Henry the Forgotten

After his snowdrops are trampled, Henry
The historian sulks, as though the air is wet
Cardboard he must punch through with an oddball wit he hasn’t
The energy or keenness to produce. He feels like falling
Into an old Dutch painting where light rays pioneer a hornbeam
Countertop to chance the rim of a servant girl’s lip.
But there are so many sharp memories he should soften
Then replicate, postcards he’ll address to himself amid
The jade statues furred with dust, the bound-in-leather
Gilt-edged classics tumbling of imaginary
Shelves. Perhaps he will soon be bitterly drunk
On whatever it is that ventures beyond his
Protestant past to become one in the crowd stepping
In time to the maniacal megaphone chants
Pierced by the protesting squelch of
Quebecoise French. The truly faithless suddenly
Leaping out of themselves into daylight
And springtime buds and fists sprouting
White knuckles. Everywhere, the same pink
Squalling baby flashes its gleaming front teeth!
Is this the motherless infant he will become
Without a soothing voice, flattery, or someone
To assure that all his technique has not been merely
To trace another civil account? Sulking
Behind a lead-paned window overlooking his
Minced garden and the paving stones where blue horses
Once drew carriages of tourists through a mélange
Of brick warehouses and across the cantilevered
Bridge—he wonders, was it ever his wish
To be adored for all his late night revisions
Or to be torn from his childish fits like a page
From the book of Old Montreal?

This poem “Henry the Forgotten” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 214 (Autumn 2012): 46.

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