It is night. Outside
a light across the blind
and the wet rubber sound
of a car passing.
Bamboo sings a long song
to the wind
and the house sighs.
Rain drops like a shawl.
Usually, we take for granted or plain ignore the Earth we walk on, Sky above us, Water we drink and bathe and swim in or that falls as rain, the Fire we assume for heat, and the Wood that’s our landscape and our building material. But over fifteen years as a construction carpenter, Kate Braid began to pay more attention to the elemental materials she worked with and depended upon. Out of these she has crafted an intimate picture not only of what it is like to be wholly engaged with the building materials of the earth, but of living in and upon it every day.
In the decade since the publication of the first edition of In Fine Form, there has been a resurgence of Canadian poets writing in “form” – in sonnets, ghazals, villanelles and palindromes. The first edition was called “groundbreaking” and “a landmark text.” Since then, In Fine Form has been widely used in classrooms and at large, by students, writers and readers. With 180 poems and almost 50 new poets, this 2nd edition continues to break new ground, exploring new forms not acknowledged in most other anthologies including prose poems, found poems and spoken word. This book is co-edited with Sandy Shreve.
On the Roof with Death
When sawdust rolls like marbles under our boots
on the newly sheathed roof three storeys up
we talk of falling. It’s like butter boxes, Dale says.
We could slide real good. Only hurts when you land!
He yells this suddenly
as if to warn the neighbours.
Dale is a journeyman.
I am his apprentice.
You know the people who live for the moment, he says,
laughing. They yell “Whee!” all the way down.
I parachute into man’s country,
hoist my beer in the bar as if native.
Cool, I talk shop, stand as they stand,
not quite sure
of the cocky swing of hips,
lift of the glass in a loud bass,
This is the world of the knowing.
It’s only a small slip into a minor key
when I turn left to go to the Ladies.
The image of me out there – Ice Man –
it’s only image. I don’t want to show
how it all comes from the blood, from inside, you know?
I only tell you this now because I’m drunk on sound.
Tomorrow I will deny it.
Blood? What blood? I am Bach
Emily talks of Freud.
I hate him.
It was this new man, Freud,
who made them see only sex
in my paintings.
But Emily slows me down,
the flowering of ribs and pelvis I painted today.
Here is your desire, she says.
See how you have wished it upon paper.
It is a woman’s mind, a woman’s hand, a woman’s voice
and you didn’t even know.
See how it shines from the inside, out.
These trees worked hard to get up here
one ring at a time. The prize is sky
and the freedom of birds.
Only three have reached the high blue dome
and now careen like honey bees
hover like hummingbirds one minute
soar like eagles the next.
These trees threaten to pull their own tops off
they stretch so hard, risking everything
to touch heaven.
Some hips are made for bearing
children, built like stools
square and easy, right
for the passage of birth.
Others are built like mine.
A child’s head might never pass
but load me up with two-by-fours
and watch me
When the men carry sacks of concrete
they hold them high, like boys.
I bear mine low, like a girl
on small, strong hips
built for the birth
The After You series (www.afteryou.ca) is a sort of “pass it forward” exercise started by Daniel Zomparelli and now coordinated by Andrea Bennett. The idea is that one poet recognizes another by picking a living poet they admire and writing a poem after their style or to them, or in some way honouring them. That poet in turn writes to a third, and so on. I chose Leslie Timmins, an emerging poet whose work ethic and commitment have always inspired me.
Poem by Kate Braid
For Leslie Timmins
It’s the tenacity that gets me.
We all know it: the family that would prefer
our perfect silence; those seeming endless letters
from the publishing world saying “thank you but…”;
and there’s not a lot of money in the world for any writer….
Then it’s the tenacity I watch burn
as it carries you through Silence
and Rejections and Maybes and
those occasional lovely publications that say
Yes, it matters—your passion, your work.
Your generous and open heart.
Keen eye, your technical skill.
You found solace in Matisse who abandoned his easel,
turned the canvas away from himself* and even then
didn’t stop. Felt the world’s wide incomprehension
of his daring work yet held on,
caught one small arrow of light
and began to paint windows, openings.
Worked on. Regardless.
It’s fierce flames like yours that keep the rest of us warm
as you work in the morning for clear-eyed justice
and in the afternoon write those precious openings—the poems.
Thank you, Leslie, for your burning colours, for your fire,
for this one window so wide to the outside.**
*“Even If It Isn’t There: Studio Under Eaves, 1903.” Leslie Timmins. The Limits of Windows. Alfred Gustav Press, North Vancouver, BC, 2014.
**“Seated Woman, Back Turned to Open Window, 1922.” Ibid