Mennonite Poetry Home | Elmer Wiens



Kerrisdale Backstroke

Before the Pacific zephyrs raced
                    the high, leading cloud manes east,
                                        dragging tails lower and back to the amoeba packs,

the local crows rose from the hydro lines, rooftops, and trees,
                    joining the throngs murderously cheered toward Burnaby
                                        by a boisterous Nat Bailey baseball crowd.

Only a few little, high-flying swallows notice the bald eagle, tracked by a lone seagull,
                                        invade their vertical space, twisting leisurely on helices
                    skewed south toward the Fraser River's sockeye salmon runs.

Yesterday, a squadron of crows and seagulls harried the eagle,
                                        dive-bombing and clipping its wide-spread wing tips,
                    until strong wing-beats took it up and south out of range.

Minutes later, the patrol of crows apprehended a large raptor hawk,
                    purposely rebuffing attempts to end its hunt
                                        for hatchlings and juvenile birds
                    until more crows joined the attack.

Across the lane, pigeons wheel in
                    for Bert's backyard offering of grain and seeds.

Behind the grey-green concrete walls and bushes encircling the pool patio,
                    cars muffle past a bicycle bell tingling on Balsam Street,
                    a fire-truck's siren wails the distance to Dunbar Street,
                    and trucks detoured from Marine Drive rumble east and west on 41st Avenue.

In the northwest corner of the patio, purple lavender and dill shoots
                    superintend Thelma's herb garden of
                                        mint, sorrel, lavender, and oregano,
                                        basil, tarragon, chives, and thyme,
                                        sage, coriander, liquorice, and rosemary.

Red, yellow, white, purple, and blue flowers
                    of various species
                    attended by hornets and desperate bees,
                    and buddleia attracting butterflies
                                        share the six or seven flowerbeds
                                        with coniferous shrubs and an ornamental maple.

Meanwhile, yellow-jacket wasps, already evicted from their hives,
                    hover inches above the patio floor,
                    sampling puddles left by the flowerbed sprinklers.

Agitated sparrows bound onto the patio wall,
                                        doing what charming birds do.

Several four-winged, quixotic dragonflies return,
                    unpredictably snacking on unseen bugs above the pool.

Several sea-planes drone overhead,
                    beginning the afternoon migration of businessmen home to Victoria,
                    avoiding the reverberating jet-liners ascending YVR.

Vainly I search for the new crescent moon — cup half overturned —
                                        seen two days earlier — not yet shared with the night.

On the 5th floor balcony of the high-rise to the south,
                    an Asian woman drapes clothes over a drying rack,

while the Westerly breezes flutter curtains

                    and toss the jagged leaves of the marijuana plant
                    precariously clinging over the railing of the 7th floor balcony to the north.

The delicate scent of blooming lavender spices the aroma of hashish,

                    wafting across the patio from the open
                                        patio doors of the ground floor apartment.

Swimming my daily laps, I relax and lengthen my backstrokes,
                    comfortably warm in our 85 degrees Fahrenheit thermostated pool,
                                        shared with rose petals,
                    a black freckled, red lady bug,
                                        and drowned bees.

The vacant lounge chairs and tables wait
                                        in my Kerrisdale oasis in Vancouver with its patio of bees.

© Elmer Wiens




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