In the Kitchen

Mornings you had milk in coffee.
On the radio, after the news
And weather, the self-consciously
Solemn voice of the announcer:
“Peacefully, at the Prince Edward
Hospital, aged 83 years,
Margaret McPherson,” say, or,
“Suddenly at his home, Pius
Gallant, aged 39 years; resting
At the Hennessey Funeral
Home, visiting hours Thursday
Two to four and seven to nine.
Funeral Friday, ten a.m.
Interment at the such and such
Cemetery. In lieu of flowers,
Donations to the United Way
Children’s Fund or Canadian
Cancer Society would be
Greatly appreciated.” And
You, head tilted slightly, eyes
Fixed somewhere in the middle distance,
A strand of hair straying down
Your cheek with its smudge of flour
From your wrist rubbing absently
Occasionally between flex
And curl of fingers kneading
And kneading, while the kitchen
Filled with the high scent of yeast.

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The Slow Lapping of Water

In the province of night
A parliament of whispers falls
Silent under the laughter of leaves
Slow-dancing with the south wind.

When the July moon burns
A hole in the eastern sky
Everything darkens—as a sheet chars
Around a fallen cigarette.

Do you remember now
How the tide moved? how the sand
Dampened to the slow lapping of water?
And everything tasted of salt?
Do you listen to the gulls, watch the cape
Crumple at each touch of the sea?

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Slants [for Emily D.]

Having said nothing all morning
Do we spread our hands on the table,
Palms down, the tea steaming between them,
Knowing no way to measure silence?

Truth has a certain downward slant
Slightly more like gray light falling
Through a December afternoon window
Than the path of a driven chisel.

Neither purposeful nor random,
It follows from antecedents,
The shape and lie of each against each;
As carbon molecules slip
And smear softly as graphite on paper,
Or stack to glint obdurate as diamond.

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From My Easy Chair

I hear the geese have been heard
Overhead again
Now winter’s hasty winds have slowed.

I hear the brittle teeth of ice
Break upon the shore,
Leave slumping dunes like sunken gums behind.

And out in Tracadie gulls gossip now
Above the shrinking harbour
Concerning tumultuous terns,

And each cries to the heavens daily
Over black masses
Of congregating cormorants.

When I have sat a little longer
I may take a walk out there
(Or maybe some other calls of nature
Might pry me arse from this goddamn chair).

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The City Sleeps

Late February
Rain—tonight snowbanks are fog
Machines quietly
Exhaling—the city sleeps
Through slow vaporization

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My Beard Grows Wild

I see on my forehead the first
Age spot has appeared, like rust
On an old farm tractor parked beyond
The fence and fallen out of mind

While, under it, the way weeds and grass
Untrimmed send up stems and stalks always
In disarray, my beard grows wild
And tangled but no barrier to the cold.

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Saviour Breath

Prayer, that old act of desperate solipsism,
You try to gussy up as love or compassion
Or altruism—mysterious Samaritan stranger—
But just under the thinly applied paint
The grimy seams are streaks of shadow
Tracing an abrasive wish for entitlement;
A pretense that a few words muttered or wailed
Daily change the foundations of the universe.
Save your knees and your breath. Save your
Forehead its years of arrogant abasement.
Strip the worn beads from their frayed strings
And turn your rosaries into abacuses.
Count on this: the speed of light escaping
The increasing density of the sun.

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