Roger Nash is a former President of the League of Canadian Poets and has won a number of literary awards, including the Canadian Jewish Book Award. His recent fiction appears in PEN / O. Henry Prize Stories 2009 (Random House), and his seventh and most recent poetry collection is Something Blue and Flying Upwards: New and Selected Poems (Your Scrivener Press, 2006). In 2004, he published a collection of essays on the psalms, The Poetry of Prayer (Edgeways Books). He has recently retired from teaching Philosophy at Laurentian University in Sudbury, where he was Director of the Humanities M.A. in Interpretation and Values.
My Father's Laugh He laughed with a bared hurricane of teeth. Fallen angels were suddenly covered with scales, and leaping fish with feathers, in a world where everything, for the child I was, now dovetailed, surprisingly but comfortingly, with everything else—like crabs that overlap in their bucket. Outside, woodpeckers plucked harps in the trees, and tar in the street began to smell of fresh strawberries. Swallows flew far higher, even, than their disappearing reflections down the bottom of our well. Afterwards, with tears in his ankle-deep eyes, his smile was as happy as flooded rice-fields. Turning the Tables I: Spring Jellyfish surface inside the moon's reflection. Skies can sting to death. II: Summer Bullfrogs puff their cheeks. Thunder croaks. Lightening flickers its white tongue at flies. III: Fall On a cloudy night, potatoes boil in the pan: full moons for supper. IV: Winter Snow falls. By mid-day, a single snowman has built dozens of children. Constants After a man rose from the dead, toppling laws of biology, vigorous Crusades in his name upheld the unchanging laws of butchery. After the six million were reduced to dust, their prayers to particles pilgrimaging through air and earth, the mass of the planet remained completely unchanged. Light still travelled at just the speed of light, whether puddles it bounced off were water or blood. After each new generation of mothers gives birth, in Chicago, Baghdad or Jerusalem, fresh dreams presenting between their thighs, and the night-sky glittering with innumerable eels like the salty stars of an inland sea, the gravitational pull of the moon and its unceasing tides remain just the same. Water still boils at one hundred degrees centigrade, whether the kettles are blackened and dented, or not. Whether steam from our kettles keens or sings. Language Learning At the School for Foreign Languages, tongues practise with the lips of Maria from next door, stuttering her awkwardly down the corridor, all elbows, dropped lipsticks and notepaper. Bisexuals flock to unilingual programs. Heterosexuals pack the bilingual programs. In Modern Languages, they wear diamonds in their tongues, golden studs in their scrotums. In the audio lab, it sounds like the murmur of waves on a tourists' beach. After an hour, we're tongue-tied and thong-tied in the endless loop of the booming sun. At the Institute for Forgotten Languages, the drapes are pulled shut. Students dance through the night, and refuse to fall down. Esperanto gets tired in its creased uniform. I try to teach my sexual parts your name. Just that exact name among a whole dance-floor of swirling dresses. Under your blouse, you wear a leopard-skin leotard. Under my tongue, I wear polka-dots of longing. Under your leotard, you wear a pink bikini. Under my longing, I wear worshipful silence. Indiscretions in the Garden Roses try not to blush. Jasmine flirts with both sexes. Bamboo whispers all the gossip. Rakes' shadows grow longer erections. Sunshine cross-dresses in orange nasturtiums. Raspberries blow children at us. Holly-hocks give bees the finger. Gardens lack all double standards. Three Transformations My Wife Can Make Your body can assume the naiveté of a girl's at Convent School. She jumps through a window, nibbling a plum or broken finger-nail. Your body is chant in a Benedictine monastery, rising from fluted throats of pillars with a medley of medieval bees. They hum honey for very uncorked mead. Yet in bed, it's an octopus erupting from the greatest of depths, waving its tentacles with indecipherable but always urgent messages from the stars embroidered brightly on the rippling counterpane.