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Home for Good


From Come Cold River by Karen Connelly, published by Quattro Books in 2013.

With burning hearts we see the rise
in the price of the old neighbourhood
by the river where my mom
played as a kid, grew up, married
the wrong man, a crook,
then to increase her mistake exponentially
and complicate my family tree,
left him and married his brother.
Daddy, Daddy!
He was more hardworking than the other
but equally ruinous.
It’s too damn bad she didn’t keep the house.
It would be worth half a million now.
True north, strong, no longer free
for the taking. No wonder
we have to stand on guard
in this town. Where there’s money
there’s a lack of it, and thieves.
Who believes that Divino’s Bar
once was a little place, bohemian yet elegant.
Today it’s buffed new and polished blunt.
The light fixture cost fifty thou
and the wine list starts off
—don’t ask me how—
at three hundred a bottle.
But I used to nurse a teabag there
for hours, without shame
across from a red-haired Englishman
who taught me how to touch the flame
that burns sapphire-blue above Sambuca.
Ah. The first time, my very first
to see a floating coffee bean
and quench my thirst
with fire. Alcohol, at last.
Now I can’t afford to be
nostalgic by the glass.
Perhaps (the ghost of my uncle quips)
I should take out a quick loan
and rip off a liquor store on my own
or play the VLT’s (that’s for Video Lottery Terminals)
until the cows

Like my dad
who gave my inheritance
toonie by toonie to the AGLC
(that’s for Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission).
No complaints from me
though I wish on
my mother’s grave
that some of my father’s cash
could splash down helter-skelter
into a food bank stash
or a women’s shelter.
Both proclaim their desperate need
despite tons of oil and cattle feed.
From far and wide, oh Canada
and Calgary too,
I have loved you
and departed.
I can’t remember
—can you remember?—
how this song started.
And how does it end?
Am I home for good
or for bad? Home to stay
and bury the hatchet
or dig it up
and throw it?
Here, catch it
in your scarred hands
catch it in that rotting treasure
your tarred and feathered oil sands
catch it nimbly
between your teeth.
It’s that trick
with an axe
that you taught me.

Oh Canada, what do you
How can I sing you
without lying?

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Karen Connelly is the author of nine books, including The Lizard Cage, winner of the Orange-Broadband prize; Burmese Lessons: A Love Story; and the forthcoming poetry collection Come, Cold River. Her journalism, essays and poetry have been published in the Globe and Mail, New Humanist, National Geographic Traveller and many other periodicals.



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