—— after Al Purdy
It’s too cold to rain on a day like this,
but it does, and the sky is a gun
above the muddy fields. White barns
and farmhouses like distant banks
of melting snow against the wipers’ pulse.
It’s a dead run down 26 to the place
where cool was born, but in between —
where stop-lights flash at crossroads
never mapped — the corn-crop townships:
Sedalia, Phlox and Russiaville.
Once you get past Middle Fork, signs
in white and green along the fences
start to advertise Beck’s Corn Seed —
it’s from out of state. A painted cross
and floral wreaths of plastic at the shoulder
where a dirt road cuts a passage north.
The white-washed hangar down the road
from Hemlock is a meeting place.
Howard County’s Veterans must feel
at home among the drums of old insecticide.
Hackleman is in the dark — rain falls off
a lighted sign for Yazoo Mowers.
Fairmount, then the interstate.
Tractor-trailers slow the two-lane traffic
and I listen to Al Purdy on an old cassette.
Way back there out on 26 that house
at dusk so faintly lit against the fields —
a mirror in the family room and all the dull
and unstirred light of winter trapped inside.
But Al, you know, he’s telling me
of places where the kids leave quick, and how
we must enquire the way of strangers
it’s been so long since. A billboard
in the pouring rain points back. And though
the young James Dean is smiling,
there is nothing left to say.
Copyright © Phillip Crymble. Runner-up for the 2019 National Broadsheet Contest from the League of Canadian Poets.
Phillip Crymble is a disabled writer and scholar living in Atlantic Canada. A poetry editor at The Fiddlehead and a doctoral candidate at UNB, he received his MFA from the University of Michigan and has published poems in The Malahat Review, Poetry Ireland Review, The Literary Review of Canada, The New Quarterly, CV2, The Forward Book of Poetry 2017, and elsewhere. In 2016, Not Even Laughter, his first full-length collection, was a finalist for both the New Brunswick Book Award and the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia’s J.M. Abraham Prize. Find Phillip on Twitter @phillipcrymble.