for George Bowering
If you show George a picture of the Oliver Chronicle
on Highway 97 that you took when you drove
up from Osoyoos he will make you say
uh-saw-yuss until you get it the way he says it.
He’ll say, I remember when they painted the highway line
down the middle of the street. He’ll point to the white building
next door and say, the Oliver—they had movies
at the Legion and then they built the Oliver.
My friends went to the new one, I went to the Legion.
He’ll tell you he liked Red Skelton getting on a horse
sideways and backwards. He’ll say, The rattlesnakes
sunned themselves on the street—I used to kill them
until I realized that was stupid. The last one I killed
was on the golf course; I used a six-iron.
The Oliver coat of arms has a California bighorn sheep
and a mare on it, and a Salish woman’s head.
I don’t think George would like the name of the sheep,
also known as Ovis canadensis californiana (Douglas).
But he will tell you about getting a cactus spine
in his toe as he walked through the hills
and the next second getting that same spine
in the ankle of the other leg.
If you show him the false fronts
of Cranna’s Jewellers, Periwinkle’s Gifts, and Action
Vacuum, he’ll say looks like some western movie set.
But, knowing his fondness for beer,
you’ll be glad you snapped the Mesa
that used to be the Oliver Hotel,
and a mock-half-timbered place called the Desert Arms.
Then you’ll notice George’s arms:
the flexor carpi radialis
the palmaris longus
the flexor digitorum superficialis
the flexor carpi ulnaris
that picked cherries and peaches
You’ll think about armour
and things spelled with a u.
Published online April 01 2006.