Elegy for Josh

-By Leon Berrouard (a former teacher of Josh's at Bluefield High School)

 

In summer where the sun rises on Canada’s east coast
There is a red sandstone Island covered with shades
Of green, multiple greens reaching to share the sky.

 

At dawn and at dusk calm rivers & streams
Reflect clouds and spruce trees & along country roads
You might see a cyclist exercising, a heart beating
Faster while touring some farmland countryside.

 

That’s where Josh liked to ride, to push his pulse
To upper limits and exhilarate unnoticed in clean air,
His body lean and muscular from the great distances
Of discovery and the renewal that comes from exercise.
What would he think about while pushing his pedals?

 

His wife and his two children were in his thoughts
And his students at Birchwood Junior High School
And his lesson plans for the days
                                           & weeks ahead
And no doubt he was making music
                                           in his head
Trumpet thoughts of Jazz & rhythmic blues

As a candidate he planned political strategies,
Policies for the benefit of Island communities.

 

Josh was always thinking
How could he make lives better? He mused
And assumed responsibility, he pondered politics
On his bike, on a hike, or behind his teacher’s desk.

 

I taught him English at Bluefield High School
I observed him quietly attentive,
                       the only long-haired guy
                       and a bit shy in my class
From that rural school he became a world traveller
         spent time in the dirty air of Shanghai &
         spoke Mandarin in many densely populated
                                                    Chinese cities

And then he settled in a small city    
                                                   Charlottetown

A reader & thinker & doer
Apollonian in his love of music and his intelligence
A modern day Mercury in speed 

 

I wish I’d known him better and I wonder
Was Josh a cross-country skier &
Did he have waxless skis
                   and how were his knees holding up?
When he was younger
                   did he hold a propane torch and wipe
                   old wax from those
                   oak skis with lignostone edges?

 

He was an outdoor person,
         a person who inhaled the outside air
         And it didn’t matter about the outside
         air temperature

 

His lungs panting & gasping crisp air
                          & along new trails
He’d hear more sounds
And feel ever more            life     
Us breathing   we his neighbors

 

Breathing, taking deep
                green airbreaths in summer
                &
                white frostbreaths in winter,
exhaling vapor.

 

His deep and satisfying breaths are now ended
And my salty tears dry on my shirt as I remember 

 

And I miss him with his rhythm and his horn
His hopeful sounds, louder than my echoing scorn
For incompetent & dishonest politicians.

 

His teeth, remember his happy smile & teeth,
                               greeting, meeting & 
                              remember when he’d say
He was Josh Underhay & wanted to represent
                   our concerns as a MLA
                   to toil for quality & what matters
And he had a smile that didn’t lie.

 

Josh was the kind of teacher that students,
                    parents  & other teachers wished
                     to bump into on the street        to talk
                     & to have a handshake
                     or a pat on the back
To ask
          How’s it going?   &   How’s the family?

 

Josh gave and he gave and he gave
  to his family &
                  neighborhood

As he pushed ahead
For bike lanes for all of us, pushed

 

In directions leading to better
                  hospitals & health care & as a teacher
                  pushing an agenda for
                  superior education in dynamic schools.

 

Josh wanted more bicycle paths, hiking trails
And routes guiding us to healthier places
                              in education, in medicine,
                              & in the infrastructures
                              of sustainable farming & fishing.

 

The end of poisoning people
                             & birds & bees & worms
                             & all the life of living soil.
Josh was green, he was many shades of green
As the spring & summer greenery of Prince Edward Island
                             as green
As all those plants reaching for and sharing the sky

 

Now we miss his sunny integrity,
                         miss how he stopped
                         looked us in the eye
                         and smiled.