Without a Trace. A Poem by Sandra Bunting

Without a Trace
Northern New Brunswick,CanadaBy Sandra Bunting

A time of caution when afflictions
went untreated, uncategorised:
stay away from bears, wolves, lepers,
people with impetigo, pink eye, lockjaw,
lice, the clumsy, the soft in the head,
drunks, gossips and unmarried mothers.

The eternal struggle to survive,
farms connected only by water
or a rough path through woods-
spruce, pine, hemlock, cedar, fir.
Distant from another, three
dwellings hold their families close
around fires, as the snow flies outside
in winter, and trees dance and bend
as if walking or declaring war.

To eke out a living in summer
boats ease into the bay to fish,
many hands join to work small
vegetable plots, a few herbs,
grains for the animals out in the fields,
then chores of preserving, pickling
curing, smoking, repairs to the barn,
church- the only reason to
unite with others, take them
down the shore to hear news,
have a laugh, break the isolation.

On the nights of the full moon
one of the farmers from up there
could be seen on bay ice or woodland path
coming down on all fours.
When death finally claimed him
he was laid in unconsecrated ground
to communicate with the dun-coloured bull
escaped from up the hill
every time the gate was left open.

Not a trace now of his wife who died young,
a daughter, a housekeeper, her son.
No sign of life either at the other farms,
only overgrown paths, fields gone wild,
broken down doors swaying in the wind.

Sandra Bunting’s publications include short stories, The Effect of Frost on Southern Vines and Everything in this House Breaks, a poetry collection Identified in Trees and a co-production of non-fiction Claddagh: Stories from the Water’s Edge. Sandra is on the editorial board of the Galway-based literary magazine, Crannóg, and worked at NUI Galway where she set up the Academic Writing Centre and taught Creative Writing and TEFL training. She has since moved to Canada. Sandra is a member of the Galway Writers’ Workshop, Words on Water Miramichi, and Women Who Write, based in Grand Barachois. Website: sandbunting.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *