A Flapper from Chapleau

Art by Emily Christy

James Rose is a bad bad man
Mustachioed, bowtied, firm jawed
Villain of Chapleau
A rail man, a hard-working man, keeping
Sugar lumps and cream at table
For tea, pennies in a Mason jar
Forty three, nimble and spry
James Rose hops from car to car
Sweetens every morn to see his girls, his wife
Stiff satin bows bedecking heads
Bent over porridge, girls well-fed off CPR
Coin, Chapleau’s northeastern belles
Village of Chapleau, 3000 souls
Circa 1913: mirage of lumber, card
Parties to keep the wives from wandering
Into the bush: bad for the nerves all those trees
Marooned in Algoma, far enough north to put a
Lump in the wife’s throat, spoil the girls’ porridge
Creamy stone pillars ring a scrubby orchard
Vigorous shows of hard-earned pay
Buffed brick walls, that octagonal porch broad
Enough to host the Eatons for tea
Rose House, damn biggest thing in town –
(You’d think the man is compensating for something)
Rail thin, Mrs. Minnie Rose keeps
The table set, cloth laid, scones baked
Picks out the bad currants, bad words,
While her husband observes, surveying
Her tight white skin, little lump breasts,
Firm kneading touch to dough
Bowed over musty books, jaw set,
The eldest girl plans, keeps her thoughts
Stored up for happenstance, the looming war
Tabula rasa, before the storm of young men
Troops into Chapleau, leaves her father behind
James Rose is too old for Amiens
Hair bobbed above the jaw, wiping down tables in Toronto
An honest wage for a Chapleau girl circa 1918
Pennies perhaps, but enough to pick and choose her own bad bad men