This— This is the closest we have been in forty-seven years. Graveside, I close my eyes. See again, her lips smeared, her head turned, as she had lain unconscious. Whispers of Other Men— Immoral— Immoral living— Declared unfit for motherhood and I am only days from four.
Before that, in white shift sitting at the foot of her bed and singing quietly to herself. Singing, brushing and lifting her hair. Letting it fall. She is lovely to me. Later that night, weeping, anger, fists and cries.
At fifty-one I look like him. Fist-Man. Father. He wept in Irish taverns filled with weeping, singing drunks. She had danced the Sunrise on Hastings, whatever that meant.
She was gone when I was taken. I was gone if she returned.
A Child Welfare office filled with nervous women, children dressed in Sunday-best and a faint wash of fear— these memories, all memories, discomfit and jar.
A metal cup with orange juice. Warm, sweet and slightly bitter. The far end of the room. A bed made in a wooden trunk. Eyes slipping. Box lid closing. Sleep—
Bewildered, pushing, opened, the room lies stark, white and empty. No mothers. No children. No one waiting here. The lump that rises to my throat is the same one— the same one that rises in spasms from my chest on that dark-boxed, white-roomed and room-filled afternoon.
In forty-seven years I would stand above her on that overlooking hill. No words to mark her place, a plot numbered between other unmarked and numbered graves. Maybe she was gone again.
Gone before I could tell her what had happened, that I was sorry, that I would be a good boy, beg her— find me.
Eyes opened, I have waited long enough. The sun is hot. White lines trail across the sky. Paper from one pocket. Pen from another. I write. Roll tight and push as far in as this ground will allow.
White paper, ink. Graveside for her. Wayside for me.
A mark was kept. A mark was left.
A deep breath in, not held and out.
The Sunrise was a low-end hotel on Hastings Street in Vancouver. The bed-in-a-trunk sequence was as described. The orange juice had a sleeping drug in it and the trunk-bed was used to separate children from parents or guardians without a fuss. '61. Alberta.
Not all poems survive. I've lost a few and let others go. My current collection of poems is available on Kindle. It is called "3201 e's" (that is approximately how many e's are in the manuscript which is a very unpoetic title but a reflection on the creation of poetry from common things.)