This Christmas, I leashed Frank and fled my parents’ house in Pointe-Claire,
walked him by the United Church crèche: four plywood pieties painted
by Harriet Henry, in 1959.
Two wise men, a bashful Mary, and Jesus, unperturbed at their feet.
We walked past Marina Crescent, where two snowmen stood, one fallen, one
tilting; the elementary school, its windows a tablature of the idea of snow
and snowflakes, blind with battered paper.
I tasted white glue, the tang of dull, industrious blades. Saw a father teaching
his children to ski, as Frank ploughed through the drifts, he called out,
“Raise your poles and keep your feet pointed.”
The walls were lashed with ivy and puckered orange leaves; the fire hydrants
lining the curb were a livid, paintbox red.
The father sailed through the snow as his children stepped like frogs, and I
visiting my parents’ friends, who had a daughter my age—five or so.
Her parents trundled us into the car one morning and took us to a sports store
where they carefully chose and bought gear,
and I assumed I would be outfitted too, but I was not.
We drove to a clearing, and everyone stepped out and started to ski,
making slight, determined tracks,
and I sat in the back seat as the mother chain-smoked and stared into the distance.
She and I sat there for hours,
both of us resigned, still as pieces of paper, a field of new snow;
as they cut past and through us,
as we exhaled,
our breath slipping through the cracked windows like a rattle,
wedging in the hard, anchored slats.