‘Montreal Cityscape’ by Carolyne Van Der Meer


At Vasco de Gama

she comes to this quaint
Portuguese café with her daughter
but today she is alone
an unplanned retreat
to reconsider, refashion her life
imagine it in another order
She orders Ferriera’s turkey and bacon omelette,
and spreads open Le Monde
A barista arrives with her espresso alongé
she resists the temptation of brown cane
sugar, though its crystals
wink at her solicitously from the jar
When the omelette arrives, she picks at it,
thinks of her daughter, her husband
feels the hole
that can’t be filled

The newspaper type is tiny
she is not really reading
merely telling herself stories,
the aloneness now too consuming
Thinks of him in woolen
socks and Birkenstocks,
remembers how it used to be
how it might be again
The turkey and bacon taste odd today
the coffee off without sugar
She pushes her half-eaten meal away,
crumples Le Monde under her arm
leaves without paying
The next day, she comes back
to settle the bill
with her husband and daughter,
finally feels full


Stanley Street Café

I am sipping coffee, picking from a crumbling bran muffin,
reading Kate Dempsey’s “Drunk the Poet”
when he shows up, dirty, barefoot, and
carrying an oversized bottle of beer
A transparent patch covers an intravenous
PICC line on his neck
the veins around it pop out
as he approaches two young women
at the table next to me
He asks if they speak French or English
and when neither answer him,
his sarcasm sprays like spittle:
What, you don’t speak?
The waiter tells him to leave
while other diners look on, mute
Ah, you have to work, you have a job!
Go wash your fucking dishes! This—
he gestures around him — is my living
room, my kitchen! No one
can make me leave!
but he does leave,
and we, dull sidewalk gossips,
return to our coffees, our chatter,
our books, giving the drunk poet
nothing to work with


Paper Boys

They stand outside the Square Victoria entrance
inclement weather
free newspapers
Metro and 24h
in plastic bags
resting on outstretched arms
In front of the doors
they huddle
discuss Nietzsche
debate Kierkegaard
in accented French
educated foreigners
discuss educated things
shove papers at you
for a living



CAROLYNE VAN DER MEER lives and writes in Montreal, Canada. Her first book, Motherlode: A Mosaic of Dutch Wartime Experience was published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press in 2014. Her poetry and prose have been published internationally, including in Ars Medica, Canadian Woman Studies, Colere, Crannóg, Poetry Bus, Skylight 47 and The Stony Thursday Book. A collection of poetry entitled Journeywoman was published by Toronto-based Inanna Publications in 2017.

Copyright © 2018 by Carolyne Van Der Meer. All rights reserved.

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