Poppa’s trinkets shudder
and rattle against the window-shelf pane
whenever one of the grans primes the pump outside:
an Alaskan fishnet float of glass, the old-fashioned
spun sugar cone with its fancy crest,
a camphor-smelling blue glass bottle,
tall and nervous on the sill.
Gramma calls him packrat,
the proof in bags in the shed—
yellowed curling papers, shiny photos
now sun-warmed into clumps,
the Nobel township article he never finished—
nails and hooks on the mudroom wall for
sun-bleached bones, a beaver jaw,
rusted horse-bit and buckle, a hole-y minnow net,
the burnt sienna of Georgian Bay sand.
We gasp at the tiny hummingbird nest,
spun of cobwebs and the filament of moth feelers,
light as the sad puff of pipe smoke
Rupert the trapper leaves behind when he visits
for permission to trap beaver, rabbit, lynx.
Poppa says no trappers, no ski-dos, no Hydro men
on my land. Period.
He can be stern as Baba Yaga, flying around
in her butter-churn at midnight past the bone gate.
He can be soft too—
lets me touch the viceroy butterfly still
alive on his cap—the velvet powder wings,
bumblebee thorax, piece-of-thread legs
poking around like antennae.
Even when Gramma says time for sparklers
I cannot wrench myself away …
The breath-beat open and close:
brown paper scrap then a butterfly
in a blink. Open close
open and off!
Well that’s that. Poppa’s big hands
on his knot knees help him up with a groan,
open the screen door to let it out,
offer me a half zebra-mussel shell
he found under his big chair—
vessel for my new treasures.