Autumn Sky Poetry . . . Number 17 . . .

Providence Crematorium

     by Michelle Barker

          Penticton, B.C.

A small building

with a tall slim smokestack

sits beside the lake

bike path behind it

cemetery behind that

prime real estate

given over to the business of dying

but for the sign

you’d think they were

smoking fish

when I ride past on my bike

and see the haze

above the smokestack

I cringe at the idea

that I will smell death—

inhale it with the fresh

autumn air

in which everything today

feels so alive

but death doesn’t smell

it gives no sign of its presence

except for the wisp of warm air

I ride through

for but an instant

like a hand upon my arm.

Michelle Barker has published poetry in Descant, Room of One's Own, The Mitre, The Antigonish Review, Carte Blanche, Cicada, Cahoots Magazine, and Taproot IV, with work forthcoming in Tesseracts 14 and The Centrifugal Eye. Her creative non-fiction won a gold National Magazine Award in 2002 and has been published in both Event and Grain. Her non-fiction has appeared in The Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun, Cruising World Magazine, and Reader's Digest (Canada). She has published short fiction in Words Literary Journal and in Taproot II, and recently won honours at the Surrey International Writers' Festival Storytelling competition. Her first novel, just completed, is a young adult fantasy called The Beggar King. Michelle lives in the Okanagan region of British Columbia and can be reached at

© 2010 Michelle Barker