Other Songs (in the Homesick City)


It’s after another slow stroll
along the grunge of St-Laurent
(after wandering into and out of
fripérie shops, making the usual
fro-yo stop, and pausing at the Parc
des Amériques on an old bench
slicked with pigeon shit, smog
sweetened by the Portuguese
pâtisserie up the street) that I find

myself standing, cold and ugly
and alone again at the corner
of Mont-Royal and St-Urbain, looking up
at a woman straddling a sixth-floor
window ledge, one bare leg dangling
and pointing straight down.
Smoking and sipping a glass of white
wine, she waves when she notices
my upturned gaze. The sun sets

and she catches this last slanting
light on her face, maybe
awaiting another dusky visit
from her secret lover. And this
is the moment when I finally admit
that even after a year of living
here, the only parts of Montréal
that I can really stand
are these passing encounters

which actually remind me of home.
Like someone else’s piano
lessons overheard through the walls
of my flat, or that rusted pickup
parked in the ruelle across the street;
like the old black cat sleeping
on the back stair, and the man
begging by the Sanctuaire
du St-Sacrament, who always

says bonjour, ma chère.
Or the cobblestones
of Rue Duluth, and those four
skating rinks constructed
each winter in the fields
at Parc Jeanne-Mance.


And also like this: my landlady,
living two floors below,
bakes me sugar cookies
for Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day,
thinking I might be lonely. Some
are heart-shaped, and the rest
are patriotic little fleurs-de-lys.
They are so perfect: detailed,
unexpected and sweet,

that I cannot speak.
All words, all bitterness
and all of this homesickness
melt like the sugar at the tip
of my tongue. And I know
that there must be other songs
for this.

Emily Paskevics