Good morning, it’s 6:30 a.m., and I am walking down my back-alley toward the sodium street lights that flood 104 Avenue. I hear my steps on the wet pavement, and while pavement is not as sterile as plastic flowers—as it has few pretensions—it returns no plea and no wisdom. There is earth beneath but it has long given up dreaming of caresses from fallen petals. When I lived closer to the ground I could hear its verses coming up through my willow walking stick as I walked (something you taught me), and I could feel it through my soles even in winter. But this pavement is sightless and soundless.
I remember hearing my feet on the pavement long ago as I walked down Saanich Road to the bridge. I had left you sitting on the porch step. I told you I was going to listen to the creek. I was always affecting the ways of poets those days and I hated that you saw through me because I never had their words and couldn’t discuss Lawrence or Chernoff or Neruda. I left you at evening and I remember the chemical rising in my veins and how the pebbled pavement crawled beneath me and each black-stone grew glowing red eyes, and rising, they watched me go stumbling down to the creek.
It was late fall, or perhaps it was February, and the words that came up from the water were cold and cleared my mind and I accepted that my no-fixed-address life would come to be my home. But when I came back you were still there, sitting on the mossy porch step that slumped so badly we feared it would break any morning. You were wearing the red vest we found in the surplus bin, the one we laughed at and wondered "who the hell would wear something like that" and so we bought it and wore it—mingling in midday on Government St. with government people—then stopping for clam chowder at Ben’s on the long walk back along Douglas, then running in the rain, sprinting wide-open around the corner on Saanich. I was so much faster than you.
That was the last time we would sit on the step together. The step would be torn down and carted away along with the house, and all our intensity—like a match held to the centre of a page—would finally burn through us. And the only way we could recover was to hate each other for a time. No premeditation.
We parted. Me looking at you from the pavement in my red vest and in confusion; and you, knowing a language that came with you from the womb, your speech like water breaking on a reef, picking up and releasing me with each verse. You badly out distanced me and in my futile race to catch up I never found time to know you. But then I wonder if you, for me, were knowable.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core. (W.B. Yeats)
It is 8:30 a.m., and I see a sandstone coloured building down along 105 Street lit up from the east. I am walking west along the pavement, happy for a fixed address but dreaming of the sea.