When I arrive in Kingston on the train, Bruce Kauffman informs me that a water main had recently burst right in front of his downtown pad. And indeed, water is chugging down the street and continues to do so until 4 a.m. despite the ministrations of jackhammers. I don’t care at that point, only desiring to head to a movie and chow down on massive amounts of popcorn to distract me from the tour coming to a close and my exhaustion. On the bus getting to the station, I had ridden beside a woman named Helen who told me (the whole way) about the funeral she was returning from. Everything is resonant, connected. And yet, I am overloaded with death. We pick an enjoyable film, Le Week-End, a bittersweet comedy about a couple celebrating their 30th anniversary in Paris only to find they are beset with a range of ennuis and turmoils. Afterwards, Bruce cooks pasta with sweet potato slices and we talk, as we always do, about poetry, the life of art-making, its compromises and freedoms.
The next day, after Cheerios and a stroll in sunny Skeleton park, Bruce & I head to the Wolfe Island ferry terminal, to be met by a group of younger writers, the musician Paul, the older poet and drummer, Anne and even a dog, all of us crossing over to the cemetery where I will undertake a reading of lyrics and the longer poem, “The Nth Chambers of the Heart” to guitar accompaniment. The weather is so luminous and I feel wholly jubilant to be near the water, tombs, and with people who are so attentive and respectful, perching on mossy roots, reclining on blankets. Paul plays Joni Mitchell, then his own compositions about divorce, mortality. I begin singing The Lung Poem leaning against a lichened headstone, recite a range of chosen-in-the-moment lyrics and then move over to where Paul is standing to start the 14 minute piece he will accompany me to.
There are breezes, chickens clucking, dog barks, and even at the end, a braying donkey to chorus with. Unlike when one is inside, these distractions don’t matter. All flows and seems organic. I think possibly that the dark cello accompaniment in Vancouver likely worked more effectively than the theramin/violin in Edmonton or this acoustic guitar in Kingston but it’s hard to say when one is focused on reciting, not listening. Regardless, I feel ridiculously happy (so many hugs!) as we all traipse to the local pub for fries and mussels and nachos and wine, talking for hours in the gradually subsiding light as a flamenco-style band plays the Gypsy Kings & Segovia. The next
day I enjoy an interview with a local linguist, then a wonderful Grief Forms workshop at the Geneva Crepe House before dashing to my train to head back to Toronto for one more night. I had decided to treat myself to a hotel room as my plane is leaving relatively early the next day, but after nearly missing the last airporter, then having to wait hours for a shuttle, I wasn’t so sure I should have bothered. However, compensation came in the form of the Best Western Plus putting me up in the honeymoon suite, complete with heart-shaped jacuzzi. And did I ever sleep well in the giant’s bed.
After a few days at home in New Westminster, I take the PCL bus & BC Ferries to Victoria to stay with one of the more incredible poet-couples in this country, Steve Noyes and Catherine Greenwood. A dinner with host Yvonne Blomer of soup and wine and then off to Planet Earth Poetry, the only venue I regularly read at in this part of the world, this time with GG winner, affable Julie Bruck. The open mic is shorter this time, less tedious, and by the time I get up to read I feel sharp, energized. It is one of those readings in which I am again able to repartee, introduce and bang out the poems relatively flawlessly. I am held in the audience’s eyes and ears it feels, and this sustains my recitation. I sell and gift books at the close, drink bad Chardonnay and sleep solidly in a small but nestling bed. The next day, it is again bright and the workshop exquisite with rhythm, birdsong and dark chocolate. This gathering is followed by smoked salmon and bagels in Steve & Catherine’s glorious back yard. And more conversation of course, blissful, delicious ramblings.
I am so fortunate is all I am brimming with. This death that has caused me so much pain is being balanced by a giving back, by the sense that I can connect with others at an intense level, that I and they are less alone as a result. I don’t feel I could ever ask for more than these moments. So thank you to all who were there.