ambassador bridge :: lianne spidel

Sometimes, when I was her child, we took
the tunnel underneath the river,
or better, from the high arch of the bridge

she pointed out to me two countries.
Either way she’d stashed a pound of butter
beneath the seat or something small

in Royal Doulton in her girdle, tilting
her chin at the customs man,
calling him Officer, cheeky as hell.

Now she grows slight within my arms,
asking, “What day is this? Am I
in Florida? When am I going home?”

and to the puzzled salesman at the door,
“No, we don’t live here. We’re Canadians
down for the winter.” It is May.

The grocery money hidden in her pillow slip
or under the rug, she plans escape,
packing her suitcase, then forgetting why.

Somehow the tunnel has reclaimed her,
muffling her voice like whispery echoes
of tires in that deep cylinder

where we dare not sound the horn
for fear collapse would seal us helpless
as water climbed the windows of our car.

If I could find our way back to the bridge,
geography and time might then come clear
and she could show me here and there,

then and now, while two flags thud
against the sky, and on the river far below
small boats skip and wobble in the sun.

royalty:: lianne spidel

“I gave birth to a princess,” her mother
once told me, and I thought of my son pouring
his Grape-Nuts in the garage so as not to wake her,

of the moment her baby, seeing her
now a separate entity, seemed not to breathe,
refused to blink her sapphire eyes.

I remembered again last night as she
and I crossed a Florida street, the caution
light running gold streamers

over the dark sweep of her hair,
when a young man coming toward us halted
midway a moment, stunned, before moving on.

So what is this Divine Right—less
than bloodlines, or more? More than symmetry
of face or a silver necklace nestled

at a flawless throat, the nerve to send back
bad food in restaurants, more than the big,
loopy handwriting of the generous spirit?

Call it bravery, that eager readiness
in the eyes, the quality of the light shining
there. Call it blessed assurance.

Today, pony-tailed, she luxuriates in sun,
opulent in a hot pink bikini. In deference
the ocean leans away, a backdrop.

I find myself bent, studying the shore for perfect
shells to lay at her feet—cat’s paw, prickly
cockle, angel wing. Call it homage, more or less.

before the rain :: lianne spidel

Minutes before the rain begins
I always waken, listening
to the world hold its breath,
as if a phone had rung once in a far
room or a door had creaked
in the darkness.

Perhaps the genes of some forebear
startle in me, some tribal warrior
keeping watch on a crag beside a loch,
miserable in the cold,

though I think it is a woman’s waiting
I have come to know,
a Loyalist hiding in the woods,
muffling the coughing of her child
against her linen skirts, her dark head
bent over his, her fear spent
somewhere else in time,

leaving only this waiting,

and I hope she escaped
with her child, and I suppose she did.
If not, I wouldn’t be lying here awake,
alive, listening for the rain to begin
so that she can run, the sound
of her footsteps lost, the sight
of them blotted away on the path.