Return to Metcalfe Street

Lonely in their languor, and twenty years no longer lovely Or lingering in storefront neon mingling with dusk, Widows gossiping with friends on porches, Then sleeping away August evenings On …

Lonely in their languor, and twenty years no longer lovely
Or lingering in storefront neon mingling with dusk,
Widows gossiping with friends on porches,
Then sleeping away August evenings
On Metcalfe Street outside the apartment building:
Where a life deprived of beauty so cruelly, gradually,
Should love still, or must love, the home she kept dutifully

Late summer among old streetwise planes
My father waiting as I stop at the Cafe Colonnade,
Pizza the same for over forty years
And forty years on, parked outside the Church
of Latter-day Saints
No longer the young man from Palestine
Hardened by the civil service, imagining
what could have been
Or remembering my sloe-eyed perambulations,
or his once
Having a parent to hold each hand, too
My parents knowing you must make a life here,
however you can
Living on the tenth floor in the Governor Metcalfe
Apartments, a block east
How my heart marvels at that life, then so
sumptuously unexamined
As this street recuperates and comes back
On itself, as if they always knew we would never stay on
Those swing sets and monkey bars convincing them of
cheerful attachments
Or hopeful times and the promised permanence or return
Of children, or the repeat bloom of that Jerusalem flower
Hidden in a 1952 suitcase
From the desert of the old country to Yuba City, California
Edmonton Winnipeg London Ottawa
Or a branch of terebinth on those hills of home,
of thyme and thorns
The tulips of May, the government Homelands Festival
My summer months with honeyed storybooks at the
Ottawa Public Library
I recognize Metcalfe Street in my father’s face
And his voice falling forty years, lost to himself
No longer young. So long away,
And so far from home.

This appeared in the June 2012 issue.

Nyla Matuk
Nyla Matuk’s most recent books are Stranger (2016) and Resisting Canada: An Anthology of Poetry (2019). In 2018, Matuk served as the Mordecai Richler Writer in Residence at McGill University.

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