The third child was another girl, eyes like robins’ eggs,
hair like butter, so our father, wanting a son to name Michael,
left in his 1968 burgundy Thunderbird, its grill the front of a gathering tempest.
He drove to California on hot winds, blue-black Elvis Presley hair feathering,
to find golden Lady Luck.
Our mother said she was glad he was gone,
later confessed he’d not been such poor company, such a brute, such a BEAR.
Her lovely brunette hair fell out in patches like scales sloughing off
a diseased fish—we heard its tufts cry disloyalty, betrayal, dishonour
as she took them up in her hands.
She drank Dubonnet then, when we were at school,
got up late, wore wigs and glittering hand-me-down gowns from Aunt Marilyn.
Nearing translucence, she shimmered in glass, in mirrors, on wet pavement;
water swooshed through our house, flooded our basement—we were awash, engulfed
in inclement weather.
Our bird-eyed baby sister too young to follow, we two older girls
stormed the streets on low-rider banana seat bikes, one red, the other yellow.
Our raised arms stretched out before us like protestations—our soft hands
clasped the grips of tall V-shaped handlebars, their streamers surreal angels’ hair flowing
beside us when we rode.
My sister did tricks better than any boy.
Hey, look at me, she’d insist flying by, hands behind her head,
lolly gaggin’ on only a back wheel, jumping stationary—a pogo-stick-bike,
or rearing up suddenly like she was seating a wild roan stallion, its nostrils flared wide
in a Pemberton rodeo.
She smoked a pack of Players then, stolen from Aunt Sue’s glovebox
out back of the garage. I jumped from high places—down a flight of stairs,
off the neighbour’s roof, out of an arbutus tree, from the seawall to the beach,
to see if, perhaps? I could fly. But I was a human girl after all, destined
for the good Earth.
Eventually, our mother sold her pale green Bug the colour of mountain rain,
replaced it with a silver Firebird that she never drove hot through the city,
flying through laneways and neon haze like a great glowing bird the size of an oak,
its plumage massive kohl-eyed feathers, each emitting red, orange and yellow lights,
a tribute to the Sun.
Our mother drove it cool, controlled, calm, like a bear’s wife with cubs,
like a bear’s wife with terrible lightning in her eyes, but paws honeyed in love.
Rain-kissed grasses smile at our mother now. Sun-splashed mountains,
their slopes redolent of cedar, fir and hemlock spices, resonate laughter & life
in our long, long days of summer and Ursus nights.