May 25th, 2021
Arleen Paré’s seventh title, First (Brick Books $22.95) documents the search for her first best friend using prose poem narrative. Paré also explores other “firsts” of her childhood such as realizing she is part of a cosmos. All this is done through a process of remembering that fellow poet Fred Wah more precisely describes as “cracks of memory” that are “heightened by a very active and assertive poetic language that compels as it decodes the investigation of childhood memory and desire.”
Pat Hurdle and I met when she was six and I was five-years old.
We became best friends. When I was nine, I was made to change
schools, Protestant to Catholic. This was the first interruption
of our friendship, a terrible pall. Her mother died when she was
fourteen, a second, worse pall. When I was eighteen, my family
moved across town. Pat and I drifted, at first just a little, then
a lot. I lost track of her. I was distracted; I got married. Had a
husband, children, a career. I didn’t really miss her. When I was
thirty, my husband, kids, and I moved from Montreal to the West
Coast. Later I fell in love, acquired a wife and moved farther
west to Victoria. At some point, I began to miss Pat a lot. I asked
other childhood friends about her, but no one knew anything.
Eventually I lost hope that I would ever see her again. And then
five decades later, five decades after we had become best friends,
her name appeared in my inbox: the subject line, “Green Circle,”
the street where we grew up. It turned out she’d been living on
Vancouver Island, in Victoria, for several years, ten blocks from
my house and three thousand miles from our childhood homes
on Green Circle, Dorval. We’d landed in the same city, same
neighbourhood, ten blocks apart, curving back on ourselves.
Pat moved in at the end of the week eight months after I moved to
the street. A new family. We were five little girls at loose ends after
hopscotch running down the street. The family milling getting
used to their driveway. The father eyeing the house. I eyed Pat and
she eyed me back unafraid. A good sign. Her sister twisted away
to avoid our ten little girl eyes. Her name was Susan their mother
said. She sucked on the pointy end of her pigtail and laced her free
hand into the hem of her mother’s tweed skirt. I loved her shyness.
Pat stood firm my height and though blonder than blonde I could
tell she was mine.
Neither Green Circle nor Handfield were true circles. Together
they formed an ellipsis, like the elliptical paths of the planets that
orbit the sun. The Law of Ellipses.