The Bear in the Buckwheat

In Cape Breton, perhaps, some fiddler
could tell me what it means:
it’s the only place I’ve tracked the phrase —
a reel by that name that plays in the Dungreen Set
after “The Primrose Lasses”.

And for him, I’m sure,
there was no connection
when he offered up the line
one morning in a sales meeting,
off-hand, slightly abashed.
He said, “So I told him where
the bear goes in the buckwheat.”

I know very little about bears
but I do know it’s
always the imagined bear
that disturbs our sleep.
The real bear roots in the furze,
tunes out the hiker,
and then turns away
to his termites and his truth.

The image remains from that day —
the animal’s brown flanks
disappearing among the grain,
the stalks shuffling shut behind,
the rooks wheeling in the prairie sky,
and the field left
undisturbed for memory.

For Jeff B, dead of a heart attack

Bus Conversation

Their voices, fatted with gossip
and nimble as bats spun out of the dark
conjure backshed bottles
weeping unpronounceable spirits.

And their scarves touch singingly,
the two nodding Easter eggs of their heads
spring and relax,
their mouths red with exclamations.

A ruddy hand, mottled like sausage,
touches her sister’s
as they pass the Ukrainian church
and its gilded saints.

A man gets up, a sober Canadian man
in a doeskin shirt,
leans cheek to cheek
with this good Canadian woman.
“Can’t you speak English?” he says.

Copyright © 2019 Lilibug Publishing.

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Palliative Care

Outside, the children, off from school in spring,
march happily in troops of pealing voices
and you hear them, though just now
you couldn’t hear the doorbell ring
and couldn’t choose between the dinner choices.

When the daffodils came out
and we puttered round the house with sheets
you were the first to see them:
you brought me running with a shout
that shoppers must have heard on Granville Street

though just last night
you couldn’t read the headline of the Sun
before I left to get the errands done.

At midday, when the clouds are overcome
and sparrows fill the spaces with their song
while sunlight fills the nursery
you get up from your chair to see the plum
though yesterday the walk was far too long

and yesterday your legs were weak
and yesterday you wouldn’t speak or stand upright,
but all the evening watched
the steady breathing of the light.

Bees’ Nest

We found cool,
creeping in the pine and eucalyptus,
stealing through hidden spaces
when the weekdays dragged,
and summer staked a place
on every bleached
beach towel.

I remember following her foot
on fecund earth
like still-damp coffee grounds.
A welt of outstretched limbs,
the taste of shade and sweat
on our noses and our tongues,
and sun and devils in our faces.

Alison was California,
like the copses,
a vein sprung
from subterranean lines
that pushed up trees
and pushed out beaches
into their matrimonial air.

I remember winding by
the Spanish tower
in the bloom of geraniums
always dying.
I remember her smile
after school, a wink
and a disclaimer:
a mushroom invitation,
California sweet and scarlet.

The bees’ nest was a stump,
an old oak, rotted and sealed
and smelling of resin.
Friday morning, off from summer school,
we heaped mud and leaves
to stop the migration of the bees.

Then Alison with a stick
and the rich swarm
that burst from the wood like fluid,
while she cried and cried
and ran with her insect headdress,
pushing me away and crying “Help me!”

I put out my hand to help,
but she was too concerned
with punishment.