems have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, as well as thirty-six other poems in Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Diode, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Third Coast, Cimarron Review, Seneca Review, Plume, Laurel Review, Notre Dame Review, Cincinnati Review, Florida Review, Fence, Tupelo Quarterly, Rattle, Gulf Coast, Five Points, Southern Review, Iowa Review, Lana Turner, New Criterion, and Yale Review. He teaches at Purdue University.