Bruce Hunter

                              (as told by Margaret)

Ours was a Cold War love.
Stationed on the Pine Tree,
second defence to the DEW Line,
south of Saskatoon in the grassy hills,
a stretch of radar domes,
like igloos across the near north.

We lived in the officers' compound,
I went back there once, just to see.
Nothing left now but loops of asphalt
where the trailers butted into the hillsides.

My husband in those long Saskatchewan nights,
told of Sardinia, his first posting.
And those Mediterranean girls
with their darker skin. Names he called out
as he reached for me in his sleep.

And we played cards:
kitchens and living rooms full of smoke.
With other couples, always officers and their wives,
none of us unmatched, as we bowled int he two lane alley
next to the officers' mess.
All the codes of dress and decorum.
And I never suspected a thing.

Worked down in the county office typing.
While he took swing shifts in the radio tower,
that's now a shell on the hill, the white dome gone.
Eavesdropping on the talk of Soviet pilots
and our own in the high Arctic.
A man who'd read Chekhov in the Russian.

The day the cat smelled of perfume
it all came together
as it fell apart.
When her husband mentioned to her
mine had requested a transfer to Sardinia,
and she broke down, told him everything.

And my husband, trained in code
and cyphers, the man I thought I knew, stayed silent.
All those secret glances, the double entendres he loved
–the pokerface.

All the reasons she told me later, I've forgotten,
but not her red eyes, the stain of my slap spreading on her cheek,
and I hugged her like a sister,
my nose in that damned perfume of hers.

Bruce Hunter, Two O'Clock Creek: Poems New and Selected, Oolichan
Books, 2010.