I can’t step into a church without being reminded of Leo.
I see him, leaning heavily on his cane, waiting in the vestibule
to usher the parishioners to their seats,
his labored gait up the aisle, one leg stiff,
the shoulder of his Canadian Legion jacket strewn
with medals and ribbons.
In the stillness the rubber tip of his cane
squeaks loudly against the polished floor.

The star resident at her mother’s boarding-house,
my friend Linda said we should visit him.
He’d insisted,
and there had been toffees promised.
Restless and bored one spring day I relented,
followed Linda home and climbed the stairs lazily to Leo’s room.
Unlike the others his door was open.
There was Leo, lying on his bed, his cane alongside,
rest the only respite from his affliction.

Come in, close the door.
Feed my bird Charlie.
I worried then about telling my mother this.
But Leo wasn’t a stranger.
Everyone knew Leo.
Father Blackwell told us in catechism class
it was men like Leo who had kept us free.
The shabby room smelled of wet wool
from clothes drying on the radiator
and of Old Sail, his pipe tobacco.
A bowl of sweets beckoned by the bed.
Charlie was bustling about in his cage.
Sit beside Leo, honey.
A good Catholic girl, I did as the hero said.
The bristles of his beard stung my face,
his breath turned to a rasp.
I smelled something fetid on his breath.
When he released me
Charlie was singing,


While cleaning out a bookcase.

For Richard Blessing

There is a poet I’m reading
After being surprised to come upon his dog-eared collection
While cleaning a bookcase.
I had forgotten even owning it.
His name won’t mean anything to you, never famous or fashionable,
But it draws me after all these years,
His slim dusty volume so callously abandoned.
How quickly I am reminded of his sublime voice,
Like that of a long forgotten beloved friend,
Resurrected now line by line,
Rising off the yellowed pages
In the slate gray light of this autumn afternoon.

His father’s nurse says she’s too tall for marriages.
The younger poets are ample in their margins.
The migrating salmon leap like sparks from some windy chimney.
The sound of his son’s bat on a baseball, as sweet as any teacake,
the ball’s leaping arc making the field small.

It’s gratitude I feel to find him once again,
Someone I didn’t even know I had lost,
Relieved to have unearthed his particular genius, restored it to my life.

I won’t be rich or famous, you said, sad on your birthday.
I don’t have a baby. Now it’s too late.
I pull you close. We have missed nothing. This is our only life.

And just when I think he can give me no more
Comes his closing prayer, this long dead poet
With no name you would know:
May grace be drawn to our ill-suited hands.


Face Value

John Wayne hated horses. Took a truck whenever he could.
Esther Williams hated water. Couldn’t wait to dry off
after every shot.
Dr. Seuss was annoyed by children, their unpredictability.
Beiber probably hates his own music.

Whatever you think is true about anyone
turn it on its head then flip it again.
You’ll be closer.

Next I’ll be telling you Marilyn Monroe hated sex.
But I bet you a year of Hollywood’s grosses
she did.

It gets worse:
The flawless model: photo shopped.
The philanthropist cheats on his taxes.
The environmentalist cannot live without A/C.
No one throws it back like the prohibitionist.
The priest,
I hate to say it, the priest’s no saint either.

Assume everyone you meet is revealed to you
Through a prism,
Leaving you one option: to tease out
the viewing angle with the least distortion.
And even then.


Labour Day

Funny word for the quietest day of the year.
It’s time to be adults again.
No more ice cream for dinner,
meandering conversations,
late nights of poker and rom-coms,
sleeping until noon.
Time’s up.
Set your alarms.
Back to work.
Will you get serious?


September 1st and 2nd

September 1st

The obligatory backpacks bought,
The sectioned notebooks and the cornucopia of Sharpies,
Heralding the dull march back to classrooms, schedules.
In its forlorn wake a trail of
Unhurried pancake breakfasts
And lying perfectly still on a sun-scorched dock,
Until perhaps trailing a finger,
But only one.

September 2nd

Boats pulled out for the season
Children rushing to school
And like a switch was flipped overnight
The water in the bay now darker

resized bronze child

Friendly Fire



He would sit under the kitchen table
About an hour before each mid-week transfer.
Just sit, wrapped up in himself.
Quietly, not even petulantly.
Resignation in the set of his shoulders,
A look in his eyes
Not of sadness, but worse,