Between Brothers by Jane Urquhart

urquhart brothers
A fight starts
in a moment

travels all around the
yard

and ruins roses

involves two or three
dogs who
scare the goldfish

deeper in the pond

a fight speaks of
heat or play
or boredom

a fight lasts an
instant or an afternoon

and always finishes
with the loser in the trough
shaking his head like an animal

(the water scatters
through the vision of
his startled sisters
suddenly blooming
at the kitchen window and

grandmother shouting
as she dries the edges of
her hands

all around her apron)

 

Source: Urquhart, Jane. False Shuffles. Victoria: Press Porcépic, 1982. Section entitled The Undertaker’s Bride. 

Click to see more of Urquhart’s The Undertaker’s Bride poems 

War Song by Jane Urquhart

urquhart war  

urquhart war
Knitting Instructions for Dunkirk Service Socks. Photo courtesy The Art of Knitting

Grandmother has the devil
in her
big as a woodchuck

rationing has been
imposed
so she

rushes to
the dominion store
to buy up all the sugar

before the hoarders
get it

and there will be sweet tea
on afternoons
set aside for the knitting
of regulation dunkirk socks

knit one pearl
two
sweet tea and gasoline
for each of three hearses

business continues as usual

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡good teeth
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡blue suspenders
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡regulation dunkirk socks
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ fingers on left hand
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡missing

 

Source: Urquhart, Jane. False Shuffles. Victoria: Press Porcépic, 1982. Section entitled The Undertaker’s Bride. 

Click to see more of Urquhart’s The Undertaker’s Bride poems 

Undertaker’s Bride by Jane Urquhart

urquhart undertaker

urquhart undertaker
The Morse home and funeral parlour. Photo Morse & Son Funeral Home

Grandmother
was an undertaker’s bride

it couldn’t be helped

the profession ran in
her husband’s family

she was twenty-one
at the turn of the present century
her name was
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡adeline
just like the song

grandmother kept an intricate
account of
death by water

that was her job

sometimes she described
more than sixty floaters a summer
all of them slipped

over the falls
one way or another

she wrote
their remaining physical
characteristics
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡and their
tiny possessions
in a small brown book

it looks as if it couldn’t be
helped

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡it looks as if
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡ ‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡somebody
had to write it

 

Source: Urquhart, Jane. False Shuffles. Victoria: Press Porcépic, 1982. Section entitled The Undertaker’s Bride. 

Click to see more of Urquhart’s The Undertaker’s Bride poems 

Departure by Jane Urquhart

urquhart departure

urquhart departure
Niagara Horseshoe Falls and Table Rock, 1842. Engraved by J. Cousen after a picture by W.H. Bartlett. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

When grandmother
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡fell in love
for the third time
there were months
of perfectly planned
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡coincidences

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡once his cuff link
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡fell into the river

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡once he whistled
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡adeline

and because she could not
disconnect
time and meaning

events evolved to
cold pure words

written on a photograph
in black and white

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡of grandmother’s third love
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡standing near
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡what’s left of
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡table rock

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡looking past
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡the fog of the falls
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡to the american side

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡thinking of departure

 

Source: Urquhart, Jane. False Shuffles. Victoria: Press Porcépic, 1982. Section entitled The Undertaker’s Bride. 

Click to see more of Urquhart’s The Undertaker’s Bride poems 

The Veranda by Jane Urquhart

urquhart veranda

urquhart veranda
Kick’s Hotel, Niagara Falls, 1890s, with a horse-drawn streetcar in front. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Nineteen

hair piled high
afternoons on
the wooden verandah
of Kick’s Hotel

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡where her mother
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡dressed in black
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡moves like a cloud
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡behind the soft screen door

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡fabricating
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡tiny wreaths
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡from light brown hair

grandmother is passing the time
around like cupcakes at nineteen

rhythms of porch swings
father and brother recently dead
locks of their hair
braided in
mourner’s jewellry

summer afternoon

several young men are
tipping their hats to grandmother

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡sooner or later
grandfather will pass

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡he is the icing
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡he is the season

he will die too
of course

men always do

 

Source: Urquhart, Jane. False Shuffles. Victoria: Press Porcépic, 1982. Section entitled The Undertaker’s Bride. 

Click to see more of Urquhart’s The Undertaker’s Bride poems