Published in Ricepaper 17.3/17.4
by Carleigh Baker
I ripped a Polaroid from the sticky pages of Dad’s album.
You in a polyester one-piece the same colour as the rocks
on the Alouette riverbank. Or maybe the photo has faded that way.
This is the river Dad learned to swim in, ran behind
the house and left lines in the gyprock when it flooded in 81.
The year I was born. Four doxies in the photo follow you—a shepherdess
in leather moccasins. They had names like Alfredo and Titus.
You always spoke to them in French. You called me Chèrie.
On this day, the day in the photo, you had all the doors
and windows open. The boiled cabbage smell of propane,
you’d left the gas on. Dad told me you were forgetful, but he smelled
the Wild Turkey on your breath. Said it wasn’t safe to visit any more.
In 2001, he spilled your ashes into the swollen Alouette River.
I’d never met your brothers and sisters, and we sang Amazing Grace
for lack of anything better. I asked them to tell me everything,
this Polaroid, the instructions on the back in your handwriting
how to re-light the pilot.