Both Boys Climb Trees They Can’t Climb Down

Both Boys Climb Trees They Can’t Climb Down

96 pages

Poetry

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About the book

Both Boys Climb Trees They Can’t Climb Down is Stephanie Yorke’s homage to lost homes. The poems in the collection commemorate a home that is at turns too ugly to look at, and too profound to ignore. The remembered home is both a depleted space where “women climb flimsy ladders/ to rag and harangue mildew from awnings/ over the doors,” and a potent space where a “volcano spits like a roast pig/ initial ash on your window.”

Yorke approaches her subject obliquely, giving a monolithic topic the sidelong glance it demands: home looms on the periphery, as different speakers offer their far-flung or down-to-earth versions of the past. The opening poem establishes the contrast between nostalgic and pragmatic temperaments that will be developed in relief to one another, as the irreconcilable manias of regret and memory compete for dominance. Pop culture and art – ranging from Steve Urkel’s greeting to Lawren Stewart Harris’ paintings – are important to the development of the small town environment, but lived experience and vernacular stories remain key. The lost home, be it precious or repugnant, is like “a coin in a shallow pond:/ brighter once it’s thrown.”

About the author

Yorke, Stephanie

Stephanie Yorke was born in Truro, Nova Scotia, in a hospital located about half a kilometer from an enormous Co-op feedmill. She has since lived and studied in Fredericton and Oxford, bicycled across Canada, and travelled throughout Europe and India, but keeps ending up where she started: Truro remains at the centre of her imagination. Stephanie’s poems have appeared in Grain Magazine, The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, Descant, Prairie Fire, prism International, and numerous other publications in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Excerpt

Dr. Asimov

Sorry. Turns out the machine is growing
less and less human. Personal computers
gladly repeat what they just said, let you choose
the wallpaper. Dump trucks carry their load
till there’s a good time to unload,
and signal their intentions with orange
warning lights. The dashboard GPS
continually asks pertinent questions,
and cell phones can be turned off at the theatre,
whereas your friends. Even simple radios
just tell you; cut and dry, or unplugged.

But, the umbrella! Push a button, he’s open,
squeeze a shoulder, he’s shut.
When it rains, I say, I, Robot.

 

Cautions

Yellow signs say caution, wet floor —
depict death-by-footstep,

walking with his jacket open,
the dog off-leash.

Yogurt-white barking
teeth — syringes cocked.

The vaccine risky, disease incurable.
Wing-tipped avian flu.

A feather duvet, and police in the doorway
ask questions about the attack:

Well officer, supper looked like Loch Ness.
Broken wishbone on my soup spoon;

pin digs trachea ribs,
this injunction called swallowing.

Undercooked meat; birth complications; premature kittens.
Respect the incubation period.

Don’t forget the oven! In case of fire,
never go back for the cat.

Clogged flues, curtain piled on the register —
an eyelid out of place.

 

Houses, Richmond Street

Fewer shutters match, each time you visit —
some blue paired with orange, some green, some off
having their own experience.
But the windows retain their sills, and the sills are kept clean,  
and every April women climb flimsy ladders
to rag and harangue mildew from awnings     
over the doors. Every June the street sweeper
wishes the sidewalk back to white. Concrete
six inches thick, rather than meagre asphalt,
so the surface will never crumble (though
of course it’s begun a little at the edge).  
You choose your own house out from the row — 
that house that hangs back from the road, always
the last swimmer into the pool,
toes drawn up. You walk toward it, past
the same forked tree– but now the fork is higher,
so boys can’t reach to climb. And men don’t bother.


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