In among the frozen elms
in parkland
below the schoolhouse hill
Wally sat in the shed
fed wood to the potbelly stove

In blue tobacco air
skaters laced their skates
rubbed cold toes
Among woodsmoke, raw pine
wet reek of wool
Wally showed his biceps
ivory in stoveglow
let us stare at the blue girl on his arm
But the older boys would laugh
as he knelt to loosen a knot
or bent to feed the fire

Wally turned out the lights at eleven
the skaters drifted home
Then he stood with the moon
and an indolent hose
feeding the oval of ice
stood in the night like an old star man
at watch on a ship on the sea

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Wally”?

Wally is a made-up name for the strange and solitary man whose job it was to flood the ice and stoke the woodstove at the outdoor natural rink in the neighbourhood park where I grew up. As much as the younger kids admired him for his biceps and tattoos, it slowly dawned on me that he was a figure of fun to the older boys.

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