Daddy in Fort Mac

He buys used books
not thrillers or novels or the soft porn favoured by his ilk
but rather picture books
for a budding blonde
six years old and a thousand miles away

He reads to her on the phone
every second night
and tries to make his voice
into the bright illustrations
of lion’s paws
and thorns
and the plucky child who dares to help

They connect across thin mountain-strung wires
three times a week
just before bed
While she tries to see his painted pictures
he tries to imagine the smell
of her damp hair, recently shampooed
and the shape and slope of her shoulders
and her legs, lovely girl-curled
in the telephone chair
she calls Daddy’s story place.

He returns to the store
once his books have been read,
and buys more
and more
until at last the concerned clerk asks
he doesn’t use the library
great kids section, no charge

And he can’t explain
that this thrice weekly ritual cannot be about borrowing
With the words ephemeral and evaporating,
with his girl’s voice barely bigger than those wires,
books are the only thing
he can hold
once the line buzzes empty in his ear.

~ Margaret Macpherson

Margaret Macpherson is a professional writer and teacher living in Edmonton. She has published four books of non-fiction, a collection of short stories, a novel and countless reviews, articles and poems. Her newest book, a second novel, is near completion.

“Home is difficult for me because I grew up on traditional First Nations lands in the Northwest Territories. I think I knew early on that it was not really my land even though the physical landscape informed my entire childhood. I find myself exploring that complex ex-pat relationship, belonging/not belonging in much of my writing particularly in my new novel.”

Read more of Margaret Macpherson’s poetry:
It is a big

Editor’s note: This poem is from Home and Away – a sequel to the bestselling Writing the Land (2007). Look for one poet to be featured each day as Alberta poets ponder the question “what is home?” and explore our complex relationship with working on, living with, exploiting and protecting our land and our home. For more information about the project, click here.

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