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More Caroline Misner..vol. 9, issue 2, page 2

 

Harbour Seals 

 The factory chimney hisses and fizzles,

curling the edge of the sky, grey

as ash; the buoyant air is filled with mist,

spraying from the harbour where corroded

barges cluster in the rippling black surf.

The buoys are sentinels corralled by a breakwater

of old stone that has been rolled into position

like a stage set for a play.

 

The harbour seals converge on piers

and splintered docks where they jostle

one another for space; pelts glisten

like wet rubber; they cry

and hack like sickly old men,

their whiskers oiled by ocean

water, their eyes luminous

as black pearls excavated

from a privateer’s booty chest.

 

A cruiser cuts the surf, spewing foam

from its faded hull, bobbing

the buoys like rocking chairs where

the seals flop and play, marooned

like me upon these shoals, crawling

like the spindly crabs across the pocked

stone.  They are black nebulas, and like me

they are far from home.

 

  

Iron and Ice

 

The smallest house had a black roof

and scarlet bricks, that gleamed

in the midst of a white velvet field,

the largest lot in our neighbourhood;

I remember how moonlight lit back

the dusty snow and shone off its shingles

like onyx chips.

 

The lot lay rimmed with iron, the fence

pickets pierced the pebbly ice, the skin

of snow that lay supine upon the frigid yard,

below the shallow hill that rolled

from the woods; black bent branches grouped

and stiffened like mannequins in the

town’s shop windows.

 

Each spoke was glazed with ice,

crystal sheaths, smooth and shining;

the posts were tall and so regal

not even rust could scorch them, jutting

to the sky like bayonets, their muzzles

paying homage to the horizon that

severed the land from

the flat white winter sky.

 

When the boys played hockey in the street,

their sticks clanging against one another,

slashing at frozen tennis balls through air

still and numb with impeding grief;

 even in winter the clotheslines were

ablaze with colour; sheets and undershirts

melded against the blankness of the sky;

dresses and pants jigged in the wind

until they stiffened into weird positions

like flat statues, and the clothespins

keeping them tethered like a hinge.

 

The hills crackled and glistened,

a mother-of-pearl carapace; even the telephone

wires sang with relief the morning after

the snowstorm’s passing; nothing remained

of the drab old world with its dark gutters

and dun houses, not even the iron fence.

The wind had blown a drift against it, only

the tips poked through, sharp as serpents’ tongues.

 

The same boys who had dared one another

to press their lips against the iron, all

but forgotten now beneath the sleeping

shroud of snow, took up their sleds and

flew downhill, their voices streaming

from them like a chuffing engine’s smoke.

 

At first they thought they heard a twig snap,

then sudden silence inhaled by the woods;

then blood. The snow sucked it up

and hoarded it below the crust, as though

the elixir could imbue life into its soulless grains;

the ice-coated pickets echoed back the boy’s

howls of anguish and pain.

 

An ambulance came to collect

what remained of him, swathed

in reckless despair, dragging

its red crossed heart behind it;

the house glowed like an ember

in a hearth of grey ash.

No matter how hard I shut my eyes

and concentrate, I cannot

wish that day away.

 

Atonement

 

Every countenance bore a thousand lives

steeped in catholic guilt;

a chorus of cast iron angels alerted eyes

to stained glass burnished with blood.

I brushed his hair aside

 

and found the face of a little boy

illuminated by love and torment.

I smiled back at him, unafraid

of the visceral sacrifice

we were about to make.

 

I knew him from long ago

when cathedral bells trolled

like laughter off the hillside.

We were different people then,

children, but aged beyond our years.

 

I remember running with him,

his brown hand clasped in mine,

preceding flocks of credulous sheep

that prostrate themselves before icons

and idols in the cool hushed church,

 

populated with the ghosts of saints,

whose echoes, bound by hallowed candlelight;

and pillars of incense to weep upon,

and the voices of the damned raising

the wall from its stone foundation.

 

We were among them, paying penitence

and seeking absolution from a wizened

old man in purple robes who believed

no more than we, but chained himself

to faith so he wouldn’t have to leave

for the crusades.  We had only the vaguest

idea of sin, issued to us by a tortured

martyr hanging onto the glory

of his own magnificent execution; dropping

our heads in prayer and agony

 

 

so that no one heard us weep;

our lamentations went unheard,

our prayers unanswered, but still

we accepted our chalice of wine

and the atonement of the spoken word.

 

 

 

An Asylum of Birdsong

 

What harmony drew me to the door,

and to the patio where pots

of geraniums await their turn at glory?

 

This is a haven of light,

not celestial, but more reticent than that;

sprinklers spit their steely water,

each facet a chorus of shimmers

that descends to the grass.

 

This is not a garden; no,

this is a nest of dreams, a harbour

that holds its hushed secrets,

an asylum of birdsong;

the rosy mist buoys their tongues,

sharp beaks snap at the sky.

 

Caroline Misner is a freelance writer residing in Canada.  Her work has appeared in
numerous consumer and literary journals throughout the USA, Canada and the UK. 
She is a graduate of Sheridan College of Applied Arts & Technology with a diploma
in Media Arts Writing and a member of the Canadian Federation of Poets. 

 

carrie@globalsemi.com