A conversation with Thomas Hardy in St James Cemetery, Winnipeg, Manitoba
on my machines, says Danny –
the caretaker. He has a vole problem.
for new wildlife. Still kicking myself
I missed the skunk roadkill. Voles, Thomas,
And blind. Folks like to think they’re alone
down there. But I can tell you right now . . .
Not that I can blame the voles for all
these gravestones being at odd angles. No?
decent-sized adult to push over some
of these monuments. Come inside.
okay, they only build these churches
for the bad buggers. You and me, we’re
graveyards. I know what you mean
Thomas. And if you were wondering
are buffalo skin kneelers . . . OKay. Wow.
They’re bison really though, eh? I mean . . .
if you want to get pedantic about it.
So you poison or trap them? Who? What?
here. Can’t have someone pick up a handful
of dirt to throw at a funeral and then
out the dens, lay limestone and re-set
the stones on the level. See, we’re an old
there was even a wedding. Fools rang
the bell so hard the grille fell off the tower.
I got to tell you, Thomas, the last caretaker,
he wasn’t up to much. Couldn’t even take care
to deal with two of the biggest garter
snakes that you’re ever likely to find,
the voles, too. You know I fell in a karst once,
when I was a boy. Being a stranger to
exactly what that is. Well, actually– A karst
is a natural pit formation that snakes come
up and out of there pretty smartly. Those ones
may not bite. But once you’ve fallen
how hard you are, after that you’re a different
person. I bet . . . I bet. Maybe, Thomas, maybe
over from St John’s on a mission. I was there
fourteen years, and they sent me over
they said to me. But I still go back to the cathedral
to take care of the tricky stuff. Like last
putting some 7 on a hive. Now that 7 is a poison,
but don’t you tell anyone, or else. No . . . No,
of the night. When the wasps are just crawling
around. Not flying. Not flying, just crawling . . .
he was on the glue. Don’t do the glue,
Thomas. I’ve kept well away from it so far.
a while. But you’ve got to be careful, Thomas.
You can bugger a young boy up. Their muscles,
have them digging or lifting too much too soon.
Well, thanks for the tour. You’re welcome.
straightened out by then. But hold on, before
you run away, tell me now, is your name
being clever. I’m sorry. That’s okay, Thomas.
I of all people know that all sorts, all sorts of
of reasons. So now I’ve got something else
for you, Thomas. Dug it up just yesterday.
of drawers? No, Thomas. No, it’s not. It’s the handle
off a child’s coffin. Oh, Oh, yes. Of course . . .
from down below. Another generation. And ended
up in the fill. See, it has the two hands there . . . Yes.
two hands shaking.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Geary is a theatre, TV and fiction writer who lives in exile on Vancouver Island, Canada. He writes approximately 2.5 poems a year just to keep his hand in. The poem that appears here was written under the influence of an A & W root beer float, somewhere between the Canad Inns Stadium – home to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers CFL team, and the Aurora Borealis.