The Wrong Question


On the telephone one Sunday,
trying to re-establish contact
after fifteen years, you said
SO what have you been doing
with your life? 

If you had asked
what I did today
I’d have said
I walked on the beach at Ross Bay
while girl’s jeans size ten
swung soapy circles
round boy’s jeans size twelve
in the Fairfield Plaza laundromat.
I’d have said the three of us
had pancakes for lunch
and then I took the kids
to Esquimalt to skate
while I went to hear P. K. Page
read at Open Space.

But you did not ask that question
and so I only said
not much


Questions and Answers

What inspired “The Wrong Question”?

A telephone call from an old boyfriend.

What poetic techniques did you use in “The Wrong Question”?

Repeated a sounds: today, Bay, pan-cakes, skate, Page, Space. Not that I consciously tried to do that; after the first one, they just seemed to fall into place. (My brain just works that way: echoed sound or rhyming words are one way of writing memorable language.).


This poem “The Wrong Question” originally appeared in Mothers & Daughters. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 109 (Summer 1986): 4.

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