Monday's Poem

Charleston Queen

© Shannon Cowan

No mush for her, no old-age nursing home.
Her joints are bent, but her ticker
works on. Of course she lives
in the present, but 1927 was the last
good year. Charleston competitions,
green streets, Jantzen bathing suits
in wool that clung to your privates.
At the time the river was so full of salmon
you could walk across their backs.

Days her mother played whist
at the Third Street pavilion. Women
harped, fanning their faces with score cards
while she flea-hopped
to the orchestra before drifting
around Lost Lagoon in a canoe.
Ukulele in hand, she crooned with girlfriends
who disappeared—one by one—
into matrimony.
Somehow she outlived them all.

Now her apartment is full of dust,
boxed dinners, aluminium cane,
second-rate television programs
demonstrating the two-step.
If she could get the right music,
find her way to the mall,
she'd show them a thing or two
about dancing. How her body
is rhythmic bone, muscle, a thinning skin
remembering saxophone, drumkit, and strings.
How the notes go all the way to her centre,
fanning out again,
before breaking into flames.

Shannon Cowan recently completed her MFA in Creative Writing at UBC. She is the recipient of the Norma Epstein Award and was shortlisted for the 2002 CBC Literary Competition. Oolichan Books published her first novel, Leaving Winter, in 2000. Photograph by Hydemann Art of Photography.








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