The Rusty Toque | Issue 10 | Poetry | June 30, 2016
MY HUSBAND'S MISSING ARM
My husband’s missing arm was a mystery. Even I didn’t know where it had gone. He never mentioned the lack of it and I was too polite to ask. But he did have balance. He had style. Once, he stepped onto a slack-line strung between two trees, walked twenty meters before falling off. He taught life skills to young offenders. Drove the delinquents around the neighbourhood in a beat-up van, looking for odd jobs: painting fences, raking leaves, digging up storm drains. My husband was tolerant of the boys’ goof-ups and fistfights, their sudden outbursts and electric rage. Disabled? He could slice bread, chop wood and do one-arm push-ups as well as any man. This isn’t a story about overcoming obstacles. It’s about my husband’s merry band of reprobates huddled outside a country church on the day of his funeral. It’s about the strange light and typhoon rain.
THE WOMAN WAKES TO FIND
The woman wakes to find the man in the kitchen beating eggs in a metal bowl. He looks up, startled. When people crack, he says, nothing can make them right again. This has always been his answer to difficulty and darkness. He pours the eggs into a pan, then drapes the omelettes over the backs of chairs. Breakfast at three in the morning, the woman says. Ridiculous! They sit and eat but it feels less like a meal and more like an extended joke. The woman knows this is the beginning of love’s journey in reverse, that the punch line will land with a thud the moment the man leaps up and heads out the door. She knows that she’ll follow him onto the street and around a corner. For fifty years I’ve been the happiest man alive, he’ll call over his shoulder, do you think it’s been easy? The woman is running now, down cement stairs, onto a subway car, up an escalator, he’s getting away from her . . . losing sight of him . . . can’t keep up . . . hip hurts . . . out of breath . . . he’s entering . . . swallowed up by . . . disappearing through . . . a revolving glass door . . .
MY FATHER IS DOING SOMETHING
My father is doing something complicated with a vise and hammer and tiny nails. Is he a carpenter? Sandal maker? Good with his hands? Are the hammer and nails literal or figurative? There’s a knock on the door. Is it a life or death knock? Tentative or impatient? I open and two men in coonskin caps, exact replicas of my father, are standing on the porch. Why have they arrived at my childhood home in coonskin caps? Is this my childhood home? If so, why the loft and big windows, the gridlock below, the street honking traffic. Where’s the farmhouse surrounded by fruit trees, the rope swing? And why do the men look like my father? Are they my father split into different selves? Does my father have different selves? And then I’m on a train entering a tunnel. As it emerges into light I remember that I left my father smoking in the kitchen, without saying goodbye. I left all three fathers. I have always been careless with people and now it’s too late.
PATRICIA YOUNG has published eleven collections of poetry and one of short fiction. Her poems have been widely anthologized and she has received numerous awards for her writing. She has been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award twice and has twice received the Dorothy Livesay Book Prize. She has also won the Pat Lowther Award, a CBC Literary Prize, Arc’s Poem of the Year Award, two National Magazine Awards, the Great Blue Heron Contest, and the Confederation Poet’s Prize. Her collection of short fiction, Airstream, won the Rooke-Metcalf Award, was shortlisted for the Butler Prize and named one of the Globe and Mail’s Best Books of the Year. A new collection of poetry will be published with Biblioasis in the fall of 2016.