I was a poor university student and saw a new Leonard Cohen on the shelf but had no money and no payment system. I put it in my coat pocket and left the University Bookstore, moments later I was stopped by the lady with the purse that had been in the magazine section, and not looking my way.  She asked if I had taken a book and my heart sank. One of my biggest anxieties is waiting to be punished. This didn’t look good. I was sat in front of the store manager who did her best to look stern, but having a hard time (in retrospect), did I have the money to pay for the book? No I did not. Why this book? Leonard was a big favourite of mine, His poetry was terrific! I enthused. She said okay how about we keep this book and you can come back for it when you can pay for it. I was relieved, and ok with the arrangement. I worked on campus and eventually I got paid and went back and bought it. The picture of  Cohen shining  his shoes set off this poem after I heard he had died.  I’m looking for away to obtain permission to post a picture of Leonard’s shoe polishing too go with this poem.


you never get over it, reduced to asking for money
bad choices were good choices not all that long ago
you get teary when a red is not colour-fast in washing
your white shirt to look like Leonard turns a shade of pink
and you eat the older frozen meats with freezer burns
the colour of your depression you plan to nest
in the old newspapers scattered across your living
room floor you shake your stump and sing along
with Cohen “it’s come to this, it’s come to this”
really your ‘re just moving your lips, take comfort
in a picture of Leonard polishing his shoes sitting
on the floor legs spread, all two of them with two
regular feet at the bottom to fill his own big shoes then –
you think what the hell has he got to complain about
same says the apartment super’s paraplegic mother-in-law
when she catches you crying into your clean laundry

And you chose to write in second person. 


by Victor Enns July 6, 2023

He kept his head for all the crows could see
riding shotgun with three women, let’s make them
sisters, though not his. This is a story of his quest

seeking his mother’s love in garden after garden
“Do you like this garden which is yours?”
We evict those who destroy!”[1]

There is no after, here. Listen to the wrench
metal tearing through the body which once
was breathing stories and hiding [2]his bone

chasing tail with legendary desire now too
late. Too bad. Gazing into his pants,
judging his losses.

Hot highway is the only way to go from conference
to lounge to hotel room by passing Heisler
Kroetsch is on the move, looking for his mother.

Minutes before by the clock eons by his memory
He stepped up to his one and only home
peered into farmhouse windows, no-one to open

the doors locked he thought the Gods
were with him that sunny afternoon.
He wanted to smell his mother in her kitchen,

clouds of flour dust rising from her knife cutting spaetzl
in all her living a vision left him standing in her garden
he whispered so she might hear him better. Mother, where are you?

He breathes, gets his hanky little expecting, as he rubs
his neck, dripping sweat, to do die do die do die do,
he waves to air-conditioned sisters[3], waiting for him.

I’m coming he says, I wish, under his breath
one sister moving back to the back seat
he climbs aboard riding shotgun unloaded

his passage guaranteed by a black Ford 150
4 x 4 barreling down the highway, Mr. Cochrane[4]
this time Death is the highway and Kroetsch will ride it

hiding his bones for good in the summertime blues
studhorse man thrown, home a memory, mother
ripped from his consciousness, apron strings firmly cut.

there is no after, here.


Envoi (to begin with)

There is no real
world, my friends.
Why not, then,
let the stars
shine in our bones?

– Robert Kroetsch

[1] Malcolm Lowry in Under the Volcano
[2] from “Chasing Tail” by Anni Piper from Album of same name, 2010
[3] Their names were Clotho (Spinner), Lachesis (Allotter), and Atropos (Inflexible). Clotho spun the “thread” of human fate, Lachesis dispensed it, and Atropos cut the thread (thus determining the individual’s moment of death)
[4] Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane




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