A New Psalm of Montreal
with apologies to Samuel Butler
Rue St-Paul early, sunlight trickling down
the tall stone buildings to warm cobbles
and flagstones damp from overnight cleaning,
or stabbing with sudden warmth from side-streets:
oh morning, oh Montreal.
Too early for the homeless man and his cat
with its diamante collar and sleek black fur,
too early for the pubs, the pavement cafés,
the street stalls, the girl with the violin
who plays to Montreal.
When we cleared customs, the nice man checked
our return tickets, I suppose in case
we planned to stay, drop off the radar
in some laid-back, sunny, bilingual spot
like St-Paul, Montreal.
And it is sounding like a fine notion,
now that the snivelling wet little island
whence we came has stumped off, doolally, muttering
to itself “You’ll all be sorry when I’m gone”.
Oh dear: oh Montreal.
And St-Paul is waking, drinking its coffee,
watering its hanging baskets, setting out
its goods: sun is drenching the walls now
and a terrible guitarist is tuning up:
oh summer, oh Montreal.
A slim girl with the very slight swell
of early pregnancy swings smiling by,
dropping coins in every cap on the pavement,
and I would quite like to apply for asylum,
oh please, oh Montreal.
Sheenagh Pugh lived most of her life in Wales, but she isn’t best pleased with the Welsh right now. She now lives in Shetland, which voted remain. Her last collection was Short Days, Long Shadows (Seren 2014)