Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Some Poems by Canadian Women

"Domestic Poem for a Summer Afternoon"

The yellow garden-chair is newly webbed.
There, Arthur, full-length, reads of 'Toronto the Golden,'
dozes, nods, lets fall his magazine.
From a golden book I read of Arthur, the King,
and Taliessen, the King's poet. I dream of the crown.
Was it jewelled with rubies, emeralds, stones the colour of his eyes?

The ducks are within arm's reach as usual
at this time in the afternoon -- two mallards, webbed
feet tucked out of sight, they float
in unreflecting emerald grass. They doze.
Might be decoys, these wild water birds
unmoving as wood.

It is hot.; Siesta still.
Not hot enough for Brazil but I think of Brazil
and the small yellow bird that flew in and perched
on the toe of Arthur's crossed-over foot,
puffed out its feathers, settled down for the night;
and the hummingbird, ruby-throated, a glowing coal
with the noise of a jet
that landed cool and light on the crown of his head.

We are settled down for the afternoon,
with whispering sprinklers and whirring jets.

We are so motionless we might be decoys
placed here by higher hunters who watch from their blind.
Arthur asleep has the face of a boy.
Like blue obsidian the drake's head glints.
His mate and I are brown in feather and skin
and above us the midsummer sun, crown of the sky,
shine indiscriminate down on duck and man.

--P. K. Page


"After He's Gone"

Every word you held back hangs
like pollen. And what you thought
of giving but did not, bumps

a rosary of intention. Unknown
paths abundant as dime-store
gems, and after dinner

you lie on the sofa slipping
your hand down your jeans,
suddenly clear that this was all

that could be done after pork chops
and six hungry mouths. Later,
you find yourself smoking cigars,

drinking port in a perpetual toast.
And when your mind narrows, and
your heart clings, you remember

how his chest felt when you tucked
that final note in his jacket pocket,
and you feel your spine lengthen.

--Sina Queyras


"A Solstice Rose"

I prop my drooping rose
(its toppled head
hung on the limp stalk
of its spent neck)

first, on a wishful finger:
tilting the vase this way
and that, for a point
of balance that won't endure;

then, on a twist-tie's wrapped
wire, fished from a drawer
to fashion a spiral collar.
There, my dear; linger;

I've bought you a day's grace.
Drink up, stand tall. Trap
in the shady overlap
of your milky petals, some pale

December sun (its pearl
like yours, ephemeral)
as I trapped your nodding head
awake, in a brace of metal.

--Robyn Sarah



People I never expected
accept my blessing
through your intercession
and you never know

between you and me nothing
was ever made
complete, but you are
a fact planted in me

like an old tree
at the edge of a clearing
in secure woods

where animals go
to scratch, to shed
against its bark
a season's detritus
of dead skin

moving across the grain
of you, I skin off
years guilts and angers

friends who betrayed me
lovers I betrayed
come young and unscarred
to the touch
of remote love

--Pat Lowther


"All The Lifters"

She remembered faces like a negative.
her father's faces. So
it would never have gotten past her, his lying
and the other woman's face;
they were more than photogenic;
they lit the screen in an epileptic flash of recognition.
She knew about the women, she knew him
as well as she knew herself:
the sun soaked up their skin with the same urgency,
and the moles that peppered her body peppered
his as though he'd seasoned her.
Their fingers and legs were lean:
his curly hair fell heavy
and black down her back.
Time was he'd lift her into the air and toss her,
making her laugh for the camera.
And she loved falling into him,
the neat fit of him that was not her mother. So thrilled falling
into him, her arms would lift,
lift with a fear pure,
and her body would tremble
with panic,
elight at the sight of his face out of time, coming in, going out,
coming in to her,
her wet mouth open in a V --
She'd fallen into his life by accident. So
she learned to remember everything,
learned early about the women
he picked up, how to capture their faces
before they were gone. To be a women, his to toss
in the air, unafraid,
free, free, free-for-the-taking.

--Esther Mazakian


"Lost Innocence"

I was ten perhaps eleven
when I would slip
secretly out of pyjamas
to lie naked under the sheets

in the dark -- I felt the breathless touch
of cotton on strange new nerve endings
the tiny budding of nipples
the gaps of air where

nothing at all touched my skin
and I wondered if any one
might ever touch me
-- there --
stirrings I could make no sense of --

now we sleep comfortably nude
after long years of familiar claspings
and skin makes no sense
of wonder stir

you are surprised when I retreat
itno flannel pyjamas or fuzzy gowns --
I am looking for lost innocence
lost guilt

--Alice Major


"My Boots Drive Off in a Cadillac"

Always when I am dreaming
my boots, with my socks inside them,
drive off in a Cadillac
and I have to go barefoot
looking for nightlife.

