Table for Three
Table for Three
Oh child among the roses, oh press of doves,
oh presidio of fish and rosebushes
your soul is a bottle of dried salts
and a bell filled with grapes, your skin.
Ode With a Lament Pablo Neruda
Egg-yolk yellow police tape flaps
in the morning breeze, delineates the area,
is the bold evidence left to say:
"caution, beware, a bad thing happened here"
An impromptu memorial: teddy-bears,
gaudy balloons, hand-fashioned cards
expressing heartache and love
leans haphazardly against an opening
smashed through the patio tree grove,
oh child among the roses, oh press of doves.
The staff cannot resist talking although
the place is not opening today...
"Is it true, he didn't die right away?"
And the wind may be forgiven for sobbing
as it whispers to the lilacs not to listen to them.
Anyone passing by would hear only
minutiae-like sounds, the pulls and pushes
as bits of grief and sadness circle there,
and always on the breeze, soft shushes,
oh presidio of fish and rosebushes.
There's no denying the facts as wretched
as they be, especially as your tiny soul lingers on.
How to explain to such a one that a party
just for you should end so unimaginably.
No wonder the wind cannot speak above
a whisper, nor expose, with whom lies the fault.
Does it matter now who caused your death,
who it was couldn't bring the car to a halt,
pinning you to the wall, stealing breath and life;
your soul is a bottle of dried salts.
Would there be a way to fill your Mama's
empty arms, her emptier heart—we would.
But catastrophic events such as this leave little corporeal
with which to work and the reality for us, and for you
is that now you need unfold your ephemeral wings,
and soar above us all—go, you who are without sin.
Go where you will become whole again...
Remain not where your everyness lies broken,
where birds weep, eyes grow blind, bones thin,
and a bell filled with grapes, your skin.
Another poem submitted by S.E. Ingraham to our 2013 contest was particularly admired by contest founder and advisor John Reid:
A Jumping Off Point
Crouched between the Rockies and the Strait of Georgia,
Vancouver, British Columbia sits like an emerald; verdant, blossoming
year round, rich with vistas that will snatch away your breath
On sun-filled days, the locals call the place God's country
And the tourists, the tourists are so envious
they plot ways to stay there, to move there, retire there
Anything, to be part of this splendour, this best
Of all possible worlds, where every second person is walking or biking
obscenely healthy, in this place built on hills leading up from the harbour
Except for Hastings Street—where admittedly, there are some scary folks
Every large city must have its addicts and homeless and crazy people it seems—
The city shows itself as empirically world-class, reflecting much of the Oriental influence
found within its populace with its architecture; the curved necks of cranes and swans,
the graceful wings of butterflies—many swoops and lovely lines make up the skyline
atop the tallest buildings there, where all signs indicate prosperity and good health.
Unless—oh unless—you stumble there, at the far end of Canada's mainland
on a rainy day—and they have more rainy days than almost any other city
in this vast land—certainly the most of any metropolis. Two years ago, it's said
there was a stretch when the sun refused to shine for more than seventy days
That's right—seven zero—and almost every one of those days had what
they casually referred to as "some precipitation"
I remember going there for vacation every year for many years,
experiencing sunshine and fair weather only, however,
when I finally convinced my soul-mate to accompany me
it rained every day, and as he grew fond of telling anyone who would listen:
The weather was so bad even with dense fog ending at our knees,
below the fog, it poured rain, and it did...
The hosts at our Bed and Breakfast assured us
that this was well within the norm—oh my
We only planned to stay for two weeks and had new
and exciting things to do every day—true—
But by the second week, we were both starting to find
it an effort to drag ourselves out of bed
Even with umbrellas, rain-boots and slickers,
we were never quite dry, and always chilled through
I remembered from my childhood in Toronto,
this kind of gelidity—a rarer experience in T.O. at least—
It enters your bones, takes root, and settles there;
it's almost impossible to dispel
No matter how many hot baths, extra sweaters,
or roaring fires—you still find yourself shivering
incessantly—It was, in a word, depressing.
We discussed the mood-destroying climes with our hosts
over dinner one evening, saw them exchange glances,
did some prodding and learned
the lovely, well-heeled city—a very wealthy place
Vancouver is—also has the highest per capita
rate of suicide in the country—There is a standing joke
that desperate people run away from
home, families, the law, any intolerable situation...
They run and run until they can't run anymore
That's when they find themselves at the ocean,
in Vancouver; and if it's raining, and odds are great
that it will be—they just keep on running—off a cliff,
a bridge—whatever, or they quickly go insane.
Rainy days and death go hand in hand here,
they told us, just read the obituaries if you need proof
This information was presented in such a matter-of-fact way,
we didn't doubt them for a minute
and went quietly back to our room to build yet another fire.
I remember sitting in the window seat
trying to write in my journal, wearing fleecy socks and a hoodie.
And my frozen hands shook so I could barely hold the pen
My husband brought me hot chocolate, and my quillow
—a quilt made for one, with a pocket for feet—
He tucked me in like a child, smoothed my hair
as we both looked out at the rain pouring down
It was bleaker in the dark somehow and I knew
he was worried as he told me we could leave
right away, and that we would never move there,
I didn't have to wonder about that, in fact
we didn't even have to visit there again,
if that's what I wanted—he was trying so hard—I tried too.
Rainy days and nights shouldn't have such power,
I remember thinking, nor tales of suicide
be able to invoke reactions such as these;
I don't remember falling asleep, or him putting me to bed
Only that when we awoke, it was still raining,
drizzling, as we packed and went home.