frog hollow press
. Bonnie.for Andreae. Charlie.
taBle of contents
1 SailorS SEa lEgEnd whitbournE’S MErMaid ConCh ShEll and thE SEa Shall givE uP itS dEad krakEn 2 nativity thE MEaning of lifE MEdiEval woodCut Morning tEa SnowMan thE rainStiCk haMMoCk
9 13 15 16 17 18 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30-32
The women of Church Hill know for certain that in port towns there are always sailors.
. and if not the kind that roam the ocean. fog blind. then at least those mariners who are at sea. no compass points the way. adrift. finding harbour only in a rented flat. lashed by rain and drowned in storms. cut loose and dragged by trade winds and by foreign tides. a rented room that reeks of last night’s cheap perfume and cologne bath. The starless sky provides no sign.
wear makeup laid as thick as tar that caulks the gaps in a ship’s frame.
. church bells ring. there’s one in mini-skirt and parka. ball caps. solicit prayer. garb themselves in tracksuits. her tiny legs the clapper of a bell. Weeknights they parade: a file of penitents. On Sunday morning. a train of pilgrims on the way to Compostela or to other places where the bones of saints are saved in darling little reliquaries. The women of Church Hill are nowhere to be seen. dress down. Although.2
The women of Church Hill dress for comfort.
the Vicar with the pretty wife who every night refuses to accept his sacramental offerings.
. whose eyes are crucified by want of sleep. of empty rooms in parish barracks. The women of Church Hill suffer for the driver. end-of-shift.3
The women of Church Hill call the faithful. the priest whose whiskey breath exudes its holy ghosts of loneliness. the lawyer with his prosecuting gaze — his girlfriend will not play with whips or chains. whose last fare jumped on a red light.
too. insists she isn’t crazy. standing here and shaking like a mystic having visions of the risen Christ in downtown bars or coffee shops.4
The women of Church Hill call the faithless. the Son of Man appearing for us all. the Son of Man appearing on an eight ball.
. furred with want. with husky voices. One bums a cigarette and laughs. the Son of Man appearing on a teapot.
a housewife transformed by the siren light of evening. So they settled on the latter. They were divided over what to do with her. the fifth grade teacher who leaned across your desk to demonstrate a silk brassiere. others. Some said she should be laid to rest in a proper grave. From the waist up she was every woman: your mother from a photo on a Caribbean beach. a pair of glistening pearl studs at each ear. her cleavage with arithmetic. They kept reaching out as if to pat a leg that wasn’t there. she belonged at sea.sea legend
They drew her up among the tons of codfish. reminding them of dancing girls rigged out in tassels — an obscene mockery or a tease.
. Two clam shell halves concealed her nipples. tipped the body into the water and watched it fade from view. no fit place to put a reassuring palm. Below the waist she was scales and tail fin.
praising sea legends and the siren’s element. emerged stark naked and dripping water. her breasts like delicate sand dollars. long enough the captain knew for certain that he’d seen her. But that beauty. that rare creature must have recognized something wolfish in his gaze. for she turned tail and buried herself beneath the waves. while liquored up on heavy grog and singing every ballad we could think of.
. Rumour has it he followed and caught her. a wake of hair trailing down her neck. Though. once. he confessed the seam of her dive was a quiet furrow. more girl in form than woman. really. a locked oyster shell and other veiled analogies.whitBourne’s mermaid
She was visible for a moment only.
the auditory tricks a conch can play. The shushing in my ear is meant to soothe. a sea-slug’s vacant home now leased to sound that speaks in rushing waves. still bearing makers’ marks in florid script. buoyed by ignorance. awaiting news of ailing relatives or births. great mysteries demystified. lost shipwrecks raised by scientific vessels to find dinnerware intact. or tell me that this ocean’s nothing more than pink noise lisping through the shell. in awe of how the waves communicate across the distance like floating spars report a recent wreck. I won’t sink into such certainty. un-chipped. explained. I clutch this shell as I might hold a telephone.
. the wonder of it all dredged up.conch shell
Don’t talk to me about the laws of physics.
No resurrection here.
. enough to seal my front door shut. I closed my eyes and crossed the street.and the sea shall give up its dead
After the funeral had ended and the downpour stopped anointing shingled roofs. I thought. a tomb. half sick with the thought of snow drifts six feet deep. and the rain had run from eaves troughs in tributaries like a plant pot overfilled. the house. shivering. It burst. and kicked a pile of sodden leaves. I walked uphill in a raincoat. A passing bus raised ghosts of mist from asphalt. and the casket slid into the hearse like a boat down a birch pole slip.
its length (some porn star’s money shot at fame) would dredge more than giggles from the belly’s depths. the faces of the cliff besmirched with splattered egg whites of faux bird shit. crushed ships in its embrace.kraken
Past the diorama of the diving birds. half amazed. and gripped the minds of sailors. the birds perched on a cliff face. a tank with riveted metal frame contains the giant squid. You’d hardly think its phallic shape. the swimming birds. past the skeleton of the extinct auk in a glass case. but this decaying length of dick and tentacles once roiled the waters. propped up by a metal rod that pins his long-dead bones in place. half afraid.
watching your reflection in the glass. as if it weren’t a kind of relic from a time when the bones of saints could cure the sick and make the lame ditch crutches. might then turn on you and see you looking in on death. dance a jig.
.You can’t help but tap the glass as if the squid might scatter like a flock of birds. as if it were a living thing. the size of doorknobs. and that its eyes.
his ancient jawbone ticking.