The car has California plates --
I'll never forget it.
I'll never forget those boots, either.
They were handtooled in Italy.

They were always too big for me,
they slipped off easily.
I never did think they were meant for me.
They were made for someone who was
far less flighty.

The socks had a special significance;
they were given to me by a sailor.
They were a size too small but he
wanted me to wear them.
He wasn't what you'd call a sophisticated

I don't know what it symbolizes,
this dream where nothing fits properly.
It's almost as if I were going around naked
or, worse, with no body at all
to make the old men wet their lips and ogle.

The men think they can buy me.
Up and down the strip I walk with a
hard line for takers -- I'm no bargain.
I'm looking for a good time, a change
won't do it.
I'm dreaming of something more than a change
when my boots drive off in a Cadillac.

--Susan Musgrave


"How I Feel"

Red geraniums freshly potted in a white room, oh
William Carlos Williams would you believe
their color is called Tango? we pass among
such things all day with sad faces.

But the geranium's red mestizo flowers line
the curbside beside which a station wagon is
parked and the little barking dog inside
leaps up and down and my body

Briefly drowns in a sense of desolation that
such deadness must be our penance
that some huddle under the bridge
or sprawl over church teps in Gastown

Two small pots of tango geraniums
and two lighted candles beside a photo
of my friend's father who recently died, an old man
wearing a hat in the bright flashbulbs --

He would have liked their tangy long arms & the scent
of radishes on their breath.

--Sharon Thesen


"Small song in praise of baths"

Bath, don't be jealous!
The shower's just a show-off,
something we grab
rushing out the door.

It's always you
that we come home to, suspender
of audience and time, o alchemist
of solitude.

-- Jan Zwicky


"you've noticed how stray cats get that way"

you've noticed how stray cats get that way --
the wary turning of the head, the
low growling over a surprise gift of fish,
the quick hiss and retreat at the proffered pat

you put it down to accumulations of
kicks brooms boots, being chivvgied
from yard to yard, sidewalk to fence to tree
legacies of ships' cats and Christian tradition
(plus -- it must be said -- a bit of pissing in the dahlias)

still, knowing the symptons is no defense
as you watch yourself growing forty and difficult
snapping at gentlemen callers
cringing, suspicious, ready for the boot

--Mary Dalton


"The Engineer and the Asparagus"

Asparagus, once established, bustles
it grows so vehemently,
cone by cone nosing out towards
those (unseen) garbled acres and the sun's
tusks of flaming.

A person -- as the dentist meticulously,
silverly, nicks him out, under
fluorescence, in a dead air, with the gutters
tinily gurgling --

a person
compacts his growth, shells over
sore decay spots, and retracts,
coil upon twanging coil.

Put down the dental floss, the number nine iron,
the gear knob, the wire-clippers, the periscope and fins.
Just put down, for the minutes, the obsolete
stencil-stylus, the ink-pad stamp, the farmyard
gas pump feed-line.

Down tools. And in
abashed intervals
let us abound
(straight up through the driveway concrete!)

--Margaret Avison



He bought half a dozen oranges
a week before he died, but didn't have the strength
to lift the bag to the counter.

We ate them when we arrived home
for his funeral.

Large, sweet oranges, peeled and sectioned,
on a white plate. Running with juice.

-- Anne Simpson


"Open Among the Lilies"

"Stars open among the lilies."
--"Crossing The Water," Sylvia Plath

What does this mean, being open? Among
lilies, in a blood red canoe, all things

can be simple, and pure. a paddle hung
in the green scum, duckweed, lily pads, brings

its own perfect violence to disturb
the water. Open can be a wound, or

a door, a trap, or the explorer's verb.
Cutting a path to the water's edge, or

dipping a blade into water, your back
glistens. Love we make, sooner or later,

is open. among the lilies you hack
from their moorings is one thing, a splendour

that is nameless, white, yellow flower, now
the water, stars exploding at the bow.

--Diana Brebner


"Homage to the Basic Mineral of Borscht"
for Marja Gredysz

In thebeet there is something of earth.
Something of humidity
Something of humility
something mineral. And water.
The beet is a reservoir of water.
Container of water
blood cultivated
blue-blooded from so much carmine.

I had beet
when I had corpulence
when I was loam of the earth
wandering the earth so as to hold

To saturate myself in beets.
Colour of my colour.
Shy coquetry of my coeur.

--Erin Mouré


"my mother found herself one late summer"

my mother found herself one late summer
afternoon lying in grass under the wild
yellow plum tree jewelled with sunlight
she was forgotten there in spring picking
rhubarb for pie & the children home from
school hungry & her new dress half hemmed
for Sunday the wind & rain made her skin
ruddy like a peach her hair was covered
with wet fallen crab apple blossoms she
didn't know what to do with her so she put
her up in the pantry among glass jars of
jellied fruit she might have stayed there
all winder except we were plaing robbers
& the pantry was jail & every caught thief
of us heard her soft moan she made her
escape while we argued over who broke the
pickled watermelon jar scattering cubes
of pale pink flesh in vinegar over the
basement floor my mother didn't mind she
handed us mop & broom smiling & went back
upstairs i think she was listening to
herself in the wind singing

--Di Brandt



I will sit me down and rest
here, in front of this picture.

