Not at the Quinte Hotel

A Tribute to Al Purdy’s Poem At the Quinte Hotel

I’m drinking
I’m drinking tea with lime wedges
in my bedroom
on a hot summer night
you can see
…I’m a demure woman
there’s a rucus a raucus rucus
under my bedroom window
it trolls down the street
as a young woman repeats
the F word
…not a demure woman
…that’s me
plugging one ear
and sipping tea
in the hot upstairs room
and though
…I’m a demure woman
I don a raincoat over my
short summer nightie
and plunge outside
calling watch your tongue
what’s wrong what’s wrong
and the girl says the F word
to me at me
my eighty-year-old sensibility turns cranky
I suggest calling the cops
the girl staggers
loses a flip-flop
spits the word
again and again
I want to leave the F ing party
so I say
can’t you be more poetic
she sways and says sure
mary had a little lamb
at least she didn’t say
an F ing little lamb
which would truly have bothered my sensitivities
even more
and I say
what about the perfume from
those white lilacs
and she picks two
hands them to me
slurrs sorry if we woke you
go back to bed
I put the blossoms
in a toothpaste glass
smell them round the corner
in the bedroom
don’t say it’s an F ing good night
…’cause I’m a demure woman

~ Joyce Harries

Joyce Harries writes: “In 1997, when I’d never written poetry, I saw and heard Al Purdy perform at the Victoria Writing School. I thought, “So this is poetry?” My own book of poems, “Twice in a Blue Moon” (Spotted Cow Press) was published in late 2007.”


This poem has been posted as part of a tribute to Al Purdy, the man widely regarded as Canada’s first true national poet. The League of Canadian Poets has declared April 21 to be National Al Purdy Day. The “Purdy A-Frame Trust” has been started to raise funds to preserve Purdy’s famous home in Ameliasburg, Ontario. For more information or to make a contribution to the Trust contact: Jean Baird, 4403 West 11th Ave., Vancouver, BC, V6R 2M2. Phone: 604 224 4898 or email:


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