Patrick’s Poets – #4 in a Series – Linda Crosfield of Ootischenia, B.C.!

Canadian Poet and Publisher Linda Crosfield

I Wish I Could Tell You, John Prine

The time I saw you live
you were opening for Arlo Guthrie
but it was you I went to see.
You played them all, your glorious songs,
introduced an angel from Montgomery,
showed us the tracks on a young vet’s arm,
taught us a thing or two about long-distance love,
and I wish I could tell you
about a tiny kitchen in a long-ago apartment,
you on the turntable reminding us
to be nice to old people,
me and a boy, a long, languorous kiss
where we forgot about the other people
in the room rolling joints,
drinking wine, middle of the day,
we’d never be old like the couple in the song,
and I wish I could tell you
how the friend who told me about you in ’75 or so
died a few years back and I know
if there’s any kind of heaven
she’ll have found you by now,
be showing you around,
and I wish I could tell you
how decades later my son walked down
a dusty Mexican road
playing Hello in There on Pedro’s old guitar,
taking me back,
taking me back
like you do.

Linda Crosfield, Facebook, April, 2020

I had been planning for some time to profile B.C. poet Linda Crosfield as part of series on poets taught/mentored by the late great Canadian poet Patrick Lane when I saw the poem above on Facebook a few days after the death of the celebrated U.S. singer John Prine. I thought: that’s the poem I need to feature. But even then after getting a quick okay from Linda it has taken more time than I can believe to get this feature up and online! I have included Linda’s biographical and literary information below! I asked her to write it! Thank you Linda.

Linda is one of a large group of writers I consider part of my tribe! Poets I met through Patrick’s retreats. Poets I have learned from. Poets I consider real-deal friends.

I so admire the simplicity of Linda’s poem and yet it reaches out from that plain-speech place and enters into that mysterious portal where for me words on a page become a poem. A true poem. And I think she does this with her epistolery address to John Prine and through the time shifting in the poem. Massey Hall years ago, then an apartment at or near that time, then the death of a friend years who died a few years ago, then her son and her decades later and then now, if there is such a place, in heaven! And what a great move to include in her memories the song telling us to be nice to old people. This lovely conversation back and forth between the young and the old. The younger Prine and younger Linda. And now the forever older John Prine and the very alive but older Linda!

In Linda’s poem all these different times, all these different connections to John Prine. And I feel the true “isness” of Linda’s loss. This elegy
to a man whose life intersected hers again and again. In life and death. Thank you Linda for this poem. Thank you for your friendship!

Linda Crosfield’s work appears in several literary magazines including Room, The Minnesota Review, The Antigonish Review, The New Orphic Review, Event, and in several chapbooks and anthologies. As overseer of Nose in Book Publishing, she’s published chapbooks by several Canadian poets, including Stuart Ross, George Bowering, and Yvonne Blomer. She’s been short-listed for Room Magazine’s annual poetry contest and participated in Rocking the Page, a program that involved presenting poetry online and in classrooms. She likes to spend the winter in La Manzanilla del Mar, Mexico, where there’s a mangrove that’s home to about four hundred American Crocodiles. One of the poems written there traveled around the Lower Mainland in 2018-19 thanks to Poetry in Transit. She lives in Ootischenia, B.C., at the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers.




  1. Heidi Garnett
    Posted May 14, 2020 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Linda, so good to read your work again. Love the tender tone. I miss writing with you.

  2. Richard Osler
    Posted May 16, 2020 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Have passed this on to Linda Heidi! Sending big big love your way!

  3. Donna Box
    Posted May 15, 2020 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    and I wish I could tell you
    how the friend who told me about you in ’75 or so
    died a few years back and I know
    if there’s any kind of heaven
    she’ll have found you by now,
    be showing you around,

    Linda has captured my own feelings at the loss of John Prine,in particular with those lines. My own dear one with an illegal smile who introduced me to his music is probably in the welcoming committee with Linda’s friend.

    Thank you for posting this, Richard, and thank you, Linda, for your tribute.

  4. Richard Osler
    Posted May 16, 2020 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Dear Donna: I have passed this on directly to Linda. made my yesterday getting this from you! I hope you and Linda might connect! The power of sharing lives through the words of a poem! Sending much love your way!

  5. Deborah Robertson
    Posted May 17, 2020 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Terrific poem. I remember seeing John Prine once upon a long time ago. He was a favourite. Happy to have found your site. Reintroducing myself to poetry after a long absence….appreciate learning about all these Canadian poets and reading their poems. Feels good. All the best

  6. Posted May 17, 2020 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    Heidi! Thank you, and I miss writing with you, too.

    Donna, thank you for reading and commenting. It means a lot. Can’t believe I didn’t work an illegal smile into that poem!

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