Tuesday, 20 June 2017

after war

my father’s photographs and poems, from The War, 
are kept in a large wooden box, on a bookshelf in my bedroom

in picture after picture, he is embraced by his ‘pals’ …
young men in their early 20’s mugging in front of cameras,
before being sent off to a lethal game of run-for-your-life –
aka:  The Storming of the Beaches of Normandy

there are lots of mementos in that box, but it is a very big box
and it is, mostly, empty … sometimes when I’m tidying, I think,
I ought to make better use of that space and toss other stuff in there –
but it feels like that would be a mean intrusion ... almost as though, 
that box couldn't possibly hold any more

I only ever saw him poring over those pictures and poems, once …
my mother always said, he didn’t need to look back,
he carried that war with him every day of his life

the contents of his ‘war chest’ were the only personal possessions,
other than his clothing and books, that he hung on to

his whole life:  he never added another keepsake to that box,
it was as if, after the war … he was done making happy memories ...
and done celebrating them ... there were almost no more smiling pictures ...
no more postcards from a shining moment in time, to be thrown away and forgotten

A verse from one of my Dad’s poems (circa 1944)

Living and dying; shadow and light
Drinking and praying; wrong and right
Life’s course, a twisted pattern weaves
Men play and die or live and grieve
Note:  1 in 8 Canadian soldiers, returning home following deployment to Afghanistan, suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Photo:  Dad's 'War Chest' - W. Bourke

© 2017 Wendy Bourke

Thursday, 15 June 2017

souls and human beings

she walked down the street median … passed the row 
of idling cars that would have raced by her, 
but for, the bright red orb that signalled:  stop

she held a cardboard sign ‘pregnant – need money for food’ …
I could not tell, if the gloom upon her old young face 
reflected anger or hate or sadness or pain or all of it

it is impossible to move around this manic city without anguish … 
without words like ‘souls’ and ‘human beings’ tumbling 
across your mind, like tosses of dice in a game of craps

she caught me … staring at her through the window …
and I sheepishly cast my eyes down – for I knew the look I wore
expressed my shock and frightened thoughts of the fate 
that awaited the unborn child … if there was an unborn child

she came up to my car door, as if she’d been summoned
and, rolling down the window, I pressed a blue five bucks 
into a limp and grimy hand … wondering … if I’d just been played … 
as if such speculations have a place … where human beings beg

Sketch:  A Study of a Woman’s Hands – Leonardo da Vinci –  c. 1490 (Public domain) 

© 2017 Wendy Bourke

Thursday, 8 June 2017

for the first and last time

There have been many ‘last times’ in my life.  Though I can think of few that I acknowledged – or even knew – were ‘last times’, as they happened ( . . . perhaps, I've forgotten).  The ‘last time’ I ran – fast – it was to catch up with a professor who was leaving on sabbatical with the master key, he had not remembered to return.  I haven’t laughed – hard – in a very long time.  So, I’m inclined to think:  I have laughed ‘til-I-cried, for the 'last time'.  Will I ever attempt to speak French – publicly –  again?  The last words I uttered in French were:  Où sont les toilettes?  It was in Paris.  I don’t imagine I will ever get back there again, so that was probably the 'last time' for that.  (If only I’d said:  Au Revoir … but I didn’t.)

  ~  ~  ~

The last time (though I did not know it then) that I would see my mother … she had turned from our tepid goodbye (having decided not to wait around for my exit) and was bent over her suitcase, searching for a misplaced slipper.  It was such an unremarkable finish … I have often thought in retrospect … though, somehow, befitting our perpetual knack for never quite managing to get on to the same page at the same time.

After she passed, wedged between her scrapbooks and photo albums, I found a book of John Lennon’s poetry and prose.  Almost half a century earlier she had thumbed through a virtually identical volume of mine (that I had purchased with babysitting money) and remarked (prophetically, as it turned out):  I don’t get you at all.

among her things … that book
proof – she had tried to find her way
back to the place
that marked the first time
our differences found words

note:  a tanka prose piece

photo/graphic: Early Days with Mom (Pho.to:  free on-line photo editor) - W. Bourke

© 2017 Wendy Bourke