Two Poems by Diane Kendig

LAC DU ECO, 1991

The weekend the pump broke, the temperature hit ninety-three.
We rented a dark room in Prévost so my brother and wife
and baby had a toilet and tub. At dawn Monday, they left
and we came for a quick shampoo and TV news we saw
for the first time in months.

That Meech Lake Summer, in the intersection of language
and politics, we were hopeless fishermen,
but we could write. And we read Montreal,
old symbol shop, by its Union Jack, Maple Leaves,
and Fleur de Lis raised or lowered depending on the date.

Our molestations were mosquitoes, the pump and Emma,
wagging at the door, reeking of septic tanks– nothings,
really when all around was the cheap plenty of red raspberries,
eclairs, and pizzas layered with snails and eggplant. By radio
we heard aboriginal tribes were hoping to claim some rights, too.

Mandela, newly released, came and went in Xhosa, French,
English, and Inuit, sung, spoken, chanted, and translated.
He warned, “The struggle continues,” and “continues, continues,
continues” echoed off the three walls of Champs de Mars, but no one
seemed to struggle that June day as Oscar Peterson played.

Our landlord, had come, chain-smoked and choked out a lot
about his life with a French mother and English father.
This only time I regretted not taking the name “Beauvais,” my in-laws
had come for the first time in decades, recalled the bad days
when men were reamed out for speaking French at work.

We’d given the dog a bath and were working on showers
ourselves before returning to the cabin I could never call
a chateau. I recall pulling down my pile of towel
and wet hair, and looking at the screen, where we saw
the locals setting fire to a Native American effigy.

 

TBILISI, WINTER 2003

Lasha picks up a stick and starts writing
in the dirt, letters he learned to read and write
at Tskhneti Shelter for Homeless Children,
before he ran away, one of those with no memory
of family, crooked letters in the dirt on the pavement,
and we wonder if it’s that Middle East means,
(or any kid’s way), of deliberate inattentiveness,
the way U.S. teens say, “Talk to the hand.”

“Do you want to know a secret?”
he says, scraping into dirt, Lasha +
— the way they spraypaint their names on sidewalks
and walls in Park Hill Park in Fitchburg, Mass.,
no longer gouging hearts into trees, as grandparents did
— and maybe it’s the difficulty of writing
in the dirt makes the letters so crooked,
and maybe like Jesus with the Pharisees,
he’s letting us know he knows the rules, too.
“I want to tell you who I love.”

He’s in love with the girl whose grandmother
brings her to ride the merry-go- round,
in Vake Park, the place he sleeps on benches.
He heard her name once and continues writing it,
but scrapes it off before anyone can make it out,
stands up, says,“I’d better keep it to myself.”
Today is his lucky day:
“Playing ‘Once Upon a Time in America,’
on my flute, a man stopped and gave me 3 laris.
It happens very seldom.”

He sets his embouchure and turns his back
With his scary, deadly calm
It’s getting harder to believe
he’s only fourteen.

 

 

Diane Kendig –poet, writer, translator and teacher for 40 years– has authored four poetry collections, most recently The Places We Find Ourselves. A recipient of two Ohio Arts Council Fellowships, she has poems recently in J Journal, Wordgathering, and Ekphrasis, among others. She’s on the web: dianekendig.com and http://dianekendig.blogspot.com/