Al Purdy

(December 30, 1918 – April 21, 2000)

Home-Made Beer

I was justly annoyed 10 years ago
in Vancouver: making beer in a crock
under the kitchen table when this
next door youngster playing with my own
kid managed to sit down in it and
emerged with one end malted –
With excessive moderation I yodeled
at him
“Keep your ass out of my beer!”
And the little monster fled –
Whereupon my wife appeared from the bathroom
where she had been brooding for days
over the injustice of being a woman and
attacked me with a broom –
With commendable savoir faire I broke
the broom across my knee (it hurt too) and
then she grabbed the breadknife and made
for me with fairly obvious intentions.

I tore open my shirt and told her calmly
with bared breast and a minimum of boredom
“Go ahead! Strike! Go ahead!”
Icicles dropped from her fiery eyes as she
“I wouldn’t want to go to jail
for killing a thing like you.”
I could see at once that she loved me
Tho it was cleverly concealed –
For the next few weeks I had to distribute
the meals she prepared among the neighbouring
dogs because of the rat poison and
addressed her as Missus Borgia –
That was a long time ago and while
at the time I deplored her lack of
self control I find myself sentimental about
it now for it can never happen again –

Sept. 22, 1964.            P.S. I was wrong

  • Al Purdy from Caribou Horses
    submitted by Victor Enns


purdy2The first Canadian poets I read while still in high school where Alden Nowlan, Al Purdy, Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen and Dorothy Livesay. I met Al Purdy for the first time when he was a writer-in-residence at the University of Manitoba in the very red UMSU pub. He offered to buy me a beer, which I refused, preferring whiskey. He was immediately suspicious, “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t drink beer.” I tried to recover by saying I drank beer, usually as a chaser in the winter, but just not today, a bright prairie frigging cold winter day, listening to Linda Ronstadt singing, “When will I be loved.”

The last time I met Al Purdy was at a reading in the Ekhardt Grammate Hall at the University of Winnipeg a year or two before he died. I brought a brown lunch bag full of crabapples to thank him for his reading, his poems and his inspiration, raising the same puzzled WTF look as twenty five years earlier.

About “Home-Made Beer”

The poem was always a hit at readings. If I remember correctly Turnstone produced a limited edition broadsheet of the poem during his residency. The poem is in Caribou Horses, one of his most famous collections. His “domestic” poems have a self-deprecating sense of humour, rarely found in the work of American confessional poets.