Books·CBC Literary Prizes

"Great Aunt Unmarried" by Sadiqa de Meijer

Sadiqa de Meijer won the 2012 CBC Poetry Prize for "Great Aunt Unmarried."
Sadiqa de Meijer won the 2012 CBC Poetry Prize for "Great Aunt Unmarried." (Jeni Juranics)

camera, film

Upright sentinel of order among forty-three
third graders. War is over.
It's all over their faces. That boy 
in breeches! That waif seeking cover.



One year we drove the long, fogged seawall
to see her sisters

in their province, which had its own language, and was known

for stoics, though it flew
a flag of hearts.

Pastures etched with narrow roads.

I saw her shrink 
behind the steering wheel. A dandelion shuts for rain

like that. She spoke to me by accident

in the dialect, and blushed — not far now,
I guessed, a tinge 

of bovine melancholy in the vowels. 

Someone had stitched the earth and sky together 
with dim rows of poplars.


Embedded in the strata of that visit, under the wallpaper's beige umbels, 
the severe ancestors framed in ovals, deep in the woods on the hooked

tablecloth, where boars foraged knowing the musket-shots of conversation 
could not strike them, the youngest sister, newly octogenerian, 

pressed a rock into my hand. Kandij, a fragment from the dark sugar
they had stirred into their coffee. I could tell the protocol

was to skip through the uncurling ferns, licking merrily, but I was 
seventeen, already I carried a furtive notebook in the pocket where the shard 

dropped, almost weightless. Their spoons with schooner handles, clinking, 
and the glazed brown cups, and the round tray with a landscape.


We went for a drive in nature. Two of them tied ivory 
kerchiefs around their home permanents, while the third 
muttered a curse on vanity, and we folded into a sedan, 
automatic for the rheumatisms. At the speed of a procession, 
to the dissolution of chalk peppermints. Here, the middle sister 
nodded to the shoulder. Lawnchairs emerged. From the ditch, 
the road was hearsay. Buttercups towered over a far spire. 
The three in bifocals, their hands on their slacks 
trembled like the grass. To the south, the air force practised. 
Whether that haunted or comforted them, I couldn't tell. 
On the drive to the house, the silence had a grander shape, 
like a bell that fits over fields and villages, schoolhouses 
and sugar beets and people.

camera, film

The light of television. Sunk in a dark
chair, glued to the Brandenburg Gate 
or Rwanda. Just before ablutions
and half a sleeping pill. Late.


Calls orchestrated over the clock-warp 
of Greenland, underwater cables, constellations. 

Static was a constant breaker, traversing 
an endless beach. 

Calvinist, so every word had to outweigh 
the coin that was its counterpart, but not too nakedly.

Often, delays in the line made our voices collide: I saw 
a skunk do you dream under the dumpster in English now? You go. 

Or another conversation crackled in the background, 
obliquely urgent, on the verge of clarity. 

Later, she called at odd hours, her greeting as close 
as the pillow, bright as the blood red numbers.

Some nights, she mislaid the horn. 
So then it was me and the sea.