The life and times of al.., p.1
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       The Life and Times of Alice Maude, p.1

1 2 3
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.


  looks directly

  at the camera


  her picture to be taken


  and gives away her soul


  I always look away

  or blink

  at the last minute


  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


  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


  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


  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



  he sized her up

  his blue eyes

  her dark hair


  running his hands over her

  over her flanks

  trembling like a filly


  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

  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


  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


  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

  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


  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?


  who remembers the night

  the giant poplar crashed

  down dark and stormy

  along the drive

  missing the house by inches

  and the bedroom

  where the babies slept?

  Alice Maude saw

  shut her eyes tight

  and wished it fall

  somewhere else

  Grace across the road

  up all night with her sick child

  saw Alice Maude

  rain-soaked on the lawn

  like a sleepwalker

  when the tree came down


  in those days the lost

  turned to Seth

  not God

  who blazed trails

  through virgin woodlands

  and elsewhere

  marched with the rest

  the dawn miles

  to Montgomery's Tavern

  his steps still leave marks

n these parts

  too big for me to follow


  Alice Maude was afraid of one thing

  the undoing of women since Eve

  but this was no smooth

  talking serpent

  this one was dead

  even before Alice Maude

  and her sisters began taking the radial car south to school

  years it spent

  unmolested unmolesting

  resting in formaldehyde

  until the fateful day

  Alice Maude

  took grade 10 biology

  dissection of her mortal enemy

  not for her

  nr her dream as things transpired

  her refusing hand clasped and plunged

  into the jar by Mr. Gardiner

  snake and Alice Maude

  fainted dead away

  never again forced

  to sit in any classroom

  Alice Maude worked instead

  on her knees

  scrubbing floors of others

  over a bucket of soapy water

  they met again

  Alice Maude didn't recognize him

  outside of the jar


  look at that car

  he drives up

  in his pinstripe suit and tie

  he's no banker

  but he handles a gun

  knows all the cops

  he's as bulletproof

  as his bathtub gin

  some flying ace he is

  behind the wheel

  speed means nothing

  to a man with no limits

  first for love

  then for money

  Jack was every inch


  through the dragon's breath of morning

  it was me

  who ran barefoot

  through its dew-blue jaws

  and over the bald hill

  five miles there and back

  before mother stoked the fire for porridge

  collecting cows

  among the velvety green

  aching for me

  to take away their fullness

  nuzzling my empty hands


  Bell Ewart was as beautiful as her name

  and then she drowned

  they said her father named this land for her

  a memory soon to be a village

  low on the shores of the squalling lake

  tiny wood frame houses

  crammed full of families

  no money for foundations

  no need to collect the floodwaters

  that every spring washed away the roads


  Easter gifts

  embedded in dirty ice

  how could he know the children of those houses

  would scratch and call out "Belly Wart!"

  smelling raw

  and of raw sewage

  wherever they swam

  TRAIN SONG 5:15 a.m.

  Green to the waist half-hidden

  by the field of darkness

  she stood before

  relinquishing herself

  to the bare arms

  of waving wheat

  her bare toes tracing

  the arc of the sun

  over his belly

  the brakeman saw

  their imprint

  as he went by

  he watched her slipping her dress back on


  rode through one heat

  where wildcats jumped

  pine to pine and down

  and on and on

  over foaming ground and hissing embers

  sizzling on horseflesh

  careening over the smouldering black

  where no wildcats dance

  only wild fire

  spitting holes through her riding cloak

  curling the ends of her hair


  from the washing hung

  still warm

  upstairs on a rainy Monday

  comes a soft smell

  of air

  and fresh duck feathers

  that by Tuesday

  will be pillows and sheets so smooth

  under your downy hair


  you hold up the world

  in your green coils

  and tell me the why of everything

  that is why I am afraid

  I reach for my hoe

  to sever your beautiful neck

  none of your apples for me today


  pink white red yellow

  the apple trees are blooming

  in her red windbreaker

  hair untied now trickling

  past her shoulders

  Alice Maude steps into her garden

  waving a little want

  tipped with rabbit's fur

  Mother Nature-of-the-Cross-Pollinators

  here a squash

  there a melon

  over there a pumpkin

  pausing a moment under beaming moist sun

  even the bees are glad

  as she takes off her straw hat

  the lambs and kids run bleating to the fence

  at the sound of her voice

  to take strong tea perched on a camp stool

  under an island of snow apple tree

  her feet soothed on fallen white petals


  no soft light

  spreads over the stalks of last

  years ripened corn field

  alone and still alone she sits

  shepherding darkness round its edges

  until the new moon rising

  catches itself in the pines

  unwraps her moonkist bundles

  patting one by one

  into the expectant earth

  a bean seed falls

  from her tattered apron

  as she steps inside

  her camp stool waits

  beside the field




  tendril green at first

  a delicate shoot then vines

  grow up the roof

  Alice Maude thought eaves troughs

  would do to plant

  the little seeds of squash

  the boys had brought

  but Hubbards mutant monsters

  were what grew

  hulks their bony knuckles

  tore up and under the shingles

  Jack! Jack! she called half-joking

  under the beanstalks

  and into the rustling leaves of cattle

  and soon

  the air was filled with

  smells of baking bread


  golden honey pail tied to her waist

  Alice Maude moves quiet through the dew

  voices of swallows

  the chilly morning blue

  webs of wet and green

  picks the ruby raspberries

  holds them soft a moment

  in her ungloved hands

  savours the bitter

  sweetness of blooming red

  her lips on early summer

  waits for the sting of thorns

  and stain of blood

  fresh on her thighs


  racoon's revenge

  exploded out of dirt

  dead as that one hot day

  fur guts and bones

  buried but not deep enough

  screamed did Alice Maude

  and swore the earth rumbled

  with the spirit of all creatures


  since age four

  I have borne and laughed

  this mark for you

is china scar inside my wrist

  white like razors or slashing bits

  of broken chamber pot

  I slipped and smashed

  got soaking

  and give stitches

  by this tiny line

  my love for you will never shatter

  not like your chamber pot


  on a day that held no clouds

  the valley droned quiet with life

  under the heat of sleep

  under the drowsing heat of sleep

  exited by the screeching heat bug

  a song of rusty nails on iron

  on a day that held no clouds

  only a sudden snap and scream

  was heard

  up to the top of the barn

  to the top of the tin roof

  and then no sound not even

  the pulsing vein

  in the throat of the throbbing leopard frog

  nor a murmur of reeds

  no whisper of flight

  from the fledgling birds

  as a shadow jumped once

  and up and away

  on a day that held no clouds


  on cold and snowy winter mornings

  Alice Maude

  takes the red pail

  puts on her red coat big boots


  takes my hand over drifts and drifts

  so big

  opens wide the stable door

  so snow seeps in

  neighs and cackles

  animals stomp impatience

  but patience the sun beams

  down the cobwebs

  on our sweeping and shovelling breath

  foams foggy

  new light draws haloes on the straw

  and on Alice Maude's boots

  covered in muck

  a look of rapture on her face


1 2 3
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Add comment

Add comment