Friday, January 30, 2009

an old poem embedded in thoughts you shouldn’t mix

There are many stories of the house on Ridgemont Avenue in Ottawa, where my mother spent much of her twenties, living with her parents and the siblings that remained, even the daughters of her older sister, Pat, or their oldest sibling Ralph, who lived mere blocks away with wife and own son, Larry. The house on Ridgemont that no longer exists, torn down after the house was sold, just around the turn of the new century. I spent a lot of time in that house when I was young, and have managed a number of pieces that reference it over the years, dropping into various poems. This piece came out soon after my grandmother died, two months or so into her stay at the nursing home, well after when she had started losing herself. There were funeral pieces, and post-funeral pieces. She was on my mind, then, even if not in her own.


the carcass of the old house after she moved
to the apartment. damp,
& rot. was the only one i knew who made
tomato soup w/

milk, the cloudy white stirrd in

slowly, continuous. uncle bob crushing premium plus
w/ his spoon. renovated the kitchen & the back after

husband died, his winter body brought in
after discovery in the snow, lay there cold
& stiff on the table

until the ambulance arrived, knowing
they neednt hurry. this much

is sure, is what

i know, how long

years can reach out thru, from
behind, & grab

at your neck like you were seven a second time,
scanning magazines in the wrong part

of another uncles house, black marks

over the parts of the female anatomy you knew,
even then, were interesting.

My maternal grandfather died of a heart attack in 1972, just out in the driveway, shovelling snow, not a year past his twenty-five years as a press-man at The Ottawa Citizen. The mix of cold air in his lungs and the heat that collected under his jacket, just at his chest. He was carried into the house at laid out on the kitchen table by neighbours, and apparently, my grandmother had to renovate the whole kitchen, refusing to eat there again. What else could she have done, I suppose. I don’t remember him, I don’t remember him dying, but I remember the renovation. It was the only time she let us eat in the living room, adding considerably to the kitchen and living room, and another second floor bedroom for my uncle Bob, while they were at it, before he married and moved.

I used to pick on a cousin, two years younger than I, after we were at a family wedding in the early 1990s, and his other brother, and I traded notes on sneaking up to uncle's bedroom to flip through his Playboy calendar. Apparently this younger cousin never did, instead heading down to the basement tv room to play with the plastic cars. How funny, I smirked, that you the only one of us three without partner or offspring? I often wondered if she suspected something, sneaking up the stairs, catching that glare of something going on, but perhaps not knowing what.

I could tell you, whatever I saw in those magazines, in whatever other relative's house during some family gathering, unlike in the poem, I was actually never caught. It was some time before I discovered other magazines in another relative's apartment, and knew the first hints of what existed beneath those black bars.

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