Poetry Friday

Welcome to another Poetry Friday. Thanks (not so much) to Lisa asking me to do this, I spent an hour in my locker in the basement looking for poems that aren’t on any computer. Having dragged up literary journals and files full of finished and half-finished manuscripts, I’ve spent the past two days reading stories I’ve written (and some of them are darn good) and poetry from years ago and from not so long ago. This is one of my favorites – it was written while I was living in Toronto and my brother had gone hunting in the wilderness with friends and was late getting back…


Chilco Lake

The smell of polish stains the air
its Sunday afternoon sting harsh
the bottles line up
blood-red, bright pink.

I wipe out the color
leave my hands naked and cold.
No paint can warm them.

The phone woke me this morning
before the winter sun had strength enough.
My father’s voice:
“It’s sixty miles long, that lake,
and already they’re two days late.”

I recreate my hands while
the sound of rain drops in to
the TV channels
the pages of Time
Chapin on the radio.
I watch the ads, read the
pictures, hear the tears

“Sixty miles long, two days late”

Hearing my father’s voice, I see him as
he picks at his tough-yoked eggs, the
ashtray at his elbow
half-smoked Players crushed by
the pressure of shaking hands

He’s a man who builds drawers, shelves
cut to fit their contents
who cooks the perfect egg
whose toolbox is
neater than a surgeon’s table

It’s early there though here the sun
now strong with noon
scatters the rain

“At Friday lunch when your Mum drove by
the cars were there, the
boat trailers waiting.”

She saw those mocking cars,
frostlocked, leafstrewn
and listened for the
boom of motors in the cold morning air.

Now she too sits, a glass of
homemade potato wine,
click-clack of the cigarette maker
a pack of cards ready to be dealt
for company

And I
at a different table
with polish in my hand


7 responses to “Poetry Friday

  1. You’re welcome! *sunny grin*

    I, for one, and happy you excavated this poem, and all those darn good other pieces, too. It’s nice to revisit the landmarks along our journey now and again. Though doing it when you’re NOT on deadline might be better.

  2. And that’s why I said “not so much” – but it hasn’t slowed me down. Much.


  3. Wow! In those few words, those few, beautifully crafted words, I met and got to know your parents, and a little bit about you that I didn’t know. Thank you.

    Oh, and by the way, I’d be interested in reading more of your poetry, it’s damned good, so you ought to let more folks read it—just my opinion.


  4. Thanks, Wally. I have quite a few poems about my mom and my dad both my grandmothers. I’m actually tempted to take them and turn them into a book – because, having read them this long after I wrote them, I think they’re pretty good myself.

    Thanks for the words of encouragement.


  5. Raymond Bolton

    I like the way the nail polish imagery keeps inserting you into the picture. In addition, it is a nice metaphor for how we use devices like nail polish and cosmetics, to gloss over and divert our attention from those things in life that are other than what we may have wished.

    • Raymond – I think that’s absolutely true. When we think about death – and I’m thinking about both my mom and dad and my friend Janet – what we do are practical things.

      I think whoever decided to have the first funeral the way we have them now was smart. She (because it was probably a woman) knew that the only way to get through the first few days was to stay busy – so planning a funeral, cooking and preparing was a way to get through the most painful part of the grief.

      Grief doesn’t get away, it just gets easier to bear, so that distraction in the earliest of stages is a good thing – you don’t forget, you just find it easier to cope with.


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