you can farm for food
but not for profit
you can buy Weet-bix with your benefit
but not wine
Wine is for those who can afford it.
you can go to school and learn a trade.
you can make the team
although it’s not fair.
My kid is just smaller.
You can have your cake
and eat it
provided you save me the biggest piece.
You can even keep your damned mountain
but you gotta let me climb it
How about right now?
On second thought, I don’t feel like climbing a mountain today.
Go ahead. I’ll watch on telly
I might even cheer for you.
Imagine, all those eyes watching
waiting for you to fall.
(Authors note: The Polish hills were in western Quebec in Canada)
two hours from the city
long twisty rough road
too many stones to run on
not easy to drive—wouldn’t want to try it if you’d had a few
although they did, often
overgrown acres thick with goldenrod
desperately blue sky
a stream with a swimming hole
watch the current!
a few more miles and the road trails into pine stands
once the lifeblood of this place
this marginal land where new immigrants from Europe
mixed with the French
who had been here for generations
this is the “stopping place”
where teams of men rested
before heading back into the forest
for weeks at a time
with dogs and sleighs, or on foot
to fell the timber
my grandmother had a hotel here
as her daughter climbs from the dusty car
the bright day is enveloped in the past
they are all dead now, she observes
(as you get older loss ceases to be an event)
But you should have been here when this place was in its heyday
Your grandmother had a big staff
and six sisters, to help her run the place
parties in the summer
girls in white dresses courted by rich Americans
come to fish and hunt
we danced to Uncle Prosper’s violin
outside on the verandah
hearts were broken
bright gas lanterns and baskets of hanging flowers
I want so much to see what she sees
But for me
a few pitted foundation-stones
a rusted-out Ford
butterflies and purple lupine
As we fold back into the car
I leave the doors open, for a moment, against the heat
As it does in the late afternoon
the wind picks up, the crickets call
Do you hear it? her life, my life
singing in the pines?
she was always on time
much of each evening devoted to preparing
for the next morning
so there would be no hitches
she was good to her mother
never forgot birthdays
and had her fringe trimmed every three weeks
on a Friday
if she met a man
he quickly understood
that she was a Responsible Girl
then one man
(who was pretty hot)
said “the money or the bag”
to her surprise she did not sleep well that night
he went away
she lost her bankcard
and forgot to pack clean undies when she went to the gym
the next morning
she had carbohydrates for breakfast
and started work at ten
But on the third day she rose at dawn.
she made her list, paid the bills and finished a report
Then she rang him.
the last I heard
they were living in Motueka
without a clock
came a day that he didn’t want to do it anymore
what they lived for, he laughed at
having lost his edge
he lost his job
when asked, in surveys
he would write “independent contractor”
or “company director”
neither of which was true
he was “x, unemployed, of Johnsonville”
people would ask
he would say
I watch, and listen
He suffered a decline in material outcomes
thought about going on the market
but who wants a man without an edge?
came a day that he learned how to live on the margin
a slim space, but enough
he made things, paid attention, provided small services
walked more, dreamed more, judged less
he moved out of Johnsonville
he was very happy
Grey November in that other hemisphere
planning for escape
smoky sexy sax
refuge of Cajuns before us
I cooked you jambalaya
we were both nervous
drank too much, talked a lot
listened to jazz
now the dream is drowned
how? a tropical storm
not a punishment for wanton ways
They don’t care as long as they protect their money.
Despair, streets of Havana, my current aspiration!
In this world
the wreckers can reach even our fantasies