My Shadow

I remember driving
home with Mother,
when I was ten years old,
singing "Me and My
Shadow." It was night
as I sat beside Mother
in the car's front seat
and I sang strolling down
the avenue, me and my shadow.
It was always night
when we passed along
Highway 2 & 20, the one
I drove last night, now
four lanes and overpasses
replacing two lanes
of slow moving cars.
Last night I was propelled
back thirty years
so the present seems
momentarily not to exist,
only the comfort
of driving last night, houses
with people sitting
in living rooms, kitchens
or empty rooms in darkness
with televisions on;
we had left the man
soon to be my stepfather
at his West Island
apartment-we were all
thirty years younger,
my mother driving
the car and I singing
beside her; we could
have been the only two people
left in the universe; we could
have been all that was left
in the night; with a light
left burning at the Motel Raphael
on Upper Lachine Road,
the Rose Bowl Lanes where I used
to bike when they first opened,
near where the first place
built in the West End, a farmhouse,
still stood, until
it was torn down two years ago.

My mother drove through the night,
the only sound
my singing and our car
moving through the darkness-
was I happy then?
Hiding because of shyness,
so when we arrived
each June at our
country place, I hid
beneath the car's
dashboard until
we got to the house.
It was night again
in the country;
we are now at Grandmother's
cottage in St. Eustache
on 11th Avenue; it is night
and my Uncle Alex's
new car is parked on
the front lawn. Here
by the car he sat
and talked with a friend
who reads the news on television;
Grandmother sat rocking
at the end of the hall
which began at the front
door, so she could see
anyone who entered;
in a sideboard
she kept orange cheddar cheese
wrapped in brown wax paper, bread
and jam; and then a room behind her
where an old icebox
sat and where my uncle
shaved in the evening,
"Me and My Shadow."
It is night, across the street
from Grandmother's house
where Mother rented a cottage
so we could spend our summers
together-but always the shadow
of Father who died-
always the presence
of the knowledge
of death-my burden
I carried even as a child,
my shadow. So we traveled
through the night singing,
Mother, five years after
Father's death, driving
through the night,
and I am beside her,
singing through the darkness.

(from The Mystic Beast, Empyreal Press, Montreal, 1997)