blog description

Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


It will be a year, on the 20th of November, since me ole pa crossed over to the other side. He was a crusty fellow, something of a combination of Carroll O'Connor, Ed Asner, and Jack Nicholson, with a touch of John Wayne thrown in for good meaure. He was a working class man with a grade 8 education who got up at 4:30 a.m. most mornings and worked like hell all day. He gave his family great love and earthy wisdom—-oh pillar of patriarchy! At the same time he was unembarrassed for anyone to see him cry. He lived life on his own terms, and he truly lived. He died well, too, surrounded by his family, the huge meaty bear paws of his hands spread out peacefully before him on the hospital blanket that covered his bed. In his honour, I'd like to offer up the eulogy I gave for him at one of the best damn wakes I've been to in a long time. Good on ya, Alvin Lloyd Corlett, Jr.! You taught us what it is to drink the sweetness of life.




They say that in the time before we are born
there is a place we go to choose our gifts,
the things we bring with us to dance us through life
And I was told
that you chose the hammer
—the hammer—
that made me smile,
considering the Manx origins of your name
Corlett—Mac Thorliot—Thor's People,
–or so the stories go—
Visions of large, bellowing men pounding things
immediately sprang to mind.
Not completely inappropriate...
but hardly the sum total of your life.


The hammer is a hard day's work
the essence of your creative spirit
the determination, the force of will and warrior grit
you brought to everything you did
If it was a mountain, you'd still say "It ain't gonna lick me,"
and give it hell 'til you'd whittled it down to a stone


You taught us that, too
Made it a physical lesson
Hours spent drilling a softball
Into a thin leather glove
"Stop your bawlin'. Catch it right, in the pocket,
And it can't hurt you."
We'd catch the spirit of the thing,
Try and avenge our throbbing hands,
Whip it back at you for all we were worth
swallowing the tears
Just for the reward,
the goofy face you'd make
if we could get that ball to sting you back.


The hammer is the smith's tool
Instrument of transformation
Making red hot metal something new
With just one skilled and elegant swing
You brought that kind of magic
To simple things
Showed us the joy
Of dancing in the rain
The beauty of a birdsong, a river, a star
The depth of laughter in the eyes
Of the woman you loved.


Sometimes you swung your hammer like a child
You couldn’t contain your enthusiasm
Racing Al down the Albuna townline
Damned if you were gonna let him win
Or the time you got your first pontoon boat
It was skidoo suits in April on the river
There was still snow on the banks
And you were grinning like a fiend


Other times you were epic
Like when you dove over a couch
Out of a dead sleep
To put out a grease fire at the Homestead
Or when you almost kinda sorta jumped the ditch
On your snowmobile
You had bruises for weeks
That’s why they called you “Crash.”


And if a hammer smashes things
Sometimes they’re things that need smashing,
Like the fear of saying what your heart really feels
The fear of love—or tears


And now
When finally your hammer has fallen from your hand
What are we to do?
It lies there on your workbench in quiet testimony
Echoing still of the many things you created
And I think I hear you whisper
Just live
And let that be enough
Do it fully
From the inside out
Dance, like a red pine in the breeze
Singing old secrets
That make us smile

1 comment:

  1. I'm finally catching up with all these wonderful posts, and not sure how the hell i missed this beautiful poem. He sounded like a hell of a man, KAC.