Two Poems

October 2003

STANFEILD’S QUALITY UNDERWEAR

stencilled on the factory. S, Q, R
all tatty and pocked. You smoke a pre-rolled,
hear the Salmon River repeat its poor excuse.

Beige phone cord trailing out the front door.
Yeah, got voluntold to clerk at the Seconds.

At your wrist, a line tattoo from lady’s pen,
simple as the iceman’s.

If anybody had said, it comes down to this
Ash off. Your iron grip, premature arthritis.

Some genius psychic tried to put an ad on the river:

Call Gle
1-900-5

Half-sunk, when the floaties snapped in the frost.

Which in those days was a lot of money

Don’t be smart. Only uphill one way –
But I went barefoot both directions. Dad’s firm rule on shoes
was you put them on in sight of the schoolhouse,
though we’d watched a rusty nail take the Ogilvie’s third daughter
with a fever so high even her mum
couldn’t touch her face, just dropped a cloth from an inch above.
We got everything. Shingles, all alligatored up the legs,
rickets, mumps, scarlet fever – you know every year
each child got a Florida orange for Christmas, but as eldest
I was expected to give the baby half.
Once I watched your Uncle Ronnie puke it back up,
wasn’t I mad, just pennies rolling down his chin,
which in those days was a lot of money.
I pinched him blue right on his thigh.
That spring I finished school, so I took a stint in Halifax
copying maps for the forces for six cents an hour
till your Grandfather came home, and we took up the farm
with Stanton, selling cream to the Co-op at two ruddy cents a quart.
When I fell pregnant I just refused,
said for what that’s worth, I’ll eat it myself — a bowl whipped each day.
Now Stanton’s wife had an opinion about that,
but you know I didn’t lose a single tooth.
And the year after, prices picked up – oh, would you look
at you? Just as soon as I turn my back.
Filthy habit. Get those fingers out of your mouth.