Troy Jollimore


Where water meets water,
where rain hangs lead-heavy for days
before finally deciding to harden and fall,
where the nearest road is sixty miles away
and that a narrow track of gravel,
where the lake is as still as a photograph
and has never been photographed,
where the trout return in accordance with a schedule
that is not a human schedule,
following a water-bearing brain-map,
a hard-wired river route, an instinct chart,

Tom Thomson is playing solitaire.
Each time he loses,
he throws his cards into the water.
Each time he wins
he catches a trout.

He likes this place
because the satellites cannot see it
and the water is pure.
He likes this place
because it is where the trout come,
where they stop.
He likes this place
because parsley and wild tomatoes
grow naturally on the banks.
He likes the way
his canoe fits the water.
He likes the way
the water fits the earth.

Is Tom Thomson a figure of legend?
Tom Thomson is a living totem pole.
Is Tom Thomson larger than life?
Four men could stand in Tom Thomson’s shadow,
smoking cigars and talking about baseball.

One night four men came for him
carrying guidebooks and sawed-off shotguns.
A week later their Chevy Suburban was found.
The motor was running.  The left turn indicator blinking.
The glove box was filled with trout.

"There is much joy to be found
in the imprecise usage of words."
Tom Thomson disagrees.  He slams his bottle
down on the wooden table.  The wood,
anticipating the bottle's arrival,
splinters in advance.

Who would call a trout a salmon?
But words are arbitrary.
Who would call a trout an iceberg?
Call it what you want, it will not come.

Tom Thomson's grunt clears the forest of birds.
His laughter frightens the gods.
The philosopher Thales devised a method
of measuring Tom Thomson by taking the length
of his shadow at the moment when a normal man’s shadow 
was as long as the man was tall.

Tom Thomson snorts at philosophers.
He has never touched a tape measure.
He eyeballs every measurement,
and is astoundingly accurate.
He measures once, cuts once.
He speaks seven languages.  He has perfect pitch.

A hesitant breeze brings mist from the north.
The location of the sun during the past
three days is a matter of some controversy.
The lake is stiffening with trout.  They are pouring
in from all over.  The sound of a paddle
entering and pushing the water aside
slowly corrupts the silence.

Tom Thomson stops, lets go the paddle,
reaches over the side and makes
a secret mark on a rock.
The mark indicates that this is a place
Tom Thomson has been, and will come to again.

Have you ever seen a man murdered?
Once.  I saw it in a mirror.
And did he remind you of your father?
I can't answer that question.  Nor any other.

Tom Thomson likes to pull a trout from the water
and fry it up with parsley and wild tomatoes.
The recipe is from his favorite restaurant
on Yonge Street in Toronto.  Tom Thomson
eats there once a year.  He does not need
a reservation.  He has left a secret
mark upon the door.

What is Tom Thomson's secret mark?
What does it look like?

I can't tell you.

Come on.

Let me tell you something: the trout 
that come to the place where water meets water
are the same trout every year.
They are not born.  They do not die.


All I can do is tell you.

What of the sign.  Can you give me a hint?

I already have.

Tell me something.
Is that Tom Thomson playing the piano?

That is not Tom Thomson playing the piano.
Tom Thomson plays no instrument.  He does not
sing.  He knows no poetry.
He can't even read.  Tom Thomson
spends each night alone, listening to the phonograph,
looking at old family photos.  Or so they say.