Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Carl Leggo


on snowshoes I tramp a trail
up Blow-Me-Down Mountain,
twist amidst ancient dead trees,
gray scrawny lost corpses
like sea-washed driftwood,
still held in the earth, rooted
in stories forgotten long ago,
now illegible lines scratched
in the sky like a polygraph
in vellum, tangled traces
of life almost remembered

with a poet’s steadfast hope
I hold the camera high so
everything is erased except
spindly branches suspended
in the sky, a network of lines
like arms and hands extended
out of a bog, all bony fingers
outstretched, a supplicant,
beseeching hidden gods, and like
these dead trees, resolve I too will
cling to the earth forevermore


The doctor tells Skipper, You’re fiddly fit.
At seventy-eight, from May to September, he wants
to fish in the ponds, a lifetime familiar, but most
of his buddies didn’t make it much past seventy.

Because he is living a long life,
a lot longer than many, he is often
called to be a pallbearer, each funeral,
a testimony to the doctor’s diagnosis.

For years he was a warden (not a prison warden
he reminds me) to the local Anglican priest,
happy he was always available, with the key
in his pocket, and no taxing theological issues.

His neighbour planted a pot-bellied stove
in his front yard. Skipper, What do you think?
Skipper didn’t know what to say, so he said,
That’s some pot-bellied stove you’ve got there.

Like a Rubik’s cube and crossword puzzles,
my father is an inscrutable text, indecipherable.
As usual I am trying to know him,
still seeking the cipher to the enigma.

Perhaps this is a son’s plight, wondering
if I will grow old, perhaps even with enough
sense to know that a pot-bellied stove in the front
yard isn’t my idea of art but can be yours.


I felt a line
for a poem

like the trace left
by a snow storm

failed to record it
sure I’d remember

always forgetting
I seldom do

now I recall only
a dream’s dust

a ghost’s whisper
in the attic

I wait long for
a faithful return

like I hold my father
and his fishing line

still in the air
each careful cast

a line of poetry
calling its catch

the last August
from the front steps

he waved with
what I thought

was a lackluster show
of resigned civility

but now know
was a last farewell

take care a sigh
that holds me

in the bleak winter
till spring light

if only I can trace
the sinuous line


when Humphrey Bogart died,
Lauren Bacall said, spring
is a shitty time to die

from the hospital’s third floor
autumn in the Humber Valley
is a cheap Chinese combo

gold silk, mustard pungency,
crimson memories, gelled orange,
nature’s flamboyant dying

I could climb a poplar tree
and fall into the low gray sky
if I had enough faith to trust

the geometry of possibilities
in the countless shapes of trees,
rationality only one way of being

my father stirs, crazy with not
knowing, his brain now owned by
a tumour with a despot’s humour

everything is okay, I lie, wanting
more malleable truth, knowing only
autumn is a shitty season to die

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