for Isabella Valancy Crawford
They say Isabella died
in her landlady’s arms.
In February. In Toronto.
Just six years after Pat Garrett
shot Billy the Kid. Even Jesse James
managed to live longer than she did.
She did not rob banks,
nor had she held up any trains,
though her father was accused
of embezzling from the town treasury.
Instead, she wrote long poems
about sorrow – that dark matrix,
about love in and of the wilderness,
about enslaved human tides
on whose necks chaos would ride.
A weak heart, they said.
A February thaw followed
by a fierce storm.
A cold that wasn’t bad enough
to keep her from leaving her room
at the corner of King and John
to deliver a poem to the Globe.
Had Isabella lived today, she might
have stayed inside on snowy days
e-mailing poems around the world,
waiting for a child to die,
for the doctors to cut them open
and replace her own heart
with that of the child’s.
They say her last words were
I’m sorry to be such a bother, Miss Stuart.
Sorry to be. Such a bother.
Isabella’s apology still lingers,
waiting for someone to say
it’s all right.