I, too, am vanquished
stripped bare of glory
a little wooden, embarassed
to be found unclothed, stripped
of titles, no clue
as to who I (really) am.
What do I look at? Through?
Nothing is clear.

But my eyes should be used to miracles.
Swimming in blues, a whale of cloud
drops down from its airy Kingdom.
Visiting from some other element
it sips on a crystal straw
tastes earth, blows blue blessing on me.
Great ropes of sky give promise
there will be another tomorrow.

The clues are all around me.
Earth heaves upward in waves of green glory.
Crystal ladders of light lift me, remind me
that vanquish is a particularly human term.

Bury despair, this sky says.
There, to your left, in the cedar box
you never noticed before.

Do your eyes clear?
Focus on the light.

-- Kate Braid

(Note: "Vanquished" is a painting by Emily Carr)


"The Name of the Night"

The name of the night our mouths nibbling
the dark bread of love the dark flowers of love

The name of the night birds flying in all directions
dropping crumbs and petals on the world

The name of the night our mouths drinking
the dark wine of death the dark blood of death

The name of the night our bodies falling
a rain of wine and blood at midnight falling

The name of the night the black mouth of Africa
the open cavernous mouth of africa

The gaping bird mouths of the dead of Africa
mute roar of the dark children across the land

--Gwendolyn MacEwen


"A Gift for the Winter God"

I'm not thinking anymore, just knitting, purl, knitting. This family
is up to their knees in blankets. They secretly melt
my needles down into jewellery they pin to their coats
on their way out. Left alone, I unravel Autumn all the way

back to April and try to pick up what I've dropped.
They're not a famioly, they're a chorus. No, no, they sing,
you've dropped nothing, you've let nothing go. and they accordion
city maps, play boulevards I'll never see, intersections

I'll never cross. When they return it's with gifts for the winter god,
shovels and scarves, big thick books on the art of snow
sculpture. Outside, the rusted stalks of goldenrod grimly sway.
The gladiolas are leftover and stubborn. I have nothing

to offer. I move so slow with this house on my back. all I can find
is a book of baby names and a wish to be called somet5hing different. snow,
I've learned, is just another name for mirror. and there are reflections
I don't want to know about, reflections I don't want to see.

--Susan Goyette


(even song syllabics)

Tending toward music, the artist's
life tends toward solitary notes, slips
of the tongue, hand, eye, eerily life
intelligence of higher orders.
Hierarchical systems of dream
stuff, choirs of angelic lisps, minty
panpipes accompanying dawn, mist
rising from hills, green-splits, gold flecks, flicks
of day ascending. No one goes home.
They're out and about, lured by goat god
music-food into noon sun hot rays,
bothered, skewered on oily spit, fat
and famished; one note more, another
tugs them into laid-back afternoon,
lawlessness. Wine, sun sets their steps on
cool path's mythic return, labouring
all the way home. Quiet entrances,
doffed hats, feet on wood, stone, a chair, and
evensong's slim, uncanny sibilance.

--Phyllis Webb


"Delight in the Small, the Silent"

Delight in the small,
those that inhabit
only a corner of the mind,
the ones shaped by wind
and a season: a slip of
grass, the nameless flower
that offers its scent
to a small wind.

Delight in the silent,
the ones that change shape
soundlessly as moons:
the fossil bolden bee
caught in amber, the bone
transmuted to stone, the
chrysalis of the gypsy moth.

Delight in flesh
that does not turn to
word, the ones without
voice or master. the old dog
who denies name, moves
arthritic lets to whatever
you choose to call him.

Weary of men, of words
carved even in the penis
bones of bears, delight
in the small, the silent
whose language lies
in their doing and their
undoing, those who turn
to stone to bone to wing
without a shout of praise
find their perfect form
become imago --

--Lorna Crozier

Lorna Crozier's poem reminds me a great deal of Ted Roethke: "The small, the small!"

I'm neither a woman nor Canadian, but I wish you would decide on one blog so I didn't have to dance between the two.

Thanks for posting these.
Thanks for visiting and dancing the dance again, C. E. And just for you, I officially declare that I will post poems by others only. on "Jackdaw's Nest" in the future. I'll reserve "Compost Heap" for announcements, pieces of my own, reviews, and other odds and ends that aren't poems. That way, you'll only have to look at "Jackdaw's" to find work by other poets.
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