Darlene and Dave,
they had a love.
On grandfathered land,
they built a house of modesty,
high under the evergreens.

Neighbours flocked to raise the roof.
Each brought shingles, cedar shakes
of secret colours, ’til unboxed.
The coffee, the tea, the hot chocolate.
The joy. The laughter. The promise,
in that snowy October.

First came Darlene’s gardens,
with care-woven roots.
Then, a son and daughter, a year apart.
Never the holiday they took.
Never did they want for other lands.
But the boy and the girl,
they went to good city schools,
and soon they had a hankering.

With their earned degrees, they wanted the world.
There were stoic farewells, in time.
The house of modesty had a change in its airs,
too many spaces in its purpose.
And Darlene plied her trade in the summer gardens,
trying to grow what might fill.
And Darlene took a room
and made tapestries of delicate beauty.
Quilts that had no rival.
And Dave took a room
and tied fishing flies
and made soldiers and cannons of molten metals
and hammered copper story scenes for the walls.

And they did go to a hidden summer lake
to swim and to collect things that drifted.
And even after their middle age
they skated on that lake,
sequestered in the snow.

On a summer, Darlene was kitchen-bound,
baking for a lakeside lunch.
She wondered at the change in the timbre of the riding mower.
Dave never left it running, she knew.
Rinsing her floured fingers,
she went out the back screen door to call him,
but her Dave had died. His heart.
These ten years now,
I have delivered Darlene’s groceries.
Waiting on her visitors from foreign lands,
she was soured to the world.
Took up with the smoke and with the drink.

Today, as I drive the muddy road,
I have a companion with me.
The nurse that will tend to my old friend.

The cedar shakes of the bowed roof
still show a checkerboard of colour,
even in this grey streaming rain.
I have always thought that each one was signatory
to a day in the lives of those two.
A smattering of their joys, their fights, their triumphs, their sadness.

Darlene had called this morning
to tell us not to knock.
To just come in the front door,
take off our wet boots.
She sits in the back living room now,
in a fluffed robe,
with her tobacco.
Sequestered from the gloom,
but part of it, too.

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