Wind whistling through hollows, through cavities, through cracks, arrest the mind and the heart, turning back the clock. Chimes of joy. Dread. Loneliness. Grief.
Intense moments; indelible memories.
In the culture where I grew up it was not uncommon, even into the 1970’s, to dispose of an unwanted pet or its offspring in a thoughtless, sometimes cruel manner. In the forest, a gunshot. In the harbour, a splash from a gunnysack weighted with stones. And further into the harbour, closer to home, the gentle laying of the sack during that brief pause between low and high tide.
The following three poems were born from sights and sounds that have arrested my mind and my heart.
THIS 70’s SHOW
three cheers for clever mother cat
takes just one drowned litter to learn
not to bear her second lot on
the worn flannel shirt
amidst the pilings behind the woodhouse
pangs in urgent belly she
steals out back scouring the moonlit woods
hungry wolf howling on the cliff top
than the gentle hand that strokes her
this ‘70’s show: one eye on mother cat through
drawn curtains in the kitchen window
avoid crushed stone when you
sneak out with a milk bowl
and pursue the red rag tied on a long string to her neck,
hide near the cliff’s dark cavity
when mother goes for the milk
whisk her shivering newborns
into a gunnysack
and follow up with stones
on the edge of Elias’ wharf
swing the bag 360 degrees three times and
the frantic mother is in your ear
head-butting the porch door
clawing the claw marks she raked into the baseboards
as you made the same swing last year
the splash that halts her sore left paw comes
loudest at dawn right after
a lone seagull cries
just before Elias’s third crank gets
the old sawmill rumbling
or this show: wait for twilight moon to pull the ocean back
wade out far enough to frighten crows off the gull rock;
drop the gunny bag
this I watched grandfather do
watched with mother cat through the picture window
the clock’s tormented heart
and a storm warning in static on the radio
beyond the moth flittering in the spider web
halfway to grounded schooner
moon’s spirit rendered thin on
a dark and crawling harbor
and silhouetted burlap sack
tied end bobbing like kelp on a rock
about to surrender
its high water mark
WITH STONES HEAVIER THAN OURSELVES
Did my father bury you, Buddy? Cover you
hurriedly in dank earth,
his cigarette smoke keeping time
to the rhythm of the shovel?
drop you in a burlap sack and
follow up with stones—
where sun fails to pierce
the dark waters?
Wish I could salvage your long-lost bones
reassemble your skeleton
tie you to the rusty chain near
the doghouse ruins.
As wind hums a dirge in A minor through your hollows
we have loved
three other dogs since.
And a stray one-eyed cat.
Somehow keeping us out of
our own burlap sacks
heavier than ourselves
LONG FADING WHINE
A second before the husky knew
it was going to die
Would have been a
had not the rusty pickup chopped it off.
Tires dug into the earth.
A door opened and slammed
and a freshly lit cigarette
flew out of the churning dust.
A woman from a shabby house
ran into the cloud
and a stubble-face man
with a baseball bat
battered the truck and
chased the driver into the woods.
It wasn’t until the dust thinned
the child sobbing.
Long curly hair
buckle and bow
pink top, daisies, yellow shorts,
knelt in the husky’s blood.