“Meeting Diefenbaker” by Jay Ruzesky

The photograph is missing
details of before and after
top and bottom, left and right.

A very old man shaking
hands with a very young boy
(elegantly composed, age and youth
juxtaposed in the blur of hands in motion).

Shows the old man descending
grandstand stairs, rows of seats
on either side, young boy ascending.

Specators ignorant of this moment,
dressed in short shirts, summer wear.

Old man dressed for winter in July
wears a woollen greatcoat
buttoned to his neck, his aides
support him down the stairs.

Anyone with a sense of history
recognizes the man, he is
Mr. Prime Minister 1957 to 1963.
Few could place the boy,
barely recognizes himself now
but recalls the old man.

With effort he remembers
left and right. The stairs
are the Calgary Stampede grandstand,
he has been pushed there,
his parents’ voices:
‘You’ll remember this someday.
That’s John George Diefenbaker
there for Christ’s sake. Dief
the Chief. Go shake his hand
like the rest of the kids. Go on.’

Dief descending
angelic, geriatric,
stopping at him, bending
to offer a hand.

Outside the photograph
the smell of roasted peanuts.
Had the lens been turned precisely
behind itself one hundred and eighty
degrees it may have caught in a smear
some unfortune cowboy
thrown from a hurricane,
seven seconds short.

And the next year.
The old man will die quietly
late in his study.
The child, slightly older, will
read about it.

The photograph shows Diefenbaker
looking past the boy at someone else
perhaps the boy’s mother
off to the side smiling,
the boy with his eyes closed
as though blinking from a flash.
The boy in cowboy hat and shorts
old man wrapped for a furious
Ottawa winter.

It cannot show the twenty odd years
since its taking or why
he looks at it so long, wants so
much to push beyond the edges of the frame.

A picture of a moment almost forgotten.
It cannot show in the blur of hands,
just a glance on the stairs in July,
how soft and warm his hand was,