YOU MAY HAVE HEARD
If your home is near a park, you’ll live longer.
If there’s a plant in your hospital room, you’ll need fewer Tylenol 3s.
If you walk in a forest, you will sleep more deeply.
If you watch ducks float down the river, your distance vision will improve.
If you take note of the particular sound the wind makes in each kind of tree,
your brain fog will lift and your memory will grow more acute.
If city crews cut down an old elm,
the final thud of the trunk falling will make your chest contract.
If you ride on a path lined with fallen leaves on All Saints’ Day,
the rolling of your bike tires will count off names, a dry recital
of the ones you’ve lost: brown, tan, russet, ochre.
If you come out to the lake, you’ll see the little birch we planted.
Fractal twigs clustered with leaves
sharp against cloudless sky:
echo of a pattern on silk, paper,
porcelain, September’s fresh backdrop
of azure, black and gold.
Last remnants of pies on the tables,
morsels of casserole clinging to spoons.
Spills on checkered vinyl, dropped
in the rush of children’s hunger.
Last performers on stage with banjo
and guitar, the sun at the top of its arc.
Last of the crowd lean back in chairs,
replete but willing to make room
for another song, a little more of the day.
A wind-gust, a rustle and rain of leaves:
yellow confetti tossed in the singers’ faces,
the kaleidoscope turned.
We probably had the special with pepperoni,
green peppers, things everyone liked.
The sauce tasted fresh, I remember that.
Oh, and those mushrooms, cut thick enough
so they turned juicy in the baking. Too bad
he had to go on a rant the way he did.
Gave us hell for throwing away
our money in places like this, which was
his code, I think, for letting go
of our duty to change the world.
No one knew what to say. We thought
that’s what the weekend was about.
A cold weekend, midwinter. Still dark early.
Not that we cared, but it was cold.
We were six or eight at the table,
huddled next to drafty windows.
We all somehow kept eating, let his scolding
fall to the floor like crumpled napkins.
This was the eighties. We knew
it could all go in a nuclear heartbeat. No one
quite had the nerve to say: Yeah, so here we are,
warming our hands on greasy dough,
waiting for the end.
That prickle at the base
of the skull, that electric
tingle up the arm
that says you’ve come this close
to doing something stupid
enough to kill you, or at least
cut off a finger—there must be
a word for it—that split-second lapse
of good sense that lets you run
into traffic, balance too many plates
on one hand, chop a hard-skinned squash
with an old knife—and when it’s past
you snap awake, trembling.
Or the other sensation, the one
that says Now you’ve done it—
the stack of plates is going to hit
the floor, the dull blade has slipped,
that blur and screech is a car—
your inner alarm caught napping.
Momentum taking over.
Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Joanne Epp has published poetry in literary journals including The New Quarterly, The Antigonish Review, and CV2. Her chapbook, Crossings, was released in 2012. Eigenheim is her first full-length poetry collection. Married with two sons, she spent several years in Ontario and now makes her home in Winnipeg.