Eileen, Mother of Eric Ivan Berg
The Best Quesnel-Born Poet In History
(Who Died At 26, In 1977)

Eric Ivan Berg--
We never met,
But I've read your
Winter-ploughed,
Cariboo-drunk poetry.

And I knew your mother,
Eileen--
Visited with her in
Her log-walled,
Chinked and re-chinked,
Partly stuccoed,
Partly rib-naked,
Ramshackle paradise; I've
Stood on her older-than-the-mayor
Linoleum, and drank her
Crow-black coffee
From a chipped mug.

I've received her gifts of turnips
And cabbages
And armfuls of rhubarb
That grew beside the worm-patch.

"Worms $2.50 doz":
The sign beckoned eyes-glazed-with-glory
Fishermen, and hung in
Lilac bushes so old,
So monolithic,
They'd become lilac trees
With great arches and
Long, dark tunnels
For grandchildren to explore,
Like gold rush-pioneers
Of Barkerville's yesterbash.

At Eileen's funeral
That I did in '94--
"Buried her out on the Old
Prince George Highway,"
As people around here say--
I didn't tell them,
The crowd of rain-wet aficionados
Who well knew how she'd
Raised those kids while
Her Larry had
Died in a bottle--
I didn't tell them about
The clean-shaven-fisherman-to-be
Who'd said, "I've dug up two dozen."
"That'll be six bucks."
"Six? The sign says $2.50 a dozen."
"Oh, that!" She laughed.
"I gotta put up a new sign."

She handed me an armful of
Chrysanthemums, and grinned
While the man with a can of worms
Left shaking his head.

Once she introduced to me one of her
Borders as a man with
"Half a brain.
So if he don't seem quite right,
That's why."

He agreed. Nodded emphatically.
"Doc said I drunk so much
My cholesterol got lumpy and
Clogged off half my brain."

He's still alive--
Mostly pickled and emphatic.

Once she knocked her cat off
A more-than-baked turkey
On the polio-legged table,
And asked me if I wanted a sandwich,
And another time she brought out
A precious batch of rocks.
"You can each have one,"
She told my four girls. "Don't be shy.
Take one of the pretty ones."

Eric Ivan Berg,
"Ya four-eyed pooit,"
As yer old man called you--
We never met,
But "I buried her," your mom, as
People around here say,
"Out on the Old Prince George Highway."


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