Marilyn Gear Pilling
The six of us look as usual but we are all dogs
Around that Christmas table of 1999. My sister
Carves with the concentration of a sculptor
Trying to free the angel from stone. This is usual.
My brother carries the turkey to table
Losing a wing. This is usual. My daughters
Discuss whether Handel’s Messiah or Christmas
Music from around the world should be played.
This is usual. I pour the water, spilling water,
My husband pours the wine with expertise. This is
Usual. What is not usual: a year ago, Christmas ’98,
We were fifteen, now we are six. Experiencing
The long table as more than half empty. We look
As usual; shellshock does not show on the face.
We strip flesh from bone. We pass the dressing.
We eat. We drink. The modern part of us understands
That the rest of the family will not arrive. It under-
Stands that the house is silent because no children
Play downstairs. That Santa will not come, that Baby
Jesus has grown up fast, that since last Christmas
He’s been crucified, has become God, Who has reverted
To Yahweh, Who is out to teach us a hard lesson: death,
Divorce, estrangement. But the dog. The dog part of us
Has its ears up. It listens for a familiar motor, listens
For the back door to open, listens for the familiar
Footsteps, listens for the voices downstairs. All through
Dinner the dog is poised to run and jump and lick,
The dog is about to go crazy with joy.
—from Rattle #35, Summer 2011
Tribute to Canadian Poets