Mennonite Poetry Home | Larry Nightingale



Swimming to Greendale

Ruddy youngsters were we, up on Pumptown side, along the old canals,
supine plump rows of us, soberly drinking the cool lilac air of the summer shade

under mottled lavender and buttermilk skies, against dyke and stands of cottonwood,
just beyond the grip of evening chores, old testament memory, and the serious shadow
of tall thinkers' towers, out where the humming haunting silver power-lines cross
from nowhere to nowhere
(down along the old canals)

his mouth was rosy as he laughed
and drank heartily from a jagged bottle-lip
(he'd broken it's scrawny neck open against the solid rock)
suspenderless old elder after his hard day at it, farming,
in black shirt, sweat-stained straw fedora,
alone over along Greendale side

strange to see ...
an old man, un-buttoned,
laughed out loud then disappeared, pained, bent as a willow wisp, along the old canal
through a fresh white slap of water his pale rump in a slow glide through and down, along that long canal

surfaced elsewhere, surprisingly far downstream, still laughing gesturing bloody-mouthed
as all his lolling hounds, speckled and spotted, there on the tipsy banks of his heaven,
him now barely within sight and sound of the TransCanada overpass,
began to yelp ...


If ever I fully 'come to', stranded far past halfway across my life,
from these my fragmented reveries, neither near Pumptown nor Greendale,
past petty quarrels, grave crises, and whatever crosses to bear,
profound truth and the price of hay and heartache to parse, if ever ...
may all the old hounds of heaven still find me, soothe me
as the lapping waters, as that holy canal, a solitary breaststroke, that old man's tears
his laughter,
tongues licking my shit-faced soul.

© Larry Nightingale




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