Monday, April 18, 2016

and I understood finally

I really think this is all the poetry I need for this week. And honestly, if you want to treat yourself to a book during poetry month, this could be the one. 

After Twelve Days of Rain

by Dorianne Laux

I couldn’t name it, the sweet
sadness welling up in me for weeks.
So I cleaned, found myself standing
in a room with a rag in my hand,
the birds calling time-to-go, time-to-go.
And like an old woman near the end
of her life I could hear it, the voice
of a man I never loved who pressed
my breasts to his hips and whispered
“My little doves, my white, white lilies.”
I could almost cry when I remember it.

I don’t remember when I began
to call everyone “sweetie,”
as if they were my daughters,
my darlings, my little birds.
I have always loved too much,
or not enough. Last night
I read a poem about God and almost
believed it—God sipping coffee,
smoking cherry tobacco. I’ve arrived
at a time in my life when I could believe
almost anything.

Today, pumping gas into my old car, I stood
hatless in the rain and the whole world
went silent—cars on the wet street
sliding past without sound, the attendant’s
mouth opening and closing on air
as he walked from pump to pump, his footsteps
erased in the rain—nothing
but the tiny numbers in their square windows
rolling by my shoulder, the unstoppable seconds
gliding by as I stood at the Chevron,
balancing evenly on my two feet, a gas nozzle
gripped in my hand, my hair gathering rain.

And I saw it didn’t matter
who had loved me or who I loved. I was alone.
The black oily asphalt, the slick beauty
of the Iranian attendant, the thickening
clouds—nothing was mine. And I understood
finally, after a semester of philosophy,
a thousand books of poetry, after death
and childbirth and the startled cries of men
who called out my name as they entered me,
I finally believed I was alone, felt it
in my actual, visceral heart, heard it echo
like a thin bell. And the sounds
came back, the slish of tires
and footsteps, all the delicate cargo
they carried saying thank you
and yes. So I paid and climbed into my car
as if nothing had happened—
as if everything mattered — What else could I do?

I drove to the grocery store
and bought wheat bread and milk,
a candy bar wrapped in gold foil,
smiled at the teenaged cashier
with the pimpled face and the plastic
name plate pinned above her small breast,
and knew her secret, her sweet fear—
Little bird. Little darling. She handed me
my change, my brown bag, a torn receipt,
pushed the cash drawer in with her hip
and smiled back.

- from What We Carry

It's Sunday night, getting late, as I write this. The week didn't open a space up for this blog post until now. It was a good week though. I worked hard at the library. Extra shifts, which is good for me right now, though tiring, of course. I helped Rob with a few things as he's getting ready for his exhibition in Calgary which is on May 7th. A nice bit of news for him: the current, May, issue of Fashion Magazine features his work.

I had a really beautiful time facilitating the Photography and Poetry workshop for the Edmonton Poetry Festival out at the Kurimoto Japanese Gardens. As is often the case with these things, I'm sure I learned as much or more from the experience as the participants did. My own photos from the day will likely end up here next week.

In the meantime, you can see that spring is really coming on. The light is blowing my mind these days, especially in the mornings. I walk into the kitchen and the strawberry top on the counter suddenly lights up, for example. And everywhere, green beginnings.

The green hue of the trees is even more evident now (this next one was taken several days back).

Meanwhile, I'm busy reading the most amazing book. It's all I want to do, in fact, but I'm forcing myself to read slowly, and not when I'm tired. I just want to absorb it, bit by bit, knowing I'll return to the dogeared pages often. 

Becoming Wise: An Inquire into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett (whose On Being I have linked to here numerous times). 

I don't even want to much say anything about the book, other than, I think you'd like it. But here is Adam Gopnik in a review:  

"Krista Tippett is one of America's ablest listeners, and in this book she assembles many of the people she has listened to and uses their example, and her own, to show us how many surprising and idiosyncratic paths still remain towards what even the most secular among us can agree should still be called enlightenment."

I often think the world could really use more able listeners, and here we have the ablest. So. 

And so this is what it's been looking like in my neighbourhood. The birds really are so abundant, it's lovely.

And then indoors.....still the splurging with the flowers from the grocery store.

And you can see I always have company when there's food on the table. This sweet fellow turned 9 years old on the 15th of April. He's really starting to show his age, slowing down, etc, though he's otherwise in great health. 

I find it interesting that pink is the colour I can't seem to get enough of when it comes to flowers. I spent years hiding from pink, or turning my nose up at it.

"Normality is a paved road: it's comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow."

- which is everywhere on the internet attributed to Van Gogh, and apparently appears on a book about him, etc, but which is likely embellished. Still, I like it. 

A rather short post today, but odds are I'll make up for it next week. That light! 

I shall leave you with:

what I'm reading

A book on my to-read list: The Typewriter

Watched: Season 2 of Turn

In the car on the way home from the Poetry gig, listened to Aaron Copland's "Duo for Flute and Piano" - a different version than this one. You can see the CBC playlist for April 17th here

Wishing you all a lovely and calm week, filled with poetry and the company of able listeners. 

- Shawna


  1. As always, Shawna, your posts induce in me such a sense of calm and whet my visual and lyrical senses. I, too, always pooh-poohed pink in all of its forms until I became a florist, and when I started to create a garden of my own. I kept being drawn to pink flowers until at one point, my garden was completely void of any colour besides various shades of pink and green foliage! Can't wait to see your photos from your time in the Japanese garden! Oh yes, a big congratulatory hug to Robert for his article in Fashion Magazine and his upcoming exhibition! XX

  2. I am so moved. This is a beautiful post Shawna, as always. And yes…that poem. Wow.
    As sometimes happens….serendipity. I have had that quiet time this week. 10 days completely alone. And earlier in my solitude, I heard an interview Debbie Millman of 'Design Matters' did with Krista Tippett….I wonder if you've heard it? It was the first time I'd heard of either of them. Their voices together were so comforting. And now you mention On Being. Two times in two posts, Krista Tippett and her new book…. I love this life and your pink. ox Here is the link to Debbie's interview with Krista.

  3. Thank you so much for that amazing poem, I am saving that one! And all your images are so full of gorgeous spring light, I just love them all! I have lots of catching up to do here, so I will probably be returning several times this week :) Congrats to Rob and Happy Birthday to Ace!

  4. Thank you everyone. So glad the poem resonated. xo Shawna

  5. I just stopped by to read that poem again. xo


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