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My Grandfather’s Chalet
By Charles Venable Posted in Canada Day 2019, Poetry
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Mosquitos made their home
in the knees of cypress trees
casting shade over the chalet,
on the lakeshore. Water ripples
with the whisper of their wings
& flutter-falling maple leaves
browned by rain rolling north
The wettest summer in fifty
years—the only summer
I would ever be there to see,

& the only summer I’d see
my mom’s father, ‘grandaddy;’
I was eight years-old. He was
tall & gaunt & gray, like a
French halberd. He hugged me.
He smelled like a European
whose parents came by boat,
but he smiles like an American
who was born in New York City.
Though he will marry a French-

Canadian woman who births
eight children for him while he
writes a book of all the grammar
errors by the man on the news.
The book was hidden on a shelf
in the chalet. He brought his kids,
empty milk cartons, broken tools,
mismatched spoons, books with
money hidden in the spines &
picture frames without pictures,

but the mosquitos remember;
they whisper stories of nights
on the lake: my grandfather,
he held them in his hands &
remembered: my mother drank
milk from this empty carton.
He fixed the car with this tool.
Her brother ate with this spoon.
The family read this book together

& this empty frame once held
a picture of his wife before
she died, of his children before
they grew, of him before he
was alone in the chalet by the lake
with his unfinished book &
the whispers of mosquitos.
They told him these stories;
now they tell them to me.


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