The broom, though taller than a smaller self
still could be managed for the simple chores—

sweep neat the cement floor of the garage
near where the hearse was parked, then
clean the corner hutch—and everywhere—
of tiny, hard, perfectly round pellets
left by the pet rabbit who resided there.

His name was Happy, and who wouldn’t
want to stroke his sweet angora fur?

Happy also had a job: to fold into himself
quite small and wait—we can’t say where—
until such time as he was pulled, held high,
like magic, from the top hat Daddy wore
to do his tricks onstage between the wakes.

In between his shows, when life was
full of funerals, Happy took his holidays,
was left to roam just as he pleased
as if he were a household cat.

Who can remember when the rabbit died?
It was so long ago, taken for granted
like the drift of ordinary days passing
from sleight of hand to the embalming room.

And where is Happy now? You could say dust,
dumbfounded by the questioning itself, or
living in a rare, strobe-lit mirage, about
a rabbit, downy soft, who waits for magic
crouched beside a hearse, in a garage.

47 responses »

  1. What an extraordinary life, Cynthia … and I don’t mean Happy’s. One is aware that there must BE families whose history is involved with this activity – although not quite as … individual as yours – but one simply doesn’t take time to ponder the fact.
    Happy are we who can hear you telling us about how far from strange it can be.

    • Isn’t it odd, M-R, but generally true, I think: when we’re children we can consider our circumstances as perfectly normal and acceptable however rich, poor, or bizarre they may be. Then maybe a time comes when we wonder if we’re the only screwed-up family—what psychology nowadays likes to call “dysfunctional”….which always begs the question…what does the perfectly functional one look like? Don’t know as I’ve ever seen one……it must be magical, for sure…and happy, too!

  2. An unusual and happy memoir. I’m glad that you chose to memorialize this memory – a magician and undertaker – rather a strange combination, but under your expert poetess’s pen it becomes and enchanting poem. Pulling a rabbit out of a hat and cutting a lady in half are my two favorite magician’s performances – and I don’t know how either are done which makes them both more enjoyable. I wonder if Happy enjoyed, or tolerated – the rest of his life sounds pretty cushy.

    • My dad did not do the sawing of a lady in half (I suspect my mum would not cooperate) but besides the usual tricks, he did hypnotize audience participants and they did silly things on stage. I hated that…and I was the only one in the family he couldn’t hypnotize, though I did admire the grace with which he–in his cutaway coat and tails, and grey gloved hands, would conduct the rows of pallbearers down the main aisle of the church to the choral strains of “dies irae, dies illa..”

  3. Intriguing poem, great images. I still think you have a lot of similarity to Truman Capote–that’s a compliment, in case you weren’t sure.

  4. What a strangely beautiful poem Cynthia. This is most definitely one of my favourites! Although I think I may as well quit the ‘favourite’ thing as the word is losing its meaning! If every poem becomes a favourite then there is no such thing is there?! Haha! I think Im going more and more loopy every day 😊. I love the reference to rabbit pellets, bringing the ordinary into the extraordinary. (i remember those pellets only too well). And the way tou describe the rabbit as “folding in on himself” is just terrific.

    I actually often wonder what the lives are like for those who help us on our way to the hereafter or nowhere in particular. It never occurred to me until we dealt with funeral directors after the death of my parents. I even wonder if sometimes they find it difficult to look mournful. How awful if they receive a really funny thought from somewhere…

    • So you know about rabbit pellets…the uniformity of them bemused me, since it was always my job to sweep them up. It’s a strange world–that of morticians–but not to those who frequent it. I could tell many a story of growing up in that environment. We lived in a French Canadian parish, so most clients were of that ethnos…and the French word for “undertaker” is “entrepreneur.” My dad had a strong sense of drama about him, so he could carry on with the required solemnity, but you’re right…..funny thoughts could occur underneath it all, and funny things often happened. I’m glad this is another one of your “favourites” Christine! πŸ™‚

  5. A wonderful tribute to one from long ago through touching words … but did I read this write? Happy was your family pet, and participated in your dad’s hobby as a magician, which time away from his mortician job.

    • Bingo! I am the eldest of seven–five of them brothers–and we lived on the second and third floors of a large Victorian house. The embalming room and funeral parlors were on the first floor. “Shhhh…there’s A Case. downstairs,” was my mother’s most frequent admonition. Thanks, Frank.
      ( I like saying that because it rhymes!)

