The Montreal Book of the Dead
From Bicycle Thieves. Published by ECW Press in 2017. Mary di Michele is the author of twelve books and has won numerous awards, including the Confederation Poets Prize and the Malahat Review’s Long Poem Prize. She lives in Montreal.
This morning I saw my father driving a red Toyota wagon with Quebec plates, je me souviens, turning the corner at Grand, heading
west. He didn’t see me, and I was surprised to see him in the city without calling on me even though, for the last three years, he has been
dead. It certainly looked like him, the chiselled jaw, the Grecian formula hair, yes, my father maybe twenty years ago, still in his prime, still
himself, or looking like himself. All the immortality the Earth can offer may be the kind we had before
we were even born, the living we did then, we will continue to do through genes we also share with Neanderthals.
My father drives on not knowing me.
The dead are not dead, perhaps the dead are not even transformed. They are everywhere, just not talking to us.
Don’t try listening for them in family photos, if they are forever, they are forever
dumb with forgotten conversations when every day is that August day in 1992. My father in his white-striped polo shirt,
high in the boughs of a fig tree, gathering fruit for my greed. I still see him in many places, and in my hands, my Roman nose, and chiselled jaw.
As a pear repeats itself, each time a little altered, On every branch of a tree.1 Our dead have retired and moved off island.
They are not gone, they have not passed on, they are incommunicado.