A blue ceramic oval on stone wall painted white tells us the people of this province remember Betty Baldwin, 1899 – 1981, who lived some of those years in this building become l’Auberge de la Paix, the Peace Hostel, in 1972, a place for anyone to rest in peace for, as then we would have said, a little bread; …
tells us she was a painter qui fit de Québec son sujet de prédilection, tells us this in the historical or simple past, not the imperfect, not the passé composé. Understanding the word fit, its tense and meaning, standing under Betty’s blue oval, made me happy, even if I’d need to check on that predilection.
Before Just above My Head I knew my favorite was Tell Me How Long the Train`s Been Gone.
On Lakeshore Limited from Chicago met a Philadelphia poet who once met James Baldwin, lets himself call him Jimmy. I remember believing I saw him once, James whom I of course never met and didn’t that once in the Paris Metro even really see -- but I cherish the memory of the illusion, sometimes let myself consider it apparition. He had already passed, as black folk still say in the South, but he was so real, sitting on a bench on the other side of the tracks, waiting for the train.
A friend calls to ask if I know what happened the night before in Dallas while I sat on cold ground, Plains of Abraham, hearing Sting perform Message in a Bottle, joining the tens of thousands in refrain for sending out an SOS, then maybe Shock. Light but cold rain.´ Maybe Shock came first.
There`s always Another Country.
Lived long, worked hard for equal rights for all, practically founded the ACLU. So where is his blue oval on our white-washed walls? Who treasures his message in a bottle? Who received that SOS?
In the wisdom of French, host and guest are both hôte -- with little rooftop circumflex over the o of us both. My friend who puts me up goes down with me to cellar to play her old upright grand. Two keys don`t play, but we do anyway.
Heintzman & Company, Toronto, made it. Heintzman & Company le fit.
She plays some lovely things from memory. I find Go Tell Aunt Rhody but lacking that G below middle C have to let it turn to Go Tell It on the Mountain for use of a deep base G for stride.
July 11 from July 9, 2016, published in the August 2016 issue of
Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream