Three Poems

Poetry
Carl Leggo


Moccasins

with the honorarium
from my first published poems
I bought a pair of moccasins
in the Fredericton farmer’s market

ordered exactly what I wanted:
soft deerskin leather, ankle high,
a rubber sole for walking,
and beads (men’s moccasins
ordinarily didn’t have beads)

they fit like a word
that gives you goose-bumps

I only wore them when I wrote poems
or thought about writing poems
or felt like a poem

the rubber heel was replaced a few times,
they were sewed a few times,
the leather lace was replaced a few times,
some of the beads fell off

after a decade I only wore them
once or twice a year,
storing the poetry in my blood
like a winter stone in November sun

so she knew what she was doing
when she slashed them
with an X-acto knife
and left them in the closet
where I would find them
after she was gone

 

Scratch in My Throat

four black birds sit in the snow
on the fence that defines my backyard,
rare since it seldom snows in Steveston,
and for a breath I am in Newfoundland

where I lived a long story of winter light
in a sacred, sometimes scary land
where snow insists on staying too long,
and the birds remind me of Wallace Stevens

and I wonder where the other nine black birds
are, I feel so close to a poem, its breath
a scratch in my throat in the tangled
midst of memories, I live with the past

trailing like a train of U-Hauls stuffed
with stories I no longer need, always hard
to clean the closet, especially in winter
when the stories might still be missed

like old sweaters, though this morning
while running on the dike I heard thousands
of snow geese write their way into the dawn
with a raucous eagerness for light

 

Picnics
(November 14, 2003)

like an expiration date on bacon or bread,
I have one more day in the decade of my forties,
and while I confess the fiction of chronology
composed by clocks and calendars, the imposition
of time as linear like a ladder, I can’t dispel
the relentless realization: in a day I will be old

at least much older than I am now, will wake up
on Saturday (for the first time I see weekend
as weakened) and notice how almost everyone
is young, younger than me, how, unless I am
a statistical anomaly, I will not live another
fifty years, perhaps another decade or two or three,
which today with the sun chasing shadows in early
winter light during a long run around the curve
of York Harbour will simply not be enough

I don’t know what eternity holds, what aftertaste
of earth will linger at the back of the heart, but I am
in no hurry to find out, since on this day I am teased
to distraction with the light I see everywhere,
need nothing more than eager licks of the earth

always greedy for more picnics, even as a teen,
I used the resources of high school mathematics
to compute the irrefutable conclusion that eating up
an annual average of fifty picnics, I would still
devour only three and a half thousand in a typical
biblical lifetime, and knew with unassailable certainty,
even then, that wouldn’t be enough, not nearly enough

like Emily Dickinson, I know for sure only,
Too few the mornings be, Too scant the nights,
and I wonder if Emily savoured many picnics,
probably not, since I don’t think she went out
much, or was that Emily Bronte? oh the waste
of getting old! after a lifetime of rehearsing
for Jeopardy (cramming my cheeks with facts
like a neurotic squirrel), everything is now
jumbled up like jambalaya, and all the facts
are so much mouldy manna that will not sustain
me in the long winter without picnics

and writing this poem about growing old and longing
for picnics (even though every sensible husband knows
I should be helping Lana prepare for the birthday party
tomorrow) is a sign I sing to ward off the murky
monsters under my bed, including loss and lumbago,
congestion and indigestion, headaches and heartaches,
violet varicose veins like a map of violent places
I have travelled, grateful and glad Anna sent me
Walter the Farting Dog to remind me I am still loved

pencil

Carl Leggo has published two books of poems, Growing Up Perpendicular on the Side of a Hill and View from My Mother’s House (Killick Press), and many poems and short stories in literary journals. He is an associate professor in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia where he teaches courses in writing and narrative inquiry. E-mail: carl.leggo[at]ubc.ca.

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