joanne epp

The Gathering

We stop on the footbridge, face west
to watch the pale sky, the moving flecks clustered
against a pink horizon. They’re black lines now,
flattened M’s: seven geese, and skimming treetops
along the bank, seven more. They converge,
heads and tails defined against the sky’s
last slip of color, each flock a wave of wings,
a growing gabble of calls, amplitude of honks.

We zip up jackets in cooling air, thrust hands
in pockets. The children want to go.
Not yet, I say. A little longer. Watch.
We shuffle closer, press arm to arm.
With fading light a diminuendo
of bird-voices in the shallows,
flocks settling for the night,
silhouettes against moonlit water.
Quiet now. We shiver.

Table Graces

Mornings while we dress
water bubbles in the kettle,
news and weather murmur
from the kitchen radio.
Reading and prayers, each
of us in turn. My brother ends
with Come dear Lord
and be our guest
. Then
corn flakes with milk, small glass
of juice, toast with gooseberry jam.
Or bran flakes in the bowl,
rhubarb jam on the toast.

We come home at noon to brown buns
with salami, a little lettuce, maybe cheese.
Canned fruit and cookies after.
It’s Come dear Lord quickly mumbled, then
a retreat into separate worlds—
the Old West, the Future, Middle Earth—
until the afternoon’s intrusion.

For supper a steaming casserole,
dill pickles, bread and butter.
Dessert every night. We’re fond of sweets.
My brother begins: and let this food
to us be blessed Amen
. We joke,
argue, fall silent. We remark on
the state of the world.
We pass the milk.


Drops of red on serrated leaves
are the signal— there are more
among the close-growing canes.
Reach in, let branchfuls of prickles
scrape forearm skin,
lift each cluster of leaves to find
fleshy berries suspended beneath.
Leave the pale ones that resist
when tugged off the stem.
Leave the wine-red, that fall
with the shake of a twig.
Take only the bright red, that slip off
with a light fingertip grasp.
These are ready, these will burst their sacs
of juice with a fingernail’s pressure,
release tart sweetness
in the mouth.

Joanne Epp‘s work has appeared in Canadian journals such as The New Quarterly, Rhubarb, and The Antigonish Review, as well as one anthology. She lives with her husband and two sons in Winnipeg, where she enjoys cycling along the river (when the path is not flooded). Her blog can be found here.