Friday, August 18, 2006


A Short Collection of Short Canadian Poems

A sampler platter of a dozen Canadian poets:

"The Gift"
P. K. Page

'Dried huckleberries,' you said.
'Cram them into your mouth by the handful.'

Like dried bees -- not quite stinging.
Rough and tart.
Chewy as a mouthful of springs.

My saliva releases
their ten small bony nutlets.


"Owl Pellet"
Tim Bowling

This is the only letter God will ever send you.
And if, opening it, you expect answers,
advice, condolences, you will find
a signature of bone. Otherwise,
a great hunched watchfulness
will leave your body, and perch
on the black branch between stars.


"Rain II"
Laura Lush

It rained last night --
and in the morning, the poppies
stem-broken, but not defeated,
stooping in the back garden.
Their red, the red of every woman's life.
I know now
it is better to be the rain.


"Application for a Driving Licence"
Michael Ondaatje

Two birds loved
in a flurry of red feathers
like a burst cottonball,
continuing while I drove over them.

I am a good driver, nothing shocks me.


"a little song"
for george bowering
bp Nichol






Lorna Crozier

Cucumbers hide
in a leafy camouflage,
popping out
when you least expect
like flashers in the park.

The truth is,
they all have an anal
fixiation. Watch it
when you bend to pick them.


"A Prayer"
George Bowering

Lord God

if I have but one life to live,
I hope this aint it.


"The Six-Quart Basket"
Raymond Souster

The six-quart basket
one side gone
half the handle torn off

sits in the centre of the lawn
and slowly fills up
with the white fruits of the snow.


"The Great Blue Heron"
Don McKay

What I remember
about the Great Blue Heron that rose
like its name over the marsh
is touching and holding that small
upon the gunwale, to signal silently --
The Great Blue Heron
(the birdboned wrist).


"God Sour the MIlk of the Knacking Wench"
Alden Nowlan

God sour the milk of the knacking wench
with razor and twine she comes
to stanchion our blond and bucking bull,
pluck out his lovely plumbs.

God shiver the prunes on her bark of chest,
who capons the prancing young.
Let maggots befoul her alive in bed,
and dibble thorns in her tongue.


Pat Lowther

The octopus is beautifully
functional as an umbrella;
at rest a bag of rucked skin
sags like an empty scrotum
his jelled eyes sad and bored

but taking flight: look
how purposeful
in every part:
the jet vent smooth
as modern plumbing
the webbed pinwheel of tentacles
moving in perfect accord
like a machine dreamed
by Leonardo


Irving Layton

I placed
my hand
her thigh.

By the way
she moved
I could see
her devotion
to literature
was not

Sunday, August 13, 2006


An Onion Bouquet

Real life has intervened and kept me from making new entries the last couple of months; that's likely to continue to some extent for at least another couple of months, although I hope to make at least an occasional post. Today's post differs in that it's not the work of a single writer (I will be getting back to that in a while) but a group of poems related by subject: the onion .

"Ode to the Onion"
by Pablo Neruda

luminous flask,
your beauty formed
petal by petal,
crystal scales expanded you
and in the secrecy of the dark earth
your belly grew round with dew.
Under the earth
the miracle
and when your clumsy
green stem appeared,
and your leaves were born
like swords
in the garden,
the earth heaped up her power
showing your naked transparency,
and as the remote sea
in lifting the breasts of Aphrodite
duplicated the magnolia,
so did the earth
make you,
clear as a planet,
and destined
to shine,
constant constellation,
round rose of water,
the table
of the poor.

you undo
your globe of freshness
in the fervent consummation
of the cooking pot,
and the crystal shred
in the flaming heat of the oil
is transformed into a curled golden feather.

Then, too, I will recall how fertile
is your influence on the love of the salad,
and it seem that the sky contributes
by giving you the shape of hailstones
to celebrate your chopped brightness
on the hemispheres of a tomato.
But within reach
of the hands of the common people,
sprinkled with oil,
with a bit of salt,
you kill the hunger
of the day-laborer on his hard path.

Star of the poor,
fairy godmother
in delicate
paper, you rise from the ground
eternal, whole, pure
like an astral seed,
and when the kitchen knife
cuts you, there arises
the only tear
without sorrow.

You make us cry without hurting us.
I have praised everything that exists,
but to me, onion, you are
more beautiful than a bird
of dazzling feathers,
you are to my eyes
a heavenly globe, a platinum goblet,
an unmoving dance
of the snowy anemone

and the fragrance of the earth lives
in your crystalline nature.

(Translated by Stephen Mitchell)


Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding ring,
if you like.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.


"The Traveling Onion"
Naomi Shihab Nye

"It is believed the onion originally came
from India. In egypt it was an object of worship --
why I haven't been able to find out. From egypt
the onion entered Greece and on to Italy, thence
into all of Europe."
--Better Living Cookbook

When I think how far the onion has travleed
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
crackly paper peeling on the drainboard,
pearly layers in smooth agreement,
the way knife enters onion
and onion falls apart on the chopping block,
a history revealed.

