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?
I expect Aliens already know how to fly, That this is how they will come to our attention. Just drifting out of the sky Along with the falling leaves, Transfixed by horror At what we have allowed to happen.
Well, I guess they probably Have the same emotions we do, In which case, horror Is the only possible response To the hate shown in the world.
Maybe they won’t stay. Unable to embrace a people Who have so harshly destroyed The earth, the sky, the air, the seas. All the lovely things they were given.
Maybe nothing would persuade them to stay And they would drift away Exactly how they came.
Not wanting to be associated With the shame of so much killing.
By Autumn We were ready, The big oak drawer Full to the brim with clippings Of old wool coats, moth eaten skirts, Hopeless socks and torn cotton shirts, All mixed up with that candy striped dress Big enough to wear last Whitsuntide, Too small now, washed out and cast aside.
Over Summer We had been Washing old potato sacks, giving them an iron, Sewing them together with strong dark twine. Pegging all the clippings in until every colour beamed. We made circles, squares and one green diamond Out of a worn coat sleeve.
Then pushing the big table with its red plush pompoms to the door, We laid our beautiful new rag rug down on the scrubbed white wooden floor. When everyone agreed, it was the loveliest rug our street had ever seen.
My mother was small and fierce, Hair so long and dark It was thought Night had fallen early On her shoulders.
She wore flowered aprons With big pockets, To put lost chickens in. Small, yellow chickens Almost new born, Who pecked the grains of corn Lying in the folds Of a lovely cotton geranium.
Her wedding ring was gone, Lost among the garden potatoes. She wept about that. Tried to climb the tree To see if the magpie Had it in her nest. ‘For magpies love gold,’ she said. But we all knew the nest was empty.
For years and years, She would rub that ringless finger, Until I was certain That at some time The ring had been found
And my small, fierce mother Had simply cheated science By rubbing it into invisibility.
October now, Bringing the first sighting of Winter Leaning on the fence Like any old farmer Looking over his fields.
The fox, Running for cover, Leaves his tracks Across the set-aside meadow Full of weeds, Thistles and the odd potato From last year’s crop.
Winter, Thinking it over Like any old farmer, Perches on the farm gate Planning a harvest Of icy nights and bitter mornings, Of frost bitten fingers and frozen water, Of glittering trees and silver beauty