The Middle of a Life


when my cousin spoke
it was his father's voice I heard
dead two decades
since we last visited:
Christmas dinner was served
plates on knees
my aunt's sister half drunk
she listened to the music box lighter
that set her hair on fire my cousin
behind the magic store counter
pacing the store's length
smoking and drinking Coke
in a foreign city


bee hives wrapped in tar-paper
for the winter
sit like back-town shacks
a snow drift
arched over roofs
fallen apple trees
block some of the wind
below the apiary
trees follow the river
then a side road across
the Morrison Bridge
to where Mrs Kell lived
empty rooms visited
by the daily movement
of sunrise and the golden
light of 5 p.m. when the sun
waves a white sheet a cloud
and surrenders to darkness


considering the past
would I have lived differently
or would I have endured it
to save face from admitting
or endured it
because I thought myself
unworthy of better?
fields by the roadside mist
on the drainage ditch
bees shooting from the hives
like rush hour traffic
golden rod fields a grave
of yellow hair
along the back roads
cedars recede into shadows
if I had known then
what I know now
would I have lived this way?

(from Family Album, Caitlin Press, Vancouver, 1989)