Sunday 20 May 2018

Saint John, New Brunswick

Neptune sighs
With the breath of a god who’s lived too long
And the fog descends 
Over the living and the dead of Saint John.

Centuries of Protestant pride
And Catholic shame
Loyalist blood
And famine-starved bone
Crunching together 
Like continental plates colliding 
Ploughing up mountains 
Resembling steeples.
Providing the habitat 
For that singular species 
The Old Saint John family.

They’ve created their own gods
Thick-featured statues with broad shoulders
Squatting outside Market Square
Appearing again 
In the paintings of Miller Brittain.
But these thick people are only aspirational. 

The Saint Johner 
Is as thin-skinned 
as the Pinot grapes
That also thrive 
under cover of fog.

The bricks of their ancient buildings
Mortared together
With centuries of insults 
both real and imagined 
(Seven parts of the latter 
to every one of the former).

They know their prayers.
But the one they know best
Is the one they'd never dare say
Before their neighbours.

A prayer the people in their Sunday finest
know better than the Lord’s
Than the Hail Mary.

We are afraid. 
We feel alone.
We want to be wanted.

A prayer that still echoes
Against the stone walls
Of their family chapels.