A funny thing about memory

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The wonderful Saskatchewan poet Glen Sorestad (read a selection of his poems here) often marks solstice by sending out a poem on the darkest day of the year. In that tradition, I have decided to share a new poem – one that celebrates winter – here today.

maple trees in the fog

Hey – where did this poem go?

I was thrilled to find out that this poem will be included in the second volume of 40 Below. I’ve been asked to keep it under wraps until the book comes out. Look for this poem to reappear after the book is launched later in 2016!

January 9, 2015

Going out into

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nov2014-winterfence

It’s two o’clock: the woman gazes out
into the storm, wind driving the snow
into deep drifts along fences. You know,
he said that morning before going out
into the blizzard to check the cattle
huddled behind the wind-break he built three
summers ago, while she, sipping ice-tea,
sat under the maples, listening to the rattle
of the wind-chimes he had bought for
her last birthday, too large to move, the sun
too hot, just waiting, waiting for the day
her child would be born, and later on two more,
twins; You know, he said, reaching for the gun
to shoot the coyote, You’re beautiful today.

***

Note: I’ve been at the farm for the past few weeks, and the frost last week was beautiful. I was out taking photos, and this photo, of the gate and the grass in the sun, made me think of this poem – one of the very first poems I had published, in a little magazine called diverge that has since disappeared. The poem itself grew out of a writing class exercise to write a sonnet.

Swimming

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Greece

As fall gives way to winter, I am settling into a routine and spending a few hours each day immersed in research for a new project. It feels good to be working steadily at something, after the dual luxuries of a summer off and an autumn filled with travel.

Each afternoon, at about 2 pm, I find myself missing my daily swim in the Aegean Sea. This swim became a part of my routine in Kardamyli, where I spent 10 days during Suzanne Harris’s amazing Breathing Space retreat.

The retreat was magical: new writing came effortlessly while I sat on the balcony of my little apartment, looking out at the mountain, the sound of the ocean behind me. When I wanted a change of view – or a coffee – I would walk to the other end of the village and sit on a terrace looking out toward the Mediterranean, sipping sweet Greek coffee from a tiny cup, and I would write some more.


Swimming


1.

sea calm, still

shades shift between
deepest blue, turquoise, teal
I can see to the bottom
the pebbled beach
gives way to sand
far below my feet

we tread water
talk and float in the sun
watch fish weave their way
between our legs


2.

today Poseidon is playful
waves swell as they approach

I learn the sound of this place:
waves sweeping into shore
the clattering cascade of rocks
rolling down, dropped
by retreating waves

a thousand years from now
this beach will be sand


3.

the heat of white rocks
beneath wet feet


Kardamyli, Greece
September 2014

Unpacking

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I am home, and home is beautiful.

I have spent much of this week recovering from jet lag, slowly unpacking, reintegrating myself into regular life, thinking about my routines and how I want to shape my time this fall. Admiring the last of the golden leaves and being grateful that they hung on long enough for me to see them.

I have also been thinking about how to unpack seven weeks worth of experiences. I am not sure where to begin, and so instead of putting off beginning, as I am often inclined to do, I am going to just start, with a single moment:

 

Ekklisia

this place
has been sacred
for millenia

temple
then church
the same stones
rearranged

the holiness
remains

in the air
in the ground

in the prayers
that linger
for centuries

 

Platsa, Greece
September 2014

After School

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I find myself thinking about my grandmother at this time of year, as her birthday approaches. It is bittersweet, because I missed her last birthday, the one she walked to the grocery store to buy the ingredients and baked the pies for herself. I had been away from home for five months already, working in London, and was backpacking through Europe. I remember calling home from a pay phone in Amsterdam to wish her a happy birthday. This #throwbackthursday poem is about the next spring and early summer, when I was living in her house and working at the local library.

This poem was previously published in Home and Away: Alberta’s Finest Poets Muse on the Meaning Of Home, a poetry anthology I co-edited with Dymphny Dronyk.


After School

on special days I walked
past the yellow buses
waved to friends
in number seventeen
that usually took me home

at the end of the lane
I crossed the street
continued past Mrs. Hertz’s place
with its jungle garden
kittens playing tigers
and down the block
to Grandma’s house

inside her warm kitchen
I sat at the table
drank hot chocolate
ate fresh cinnamon buns

then our lesson
knitting needles clicked
while she told stories
to the rhythm
of knit one purl one
stopping only
to untangle my yarn
or the twists in her plot

fifteen years later
I walk the same walk
after school ends
and my students have gone home

past Mrs. Hertz’s house
now empty
her twenty-two year old cat
put down after a neighbour
found the woman dead

when I open the back door
of my grandmother’s house
there are no buns
and the kitchen is cold

I eat my supper
warmed in the microwave
among her things
now strange to me
sorted into piles
to give away

no lesson except
her knitting needles
in a basket
with the yarn

Fall Haiku

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Paddle River

This week marks the official turning of the season, and it seems appropriate to share a few haiku here. My gratitude to editors Patrick Pilarski and Nicole Pakan for previously publishing these haiku over at DailyHaiku in 2007.

*

green tomatoes
in a bowl
waiting for red

*

a dog’s joy:
riding in the back
of the pickup

*

shelling the last peas
autumn chill cuts the air
summer bleeds

*

ripe tomato, sliced
seeds spill out
taste of summer

*

walking by the river
poplar leaves fall
perfect little boats

*

leaves fall in the river
drift by me
spectator to the parade

*

tree outside the window
touched by Midas

*

grey sky
red combines crawl
across the field

*

the eagle rolls over
shows talons
to the attacking hawk

*

one last tomato
overripe, skin wrinkled

*

walking home I startle
two not-quite white rabbits

*
first snow
dusts the sidewalk
footprints give me away

Summer Away

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I had three days in London last week, to wander around and remember the six months I spent living and working there in 1998. Here is a poem about that time.

My thanks to editor Anne Burke who published this poem in Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature in 2008.


Summer Away

After a week in London
I joke that my dream job
is to cut the grass
in Hyde Park, an oasis
in the grey jungle
of soot covered stone buildings,
the labyrinth of streets
that bears no resemblance
to maps in the A to Z.

Christina laughs
as we sit in the sun,
watch workers drive mowers
across the expanse of green,
says, you wouldn’t like it
when it rains.

So I give up the idea,
do what my friends do
and trudge each morning
to work, swallowed
by another dismal building
only to be spit back out
at five o’clock
to walk home through Hyde Park,
fresh clippings in my shoes.