Legacy

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Photo by Jason Wong on Unsplash

At the dinner party, eleven people,
not twelve.
A striking redhead, warmly smiling—
the one whose world had recently halved.
Those of us who didn’t know
wouldn’t have known.

I’m used to death
ringing a bell that won’t stop
singing of loss as love’s
forgotten child—a call to mass
sung down the long corridors
of bone.

The mouth that can hush it
speaks to me
of a love built brick by brick,
circling a great and dangerous fire,
holding that heat
like a hand to the heart
when only ash is left.

Has lips full of secret amens,
stretching a smile beyond
mere courtesy, until it cracks
me open, I who have not
yet travelled that road
or those blurred miles from home.

Night falls before we know it:
death has a thing for a man about
to retire. Like a virus, it jumps
from acquaintance to friend to kin,
no sympathy for women and children.
Taking on mass and weight, given

a name, it terribly crowds a room.
This being human—to matter.
Through our bodies. Past them.
Her smile all I can see
of love’s fierce alchemy—bright
crack of light escaping a closed door.

Another poem from my new chapbook “Irresistible”, available from Finishing Line Press here and from Amazon here

 

Q&A with Poet Lynne Burnett, Part 2

Poets, Process and Panthers: Part 2 of Robert Okaji’s Interview With Me:

O at the Edges

Part 2 of the Q&A with poet Lynne Burnett:

Would you offer up some of your influences – poetic and otherwise. What draws you to that work? 

Well, I’d have to start with the Romantic Poets (Shelley, Keats, Blake) and William Wordsworth, whose lines “To me, the meanest flower that blows/Can give thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears” are engraved in my mind. Then there’s Walt Whitman (the music of his lines!), Emily Dickinson (nutshells bursting with meaning), Rilke (“Again and again, even though we know love’s landscape”…), Rumi (words that dance with beauty, love and ecstasy) and a host of others. More currently, Jane Hirshfield for her image windows and language depth, Billy Collins for his ease of expression and accessibility, George Bilgere for his wry humour, Stephen Dunn for the contemplative mind journeys he takes me on, Tony Hoagland for his wit and great intellect…

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Q&A with Poet Lynne Burnett

One of my favourite poets interviews me!:

O at the Edges

I’m pleased to offer this Q&A with poet Lynne Burnett:

Lynne Burnett on the old Ice Road (Mackenzie River) between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk (inside the Arctic Circle).

Your chapbook, Irresistible, has recently been published. Can you tell us something about it? 

The poems in this book have transitions in common – from death and dying, whether accidental or planned, to milestones such as a son leaving home etc.  There’s love palpably felt after death and beyond it, little epiphanies from near-disasters, the whole subject of death from many different angles – the news that breaks us, how our lives are enlarged by telling moments. The title poem “Irresistible” and “Tandem Hang-Gliding Incident” seemed to embody our human failings and the unnecessary accidental deaths we suffer as a result. But also, physically, death is inevitable and therefore irresistible – we can’t resist it. It will happen sooner or later: our first…

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On Hearing That A Friend’s Husband Died In His Sleep

 

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Photo by How-Soon Ngu on Unsplash

 

Death’s an increasingly regular face
in our crowd, mostly dropping by
unannounced, such that I, too, might
turn over one morning, prompted awake
by Brother Jake on our favourite rock
radio station and find you smiling, your
eyes still closed, and nestling my head
as usual into your armpit and laying
my left arm across your belly,
fall through the ice
of a body devoid of breath,
and wonder what bad dream this is.

Forgive me for thinking then of your
Achilles heel—your feet so sensitive,
no one can touch them. For three
decades, just the dare of my hand
hovering over an exposed foot has
got you up and running. I confess to
imagining your eventual acquiescence
as a deliberate act of love to me some
wine-deep night on holiday. Not me
frantically rubbing your feet, rubbing
them like magic lamps, wishing
I couldn’t.

This poem was first published in the Malahat Review and is included in my new chapbook “Irresistible”, available for purchase from Finishing Line Press here 

and from Amazon here

 

 

 

Irresistible

“Bride Drowns While Modelling Wedding Gown Near Rawdon”
CTV News Montreal – Aug. 24, 2012

First a coquettish dip of toes in the shallows, then a saucy
wade, the mud bottom making it easy to balance.

The Oureau River glinting, hurrying out of sight. Just Maria
and the photographer, before she consigned the dress to a box.

What next but to lift her veil, unmoor a few minds?—
swim a little, where it was deeper…not knowing

how thirsty that dress was: how it would drink and drink
and drink, until its weight was unbearable,

no Houdini to hold open the elevator door long enough
to uncuff her from all the snug finery, the lacy squeeze

of her lungs, irresistible pull to the river’s bed.
How her heart surely sank before she did, gonging

regret and betrayal. Sounds like a Stephen King story—
a gown with vows of its own. No, the horror’s more

the slippery ease with which vanity slides under our skin,
looks in the mirror, one way or another does us in.

This is the title poem from my new chapbook – just out from Finishing Line Press hooray! https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/irresistible-by-lynne-burnett/. If you’d like a copy and don’t use this link and search instead, best to search the bookstore under the title “Irresistible”.

