Yesterdays

Y
Sixty-two, sixty-three, I most remember
As time W. C. Williams dies and we are
Back from a hard two years in Guatemala
Where the meager provision of being
Schoolmaster for the kids of the patrones
Of two coffee plantations has managed
Neither a life nor money. Leslie dies in
Horror of bank giving way as she and her
Sister and their friends tunnel in to make
A cubby. We live in an old cement brick
Farmhouse already inside the city limits
Of Albuquerque. Or that has all really
Happened and we go to Vancouver where,
Thanks to friends Warren and Ellen Tallman,
I get a job teaching at the University of British
Columbia. It’s all a curious dream, a rush
To get out of the country before the sad
Invasion of the Bay of Pigs, that bleak use
Of power. One of my British colleagues
Has converted the assets of himself and
His wife to gold bullion and keeps the
Ingots in a sturdy suitcase pushed under
Their bed. I love the young, at least I
Think I do, in their freshness, their attempt
To find ways into Canada from the western
Reaches. Otherwise the local country seems
Like a faded Edwardian sitcom. A stunned
Stoned woman runs one Saturday night up
And down the floors of the Hydro Electric
Building on Pender with the RCMP in hot
Pursuit where otherwise we stood in long
Patient lines, extending often several blocks
Up the street. We were waiting to get our
Hands stamped and to be given a 12 pack
Of Molson’s. I think, I dream, I write the
Final few chapters of The Island, the despairs
Gathering at the end. I read Richard Brautigan’s
Trout Fishing In America but am too uptight
To enjoy his quiet, bright wit. Then that
Summer there is the great Vancouver Poetry
Festival, Allen comes back from India, Olson
From Gloucester, beloved Robert Duncan
From Stinson Beach. Denise reads “Hypocrite
Women” to the Burnaby ladies and Gary Snyder,
Philip Whalen, and Margaret Avison are there
Too along with a veritable host of the young.
Then it’s autumn again. I’ve quit my job
And we head back to Albuquerque
And I teach again at the university, and
Sometime just about then I must have
Seen myself as others see or saw me,
Even like in a mirror, but could not quite
Accept either their reassuring friendship
Or their equally locating anger. Selfish,
Empty, I kept at it. Thirty-eight years later
I seem to myself still much the same,
Even if I am happier, I think, and older.
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