Rooms to Let in Bo­hemia

From Bor­rowed Days. Pub­lished by Cor­morant Books in 2016. Marc Plourde is a trans­la­tor and teacher. He has pub­lished col­lec­tions of po­etry and short sto­ries.

Geist - - Findings - MARC PLOURDE

Through the win­ter months, the last months I shared with fam­ily, I was swayed by the spell of old places: old houses with gin­ger­bread on Prince Arthur; the Mil­ton Street laun­dry’s sign, white board with Chi­nese let­ter­ing over the door; Pine’s

Duck­pin Lanes above the pizze­ria at Park and Pine by the un­der­pass; from the 80 bus win­dow

I could see the bowlers slide and throw as I headed south, into the past.

I re­mem­ber the stu­dents of that dis­tant time as a tide of ghosts flooding Mcgill’s grounds and the Mcgill ghetto streets; the tide rushed past me, and what­ever thing the stu­dents dreamt of reach­ing, they would reach fast, while my dream hap­pened two blocks down in slow mo­tion.

The Pene­lope, long gone, was a haunt for blues and folk; flat-broke stu­dents were left out on ice-grey pave­ment stamp­ing their numb feet be­fore a mar­quee with­out neon or flash—it said: But­ter­field Blues Tonight, Tim Hardin Next Week.

I looked three floors up at a To Let sign wedged in a dormer win­dow in a row of win­dows. I looked at red brick and the evening’s snow fall­ing through wind­ing fire es­capes, fall­ing from floor to floor through the iron grille, and the win­dow glowed down in the drift­ing snow like a magic lantern pro­ject­ing a life

I could oc­cupy: a room with a ceil­ing bulb and a string.

I pulled the string and the light went off and went on in this life

I’d found three floors up from Bo­hemia on Sher­brooke and Aylmer; elated and soli­tary, un­able to af­ford a ticket,

I swayed to the music of But­ter­field, the music of Hardin.

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