It is now also available on Amazon:   https://www.amazon.com/IRRESISTIBLE-Lynne-Burnett/dp/1635344425/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1523920109&sr=1-1&keywords=lynne+burnett . If you don’t use this link and search instead, it’s the opposite – there are so many books with “my” title, it’s best to search by my name.

Customer reviews are most welcome and greatly appreciated on both sites, should you be so inclined! Many thanks for reading, and more poems to come!

SHINE – Shortlisted for Arc’s Poem of the Year Award!

Not only is ARC a beautiful journal that I have subscribed to for years, it’s one I’ve always wanted to be published in – and now I will! Regardless of results as to the Grand Prize winner and Honorable Mention, all 10 finalists receive paid publication in the summer issue. And this poem has been shortlisted many places many times without that added bonus. You can probably see the smile on my face wherever this note finds you! Anyway, for the first phase of final judging, ARC invites the public to vote on their choice for Poem of the Year, and that winner gets the Reader’s Choice Award. If any of you are so inclined to vote for the poem you like best, this link showcases all 10 poems in full and also the link to cast a vote: http://arcpoetry.ca/2018/04/09/vote-on-poem-of-the-year-2018/

It’s not easy to wade through so many poems, especially long ones (mine’s short) so a big thank you to the brave ones who do! And thanks for following this blog!

Against Certainty

for Brenda

I saw you early today in the window
of your den that overlooks the street,

no doubt googling the latest treatment
options in a blur, while a Howe Sound

wind held office among the skyscraping
trees, rifling through the leaves like it

was looking for something, someone
and I dared to hope that far from the

finality of a label, written or spoken,
your body could soar in the open air

of its dreaming places and be nameless,
ageless, free again of any diagnosis, and

that behind the pane you too could hear
birds now shuffling through their notes

as if in concert with lifting the dark
sentence from that tiny cell of a word.

I am happy to say that so far, 8 years later, the birds have worked their magic! This poem is included in my chapbook “Irresistible”, coming any day now from Finishing Line Press, copies of which can be purchased here:https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/irresistible-by-lynne-burnett/

 

 

After A Health Scare

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

after Cecilia Woloch’s “Blazon”

Him I love, with hair like saltmeadow rush,
eyes that beach me on unexpected shores,
mouth of a wild and generous sea

Under whose spell children have flown
to the moon, from whose lips the secret
lives of teddy bears told

In whose hammock of shoulders my heart swings,
his moonlit back a white bench, buttocks smooth
as ancient boulders

In whose countries of hands I am born again,
whose tongue is both midwife and stirring
anthem

Him I love, whose ticklish feet like gold bricks bank
on never being touched, legs of a mustang,
rain in the wind

In whom has lived the grip, the gale, the gall
of a thing, who as the world turns
is my world turning

Upon whose sun-blessed chest I lay my head,
hear the hammering, thank again the small
gods at work in their chambers

Another poem from my chapbook “Irresistible”, due out any day now from Finishing Line Press: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/irresistible-by-lynne-burnett/

Night’s Good Pupil

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

Variable, the pastures hooved by lives
in full gallop, unbridled by time:
beneath the immutable drift of the sun
move the rounded and risen,
the angled and gleaming, the limbs,
wings, fins sweating with use.
Unstoppably given to their one life.

As the light gives unstoppably—
teacupped in petals, glowing
in a green persuasion of leaves,
slipping through salt-licked grains
of sand, lifted high on a spread
wing, in the flash and splash
of a salmon’s fin, between a deer’s
leap and a dog’s outstretched paw.

And this, the monopoly of earth’s
home star: a bright creeping
into the rooms behind closed doors.
This is night’s good pupil, daily bent
over the riveting texts of our world,
whose gaze, upon turning
a sudden last page, stays warm
on the straightening back of a man,
warm on his unstoppable hands.

Another poem from my chapbook “Irresistible”, forthcoming from Finishing Line Press this spring. Copies still available to purchase: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/irresistible-by-lynne-burnett/

 

Mute With Thanks

Photo by Anastasia Taioglou on Unsplash

Had she jumped with him
from their small boat
into those wind-walling waves
in the Bay of Banderas,
to cool off that cloudless afternoon—
like he asked, like they’d done before—
long-marrieds straddling sixty:
he in his element, proud swimmer
reborn every hot holiday,
and she, fearful of surf, actually preferring
the freefall into deep water;

had she also been fooled
by the wind—travelling a whole knot
faster than they thought, making
any progress incremental, quickly lost,
no matter one’s muscle or desire—
the boat slowly drifting away
until he had to tread water,
water too deep to anchor in,
water slapping his face,
no one else in sight and he
like a man betrayed, frowning;

had she said yes feeling no,
who could have asked the next question?—
and start the engine
when he nodded in disbelief,
backing up the boat until the swim ladder
was within reach, and as the water surged
and pushed him hard against it, help
pull him sputtering from the great
mother sea, naked as at birth,
and wrap him in a towel, her arms.
Suddenly as old as their children
already thought they were.

Another poem from my chapbook “Irresistible” – originally scheduled for release today, now delayed a few weeks. Still available to preorder:https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/irresistible-by-lynne-burnett/