Canadian Poetry Online top banner link to Canadian Poetry Online home page link to University of Toronto Libraries home page

Saturday Afternoon at the Clinic

Elisabeth Harvor
From:   The Long Cold Green Evenings of Spring. Vehicule Press, 1997

The only patient,
I study the reproductions—

onet at Antibes: the blown
havoc of it,

all wreckage and blossoms;
also one of Van Gogh's bedrooms—
the one at Arles, maybe,

making me think
of another bedroom,

splintered blue-green
of the child-like wooden bed,

picture's basin and jug
chopped out of blue paint,

ordered alternative
to Monet's reckless springtime,


taunt behind glass,

plunged light
with its message:

This is the world!
The world you should have chosen!

Not these public

not this clinic among leaves

I look until I can't
look any longer, then out
of apprehension

to be boredom

set myself
an assignment:

Compose ten
phrases making use
of the word only

To begin: My husband,
long ago, posed
stiffly beside me
while a burly

man in a smock
embroidered with a
bunioned black cross
made out of x's, is speaking
of `this woman', asking him
to vow to cleave only unto her

Next—but this is years
later—a clear male voice singing
a song beginning Only the lonely, making
an arch of pure sound high over his own life—

After this, someone saying about
someone: Only three months to live.

Then there are all those
moments of misplaced trust in Fate,

someone speaking
of someone who only
ran out to the corner store
for a minute to get some nutmeg
and cleanser, but then:

the bomb fell,
the gas main exploded,
the house burst into flame,
it only took half an hour
to burn all the way
down to the ground

Only the children
were home at the time,
they had been told to
only play quietly,

to not light the candles,

the littlest girl only
wanted to see what her sister's
braids would look like


(she was only four)

Only tell me this:
what wrong turning
did I take in my life
that I should find
myself indoors

on a day
such as this one?

The grass the healthy green
of the grass in a graveyard?

The strong
sun burning down?

out in the world

cold lakes are

the plunged
sound of men's

hot summer winds
are bathing

some women's skin

Elisabeth Harvor's works copyright © to the author.

Canadian Poetry Online bottom banner link to University of Toronto Libraries home page link to Digital Collections home page link to University of Toronto Library catalogue link to Canadian Poetry Online home page link to University of Toronto Libraries home page link to Contact Information page