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?
They had a terrible falling out, One hurting the other Until, little by little, Love seeped away Through the cracks newly discovered, Leaving them on islands of pain. There was nothing to be done, For nothing could reach them.
Until they spoke to the Future, Waiting until it got back to them. Lover needing to reach Lover, To sail across this sea of misunderstanding. End this separation. Quick! Hasten to do it. Hurry! Fashion a boat out of love, Sail it fast to each other.
Tapping its teeth with a long coral finger, The Future said it couldn’t see any problem As long as they had a conveyance that would float. Murmuring of wrecks and wild weather. Laughing out loud when they told it What they would be sailing in, Making whales sneeze and shells clatter As first one said and then the other, Each would be sailing in their own stone boat.
I walked all the way from town And it was such a dark night. The moon slipping in and out Of the silent sky, As if it were newly silvered And couldn’t bear to be hidden.
My steps sounding as loud As a snapped branch in the wind, I jumped off the paving Onto the dirt path running by the river, Where, every now and then, Stars sailed in the water and drowned.
I was always told, as a certainty, That the young men marched down here, Heading to where their Lovers And watchful mothers waited. Getting so close to home, Their shadows sparkled on closed doors, Their feet stepping quietly Down the garden path, mostly on the grass, Not to waken those still listening.
The world quivered at such tenderness, Night folding in upon itself, Folding in upon love, adding and multiplying.
The dog barked and the cat Wound around a frill of empty air, And someone in the sleeping house Looked out of a window, There was nothing to be seen.
But, as everyone knows, that didn’t mean No-one was there.
Watching the sudden seagulls in the garden, I wondered what brought them here as we are miles from any seawater. We have had a lot of flooding water but they’re not interested in that. Perhaps it seems a more sympathetic environment but I used to think that if they stayed too long, the magpies would gang up on them. Now, I’m not so sure after reading a whole bunch of storiesof their extreme aggression during these pandemic times. A misty afternoon with seagulls like snowflakes and a ginger cat furious about being kept inside.
ALWAYS OUT THERE
Those seagulls in our garden Are a long way from water. Doing what we all do, I suppose, Looking for a future Just a little bit better.