Rye and Water

The two of them, sitting in lawn chairs.
Their tight, round bellies hanging over belts.
Rye and water awoke memories,
brought good-naturedness to the surface,
or so I thought.

I was just a kid, outside the conversation,
but I liked to see Dad relaxed,
his wrecked leg, a little bowed,
crossed over the other at the ankles.

Sid stared at the grass,
“We could skate like hell in those days.”
“Yeah,” said Dad.
Sid’s head jerked up; his back went straight.
“Christ, Roy, you couldn’t skate.”

I hated him instantly.
this family friend who showed up
to drink Dad’s liquor, to laugh and joke,
to turn suddenly mean.

I glanced at Dad, then looked away,
my own face burning.
my heart filled with a love so intense
it frightened me.

Keith Worthington


Ski Buddies

I was told you were killed near Kandahar
while I skied at Lake Louise.
A roadside bomb awaited you
as I cruised among glades and trees.

Your body parts, they gathered and lay
in a coffin sealed so tight.
They brought you home in the cargo hold
beneath our flag of red and white.

Remember those times (not long ago)
we skied together at Lake Louise?
The same old mountains gathered ’round
to watch us do as we pleased.

Your tour of duty became Kandahar;
mine continued at Lake Louise.
How can there be on the very same Earth
two places such as these?

On my final descent from Top of the World
regret will accompany me
and two young men will disappear
among the ghostly trees.

Keith Worthington

from Poet on a Cargo Plane

Marion, Beside the Lake

A black and white photograph of Mom
on the dock at Lake Minnewanka—
shy smile, stylish dress, young legs.

I like to think she and Dad arrived by train,
Roy’s CPR pass in his breast pocket.
I like to think they held hands in the day coach,
anticipating their future,
excited to be a couple.

This is years before life began to take its toll—
before children, the War, a return to work,
before accidents and other setbacks.

That bright summer day near Banff,
if I had been a stranger strolling nearby,
I would have thought,
What a pretty girl.
What a glorious world.

Keith Worthington


Muslim Lady

Heading toward the adjacent rink,
I feel I am confronting her.
We are foreigners:
she with her hijab and long black dress,
me—helmet, visor—full equipment.
I smile; she smiles back.
Our common ground—skates on ice.

She pushes a training aid for balance,
hardly lifting her blades,
as though afraid the surface will crack.
I turn to watch her journey—
elegant in its awkwardness.

Keith Worthington

from After the Flood: Hockey Poems

After The Flood: Hockey Poems