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