A House on King William Street
Like the life here
The wallpaper repeats itself
Up and down go the roses
Similar blows struck out
By air-banging green fists:
A bright rose and a blue one
A pink blow and a blue one
The years have not changed their likeness
Except that those behind the sofa
Have kept their original blaze
And those opposite the window
Have turned yellow.
Aunt Henny says to Aunt Penny,
“Have you read She? Oh, a terrible book,
An awful book! Yes, it’s by
Haggard Rider Haggard.”
Aunt Lurkey says to Aunt Turkey:
“I nearly slipped today, I nearly
We should put a piece of carpet
On that particular step
Says Aunt Lurkey taking another should
Off the would pile.
No one remembers when
The wallpaper was new, except
The wallpaper itself
In the green smothered darkness behind
The sofa and the cupboard.
And I, I their awkward fool
Board there while I go to school.
James Reaney, 1962
“Sixth Letter” is from Twelve Letters To A Small Town, a suite of poems commissioned by CBC Radio about the poet’s hometown, Stratford, Ontario, with music by John Beckwith. See also “The Music Lesson from Colours in the Dark” and “Eleventh Letter: Shakespearean Gardens”.
( ( 0 ) ) For more about James Reaney’s work with composer John Beckwith, see “James Reaney and Music” from November 5, 2016: https://jamesreaney.com/gallery/john-beckwith-on-james-reaney-and-music-november-5-2016-at-museum-london/
( ( 0 ) ) To listen to an archived sound recording of Twelve Letters To A Small Town from July 1961, visit the Composers Showcase at the Canadian Music Centre.