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Just Back From Canada

Canada is my home - the true North. It was also very beautiful, often 30 celsius, sunny, and, up in the Laurentians, filled with lakes and fir trees. I canoed, swam, and cooked meals under a great clear sky. Otherwise, I played strategy games with my wife, and my brother and his wife, and my mother; and attended a close friend's wedding.

My mother lost her husband (my father), her father, and her sole brother, in 2006. August last was the last month of my father's life (he was dying of brain cancer in hospital, terribly). So, this August was rife with unspoken and spoken sadness - but also love, and joy, at a family reunited.

Being in London often hurts, as I miss my family, and my more wildly-wooded nation, a great deal. I also miss Canadians - their laid-back humour, their friendliness, their American openness to new forms and projects. I found it cleansing to be in Canada again. It is a beautiful, good country. Below is the poem I have written for my mother, on my return.

Red Bathing Cap

Red bathing cap
At the edge
Of the lake.
All of her prepares
For the water
At five o’clock,
Sun reduced,
Most bathers gone.

Mother, you stood
So before me
As I read, when
You were young,
Without the long line
Of the operation
Divisive on your hip.
You swam out

Clean and strong,
For an hour, then,
Until your head was small
On the surface,
Or not visible at all,
As I would, from time
To time, look up
From Mimesis

Or some anthology
To make sure you hadn’t
Drowned. Beautiful, tall,
You’d go directly in,
Continue, as the lake’s
Black surface dulled
At evening, and flies
Prepared themselves

For the bats to come;
Your arms bringing you
Through reflections of
White-barked trees, stone,
So far, until you’d return
Shivering, to shore,
And I’d race to bring
Your towel down,

As my father built a fire.
Enwrapped, you’d stand
By it, and dry your hair.
Now, there is no fire
Here at this public place,
And Tom is dead a year.
You’re older – water
Cannot keep us young

Forever – and limp
To where you start to enter.
I want to go with you tonight,
Keep pace, but you always
Swam out alone, serene.
Red cap – brightened like
A pricked thumb – how it goes
In and out of the going black,

Steady as your pulse, a sewing
Needle, threading water
With your breathing stroke,
Is like a light, a light to me
That says the where and why
Of home, of coming home.
I’ll bring your blue towel as
You stand out in summer dusk.

poem by Todd Swift
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