By the River

I cannot find an appropriate obituary subject.

Sometimes I stumble across one-who-is-no-longer through bits I hear on the radio, or from friends who learn about a distant loss in their movement, the labour community maybe. Someone whom they believe must be noted. And I generally agree, although my editor might not.

Usually I study death notices but there is a dearth of deaths right now and this is weird. I don’t like to hunt among lost lives. I do not believe this to be an attractive or desirable side to my character.

But having time free of obituary writing leaves me to ponder many, always so many other things and one of the things is poetry.

April is National Poetry Month in Canada. Communities and businesses participate through readings, festivals, book display and such. I shall participate by letting old words drift into empty corners of my day: a poem I wrote about death.

It’s based on an experience my youngest sister had when she was five years old and encountered a corpse floating along the banks of the river below our Etobicoke house. She claims to have no scars from this memory. I don’t believe her.

The nameless dead man, by the way, has left us with no story to tell.

Only this small poem.

Walking memories by the river

We dream for our children

resurrect the ugliest visions

a rock to dangle over sharp cutting waters

drag a body from the river, hotly awaken.

Once a small girl strolling

along the Humber with her grandfather

became tangled with death

a man’s body against muddy galoshes

look away, he ordered.

The child now a woman

frame thickened

by the monotony of waking hours

watches walking memories unfurl.

Imagines such a death, such a life,

dreams to clear a passage

carves pathways to trod

grips the miraculous strength.

In ten wee digits

life dangles at the fingertips

a child reaches, trusts this touch

blood brilliantly roars into the next day.



About Nor

I'm a creative non-fiction writer, with a special interest in memoirs and obituaries--life stories, local histories with flesh & blood anecdotal details. I'm also beginning to create podcasts of people's stories and expanding their audiences. I'm a diarist, an editor, and a political activist. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and spend days tapping keys or staining my fingers in ink.
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