When my mother died last year,
I had to sort her corporeality,
Give away dusty memorabilia,
Reserve something precious,
A leather Shakespeare,
Tarnished silver rosary,
Paisley Shawl, her Doulton prize.
But in a drawer, wrapped in tissue
Was the Butterick pattern for the gown
Which I wore for my high school prom,
With another ample roll of
Della Robbia Satin and matching blue filigreed lace.
Twenty-five years with never an allusion,
She had kept it flat and ready to stitch
For some private but compelling reason;
Or had that fabric been a tenuous bridge
To a time fragment eternities ago when
She was seventeen and might have dreamed
Of parading in her own cerulean debut
Against the prairie winds of Saskatchewan.
Where Do Moose Go?
Where do moose go in winter?
They're not furtive in fall,Mowed down by clumsy hunters,
And in summer bolt fly-blownInto bewildered cottage traffic.
But come January, no palpability:
A few prints cross a frozen bog,
Some droppings dot a ski trail,
A spruce bud cluster plucked.
Are human senses tricked?
They don't wing south with loons,
Don adaptable rabbit white,Spend Christmas eve gobbling corn In
Peterborough like spoiled ducks
Unwilling to make the Carolinas.
Half a ton of muscle and bone
Can't hold Moosonic conclaves
Where snowmobiles fear to thread,
Burrow bearlike under stumprot And sup on satisfying brown fat.
Where are these ungainly masters
Of legerdemain and camouflage?
What gnostic secrets do their
Old mammalian brains retain
To hold technology in thrall?
Kite on Paul St.
It is summer again and I miss
My neighbour Gaston Rochette.
Last August over our fence
He offered me his plum wine.
Harmless pale pink lemonade,
It issued from old rum barrels
At 30% and melted my afternoon
Into a surprising pleasant haze.
"Helps pass the time," he would say,
Whittling at nothing or flying a kite,
Then he ordered a tandem of maple,
Brandished a chainsaw in one hand
With his Lions friends and stored
Five years' warmth for his family.
With twenty cords left he was dead,
Morphine no subterfuge for blood.
But today as I searched my cedar tops
The scarlet tatter of his kite waved,
Recalling the rich price of life
And the cool deceptive wine
We shared that sunny afternoon.
Aunt Belle's Album
In l910, a fragile seventeen,
She took the train to Dryden
To school her uncle's brood.
Her father, the miller of Alva,
Thought the bold Northern air
Might strengthen her heart.
Yet these photos capture her
In white bombazine dress and
Huge black boa-feathered hat
Under a twisted jackpine,
Locking eyes with a darkly handsome beau.
Next she kneels with a wrinkled
Pipe-smoking grandmother, both laughing,
Birch bark cannister beside
A Jersey Cream Cracker tin.
Then the HBC canoe ferries the gang
To an Edwardian picnic, all caught
Mugging on the white cloth smoothed
Beneath the cedars, pose by Seurat.
In this dusty album, even blurry
Or spliced shots were preserved,
So precious and rare the new medium.
I always pictured her strolling Yonge St.,
A retired Hydro draftswoman in l945,
Prim old maid playing solitaire,
Warming the Brown Betty pot for tea.
Never in a wild Canadian west
With a dashing bush man half my age.
April evaporates Brigadoon,
One hundred crowded huts
Chattering over Wanapitei.
Popped like January mushrooms,
They vanish prudent in the thaw.
Trucks, cars, and snowmobiles
Crammed this medieval stockade;
Dogs scratched and fought,
Fir trees planted in the ice
Pointed the way to paradise.
Plump Christmas tortieres and
Soft plum wine were juggled
Between mittens and gloves
As harmonica trills and ballads
Warmed the still wilderness.
Now spring's deadline balances
The snatch of a fat lake troutA
gainst the risk of bogging boots
Or freezing skids into the lake
In a sudden overnight snap.
On this foggy morning,
One lone hut remains,
Its false dimensions on