From Sideshow Concessions. Published by Invisible in 2015. Crawford’s poetry has been published in the Literary Review of Canada, Antigonish Review, PRISM International and Best Canadian Poetry (2015). Sideshow Concessions won the 2015 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. Crawford lives in Vancouver.
I. Rita, you requested that your ashes be held in a teapot—two if necessary, you said. Low days, I browse plus-size caskets (They are all pink or blue) But you took death with milk and sugar, long steep. Rita, we are both members of the fat neo-Scottish diaspora. Don’t tell me it doesn’t exist, sweet darlin’, until you are the only fat transsexual at a Rankin Family concert in Montreal. Until you feel more at home than you have all year when Raylene (1960–2012) thumbs-ups your half-ton dance moves in the front row during that last last encore. Fare thee well, love. Will we never meet again no more? II. In Grade Two, I sang with your coalmining choir, The Men of the Deep. There is something terrifying about a hundred prepubescent squirts squeaking out the high falsetto tones of “We Rise Again” over the miners’ sea of capsized bass tones. The highest note of the song comes at the word “child” and we screamed it. We didn’t yet have the sadness that keeps you from even trying those high notes that take you from ours to other worlds and back again. A miner comes forward in concerts for a mustachioed solo. He was on the CBC the day you died, having an open cry. They all wear helmets onstage. They are all Henny Penny, ever hardhat-ready for another falling sky. Rita, did I ever tell you my great uncle Miley died in the mines? My mother and I drove to Glace Bay last year. The old company houses are split down the middle. Each half is a different hand-painted hue and empty. We bowled candlepin alone in the basement of a church, but it did not strike us to genuflect upon entry. III. Rita, I heard you were trailed by the RCMP in the ’70s. They weren’t arts reviewers, those Mounties: She’s the one who composes and sings women’s lib songs. A hundred sweating, uncombed women standing around in the middle of the floor with their arms around each other crying sisterhood and dancing. They don’t know the gravitas required of a fat woman who wants a microphone. They didn’t see you as a teenager with a baby decades before Juno. Or the surgeries you had for the cleft palate of your youth. Not even the abuse you sang through. They don’t believe in ghosts like we do or know those family spirits that can refill a rum tumbler when your back is turned. IV. Rita, do you remember the Heritage commercial about the mine collapse? An actor swears that they sang those hymns, drank their own “you know”… At seven, this frightened me, but now I’ve seen a bit: I’ve watched Ashley MacIsaac (1975–) discuss urination during sex. I still toe-tap to his first crossover hit, and still watch the bit on Conan O’Brien when he kicks up his kilt while going commando. Yes, to queer kids watching at home, a kilt can become a portal to another life not yet witnessed or possible. Step we gaily, on we go, heel for heel and toe for toe! I want to feel Ashley move his bow, dab at his brow, wash his feet or at least buy him a pedicure so that I can tell him the queer rural Nova Scotian diaspora (don’t tell me it doesn’t exist, b’y) needs him to survive because my accent is buried in Banff now and he’s the last member of my trinity still (last I checked) alive. V. One of my fat aunts resembles you, Rita. Once, at the liquor store, someone cried: I didn’t know you were in town for a show! This aunt grabbed her rye, drove home angry foot to floor, had her niece pour the spirit until the ice floated. She is on the wagon now. Sort of. Her niece could be a nephew, sort of. Things change, Rita. Rita, say anything. Tell me we can break biscuits with blueberries and Devonshire cream. Tell me that you’ll let pitch-free me hum along as you sing me to sleep. Just don’t tell me we didn’t exist. Don’t tell me that you don’t feel the same way too.