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.
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.