Now and Then

Now and then, I remember
when we were young.
We made love in a cold room
with plastic sheeting on the window.
We rocked and rolled
beneath the patterned quilt—
(our un-guilty Christmas gift
to each other),
and kept our socks on.

We didn’t care about the blare
of Seger’s “Still the Same”
coming from the flat upstairs,
and “Jagged Little Pill”
across the hall.
We only knew our own
small world under the covers.

We worked temp
to pay the bills,
shopped “no frills”
for yellow-labeled cans
and made plans for the future …

milestones have transpired,
but we can smile
at how happy we were
and how we still have some fire—
we’re still the same lovers …
now and then.

Kathleen Mortensen©2017

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Swing-set

It was your day.
We went for a stroll
to while the time away—
just like you, to keep it simple.

The sun was glaring at us
and we’d left our shades at home,
still, we roamed along
the new cement that lines the road—
listening to a jay’s shrill cries,
as if to say, happy birthday.

I was keen to fool around,
running across the road to the
green playground,
where old-time swings
hang waiting to sway.
The seat was soaked,
from the night’s rain.
I wiped my sleeve back and forth
in the pool of water;
you whipped out a tissue
to mop up the rest.

It’s your day, you first! I laughed.
You were quick to settle in
to the rubber sling, your feet
rising from the sand.

I pushed the small of your back
with splayed hands,
and felt like a kid again,
waiting for a turn
to be the one having all the fun.

Up you rose, higher and higher,
flying back into your childhood memories,
where I don’t belong.

Those strong chains,
held on and I let you go,
pumping those legs like a little boy
with grass-stained knees,
rising up to the trees and sky beyond.

“Don’t jump off”, I warned.
You dragged your toes,
until the swing came to a halt,
and stepped away,
a fifty-four year old married man again.

Then, I grabbed the iron chains,
lifting my seat
into the black, rubber swing.
You stood and gave a good shove;
I drifted high into a dream of
hazy days when

it was my daddy
behind me.

Slowing down, I looked over
at the plastic slide
on the other side of the park,
recalling the singe of metal
on the backs of thighs
and felt the sting
of time.

Kathleen Mortensen ©2016

Marmalade

I bought for my mother,
A marmalade treat,
To have with her breakfast
On toast for to eat,
But next morning
She never got up from her bed;
From her pillow,
She did not raise up her tired head,
So she never again will taste
Thick-cut orange spread,
That she so used to love
On her golden-grilled bread,
But forever, the memory of her
Will not fade,
When I spread my toast with
Her orange marmalade.

Kathleen Mortensen @ 2016

Snow Day

It’s grey and foggy here today;
There’s a haze on the hill across the way.
I hear shrieks of delighted kids at play,
As they fly down the hill on their plastic sleigh!

Remember the hill on a snowy day,
Pushing and pulling your favourite sleigh?
Then you’d all pile in—everyone could play!
And you’d run right down what was in your way.

A small dog barks as it makes its way,
Through the haze on the hill where the children play.
Oh! what fun it sounds to my ear today,
As he keeps in time with the plastic sleigh.

I’m outside too, but not on a sleigh.
Dogged ice sticks, as I make my way.
Pushing plastic spade, I am not at play;
How I’d like to be on that hill today!

Kat Mortensen©2011

Glace Bay Boy (for my uncle, Jimmy)

There were tall tales about you:

Playing truant to
jump the ice-clampers off the coast of The Bay,

or shooting pool up on Commercial
with that Neil McNeil,
like two of those trouble-boys from The Music Man
(who still served at mass on Sunday).

I can see you playing Boogie-Woogie
in the parlour,
at the house on York Street.
Your cigarette’s
hanging off the end of the piano,
Nanny kept a keen eye on the ash as it burned.

Muriel still talks about the way you spurned her
at that dance—for somebody else
(long-term memories don’t die).

Oh, you sure could dance! Mom says it was you who taught her
and Joan how to jive, when you were both alive
and young.

Now mom’s the only one left of your trio.

I think of you whenever I hear Jazz,
or come across
one of those old  James Bond  paperbacks
in a thrift store.
Remember, I borrowed a slew of yours?

The scent of Brut will forever conjure you.

I’m so glad, I got to say adieu
before you left for good.

Kat Mortensen©2015

Fade (in memory of my father 17/11/2008)

When I wrote this poem in 2008, it was just a couple of weeks before he left us. The response to this work was strong; many people were moved and it touched something in their own experience. That is why I am choosing to share it today, on the 7 year anniversary of my father’s death. I have other, cheerier, reflective pieces to commemorate him, but someone may need this particular one right now.

Kat

FADE

I enter the room
Where you lie on the bed,
Pillow props your head—
So many words unsaid.
I look in those
Still-sparkling eyes and see
Shades of the father
Who oft carried me.
Are you inside
This man gone so gray
Who gave me away
On the hottest of days
Post-chase of O.J.?
Who danced jaunty jig
Each St. Paddy’s feast
And loved every beast–
The kindest man
Who brought strays
Home from church,
Or birds felled
From their perch–
Can’t see you, though I search
For the fearless man who led
Our voices and who read
From pulpit many times–
Forgave me all my crimes.
You taught me how to drive
Though I fought you tooth and nail,
Left you standing in the hail
As I tore off down the road–
You didn’t much explode;
The one who drove my teddy bear
Cross-country with such care
Just to hand him back to me,
My delighted face to see,
The man who never
“Cheaped out” on a gift,
Who gave me fireman’s lift
To bed each night
And tucked me in,
Protected me from sin and
Guided me as much
As you could with word and touch,
The man who held my hand
When I fell and hurt my head–
Needed stitches, then you led
Me to fairground, for a whirl,
To distract your little girl;
The numbers man—wordsmith as well,
Writing letters, truths to tell,
British-soldier way back when–
Memoirs never put to pen,
Only photos to attest,
Save the stories in our breasts,
But your duty you upheld,
Passing on the faith that dwelled
In your head and in your heart,
My salvation to impart
And you lifted me up high,
In my spirit…’til I die…

Now, your smile for me, is brief;
Still its pow’r restrains my grief,
Though your eyes close as I stand
By your bed–you take my hand,
In your twisted, vice-like grip,
As the saline-drip, drips drips.
From your grasp I slip
…away
From the room
Into
… the fade…

‘til I come another day.

Kathleen Mortensen©2008

Was Home

I can’t believe, I used to call it, “home”.

The place to which I ran,
when a young man
whacked me with snowballs;
where I slammed doors in a rage
of teenage hormones,
or played the Moonlight Sonata
on the upright grand.

How many times,
I paced behind its windows,
waiting for another blind date,
to shake my father’s hand.

Those wretched kitchen cupboards!
That ratty carpet’s edge
that lined the stairs,
the patches—mismatched pieces
filling in
the worn out spots,
when I didn’t care.

Unfinished projects—everywhere:
missing tiles, aborted things,
splattered paint, where you were too
impatient to fling a cloth.

Solid dining suite, Limoges miniatures
behind glass (from a European tour)
using credit to keep up with the middle class …

Your disease made it so hard
to upkeep—
the grass like a corn-crop after harvest
(the birds loved it)
the pavement, cracked,
woodwork, hacked,
eaves, slack—

I grew to loathe the place I once called, “home”.

When we sold it (you had no clue)
I would have given it away, if I’d had to;
it was a yoke to be lifted.

As we turned up the road, for the last time,
I never turned my head,

and we drifted away
from home.

Kat Mortensen©2012