Category Archives: Peter Richardson

Climbing Mount Royal, 2020

Climbing Mount Royal, 2020

Peter Richardson

You’re twitchier than usual coming up this path

that shadows the curves of Camelien Houde road

but at least you’ve sloughed off the windy effluvia

of other people’s sidewalk breath as you slowpoke 

up the last three turns to the guard-railed belvedere.

Here’s where muscle cars idle in parking spots. Fans

of flaming tailpipes pass blunts between leather seats

till someone coughs which sparks a round of guffaws

and loud heckling. You remember that kind of a scene

taking place five decades ago in someone’s apartment.

Can it really be that long? Taj Mahal and The Doors

provided background music in the last years of a war

that ended on an embassy rooftop. You sat in circles

in rooms reeking of patchouli oil, while somewhere

graduate students struggled onward to their degrees.

You wonder if the guys in that Camaro give a crap

about becoming accountants or even laying cement

so it doesn’t crack after the first frost. Looking east

to Rougemont, you attempt to quiet your thoughts,

seeing them as clouds hanging over Mt. St-Hilaire.

At last, you stumble onto the Olmstead summit loop

with its west-facing glimpse of Lac St-Louis. That,

surely, is what you came for—a far off panorama 

of shoreline and river that just keeps on flowing

beyond jammed ICUs and sleep-deprived nurses.

Aren’t they the ones you should be saluting 

as you head for Beaver Lake, Tu Fu’s Selected

riding in your back pocket? All honour to that 

frail court advisor who, despite bouts of asthma,

penury and near-death treks over snowy gorges,

could praise the hoe he used for digging wild roots.

photo by Harry Rajchgot

Françoise Singing

Françoise Singing 

Peter Richardson

It blindsided them and ended the awkward

talk they’d been making when finally they

rustled up three cups of over-steeped tea

and sat across from her in recycled air

in the long-term care canteen—bald

son-in-law and grown granddaughter.

Wasn’t Françoise down to three words

of greeting? How could she sink a shaft

far enough down in her mind to recoup

this tuneful blues banisher? If pressed,

her visitors might’ve said they sensed

a slippage to a crowded kitchen table

on, say, a Sunday in Montreal’s vanished

Faubourg à mélasses, her father tapping

a glass for her to sing a snatch of Piaf.

The war in Europe over, rationing ending,

butter on the table, mint jelly, leg of lamb,

her kid brother and sisters called to order

by the faux-gruff father. But that’s fantasy.

This is Françoise at ninety, holding notes

in a lunchroom with no one to press record

just two maladroit listeners trying to field

what’s thrown to them—flats and sharps

that peel through air—sonic tchotchkes

that won’t come again, much less a medley

for the dazed father-daughter duo who clap

with hands that don’t know what else to do.

photo by Harry Rajchgot

Promenade

Promenade

Peter Richardson

I used to be able to lope along at the clip my daughter’s maintaining,

the younger one—fifty years my junior—cruising a step ahead

as we cross St-Denis. I tell her I’m bemused by the speed

with which she eats up ten blocks, then twenty and I remember

my father asking me to speak up, to repeat what I’d just said.

Can you please slow down a bit? I ask, and she decelerates 

before zooming ahead again. My father’s early hearing loss 

brought out the callous teen in me. I wanted him to try harder

as if he had a character defect that would get better if he made

an effort. Are you going to a fire? I ask. She sighs. We approach

Parc Jeanne-Mance. I used to be as fast as you. These days

I have to double-time to gain the half step I need to keep up.

My hearing’s shot too, I say, which she claims has more to do

with my not listeningthan with needing space-age hearing aids.

And what does pretending to be deaf have to do with dawdling?

she asks, as we dogtrot across Parc Avenue and up the brick

walkway past the gazebo. Was I ever this rude with my father?

I bow to her peppery wit. She’s fed up with my non-sequiturs,

my failure to listen when she and her mother talk in that elided

mother-daughter French which, although always grammatical,

leaves me in the semantical dust—but isn’t it up to me to hustle,

to cinch in my belt and listen with renewed zeal in the new Babel?

photo by Harry Rajchgot