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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 3, September 2014

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Maxianne Berger
Outremont, Quebec, Canada


In the Roadside Grasses

heartsease viola
goldenrod and sow-thistle
weeds you say?
whatever life's vagaries
she'd produce its flowers

She was ninety when she told me this story from her childhood, an underlayer primed for all the colour that followed, here stretched over the framework of my telling—a consequential collaboration.

beyond shimmering
does memory have texture?
this lithograph
of a country landscape
in shades of turquoise

In those days, families rented tiny summer homes in the Laurentian mountains. Men spent weekdays in the city, at work, and Friday nights joined their wives and children for the weekend.

enough room
for an icebox, a hot plate
and two beds
wholesome country air
lots of calamine lotion

By reckoning, it was the late nineteen-twenties when her parents spent their first—and last—summer there. Let's just say it wasn't her delicate mother's bone-china cup of tea. But she did enjoy taking her little daughters on "country" walks—and one such occasion blessed the older of the two with her life's inspiration.

so many greens
speckled with yellows and pinks
wild flowers
in the roadside grasses
a woman with an easel

A real woman, painting. What they call artist. It was an epiphany, a revelation of possibility for the little girl who years later would become wife-of, mother-of, aunt-of, friend-of . . . Beyond what she could aspire to be in relation to others, when she was young, very young, she staked out her own separate self and claimed it. When I grow up, she decided, I'm going to be that too.

We can see her pumping a potter's wheel, or etching into a printmaker's stone, focusing the lens before her shot slips away, or charcoal in hand on a hillside, sketching—and yes, with palette and easel, knee-deep in roadside grasses, brush strokes inspiriting a canvas.

she's there now
squinting in the sunshine
up close
the texture of memory
crinkled with laugh lines


Author's Note: In memoriam: Anita Elkin Abramson, 1922-2014.

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