Growing older and having survived cancer at 40, a long time ago, certainly focuses the mind on the future and I was very aware of this when I wrote the poem FUTURE TENSE. I've always loved writing and still remember the excitement of the first longer piece of work I did. It was very experimental and I was certain it wouldn't get published. It probably wouldn't have but one of the small magazines, who did such great work for new writers, took that piece and many others. But that wasn't all they did. With infinite kindness, they often pointed out where I could improve my writing.
My first book was a picture book, MATTHEW AND HIS MAGIC KITE, but after that, I started wanting to capture the humour and interest of where I lived, so PRIVATE-KEEP OUT came next followed by KNOCK AND WAIT and ONE WAY ONLY. They're not biographies because all I wanted to do was to catch the spirit of those times.
It would be good if everyone wrote an account of their lives so their times are not lost. So many valuable histories unwritten and unread.
When I was a girl, I loved the American writer, BETTY MACDONALD, with her very funny accounts of her family and her life in the 1940's. But NORMAN MAILER's, 'THE NAKED AND THE DEAD' spun me up to the stars when I stumbled across it in the subscription library I belonged to at fifteen. ERNEST HEMINGWAY's 'CHRISTMAS IN PARIS 1923', was so sublime and beautiful it was like a torch for writers and the Toronto Star Weekly must have published it with joy in their hearts. I wonder if there still is a Toronto Star Weekly?
Darkness leans over the light Until light is extinguished, Leaving us to reach out For some old philosophy, Cobbled together By really determined thinkers, Looking to make sense Of this situation of living We find ourselves in.
What we long for is a fail-safe, Easily learnt, easily practised Way of keeping out the darkness. Maybe a small avenue Tucked away in a faded corner of our heart, Lit by a single perfectly placed candle Giving a faint but steady light of hope, Because we could not cope With anything brighter.
That would keep darkness Outside the door, Outside the window, Easing the pain that would demolish us.
Of course, prayer is there, Telling us what we already know. That only love can turn the eternal around. Only love bring light To lean on the darkness Until darkness is extinguished And we can find a way through.
We see things all the time that make no sense. Things that set us wondering how they exist at all and this poem was made after I saw one such thing. We were walking up a very, very small mountain and I was wandering along one of its paths, when I saw this one particular path. I followed it and found that it led to the very edge of a high point. Below, rocks were tumbling down a steep and dangerous slope. Why did the path exist? I stood there with a thousand questions, questions there was no answer to, as there never is when we see something that doesn’t make sense. The only thing to do then, is to write a poem.
There are paths all over this mountain. They run through rock And over grass, As if a thousand feet Had worn them into the ground.
Some paths go on for ever, Winding up and down Until we can no longer see them. Others run a little way, Then stop.
We walk up and down these paths, Wondering who made them.
Especially do we wonder who made the one That runs straight off the edge of the rock.
We have a national park close to us which is a thing of beauty and which contains such loveliness, you have to make yourself go home. The park is on old ground and standing on it, there is that eternal feeling of all that has gone before and all that will come in the future. This park seems to include the sky as part of its sheer loveliness.
THE PROPHET AT MY ELBOW
Early Winter, and the geese are sailing In a long straight line down the river, Not knowing where they are going But going, anyway, Turning at the curve then coming back. By their side, the wind is puffing up Little drops of sunny water.
And as if the prophet was standing by me, I became aware of the immense blue vault of the heavens. Through the light of day, saw the hidden night, With one star blazing brighter than all the others.
My feet were firm on solid ground, Yet beneath them, I saw mountains biding their time, Deserts flowering, and lights of cities not yet built all shining, And the prophet, standing at my elbow, whispered, ‘Here is loveliness beyond all telling.’
Mid-winter, and the geese are sailing In a long straight line down the river. Their angry little eyes a snapping song of reluctant praise To the love that made them. And the prophet, standing at my elbow, whispered Of the steadfast love and hope that lives in all creation.