Cassandra’s Tears

Tears of joy, tears of pain, we are reflected in the salt-water pools we create. So let us build a fleet of paper boats and sail them on our ocean of indecision, laughing at the wind-whipped white-crested waves that would wash over us, drowning us in our own despair, yet somehow never vanquishing us in the end.

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Location: Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada

Friday, November 24, 2006

Wedding Vows

Do you remember the man you married,
that young man who vowed to be at your side
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health?
Do you remember that glow, that radiance,
the golden summer of our youth?

I sit by you now and press your hand,
limp and unresponsive,
the hand that trembled
when I slipped a golden ring upon it,
that stroked my cheek,
that stirred the soup,
that steered the wheel of the car
that did not quite kill you.

I gaze into your face, the same visage of loveliness,
resting among its tangled curls
on the embroidered pillows of our marriage bed:
flushed cheeks, lips parted,
forehead dewy, your eyes gently closed;
and I can almost imagine that you merely sleep,
that you will awaken and gaze upon me
with those dove-gray eyes,
and I will know that you love me,
that you always will,
and that you know that there is no limit
to the depth of my love for you.


I cannot sit by your bed tonight holding your hand
for you are no longer the girl I married.
You are an emptied vessel,
devoid of memory, of joy, of tears.
I have decided our fate
--until death do us part--
for part us it shall;
and tomorrow
when the machines are turned off,
the tubes removed,
the connections unmade,
there will be only silence and memory:
my memories
of a golden glow, a golden ring
and your glowing smile.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

“I know you.”

I gave a dollar to a homeless person who looked up at me out of squinting eyes in his leathery face, his nicotine-stained fingers clutching my sleeve, and said, “I know you,” his voice hoarse from cheap whiskey and cigarettes he could ill afford, and a chill went up my spine that had nothing to do with the cold prairie wind whipping through the walking mall in downtown Calgary. I wanted to turn around, to walk away, embarrassement bringing more colour to my already rosy cheeks, but he held on fast and I could not move my eyes from his compelling gaze.

After what seemed an eternity, I said, “You do?”

He let go of my sleeve then to fumble for a handkerchief as a coughing fit seized him and I took the opportunity to step back out of reach, although I didn’t turn and run as I longed to, but waited respectfully until he spat something into the soiled cloth and stuffed it back among his layers of clothing. I felt he deserved at least that much dignity.

“Sure,” he answered at length. “I seen you a few years ago, you was outside the big bank that used to be a record store, now it’s just empty. You was reading the sign on the pillar and me and my friend asked you for some spare change. You gave me a dollar. You was awful pretty then. You still are.”

I stared at him, my eyes tearing in the cold November wind, and remembered exactly the incident in question: two native men, bumming, but in a much better way than this poor derelict at my feet, his back against the outer wall of The Bay; and yes, I remembered he’d complimented me, making some joke about whether I was married or not. I never expected him to show up again in my life, but weird things like that happen, and even though Calgary is a big city and I don’t even live there, it’s a small world.

Feeling like I really should say something, I asked, “How’s your friend?” The beggar spat on the sidewalk and I winced.

“Jimmy’s dead,” he said, his hands trembling as he lit himself a cigarette and took a long drag that set off another attack of coughing. “He froze to death two winters ago.”

I continued to stand there, staring at this man, this human being, and I thought about how lucky I was and how fate or fortune could reverse our positions so that it could be me on the sidewalk bumming spare change from passers by. I unwrapped the thick woolen scarf from my neck and handed it to him. “Stay warm,” I said, turned on my heel, and walked away.