GIROUARD AVENUE FLAT (Excerpt)

Stephen Morrissey

From Girouard Avenue, Coracle Press, Montreal, 2009:



Not for me this shroud of ashes.

                            —John Glassco


One



I had forgotten
the dead
but they had not
forgotten me.



I had forgotten
myself as one of them.
Now I cannot avoid
the return of dreams,
the listening room
where I find
myself
most fully.



             (November again
             when dreams, urgent
             with memories
             and the dead, remind
             me of their presence.)



I had forgotten
the season of dreams;
the days of the dead,
one for children,
one for adults.
I knew death as a child,
and so my soul knows
the finitude of things.
Now the soul demands its audience:
the return of dreams,
the dream of the dead
who come to me
with their insistence
and words: "Remember us,
do not forget us."





Two



I tried to piece together the remnants,
life become a reliquary, a Joseph Cornell box,
a strange puzzle of events
even as a child
I needed to hold together in my mind;



now I become
one with the past, the old ones
speaking through me:
poetry the voice of the soul.



We return to Girouard Avenue
walking down to 2226,
Grandmother's flat the center
of imagination:
2 + 2 + 2 + 6 = 12
1 + 2 = 3.
Three old women lived in the flat,
and before that, many people lived there;
I, too, lived there
when Father was too sick for Mother
to care for alone.



                          On Girouard Avenue
I lay in a pram looking up,
noticing Mother's dark hair—
now I walk down Girouard
and imagine having my photograph
taken in exactly the same place
as Father stood with me in a pram
beside him, remembering



other photographs taken on the back porch
with Mother and Grandmother.



                         But first we cross
Sherbrooke Street always busy with traffic,
past where Grandmother's finger
was caught in Uncle Alex's car door
one Sunday afternoon
and she, dragged along the street,
lost the tip of one finger;
passed where Grandmother shopped
and then her front door,
where the spirit resides
and memories converge
to form this poem.
 
                         Now, take me down the vista of years,
the push and shove of time and place,
where the present, past, and future merge
and temporality ends—and I am
suspended in time and thought:
I came to record
this life of odds, ends, death
and life, the Alpha and Omega
and whatever can be recorded,
what the soul remembers,
and loves:



When will the sleeper

awake from his night
of remembering?


He is cast down the vista
of years, snow falling
at Christmas.


The sleeper will awake
when the poem
is written


and the dead are no longer
disturbed by his call.

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