Queen's Quarterly

Queen's Quarterly
Queen's Quarterly


after James Wright

By Susan Olding

Strange bird.

She flew by aimless instinct,

let the crosswinds take her,

landed near an inland sea,

and built her nest in a suburban box,

far from the small town that made her.

My mother roosted there for fifty years,

feeding mouths, scrubbing floors, fending off

raccoons and wasps and errant salesmen and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Did she shrink from the stink of the dishcloth or the shrilling of cicadas?

Maybe. But my brother and I recall

that a clean window was to her as music.

She is singing now,

one of the old-time hymns her Granny taught her.

I know her ghost will drift home

to Chance Harbour, and sit down, alone,

in a shaft of moonlight on the cool shore,

covering her toes in damp sand and wriggling them free.

The waves roll in and roll out, as constant, as turbulent

as she is, as I am.

Susan Olding is the author of Pathologies: A Life in Essays and a second collection forthcoming from Freehand Books in 2021. She is currently a doctoral candidate in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University.