For Emile Nelligan

On Laval street where you lived
leaves rise twisted
in the wind’s snare

and building facades shiver—
night has a shaded face
a cry pressed into frozen vines.

On the balcony
did you sit, thought-heavy
high up from the wave-rocked street

sure of the poems
that were your life, a breakwater
tides reaching far from here?

This city that you left
has lightened from grey.
Summer in the park

past six o’clock, the drummers
dance on dirt
dressed in sweat and rain—

Yet I know your face
from the photograph. In your eyes
we see

the bite and hammer
of winter’s true hand.
I cannot go with you

forty years into silence
but shall stand on the edge
of a cracked

sidewalk for a moment
in your city
and say to you,

This is where the shades
of light and colour
are about to fall.

Kelly Norah Drukker is a Montreal-born poet who has lived and worked in Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, the UK, and France. She is the second prize winner of the 2006 CBC Literary Award for poetry, and is at work on her first collection of poems.