-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
And then he settled in a small city
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
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,
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
How’s it going? & How’s the family?
Josh gave and he gave and he gave
to his family &
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 all those plants reaching for and sharing the sky
Now we miss his sunny integrity,
miss how he stopped
looked us in the eye