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Carl Leggo

Cashmink Smile

I spend most of my days
            responding to e-mail
and the nitty-gritty business
            of academic mimicry.
I always forget your name
            but I still smile a lot,
miles of smiles, if lined up,
            enough to reach across
Canada, or around
            Lake Superior, but
I always know my smiles
            are only facsimiles,
best understood with a simile,
            my smile is like cashmink,
a semblance of cashmere
            with the warmth of acrylic.


         (for Lana)

the other morning
I stepped out of the shower
in a typical rush to leave,
and you swept into the room,
just risen from bed
in a nightie like larimar,
with hair tousled, a glad smile,
offering a kiss good morning,
and I heard the ceiling fan
like echoes of the sea faraway
on Dominican beaches

another morning soon after
you stepped out of the shower
wearing only a scar
(a cyst doctors insisted
was cancer, driven out
by steadfast imagination)
and a small silver cross
on a chain like a lariat
you wound around my neck
like a gentle noose, more
beautiful even than that day

we first knew each
other when only thirteen
(surely if any are lucky,
this is a lucky number)

how the familiar so
readily, steadily surprises
(four decades can be held
only gratefully in a poem)

legend contends larimar
heals, helps us see
events with wisdom
like the light Caribbean Sea
washes us from the inside out


how would my life
be different


when Jesus said,
Take my yoke upon you,

I had heard,
Take my joke upon you?

I take words in the world
too literally.

like Yogi Ramacharaka
I need to learn
the science of breath

to breathe silence
the way words sing
in the spaces between
signs of the alphabet

how yug, yogi, yoke
are all joined
like a celestial joke
that pokes holes in the charades
of fakirs, mountebanks, and sleveens.

a wisdom-seeker takes up
the philosophy that yokes
jokes with the breadth
of life’s breath, nothing less.

©2008 by Carl Leggo

Carl Leggo is a poet and professor at the University of British Columbia, where he teaches courses in English Education, writing, and narrative research. His poetry and fiction and scholarly essays have been published in many journals in North America and around the world. He is the author of three collections of poems: Growing Up Perpendicular on the Side of a Hill, View from My Mother's House, and Come-By-Chance, as well as a book about reading and teaching poetry: Teaching to Wonder: Responding to Poetry in the Secondary Classroom. Also, he is a co-editor of Being with A/r/tography.

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