Saturday, September 14, 2013 |
James Scoles won the 2013 CBC Poetry Prize for "The Trailer," in which the most unloved things make for the most lovable stories.
Teaching my students the most unloved
things make for the most lovable stories
takes too much honesty: my trailer, that
perfect example, remains parked in silent
shame, like a criminal record, crouching
low in history’s shadow. Nobody knows
the love given, won, made and traded be-
tween two-by-three wood-paneled walls.
I told her the most unloved things often make
for the most lovable stories that baking-hot long
August day: tilted leaky toilet, sunken floors
dark, soft, soggy in so many places. Sweet
nothings were whispered about the economy
and living within our means while she stood
tall, eyes beautiful in blue-grey sparkling
wonder under rusty windows, chubby-
bottomed old doors, pressing down; she
sank in, shook her head, but accepted my
promises. Lies. Let me open the secrets
of our leaky tin shack, show her awkward
construction, poor and painful renovations:
techniques and temper borrowed from olden
days; madness was simpler then, explainable.
By living disasters daily, the Irish learned the
hard way how to not bury a fighting
chance; my students learn the way well-
worn, pain-ready folks fuel top-shelf
character, how voice feeds persona.
How setting lifts the sails of a story.
And how grading gets done under
the influence of more than just
Come together it did: bit by bit,
wall after wall. Patchwork: porch,
wet sky became one for a time.
Tin begat shingle, old screws re-
birthed into galvanized. Count-
less rubbery-guck tubes made a
bit better mess of the leaky roof
edges, while inside our matchbox
true love caught fire, was every-
thing we made of every day. But
building anything unbreakable is
no easy task, especially within the
scrappy walls of a silly little dream;
it was all we needed, could afford,
and the love made did cover each
day’s losses. Like afternoon paint
drops upon floors, thighs. Meals were
love made, mingling night-tight, evenings
rendered in cedar lust and plaster dust.
Coats of sweat, primer, passion and wait.
Stories made for another time, another
world. Alight. And why not betwixt thin
walls? Eleven beat-up dividers at best—
all cigarette-yellow and once-wet, some
reinforced with hopeful screws—all left
wondering what’ll happen next. Waiting
to see if hope hangs on or finds a way
to fail. Waiting upon a wisdom under-
neath, the dark recesses beneath, where
secrets lie buried under seven hundred
square-feet of domestic disturbance: a
place built for the story we deserved.
It began in the back half, where
the floor slopes a little up our tree-
less backyard, where hot waterlines
broke the second winter. But even
the first winter was a bit broken; not
waterworks but the ridiculous fear our
love was too strong: no tin-lined walls
could ever hope to contain us. And
just like that: one by one, in quick
fashion, each appliance died. Leaks
reopened; things dug under the skirt-
ing, got beneath cinder-block footings.
Certain benefits, of course, to circling
the wagons, but the moment you move
into 1981 Slimline 54-footers certain
things are given up for other glories.
Stories cut in tin and melamine: saw-
dusty glue, sweet kitchen summer
sweats: hot-house collection of lust,
bunny-dust, mouse-droppings by the
frying-panful. Mealy-bugs, ants watched
many lovemaking nights leave the living
room feeling over-sexed, like Memory’s
dirty bedroom, where loneliness nestles
in for evenings. Where bed-springs sing
sad songs: little ballads to honour such
gorgeous, creaky history. Musical charms
kept hidden. Old badges, dangerous pins.
Letters tucked into shoeboxes. Certificates
framed in K-Mart gold. Best parking spot
in the park: another thing that will not last.