Jane Kenyon Lives Again

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as an abstract painter in my neighbourhood,
“Yielding to Transience” the theme of her
current exhibition, according to the pamphlet.
It’s that simple, the only life we have we’ll lose
in a neon nose dive or the drift of gradual surrender.

My Jane, who briefly entered and briefly spoke
in poems—having it out with melancholy—
said Let evening come and it did, under cover
of leukemia, far too soon. Wish it were otherwise.
A moody harvest, those notes from the other side.

Now there’ll be a conflux of Janes when I see
one’s art, read the other’s poem. A conjuration—
open sesame into the chambers of two hearts.
The amazing echoes, bone’s signature marrow
waving its wand again, sweet Om on the tongue.

Another poem from my chapbook “Irresistible”, available from Finishing Line Press here and also from Amazon hereAnd do check out this link to the artist Jane Kenyon’s site: hereShe also has a Facebook page, titled Jane Kenyon Art Studio. Of course I had to write a poem about this synchronicity – what’s in a name anyway?

 

 

 

Seal Pup, Homfray Channel

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Photo by Kace Rodriguez on Unsplash

A searing yowl from the rocky shore.
Again. Again. Stops all conversation
in the dinghy and we motor closer.
A lone seagull is waiting for its prize,
flanked by a dozen seals draped over
the surrounding rocks. The gull flies off
at our approach and the seals slip frantically
from their posts into the murmurring sea,
leaving one black cigar shape well above the tideline
still breathing in the bright promise of another day:

it’s a seal pup, eyes oozing oceans
of green and yellow pus. He lifts a flipper
as I tip a bucket of saltwater gently over him
and then, lips curling, sausages himself
between two rocks. I try pouring the water
over the rocks to drip down on him but
unable to wriggle any further away,
he turns his head, teeth bared.
There’ll be no mothering for this
fast-aging, whiskered face:

he will live unassisted
until the life he was given is taken back,
until the blazing August light becomes a second skin
and the lapping sounds of rising water carry him
off into the salmon-glinting sea of his birth,
until death, not taken from him,
death is all his,
rendering the blurred shapes that swam
once beside him—nothing more
than an unfinished dream.

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

Miracle

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Is it a miracle
that I found the worm in time—
having gone into my den much earlier
than usual, to turn the computer on—
and saw the dark, exhausted thread of its
body lying in the middle of a desert
of beige carpet, picked it up, barely moist, and
laid it outside on the wet grass, and watched
until it finally waved goodbye at one end,
easing itself into the darkness it knows?

Or is the miracle
that the annelid slid
through sealed doors and windows
to get inside my house in the first place,
that it became a finger pointing
from the Buddha’s hand,
laying at my feet its five paired hearts
and the power of intervention—
of life continued
or of death without comment?

Is there a day without its miracle,
for doesn’t one follow the other
because of a vast accordion of worms
playing now the soil’s anthem, now its dirge,
burrowing through millennial darknesses
so plants can breathe and grow, and
become the planet’s green lungs feeding
the body of this world, each inhabitant
still part of that first inspiration:
the good air of life lived, wholly inspired.

This poem first appeared in North Shore Magazine and later in New Millennium Writing’s 25th Anthology as an honorable mention before being included in my recent chapbook “Irresistible”, available for purchase from Finishing Line Press here  (always in stock) or from Amazon here .

Guy Climbs Mount Lafayette Feb. 6, 2000

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Unlike other guys
who reach a mountaintop and leave with it, move it
under the hut of the body
so they can breathe its rare air at will,
see themselves later through anything,

Guy Waterman got stuck on one craggy point
that jagged heaven: it put the bit in his mouth
he could speak to God only there,
called it his kind of prayer. And so his rosary
of left foot, right foot began, decades
of climbing the same mountain, breaking
out of the fog and cloud into a brilliance
of mind and sky. Each time harder to take
lucky boots and crampons off, wear ordinary
shoes: where they tread, a son leaves, is
never seen or heard from again; others die.

Each son lost thickening the Gordian
knot of unspeakable sorrow. How possibly
deter him from wanting to freeze in time
a transcendent moment of no return?
Love stayed his wife: at home, knowing.
Praying for a below zero night. And so
he stepped onto the Old Bridle Path,
nodding his last hello at Agony Ridge,
a few hikers headed down before the sun set.
Had a canteen half-water, half-alcohol.
Had a wind that took his breath away.

Not turning back, instead turning his back
on this world, he struck his father’s
wooden alpenstock into the ice five feet
off the trail and curled up beside it,
placing a period where the small comma
of his body would be seen. Three days passed
before friends muscled him down on a stretcher
for what felt like forever. Finally was.

This poem was a finalist in IthacaLit’s 2015 Lauren K. Alleyne Difficult Fruit Poetry Contest and is included in my chapbook “Irresistible”, available for purchase through Finishing Line Press here  or Amazon hereI came across the story of Guy Waterman’s life accidentally and was moved to write this poem; he was an accomplished author with a complicated life. For those interested, here’s a link to his story: A Natural Death

Irreplaceable

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My father had the good fortune
to be visited by six women
last Friday: Carol came to clean
his house, do laundry, get the mail,
Sue to bathe him, then cook lunch
and dinner, Ann to cut his gnarly
toe nails and massage his feet, Barb—
a nurse—to check his vitals, Louise
to tame his dead wife’s garden, and
Lynne, his daughter from three thousand
miles away, to make sure he was okay.

The door kept opening, we came
and went, and the golden October
light wandered from room to room,
like us, not in a hurry to leave. And he
glowed with the attention, feasting on
a cornucopia of witty conversation
through the rise and fall of our busy hands,
we, the chance wives of widower row.
But come darkness across the sheets
of his bed, we were all forgotten as he
patted the spot beside him, whispering
“Night-night, love”—as he always had—
to the irreplaceable one.

This poem, first published in Calyx Journal, is in my new chapbook “Irresistible”, just out and available from Finishing Line Press here and also available for purchase from Amazon here. Any customer reviews are especially appreciated on either site!

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!