. Is it ash or flakes of snow that fall on us between the slats of roofing? I trust in god sometimes. I sit here starry-eyed and watch the idle goat that munches straw. I must.nativity
Cows packed in the stable moan private miseries against the cold.
in the sort of heaven a feather’s width between the fingertips of god and Adam insinuates. Or trust.the meaning of life
It could be that this line drawn taut between my fist and Bonnie’s kite — the nylon wings and plastic strut — is closer than I’ll come to revelation. their faith enduring on a chapel ceiling. there’s tangled string. at times. I almost grasp what’s lost down on this lower plane: the pull of unseen hands. And yet. me staring up. Instead. a gentle tug. I’m the kind of man whose mind is often flocked with herring gulls that dive for chicken skins in parking lots.
. I mean.
. pawed his son’s wild hair on the way to the door. one hand raised in gesture of protection or sign of the cross — both useless against these fangs and claws. stands. Meat has no name when the spirit is gone. His traveling companion offers no aid. No hard feelings. looking back.medieval woodcut
Two travelers stand at the village gates. as always. one twisted half around. amazed at the wolf that savages his side. as if he had not foreseen this meeting when he awoke and kissed his wife goodbye. back pressed to the wall. No guilt rides her back on the return journey to the den. her cubs growling as they nip each other’s skin. Hunger can only be staved off for so long. The wolf. the stomach of the beast attached. is just doing a job.
Milk sours in the jug’s guts. The milk jug’s lip is split: a racket in the sink.morning tea
The kettle ticks like a cooling engine. The teapot’s sweater is knobby wool. The kettle glints like a sun-spangled hood. a row. If there was sweetener — but there’s nothing saccharine about this scene. A teapot garbed in knitwear sits and steams.
. A pair of gloves conceals the splintered ends of bamboo torches in his sides: he’s armed by them in crucified or scarecrow pose. enthralled. It bothers me. his mouth the perfect halo of a child’s. would lead you down if he could find his feet. it doesn’t bother him at all. a path he seems to gesture at. his mouth agape as if surprised by rain that patters on his face and soaks the scarf lassoed around what passes for his neck. He knows his limitations and won’t beg salvation from the nails of rain or wave his arms to ward off winter birds.snowman
for Bonnie Elliott Lennox
It seems absurd this dwarf in pilgrim’s hat — a plant pot stuck fast on his pate — should look so optimistic in our yard. His eyes are stones plucked from the garden path.
water droplets cast upon hot griddles.the rain stick
after Seamus Heaney
Heaven is a far cry from the contents of this messenger’s tube: pebbles or peas. or make plain the fact of windowpanes and all the things that they obscure. You want rain? Step outside and a high wind full of honest tears will teach you that this cactus stalk could never be enough to slake your thirst or wash away the curbside grim and drizzle fallen petals in the dirt. just so. these coffee beans fed down a grinder’s chute create illusions. These castanets or spilled rice grains.
. or paint her hair. god wringing out a tissue he’s wept into. desiccated seed or a fistful of beans that trick the ear into hearing last trickles of rain. against a cheekbone and turn her cotton shirt into a peepshow.
Wind will make the cradle sway — a hand that nobody can see.hammock
Bowed like a loaded sling.
Rock yourself from side to side — a boat described by head and feet.
. clutched in the fists of knotted rope. a breathing lung.
You could be either drifting home or out to sea in this funeral boat. it droops.
You lounge between two states — precariously.
his first poetry collection. “Sea Legend” first appeared in Lichen. The Globe & Mail. His second poetry collection is due to be published by Véhicule Press in the fall of 2011. essays and reviews have appeared in a number of periodicals.Biography & acknowledgements
Mark Callanan lives in St. His poems. Scarecrow. Quill & Quire and The Malahat Review. Of the poems included in this chapbook. He is the managing editor of Riddle Fence (riddlefence. John's. was published in 2003 by Killick Press. “The Meaning of Life” and “Snowman” first appeared in Canadian Notes & Queries. The author gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts during the writing of some of these poems. and "The Rain Stick" first appeared in The Fiddlehead. a journal of arts and culture.
. Newfoundland. including Canadian Notes & Queries.com).
14 and 21 arE froM J. CovEr dESign by Mark Callanan & Caryl PEtErS.Copyright poems © Mark Callanan 2010. viCtoria. thE MErMaid illuStration on PagE 32 iS froM iStoCk. All rights reserved. Copyright this edition © Frog Hollow Press 2010.
EditEd by ShanE nEilSon. bErtuCh'S Bilderbuch für Kinder (1806).f.froghollowPrESS. book dESign.
PubliShEd in Canada by frog hollow PrESS 1758 arMStrong avEnuE.CoM PrintEd in Canada by viCtoria bindEry 460 tEnnySon PlaCE. bC v8z 6S8
. viCtoria bC v8r 5S6 www.a497S42 2010 C2010-900489-2
I. illuStrationS on thE CovEr and PagES 1.
library & arChivES Canada Cataloguing in PubliCation data Callanan. tyPESEtting & binding by Caryl PEtErS. 7. Title. 1979Sea legend / Mark Callanan.
The cover was printed at Frog Hollow Press on an Epson 3800 Sylus Pro using archival pigment inks.
SEA LEGEND was published in 2010 in an edition of 100 copies. This book is number /100
Printed on Mohawk Eggshell 80 lb. the type-faces are Bembo Book for text and Adobe Jenson Pro for display. Hand-sewn with silk thread into an inner cover of Indian cotton and wrapped (with french flaps) in mold-made St-Armand white cotton. archival text.