The Dead of My Life

to see the trees' branches
grey & archaic

against a sky
far whiter than the moon

an old woman's hair
tied in a bun

it is my grandmother's
hair as she embraces me

she blows a strand up through yellow
& absent teeth the hair
fallen over her forehead

o the moon is my grandmother's
bun tide in a million

knots tied to her
ancient head with the stubby

fingers of time

her gold wedding ring

has become a part of her

hand the flesh grown
around it so the finger

the flesh itself

is one with that
circle of gold

aureole of light
on the moon


how often I return to them
the dead in my life
who inhabit dreams

memories while rocking
my son to sleep or a
dream that my Uncle Alex
was alive although we

thought (in the dream)
that he had been dead
these seven years

they are like flies
beating against an autumn window

flies that bang
into my face & enter

the mouth to come out
as words this language
of flies & the dead

this ever diminishing
circus parade of old
people I hang onto
as though without them
I too would cease to be


their benevolence
is there too

the kindness
at leaving shadows

those who have become
memories to bury our

memories in their real

& most noble grave the soil of
anonymity we who
till the past & leave
cemeteries of memories
behind us until the mind

itself enters the earth
& holding handfuls of dirt
sees whole decades

removed from our
fingers as

the earth falls
& we say
our final & most
complete goodbyes

(from Divisions, Coach House Press, Toronto, 1983)