Monday, February 06, 2006

Elegy for Richard

You re-canvassed the canoe
five summers before you died
your youngest daughter helping
her growing adult wryness
making you both laugh often.

You'd realized it was time,
to peel off the old cover
canvas finally crazed cracked
patched and re-re-painted
beyond any further repair
over the course of its long life.

You and your daughter painstakingly
pulled every one of the hundreds
of steel brads from curved cedar ribs
muttering at the wrongness
of steel nails in a water craft
then carefully reclinched the planks
with the correct brass fasteners.

You mended the three cracked ribs and one plank
scraped and sanded the peeling varnish inside
then draped the cleaned hull in fresh canvas
pulled the damp fabric taut across
that perfect collection of arcs
fastened it down to dry and pull tight
then revarnished ribs and rawhide seats
and painted the new cover deep cerulean blue.

You'd bought that old canoe from my father
after I'd left our small prairie town
your children paddling the
tiny fourteen foot feather
happily as I ever had
on irrigation lakes and mountain fed rivers.

They were teens by then, and probably
had forgotten their nearly newborn voyages
when we'd floated them cradled
in calm summer water, in the same canoe
curious new eyes drawn over hardwood gunwales
to sunlight dancing and flashing on blue.

You and I had stayed close as we could
over great time and distance
seeing each other through life's currents
patching one another with careful words much
as we'd both patched that multicoloured canvas
through years of rough water and scraping stones.

I came back to see you the last time
after your traitor body, still damnably young,
had begun more fully to slip away
from the con of your always-sharp mind
and you lay sprawled in a padded lounger
dying from the tips of your fingers inward.

The hands that had bent easily and often
to their many tools and brushes
and to squared off spruce paddles
in economical fluid strokes
lay slack, mostly, on the arms
of your new, tiny prison.

We shared again remembered laughter
and rushed to retell random old small stories
suddenly become important again as your speech
slowed, blurred, slurred, then nearly silenced.

I often saw your alert calm eyes reach out the window,
their colour caught glancing off that old blue canoe
stored upturned on a weathered cradle
beneath newly leafing poplars
sometimes resigned and thoughtful
sometimes dancing like sunlight on water
as they sought and found that curved hull.

You re-canvassed the canoe
five summers before you died
your youngest daughter helping
through a needful job well done
with craft, care and patience.

Your daughters have the canoe now
I, miles away again, think of them and you
when I see sunlight dance on blue water
reflecting something still
of the essence of your calm blue eyes.

1 comment:

Fingers said...

It's beautiful...