And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.
It is right that tears fall
for something small and forgotten.
How at meal, we sit to eat,
commenting on texture of meat or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or its traditionally honorable career:
For the sake of others,

"Song to Onions"
Roy Blount, Jr.

They improve everything, pork chops to soup,
And not only that but each onion's a group.

Peel back the skin, delve into tissue
And see how an onion has been blessed with issue.

Every layer produces an ovum:
You think you've got three then you find you've got fovum.

Onion on on-
Ion on onion they run,
Each but the smallest one some onion's mother:
An onion comprises a half-dozen other.

In sum then an onion you could say is less
Than the sumof its parts.
But then I like things that more are than profess --
In food and in the arts.

Things pungent, not tony.
I'll take damon Runyon
Over Antonioni --
Who if an i wanders becomes Anti-onion.
I'm anti-baloney.

Although a baloney sandwish would
Right now, with onions, be right good.

And so would sliced onions
--Chewed with cheese,
Or onions chopped and sprinkled
--Over black-eyed peas:

----absorbent of essences
------eaten on New Year's Eve


"The Onion"
Margaret Gibson

Mornings when sky is white as dried gristle
and the air's unhealthy, coast
smothered, and you gone
-- I could stay in bed
and be the woman who aches for no reason, each day
a small death of love, cold rage for dinner,
coffee and continental indifference
at dawn.
-- Or dream lazily a market day --
bins of fruit and celery, poultry strung up,
loops of garlic and peppers. I'd select one
yellow onion, fist-sized, test its sleek
hardness, haggle and settle a fair price.

Yesterday, a long day measured by shovel
and mattock, a wrestle with roots --
calm and dizzy when I bent over to loosen my shoes
at the finish -- I thought
--if there were splendors,
what few there were, knowledge of them
in me like fire in flint,
I would have them . . .
--and now I'd say the onion,
I'd have that, too. The work it took,
the soup it flavors, the griefs
it innocently summons.


William Matthews

How easily happiness begins by
dicing onions. A lump of sweet butter
slithers and swirls across the floor
of the sauté pan, especially if its
errant path crosses a tiny slick
of olive oil. Then a tumble of onions.

This could mean soup or risotto
or chutney (from the Sanskrit
"chatni," to lick). Slowly the onions
go limp and then nacreous
and then what cookbooks call clear,
though if they were eyes you could see

clearly the cataracts in them.
It's true it can make you weep
to peel them, to unfurl and to tease
from the taut ball first the brittle,
caramel-colored and decrepit
papery outside layer, the least

recent the reticent onion
wrapped around its growing body,
for there's nothing to an onion
but skin, and it's true you can go on
weeping as you go on in, through
the moist middle skins, the sweetest

and thickest, and you can go on
in to the core, to the bud-like,
acrid, fibrous skins densely
clustered there, stalky and in-
complete, and these are the most
pungent, like the nuggets of nightmare

and age and murmury animal
comfort thaty infant humans secrete.
This is the best domestic perfume.
You sit down to eat with a rumor
of onions still on your twice-wshed
hands and lift to your mouth a hint

of a story about loam and usual
endurance. It's there when you clean up
and rinse the wine glasses and make
a joke, and you leave the minutest
whiff of it on the light switch,
later, when you climb the stairs.


"Peeling Onions"
Adrienne Rich

Only to have a grief
equal to all these tears!

There's not a sob in my chest.
Dry-hearted as Peer Gynt

I pare away, no hero,
merely a cook.

Crying was labour, once
when I'd good cause.
Walking, I felt my eyes like wounds
raw in my head,
so postal-clerks, I thought, must stare.
A dog's look, a cat's, burnt to my brain --
yet all that stayed
stuff in my lungs like smog.

These old tears in the chopping-bowl.


"The Onion"
Wislawa Szymborska

The onion, now that's something else.
Its innards don't exist.
Nothing but pure onionhood
fills this devout onionist.
Oniony on the inside,
onionesque it appears.
It follows its own daimonion
without our human tears.

Our skin is just a coverup
for the land where none dare go,
an internal inferno
the anathema of anatomy.
In an onion there's only onion
from its tip to its toe,
onionymous monomania,
unanimous omninudity.

At peace, of a piece,
internally at rest.
Inside it, there's a smaller one
of undimished worth.
The second holds a third one,
the third contains a fourth.
A centripetal fugue.
Polyphony compressed.

Nature's roundest tummy,
its greatest success story,
the onion drapes itself in its
own aureoles of glory.
We hold veins, nerves, fat,
secretions' secret sections.
Not for us such idiotic
onionoid perfections.

(Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)


Lorna Crozier

The onion loves the onion.
It hugs its many layers,
saying, O, O, O,
each vowel smaller
than the last.

Some say it has no heart.
It surrounds itself,
feels whole. Primordial.
First among vegetables.

If Eve had bitten it
instead of the apple,
how different

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?