Guest Poem by Bren Simmers

Bren Simmers is the author of four books, including the wilderness memoir Pivot Point (Gaspereau Press, 2019) and Hastings-Sunrise, (Nightwood Editions, 2015) which was a finalist for the Vancouver Book Award. Her most recent collection of poetry is If, When (Gaspereau Press, 2021). In 2022, she won the CBC Poetry Prize. She lives in Charlottetown, PEI.

Once Beloved

You hadn’t been diagnosed yet;
days you couldn’t get out of
bed. Took a semester off to transition from
class three rapids to chronically ill.
You’d make a meal in the back kitchen,
row of single panes overlooking
a raggedy tenant’s garden. Table
pushed against the wall, two chairs,
the second an afterthought like the ones
Emily Carr strung from the rafters
for guests. Everything served in pottery bowls.
After I left, you’d crawl back under
the neatly made covers. Why bother,
I wondered, thinking of sand swept
from one side of a playground to the other.
Three times a week, pushing a broom
for $5 hour. Now I know that
simple gesture was about control.
That middle age is about maintenance.
Emily Carr was a landlord. She slept
in a backyard tent, rented out the suites
to buy paint. Even she struggled
to balance art and income and now
there’s an entire gallery of her windswept
trees. A single remnant in a clearcut,
green Lorax top circled by three distant suns.
Stumps in the foreground, the rest, ripples
in the sky. A time zone between us now.
Things got complicated after my ex left
and I wanted you to choose
sides. You didn’t. I said less and less
that mattered, while you two grew closer.
We still heart each other’s posts, but
there’s no forest left. Is it possible
to forgive someone who
didn’t do anything wrong?