#PoetryFriday December 6, 2019: Life Long Distance

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tanita S. Davis at [fiction, instead of lies]. If you are interested in The New Year’s Poetry Challenge, check out the information on her page.

Don't forget to check out the links to other participants sharing poetry today.

I had big plans to write a blog post on the winners of the CBC poetry prize this week. Two important things got in the way. First, I didn't finish reading the entries, and second, I finished this collection of poetry by Robert (Bob) Heidbreder. He wrote it after the death of his mother - claims it was the best grief counselling ever.

I adored it! It was like visiting with my mother in law and her bridge and coffee klatsch gals. These are lines of pure, sweet magic.

Each poem has the name of a person, place, or event. They contain the idle gossip of small town life all the while revealing a portrait of community and friendship among a group of elderly women.

Some poems are risqué. Others are heartbreaking. There are repeated announcements of another death. Those hit me hard because I remember my mother in law and my own mother going through loss after loss. I'm of an age where this is beginning, and I am still young compared to the elderly friends in the book.

The poems shine with Bob's trademark humour. I laughed out loud throughout the collection.

I had to read bits out loud to my husband, Randy, claiming, “Doesn’t this remind you of .......”

I cried at the end.
I feel like I’m missing someone I never met.

 Bob has given me permission to share this poem in it's entirety with you all. It captures the essence of the entire collection.

Water Exercises

We got a new girl at the Y,
for the water exercises.
She works us too hard.
We don’t feel like going for a coffee
and a roll after.
We're too tired.

Well, today she went to far.
Asked us to put our faces in the water
and kick – KICK without holding on.

So none of us did it,
just stood in the water
and tried to stare her under.

(You don’t go to these exercises
to get your hair all wet.
Lots of us just got it fixed yesterday
and maybe we got bridge today.
You can’t go looking all straggly and strung out.
They’ll think you’re letting yourself go,
like the ministers wife – no wonder,
I say, married to him, no wonder.)

And kicking without a board,
or holding onto the side!
Why, land’s sakes, she’d have a floating cemetery
in the pool – right like those graves
down by the river.
Come the spring thaw
when the river rises,
some of the caskets go floating off –
Lulumae's seen them from her river camp –
down south.
Some even got snakes on them,
hitching a ride
to the swamps.

Well that Lecky marched up to the gal after
and told her to get with it or get out.
(You know, Lecky, real bossy,
a plain-out speaker, but grew up hard.)

The girl starts to cry.
I kind of felt for her.
She’s young.
What does she know about growing old?
What does she know – yet?

So we all took her out for a coffee
and bun after,
all but Lecky.
She had to get her hair fixed –
the colour’s coming out:
she washes it too much, we figure.

© Robert Heidbreder

My interview with Bob is here if you want to know more about him.


  1. Ohhhh, what a lovely thing - and what a dear, irascible old voice in this poem. Thank you so much for sharing this - and what an idea - to write a poetic remembrance in such a way. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Yes, that's it her voice draws us in and won't let go.

  2. Laughing, laughing, thinking most of my mother-in-law, no pool exercise, but this is her voice, her friends. It sounds like a very special collection, Cheriee!

    1. It is Linda! Mine was a library copy, but I ordered one for myself!

  3. Great poem -- and yes, what a voice! Will have to look for this book. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I'm hoping it will be good mentor text for when I start editing my own memoir!

  4. Oh, my goodness! I was laughing out loud at the floating cemetery! I'd like to read this collection. Thank you for introducing me to Robert Heidbreder. I read your insightful interview, loved Drumheller Dinosaur Dance, and will watch the classroom video. What lucky children to have had this man help them acquire a literacy foundation.

    1. They really were. All Bob's work is delightful, but I think this is my favourite.

  5. I can totally hear her! The story and the voice together are funny and so poignant. I love that moment of empathy for the poor instructor at the poem's end.

    1. Yes, it's that sweet feistiness that held me throughout the book.

  6. Thank you for sharing this, Cheriee! It is priceless! I will have to find Bob's book... and watch the interview. No time just now, but I will try to get back to it. Best to you for a good week... and thanks again.

    1. Hope you manage to find time. It's pure joy Karen.

  7. I like Bob's comment about it being the best grief counseling. It is. and what a great poem to share.

    1. It sure is. I have a collection I wrote to help me get through my mom's illness and death.

  8. Oh, my goodness! That certainly was like a visit with the ladies in my town....how funny and true all at once. I loved it. I smiled at the ladies staring down the fitness leader. Oh, my goodness. I think I need to read this book! What a great find. Good luck with finishing all your reading.

    1. I'm not sure I will get to finish it all, but I hope to at least read the finalists for the poetry prize.

  9. Oh, that is just like a visit with my mother-in-law. I love it! I can picture those women in the water aerobics class (I've met quite a few of them), and before long I'll be joining them! I bet I would enjoy the rest of the book, too.

    1. I'm sure you would Kay. Hope you can find a copy somewhere.

  10. Laughing out loud!!! Those women are the ones who were in my water aerobics class in my tiny hometown, and I was perhaps that young instructor who didn't know anything...yet.

    GREAT voice in this. How did he do it???

    1. He's brilliant - it's based on conversations he had with his mother over the years.

  11. Whoa! This IS familiar... and SO funny. I definitely could see myself eating this book up (preferably with a coffee and a bun) and coming back for more. Thanks for the laugh, Cheriee.

    1. I ended up purchasing my own copy I love this voice so much!

  12. I feel for that instructor! She had no idea. But now she does.
    I'm going to check out the book. I can see why it would be great grief counseling!

    1. Just tried to find it to buy it and couldn't! Darn.

    2. You can get a copy from the publishers - Emdash Direct

  13. Fun poem Cheriee, I'm still smiling from it–what characters he shared with us in his poem, as if you were standing there in conversation with them, thanks!

  14. So good! I love the way the old ladies relented and took the young whippersnapper out for coffee and a bun.

  15. OMG, I totally say that (in my head) about going to water aerobics. I do NOT go there to get my hair wet or swim and the instructors do not care nor get it.

    Thank you so much for sharing this!