The Life and Times of Alice Maude

       Leslie Smith Dow
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The Life and Times of Alice Maude





The Pioneer Poems:
The Life and Times of Alice Maude

by Leslie Smith Dow






For Darrin


Cover artwork:
Original oil painting "Cruise Control" © 2015 Debra A. Horwitz

© 2015 Leslie Smith Dow. All rights reserved.


ALICE MAUDE

looks directly
at the camera

dares
her picture to be taken
laughs,
and gives away her soul

me,
I always look away
or blink
at the last minute


RELENTLESS GREEN CHILDREN

like children of nuns
on iron bedstead
on pillow of sugar sacks
we slept through
the orange fire of summer

our room full of the freshness of apples
the pink and white
of June roses
the warm breeze of new laundry

while out the window
Maude bent over her plots of sun
relentless green searing the grasses
and rustling the trees

in our dreams
we flew down to join you

LONG GRASS OF TWILIGHT

first the Indians came
then the gypsies
all travellers welcomes on our land
we too were merely passing through

in the long grass of twilight
we and our small cousins crept
to the edge of their smoky campfires

to see with their eyes
the dancing the singing
longing to leave the land
as much as they loved it

ME AND MARGERY

did the work of men between us five
pretty Helen too frail for threshing
Charlotte and Beatrice too proud

in the fields we laboured
beside our father
without sons

later in the bad times
it was me pulled the plough
Marge guiding the blade
through the worthless earth

no men to speak of
two boys in Flanders
Jack up to his elbows
in axle grease and drink

JACK'S BLUE STREAK

her hair curled in long waves
to her lap
when I first saw her

I'd take the car
head north, anywhere
to clear the city from my mind

breathe the grease
and poison
from my lungs

a horse in the bend of the road
legs clawing sky
Alice Maude astride

cursing a blue streak
threatening me with her whip
I knew she'd do it always

THE LOMBARDY FAIR

semi-darkness
he sized her up
his blue eyes
her dark hair

confident
running his hands over her
over her flanks
trembling like a filly

THE BONES OF HOME

these walls are smoothed
by rocks and pounding
waves along the shore

the very bones of home
on which the flesh
of family thrives

heat of afternoon
warms the windows
through the cool of evening
and of troubles

these pine boards
fairly sing
the history of us

years from now I'll feel you
on wet nights and blustery days
a dull ache inside

a reminder of the bones of home


MONDAY IN THE FORENOON

Monday in the forenoon
Alice Maude worked in the far field
where the Lefroy train passed by

trainmen blew the whistle hard
at her red hair streaming
black skirts flying
laughed at the three runaways

Tuesday heard the hiss of steam
Alice Maude stripped off her skirts
blindfolded the chestnuts
smiled and ploughed in petticoats

that day the 12:05
was late arriving

WAR

Days were war enough
for Marge and me

those years we ploughed
and milked alone
scratched the soil
for seeds that barely grew

bleary nights our fingers
mumbled over hand-knit socks
and sugar cookies for the Red Cross

nights I dreamed
of mud and shrieking horses
blackened hands grasping at my legs
the smell of mustard gas

THE MARRIAGE

Even at 5 a.m. you knew
hardly time for dressing
no boots for speed in the early darkness

You could run for miles
to those far blue-wet fields

soft-throated cows
moist nostrils
welcoming your smell

heavy udders waiting
for the gentle pressure of your hands
so like him, pleading

pressing his greasy pencil stub
against the paper
"Dear Maude,
whatever is the matter"

ONE TWO THREE FROGS

One two three frogs
exploded into blood
at the end of Johnny's gun

I never thought of catching them that way

cried past all the cattails
on the path to home
those three shots reverberating

and my heart pounding
behind the clumps of cedar
mud on my belly
when Johnny tired of the frogs

GENERATIONS

ninety years and more
for one of us to live
dreams you wanted
she wanted
she sealed your fate
you sealed hers

in denial
in pride
and opened my world to possibilities

ninety years and more
these dreams have slept
extinguished in sorrow
trodden by time

and now the time for which
the two generations
prepared the third has come

now what becomes this fourth
inside me?

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