oliver chronicle

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

pitched balls

swung bats.

You’ll think about armour

and amour

and things spelled with a u.

Published online April 01 2006.


Rising Stars cover image

This piece was published in ‘Rising Stars,’ the Spring 2006 issue of CV2.

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