Monday, August 27, 2007

Poetry Train Monday - 16 - Celestial DNA

Celestial DNA

The world we inhabit
Hides its numbers
In the leaves

While buried in the sinews
Swirling within blood cells
The rhythm of the firmament
The curling of the tides
Tell the tale

The Young Ladies of Avignon
Standing in their
Crystal congress
Know their geometric afternoon

Amoeba glide
Snowflakes drift
Pollen ride the breeze

A mother feels the flutter
Child turning in the womb
The sweep of the grandiose constellations
In the frightening maw of time

God's fingerprints
And ours

Copyright 1994 Julia Smith

Monday, August 20, 2007

Poetry Train Monday - 15 - McGregor Bay

When I first moved to Toronto in the late 80's, I spent the first few years as a live-in nanny for a family with whom I had an outrageous amount of fun. If you can believe how great this was, each summer they went up to the Georgian Bay area north of Toronto to spend a week at their family cottage. And they brought me with them! And paid me my week's salary to basically be on vacation with them.

Sure, technically I was there to still keep an eye on the little girl, but in reality her mom was on duty and I think she just wanted me to have an opportunity to have some fun with them. Which I did!

Here is the poem that resulted from the first visit:

McGregor Bay

The envelope is opened
And the breeze chilled with rain
Opens on my skin as I
Separate the double prints

Slimed sunscreen and Muskol
Returns to my skin
Remembering becomes
The rustle of the pines
The hollow thunk of deck shoe on root

The hanging schools of rock bass
Under the shadow of the boat
Sharing the lake
I emerged from

The pictures time tunnel me
B-52 bomber drone of deerflies
Interrupt the pleasant giggling
Of blueberries hidden
In the springy shrubs
As they give themselves away
To be cradled in my hand like jewels

Smoke erupting skyward
Wine poured on skewered grill
Lake swallowing CD strains
And after the baby's safely asleep
To think we piled around that tiny screen
When we could have
Sacrificed some blood
For a look at the star show
Playing this location only

Copyright 1987 Julia Smith

Photos of McGregor Bay by Liz and Andy Betterton

Monday, August 13, 2007

Poetry Train Monday - 14 - The Flautist

Saturday night I attended my 25th high school reunion. That led to yearbook reminiscing, where I found this poem.

It's printed at the back of the year book along with five other poems by other student poets. For a middle class high school attended by children of working class parents, we had a thriving arts education when I went to P.A. (short form for Prince Andrew High School.) We had Drama classes, Art and Music (split into choir students and instrumental students.) We had one play and one musical per year, plus assorted choir or band concerts.

This poem was inspired by a friend of mine who took music class with the choir students even though he played the flute and was in several bands. 25 years later he sings with the basses in the Canadian Opera Chorus in Toronto.

Photo by Michael Cooper, 2001 Cavalleria rusticana

Here he is, third from left holding the basket - Michael Downie. This poem came to me one cold day when he came into the music portable (a satellite classroom on the school grounds, adjacent to the main building which was overcrowded with Generation X-ers) to stash his flute in its case first thing in the morning - first thing for me, but I knew he'd already been at school for awhile at band practice. And I knew that later on he'd have choir rehearsal with me because we were both in "Oklahoma!"

I trimmed this down a bit - all my early stuff is a bit longwinded.

The Flautist

Sagging sky
Purpled puffs
Punched in and held
By unseen threads

Tensed and grim
The chill, the wary gusts
Stir the hairs
Upon his neck
Soaked shoes
Trailing jets of rain
Sidesteps sopping
Crunchit bags
That skit sporadic
Cross the lot

Circle of uneasy light
Fluorescent beam
Retreats from
Morning's hazey glow
Rounds the corner
Dented metal sides
Versed with coin-carved words
Of youthful fun
Filmed with heavy mist
Mounting hollowed
Metal steps that shudder
With his sleepy weight

He grips the freezing handle
Jerks the blue door open
It takes a moment
He pulls his jacket off
Puts his books down
Flicks the water from his hair
Just sits

Numbed and red, his hands
Unclasp the case's lid
To lift it

The morning's bite releases

Her slender form rests languidly
Her lips as rich and sweet as fruit
She lies on crushed blue velvet sheen
Her flowing fingers long and lean
As with her hand she stretches, Queen
Of Woodwinds reaching up, his flute
To greet her servant graciously

Humbly then her servant bows
And takes her hand to kiss it soft
Reverently he watches her
He sees her rise and hears her purr
Surrenders to her strong allure
She in his arms and held aloft
He weak with all that she endows

So cool and clear the voice that sings
Dame Flute in song professes joy
To all who hear and all who feel
Such lightness, airiness - unreal
The glacier's freshness, ice-cool peal
That chills and melts the trembling boy
Who sets her down by crystal springs

This is the time for which he lives
He lies upon the deep green grass
His arms about Dame Flute, whose voice
Floats up among the leaves, the noise
Of birds stilled by her sound, their choice
To stop and listen to the lass
Is taken up by most, as more she gives

Pulses flit and dart, sweet pain fills
Him as he takes her, trembling soft
The glory of the honor she
Bestows on one such man as he
Drunk in the heat of victory
He holds Dame Flute up high, aloft
And in his mercy. Now the wills

Of both stand fused as one. He plays
Her body with the deftness of
The greatest lover, with the grace
Of the most humble servant, lace
And satin thrown without disgrace
On top of coarse wool cloth. Their love
Bared to the world, greets proud new days

Rehearsal's done
The bell has rung

He looks around

He places her back in the case
And leaves

Copyright 1982 Julia Smith

Monday, August 6, 2007

Poetry Train Monday - 13 - Playground Politics Grade 4

This is the second part of a two-poem piece. The first one recounted a grade 1 experience of mine. This one happened three years later.

The friend to whom I refer in this poem is the same friend who is the subject of Precious Friend from a previous Poetry Train post.

Playground Politics Grade 4

The insurgents
No longer requiring their
Already regrouped
Taking new positions from
This morning's skirmish
I'd even rushed home
Inhaled my Kraft dinner
And stepped onto the playground
Half an hour early
To find my troops
Already kicking away

The huddled group of boys
Shoved each other toward
The hob-nailed harridans
Seeking to prove their own endurance
A primal quest toward manhood
While all we wanted
Was an excuse
To maim and bloody
Before the bell rang

Inexperienced colonel
I didn't hear the whispers
Ricochet off the walls
A coup erupted from the giggles
I hung from all fours
The girls were gone
And they dragged me
To be their
Signature victim

I couldn't face
My own invention
Far more chilling
The absence of outraged mobs
Defending the founder of their movement

I hoped their lack of action
Was due to perceived shame
I felt the snowy wool
Congeal on my skin
As I bumped along the ground

The procession halted
Mere paces from the slaughter
Unceremonious and sprawling

I saw the boys scatter
Two fists
Two feet
A wild mane of hair

My champion dispersed them

As if on cue
Every girl on the playground
Pursued the enemy
I scrambled to my feet
The urge to reclaim The Corner
Swelling in my chest like fear
My previous horror
At what I'd created
Dashed to a pulpy splat
On the asphalt

In the comfort of my desk
As we copied from the board
I stared at this class of deserters
Connie wrote behind me
We never talked
And so were not separated
As all best friends must be
I turned
And wordlessly
I picked up her eraser
Her gaze turned to me

How could her shining armour
Lay so unobtrusively
Beneath a polyester turtleneck
And Levi forest green cords?

Copyright 1987 Julia Smith