and his cigarette still burning on the striproom table
beside a can of worms.
He would’ve been leaning there that morning
in the barn, near the radio, after ploughing the fields, before
heading for Caledonia to fish on the Grand
had three-four good years after his first heart attack, see
but he’d taken it up again, lost all that nice pink from his face,
Vincent Church was visiting from Waterford
—oh, they liked to talk about swap, and fixing things, you know
Vince found him, and never recovered from the sight, our neighbour
Koslowski called the ambulance, took him straight to the funeral home
and went to tell Mother and Margaret at St. Bernard’s.
I was in Niagara with my girl after Ray Rutherford’s wedding,
we drove down there from Meaford, it was early May
our last blossom days
the start of tough slogging,
a hard summer with all that had to be done, you know
during tobacco harvest.
I’d kept six hives of bees but they swarmed
late in the season because I hadn’t got the supers on
and I felt so bad about that, they wouldn’t likely survive.
You remember the rhyme, a swarm in May is worth a load of hay
in June a silver spoon, but a swarm in July’s not worth a fly.
It was August already, I was driving boat
bringing loads of tobacco from the field, dreaming of Regina
when the sky went dim, a black veil, my bees
and I couldn’t stop to tend them.
That’s when I knew I couldn’t do everything, I’d failed, see
it was all blow-sand knolls and wet spots
and watching my bees fly away.
Tobacco still ripening in the fields when it came time
to leave for school in Toronto, Mother made me a bread pudding
and a pact that I’d not come home ’til Thanksgiving.
Somehow she’d get the crops in, and she sat at the table
weeping, sweet steam beading the plate, the tears
filled my throat like lit sumac and honeycomb, beekeeper’s smoke.
She’d made my favourite dessert, and you know
I couldn’t touch it.