by Lesley Battler
Idylls of Inuvik
the Henry James guide for relocating oil company employees and their families
Mackenzie River, fine as the Tiber!
Breezes tease scree, chic little villas lurk
far from clockgods and their traffic gridlock.
My lips shaped prayers over eroded
roofs, crooked chimney pots, water towers
of this haughty city state. Drunken pines
stagger over the treeline but indeed!
This must have been a hoary old city
when Hannibal battled the Mad Trapper.
I picked up my rucksack, took in the Mike
Zubko Airport, an aesthetic vision.
Majolica tarmac gleams, campaniles
of quaint colonnades lead to the Great Fur
Trade Reliquary. This metropolis
never sleeps! Single Otters waft propane.
Bush planes drone, Victorian quonsets line
country lanes swarming with Norcan rentals.
Smartie-box mansions perch on vivid piles
of verdigris. Here one may live a dream!
Verdi with peregrine, live concertos
from ravens driving down the Boulevard.
Or one may wander the serpentine road
of utilidors, all Roman vinyl,
Alcan finery. Norman rotors spin
perfect unity of heart and reason.
Goethe, a known Cicerone, would surely deem
the Petroleum Show lovelier than
the medieval cathedral. Opera Night,
the Friendship Centre boomed with Carmen,
but I chose to peruse Inuit land
grants, while the canyon swooned nitrogen-red.
Northern avens preen, the very picture
of Worldly Wisemen, straight out of Bunyan,
pondering soil disposal, possible
end-uses for marine ecosystems.
Cradled among scenic pinnacles, one
can imagine perforation tunnels.
Music of dirt bikes—sublime! I remained
in limbo, blinded by a sudden wind.
Discerning eyes and digital easels
will revel in picturesque Inuvik.
Meet tufting artists at the Trading Post,
where merchants barter carvings in charm-school
patois. One may hear the cheery “baksheesh”
of basket-weavers. Drown in sensation!
Soak in the Nanook souk, pause for coffee,
Solution talk in the Escalus Room.
Now is the time to buy an infill. Snag
a Nunataqaq (land of origin).
Roast phalaropes over an open fire.
Roll cigars in fine-ground ptarmigan. Watch
auditors lariat the auroras
that threaten boreal forest, then pose
with the wall-eyed polar bear at the Roost.
Paddle a canoe, nurse the Oxford Book
of Verse, jot noble poetry to the
dying glory of Indian summer.
Saturday Night on Franklin Avenue
Upon leaving the theatre, the streets
still teemed with people. Generators roared
arias as the wendigos partied.
Ibyuk walks at night, permafrost adorns
the cornices of posterity. I
kissed a governor-general, won a
rack of antlers. I may have mandated
the Office of Investigator, carved
a Pietà from imported snow, crashed
the Mad Trapper Inn, karaoked Part
III of the Correctional and Release
Act, signed off on the death of Aklavik,
airlifted children from homeless tribes who
kidnap bottom lines. This, you will cry, is
the Civilized Nation, par excellence!