January 20, 2014

Michael Lista is the author of Bloom, a 2010 Quill & Quire Book of the Year. He is the poetry editor of The Walrus magazine, and the poetry columnist...

The bear was named after the guy from M*A*S*H,
The incorrigible troll with ESP,
Hearing as fine as a woman’s eyelash

And a revolving roster of spy holes
That opened onto the nurses’ shower
Precipitating above an eyeball.

His voice went out from the PA tower,
And once, emboldened by Hawkeye’s beer,
He read the day’s announcements out in Morse.

That’s Radar. I named him. He is my bear,
A foot tall, eyes black and patient as pearls
On a head that revolves like Linda Blair’s

In The Exorcist. Today wet snow whirls
The windshield, close to collapsing to rain,
As we drive into upper-middle Oakville,

Unfinished neighbourhoods supervised by cranes,
Sapling-lined streets that segue into farms,
Whole subdivisions sprouting up like grains.

Our Mazda slowing, Radar in my arms,
We pull up to a half-constructed house,
Where, in the driveway, sits my cousins’ car.

Auntie Lori and Uncle Bob get out,
Then Ry and Jenn. This is their new house,
A Tyvek ghost, the front door’s mouth a shout

Muffled by wafting plastic to a hiss.
I’m nine years old, the same age as Dante
When he trembled, first seeing Beatrice,

But here am I, playing with a Teddy.
Embarrassed, I leave Radar on the porch,
And walk into the house, which isn’t ready,

The second floor not staircased to the first,
The winds of Easter blowing hard through it,
A Lethe quenching the plywood ground’s thirst,

The only element alien to it
Being the human. I turn left to leave,
Open my mouth to scream but can’t do it,

My voice barred by what my eyes can’t believe:
Radar is gone, Radar, my best friend,
Whose very body was my own relief,

On whom I turned my back for a second.
How could he not have seen his captor coming,
He whose namesake could detect the sucking

Thumps of a chopper as distant humming?
Or did he see it through his locked-in syndrome,
The very spirit of Oakville homing

His unattended signal, a scapegoat
For the sins of his namesake, his black eyes
Unblinking at the oncoming caped ghost?

We search for him an hour, but surprise:
He’s gone. Driving home, dad says he likes Oakville
As the snow turns into rain. Then mom cries

As CBC reports a missing girl,
And I understand where Radar’s gone. Of course:
To go retrieve her for us, our new world,

As the National Research Council, in Morse,
Indicates it’s exactly one o’clock:
Short short short, long long long, short short short.

Michael Lista is the author of Bloom, a 2010 Quill & Quire Book of the Year. He is the poetry editor of The Walrus magazine, and the poetry columnist for The National Post. Both his poems and essays have appeared in Poetry magazine, and his poems are anthologized in The Best Canadian Poetry. His second book, The Scarborough, will appear in the fall of 2014 with Vehicule Press. He lives in Toronto.