Empathy

I listened to Stan Rogers last night.  His spirit and songs poured from the mouths of his loved ones.

Stan was a Canadian singer-songwriter who died on the tarmac of the Cincinnati Airport in 1983, of smoke inhalation.  He lives on.

Stan’s daughter Beth sang 45 Years to us.  It was a love song to his wife Ariel.  As Beth’s voice soared, I cast a few glances to Ariel, who seemed lost in love.  At the end, she told us that their 45th anniversary was a month or two ago.  Oh my.

Where the earth shows its bones of wind-broken stone
And the sea and the sky are one
I’m caught out of time, my blood sings with wine
And I’m running naked in the sun
There’s God in the trees, I’m weak in the knees
And the sky is a painful blue
I’d like to look around, but honey, all I see is you

The summer city lights will soften the night
Till you’d think that the air is clear
And I’m sitting with friends, where forty-five cents
Will buy another glass of beer
He’s got something to say, but I’m so far away
That I don’t know who I’m talking to
‘Cause you just walked in the door, and honey, all I see is you

Stan walked into the shoes of ordinary Canadians, feeling their pains and joys.  The poet helped all of us know …

1.  The Alberta Ranch Wife  (Lies)

Then she shakes off the bitter web she wove
And turns to set the mirror, gently face down by the stove
She gathers up her apron in her hand
Pours a cup of coffee, drips Carnation from the can
And thinks ahead to Friday, cause Friday will be fine
She’ll look up in that weathered face that loves hers line for line
To see that maiden shining in his eyes
And laugh at how her mirror tells her lies

2.  The Prairie Wheat Farmer  (The Field Behind the Plow)

Watch the field behind the plow turn to straight, dark rows
Feel the trickle in your clothes, blow the dust cake from your nose
Hear the tractor’s steady roar.  Oh you can’t stop now
There’s a quarter section more or less to go

And it figures that the rain keeps its own sweet time
You can watch it come for miles, but you guess you’ve got awhile
So ease the throttle out of air, every rod’s a gain
And there’s victory in every quarter mile

Poor old Kuzyk down the road
The heartache, hail and hoppers brought him down
He gave it up and went to town

And Emmett Pierce the other day
Took a heart attack and died at forty-two
You could see it coming on ’cause he worked as hard as you

3.  The Great Lakes Seaman and His Girlfriend  (White Squall) 

The kid was so damned eager.  It was all so big and new
You never had to tell him twice, or find him work to do
And evenings on the mess deck he was always first to sing
And show us pictures of the girl he’d wed in spring

But I told that kid a hundred times “Don’t take the lakes for granted
They go from calm to a hundred knots so fast they seem enchanted”
But tonight some red-eyed Wiarton girl lies staring at the wall
And her lover’s gone into a white squall

4.  The Nova Scotia Fisherman  (Make and Break Harbour)

Now it’s so hard to not think of before the big war
When the cod went so cheap, but so plenty
Foreign trawlers go by now with long seeking eyes
Taking all where we seldom take any
And the young folk don’t stay with the fishermen’s ways
Long ago they all moved to the cities
And the ones left behind, old and tired and blind
Won’t work for a pound, for a penny

In Make And Break Harbour the boats are so few
Too many are pulled up and rotten
Most houses stand empty, old nets hung to dry
Are blown away, lost and forgotten

***

Thank you, Stan
We hardly knew you
And now we know you

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