Bus Prophet

Acid rain
punctures the roof

night-bus Number 4

passenger
calls his dead phone

asks

Who was the trainer?
we need to meet
the trainer

Where’s the trainer?

The trainer
helped them

gather rifles
build pipe bombs

in their San Bernadino garage
while the baby slept.

Bus prophecy

mute strap-hangers
swaying deaf

to the call

as the bus hastens
toward the cliff

of fear

toward the late sky
no one believes

is falling.

Yahrzeit

for Rosemarie

The narrow eye of time
opens the gate.

Untethered, the white horse
gallops

down the rut-mud road,
carrying

to the unbelieving ear
of the lover

news
of her belovèd’s death.

Each winter the gray dirge
sounds again

bitter memory, loss
and absence.

Yet the blessèd oil
of life

like a belated gift

anoints the lover’s ear
and eye

as the white horse,
patient envoy

waits nearby

in the snow field
between worlds.

Prairie Drought

Wind-blown grit
the parched field
a meadowlark
in the wheat stubble
whistles for feed

little for her
the barefoot girl
in a dusty pinafore
squinting for a photo

my mother
the child

hears
bedtime ghost hooves
dark distant thunder
moan of brittle wind

hears
before sleep, the ghost
blue egg break
in the nest

meadowlark cry
reaching for the deaf ear
blood sky.

The Blessing of Trees

By the time fires exploded south
to the city’s edge

we had already sealed the windows
and doors.

Breathing stenched air, we spilled

the last of the garden water
against the boles of our trees

calling their names:

            lilac, plum, dogwood,
cedar, sequoia, copper beech,

a final gesture, useless perhaps
but the names tasted sweet

inside our masks, innocent
as the words of a hymn

learned in childhood

            all things bright and beautiful
all creatures great and small

and we carried their names
with us on the highway to nowhere

as we walked into the years
without rain.


Breach

Who shall remember my house, where
shall live my children’s children…
                       -T. S. Eliot, “A Song for Simeon”

Old photos in a box, print after print, stories
missing of those who entered the frames
then stepped away, shaking off memory
misstep, faded joy.

Great-grandpa, six months old
sitting in a high pram frowning into his future.

Auntie Nell dancing on the table through the gin
flinging skirts like Gracie Fields
war songs louder than the sound of gunfire
in the sands of Libya where Uncle Alf fell.

In another province, two brothers not speaking
voices lost to each other, memory subtracted
and here, a niece broken by judgment
dismissed to hell by an old man
and old woman.

What was done, then undone years and years ago.

Dancer, baby, the man standing, the old woman
trying to smile in a photo yellowed at the edges—
stories written on my eye
and blood, my bone.

#ancestors

Sweet Milk Of

for Agnès

Mistress of the only dépanneur
in the neighbourhood

you might have opened your knees
for the man who stopped for a treat

mummy’s sharp eye winking yes
from an antique frame over the cash.

You could’ve lifted your skirt
in the back room.

You might’ve been the one
for him, you might’ve been

if only you’d worn the years more
to your advantage,

ripe breasts inside your apron
full of kindness, sweet milk of

for a gentleman who licks ice cream
and craves love.

But you grew too fat, didn’t you?
stockings rolled, thick ankles, ringlets

uncurled to straw, not even your shadow
fit into the rat-hole

because you kept on eating
those Honeymoons.

And now rose-light lady
blousy in the late of an open door

your street lies a-dust with all
that echoes decades down.

#a-daughters-memory-and-regret

Age

for Frances

When I was young, wind blew prairie grass to sky
over the fields at dawn

meadowlarks to wheat, bright as summer hair
and in the evening

sun fell red off the lid of land.

He fell in love with me, the man
though I was a girl, I was old enough to know

and I laughed, his pallid hand leafing bible pages
for a blessing.

I married another.
My wedding gown lay tissued

in a drawer for years, bodice, skirt
growing smaller.

The winter I fell ill he visited me
bearing prayer in his quiet hand.

My children ran to open the door
and snow lay over the garden.

#an-aged-womans-memory