  6. Ah Cynthia this is really wonderful. Happy (or rather Happy’s memory) has now become a WordPress celebrity, a rabbit larger than life offering fun and tricks. Love reading and listening to your poems, in your clever and superb writing bring the story to life so clearly – yes I could imagine sweeping up all those pellets (ha!) and petting Happy’s beautiful fur. Going through the comments and your responses is a fascinating read, a funeral home – hard work, filled with emotion and oh, the stories you could tell.

    • Well, Mary, many of those stories might be better left untold, if you get my drift. But they are good grist for the poetic mill. For instance, this poem about Happy is a series of plain and simple facts, but I didn’t realize the meaningful reverberations of “other than facts” until it began to take shape in the writing of it…..much like when you begin a painting of something ordinary and it goes in unexpected directions as you proceed….but you do know about that..a pleasant surprise when it happens!

  7. There are echoes within echoes here, Cynthia. First of all the broom within the context of the entire poem. There is obviously something amiss with the broom, since “still could be managed for the simple chores,”, but presumably not larger ones. The broom is used to sweep clean the concrete of the floor where the hearses are garaged from the droppings of Happy the rabbit. But a rabbit, with its fecundity, is contrasted powerfully with the “parked hearse,” a juxtaposition of life in the place where death is a frequent visitor. Then the rabbit, a pet, is called Happy while he lives in a garage containing the carriage for death and mourning.
    But Happy is not just a normal angora rabbit with soft, wonderful fur. The undertaker, your father I presume, is also a magician, someone who gets up on a stage with bright lights and pulls a rabbit magically from a hat. Happy lives in a holiday between shows in a garage with a hearse and becomes part of an illusion that delights children and others. The cross currents grow even stronger in the poem: Happy as a symbol of life, the hearse as the carriage for death and mourning, and Happy as a vacationer in a place where an old broom is needed to clean his droppings on the garage floor.
    “Who can remember when the rabbit died?
    It was so long ago, taken for granted
    like the drift of ordinary days passing
    from sleight of hand to the embalming room.”
    The rabbit’s death in the end is as common as all death in the “drift of ordinary days passing/from sleight of hand to the embalming room.” Life comes in all of its juxtapositions and the need for an old broom to clean up the garage where the carriage of death waits, but then, presto!, what’s remembered and what’s forgotten as the sleight of hand that disappears individuals out of “ordinary days passing” come?
    “And where is Happy now? You could say dust,
    dumbfounded by the questioning itself, or
    living in a rare, strobe-lit mirage…”
    The mirage, of course, is memory
    a rabbit, downy soft, who waits for magic
    crouched beside a hearse, in a garage.”
    The same as that for my great great grandmothers and grandfathers for whom I possess no names.
    What an extraordinarily original poem, Cynthia!

    • Thank you for your careful reading and kind words, Thomas. You always surprise me with what you find in my poems, and that is truly a delight. I especially like your reference here to grandmothers and grandfathers for whom we possess no names. It lands right in that territory between noumena and phenomena which engendered this poem.

  8. lovely write! funny how the strange little snippets in our lives that we don’t often think of make such wonderful little tales for others πŸ™‚ and what a perfect name for a rabbit!

    • Thank you, Betty. As you might guess, I didn’t really see the layers until I got into it, and the layers themselves engendered more possible layers…though, after all, it’s just a simple tale of a girl and a rabbit, after all. You got me going… πŸ™‚

  9. I, too, enjoyed this one very much. It is interesting that the one holding the broom (a child) aligns herself from the start with Happy, both have a job to do, a function. I feel the largeness of the broom, the awkwardness of the girl holding it, though it could still be managed. And there is a “sense” that both girl and rabbit are confined within the rhythm of wakes and magic shows. I also enjoyed the name, “Happy” considering the rabbit’s duties were between wakes. A very interesting tale, and life, and poem.

    • It’s very gratifying to read your comment, Anna for the clarity of your feeling my intent to narrate the plain facts….the awkwardly big broom, the alliance of child and rabbit in that they both had a job and are both confined in a rhythm of shows—magic and funereal. Happy the rabbit really did exist, but only in remembering him recently did I see all the.connections to life, death, happiness, and memory. Thank you very much!

      PS. Thank you again for ordering my book. It went out to you in this past Friday’s First Class mail….don’t know how long that takes from here to Ontario, but it should be there pretty soon….. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Cindy…….also, I’ve read/seen your post about being railroaded and thoroughly enjoyed it. What is it about small, intricate worlds that makes us cherish them so?….Poor silk tree…I wonder if you ever brought one home…..

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