Some nights he’d watch hockey and so she’d rock
with a novel or her Valéry and go to France
where she and several guests of the gay prince
picnic and play at croquet on the château grounds.
Lace and ribbons are all the fashion rage
and ladies in chiffon and high coiffures
fan their bright bosoms like birds of song.
And there are men with names like pink flowers
or instruments of sound in silk stockings
and plump satin breeches to knee length who seem fond
of dabbing their rouged lips with handkerchiefs
they keep in their coat sleeves for such occasions
while all around their wigs hum yellow honeybees,
drawn to their powders and colognes and toiletries.
And she is out among them. And her hand is kissed
by gentlemen of rank and her opinion sought
on Couperin and Molière and Poussin—
all high etiquette and courtly talk.
Out in the garden, she hears the gardener sing,
between hedgerows of juniper and yew,
O Canada, our home and native land. He moves
by evening light through his green diocese,
smelling of dung and mulch and growing things,
heartsick for that hard country of his youth.
Some nights he’d take her to his room upstairs
and speak in that far dialect she loved
of ice and earth and qualities of air—
his True North, strong and free, O Canada;
and then he’d make hardbody love to her.
Next morning she’d make omelettes and he’d thumb
the newspaper for word of Guy Lafleur
or Marcel Dionne. And she’d be pleased because
that was the style of the country he’d come from.
Thomas Lynch, “O Canada” from Skating With Heather Grace. Copyright © 1986 by Thomas Lynch. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
Source: Skating with Heather Grace (1986)