The house with the first number missing
from its door, and the fence falling down
to one side, backs onto the sea and glacier
topped mountains. The iodine air, the salt wind

blows in through windowpanes cracked and smeared
with birdlime. There are books in every room
of this house. In the kitchen you’ll find Sappho,
in the bedroom, Basho,

by the vanity and the lone mirror
reflecting a steel framed single bed.
A woman lived alone here for many years,
one fond of scotch and poetry,

her only gentlemen callers that thrush
knocking insistently at the window and
an old man claiming to be her husband.
She would have none of him.

There’s a spill left on the rug she’s come back
in the night to clean up. But it’s hard to see
in the dark and in any case the dead cannot clean.
The book she dropped,

though she bends now to pick it up,
stays dropped. Useless
to return now as if in a forgetfulness
so profound, being dead could be forgotten too.

The old are like that. They told her: “memory
loss is part of the natural decline,” they told her
not to worry. But the living,
the young must work at forgetting, they must

deny, they must shut their eyes until the years
surprise them, bowed and trembling as they go
to pick up that book in the house
with one number missing from the door.

Poet, novelist, and member of the collaborative writing group, Yoko’s Dogs, Mary di Michele is author of eleven books including a selected poems, Stranger in You, Oxford University Press 1995, and the novel, Tenor of Love, Viking Canada, Simon & Schuster USA 2005. She lives in Montreal where she teaches at Concordia University. Her most recent books are The Flower of Youth, Pier Paolo Pasolini Poems, ECW Press, 2011, and with Yoko’s Dogs, Whisk, Pedlar Press 2013. Awards include first prize, CBC literary competition, the Air Canada Writing Award, and The Malahat Review long poem.

Terence Byrnes is a Montreal writer and photographer. He is the author of Closer to Home: The Author and the Author Portrait. (

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