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a Sasquatch tribute to

Seymour Mayne

 

A long time supporter and participant of Sasquatch since its inception, Seymour Mayne provides an eclectic balance of academic backbone and wry sense of humor whenever he graces our gatherings.

The added participation of his poetry students as featured readers has become a perennial event, providing welcome diversity and spirit, drawing some of our largest audiences in the process.  

  

 

The Poetry of Seymour Mayne


Bio:

Seymour Mayne is the author, editor or translator of more than forty books and monographs. 

A selection of his biblical poems, The Song of Moses  (1995), published in Canada and the U.K, was one of the earliest illustrated books to appear in an internet edition. 


His most recent collections include Carbon Filter: Poems in Dedication  (Mosaic Press, 1999), Light Industry  (Mosaic Press, 2000), a volume of humourous and satirical poems, and Hail (Concertina, 2002), a sampling of word sonnets.  His latest work appears in the co-authored collection, Cinquefoil: New work from five Ottawa poets (Mosaic Press, 2003.)


He has also co-edited the award-winning anthologies, Jerusalem: A Jewish Canadian Anthology (Véhicule Press, 1996) and A Rich Garland: Poems for A.M. Klein  (Véhicule Press, 1999). 

 

A volume of his selected short fiction is scheduled to be published in Spanish translation later this year in South America.


He is the recipient of the J.I. Segal Prize, the Lockshin Memorial Award, the Fuerstenberg-Aaron Prize and other literary honours and distinctions.
 
Over the years he has helped sustain the Ottawa literary community.  Founder of the Sandy Hill Gang, he also co-founded the poetry monthly Bywords, the poster magazine Graffito, and for a number of years he served as mc of the popular poetry reading venue, Bard. 

At the University of Ottawa he has supervised the publication of a series of seventeen annual anthologies of new writing by his poetry students.

 


the following poems posted with acknowledgement to Cinquefoil (Mosaic Press)




Practice Run

 

 

What is this sleep?

                                    Practice?

I put up my feet

            to float into reverie.

I smile, cheeks

            burnished with joy,

like a nobleman joining

the Pharaoh on his hot

dry run

               into sand.

 

 

 

 

Beginning

 

 

As if taking a long deserved nap

the old sparrow lay quiet

by the front porch.  Earlier in the evening

it had come, longing for rest,

warmed by the setting sun--

once more it opened its tiny eyes, blue

and sunken as if it were slowly flying

back through its own pupils

receding until it became a pulsing spot,

then just a distant dot,

at last simply still and invisible

as it once was

at the very, very beginning.

 

 

 

 

Above the Puerta

 

for Bernd Dietz

 

 

Scattering

            above the Puerta

                        de Almodóvar

loud

        formations

                        of starlings

rise

      over the palms,

                        break into arcs,

wheel back again

            towards the gravity

                            of the tower.

 

Why

        should they

                        guide themselves

to our feet

            or plentiful

                       crumbs?

They are high,

            higher now

                    than the pacific sun

which earlier

            nudged them into

                        the thousand and one

perches and shelters

                 by the gardens

                    along the ancient walls.

 

Afire

         with flight

                        they pepper

the air,

            careening buckshot

aimed 

          at the ceramic blue.

              

They shatter the peace

            with yet

                        another lunge

before night

          settles them into        

                   the armistice of sleep.

 

 

Cordoba

November 2000

 

 

 

 

Cordoba

 

 

There is a smell of leather

            in Cordoba,

of tanned hide.

 

Even the walls

            and squares

are stricken

as if with the slow

strokes of a tanner.

They are thickened

            by each blow

of submission

without word, past

            glory preserved.

 

Hold Cordoba snugly

            under your arm,

hold her close

            full as she is,

a seasoned satchel

bleached and baked

by the impassive

            but crafty sun.

 

 

 

Ten                                                                                        



Of the first fright: one,

of shadows breaking away

            from words: two,

of wings fluttering in the night:

            three,

of books standing like angels on guard:

            four--

 

But of the knife, five and six,

and the bully with the revolver,

            seven, eight and nine,

and of the trigger-happy finger--

            ten

ready to do their part

            in staving off the plagues.

 

 

 

 

Jonah                                                                         



How does one die?

Does it burst out like a flood

rising for a lifetime

to its level of escape?

 

Or does it coil

around in the cave of a dream,

shutting off the vista of light

with a sudden jerk

 

and the silence holds

louder than God?

 

 

 

Daughters of Prophecy

 

 

She who approaches

            meets sentinel of stone.

 

                        *

 

            Do not let his shield

                                    detract you.

 

            He too was once frail

                                    flesh and bone.

 

                        *

 

At the brush of eyelids

            return him to muscle and skin.

 

With a light touch

                        he will recover speech.

 

                        *

 

            He proclaims in the square

                                    and challenges kin!

 

                        *

 

You wait for the words to end,

                        then quickly embrace.

 

He abandons his jeremiads,

            becomes dumb with joy.

 

 

 

 

Yet lingers to remain stone

            --but not his face.

 

                        *

 

            There his eyes sink

                                    close lidded

            and he curls into

                                    dormant dreams.

 

                        *

 

Hail, women

                        Levites of Zion,

daughters of prophecy

                        who encircle the hill--

 

                        *

 

            To the unfaithful,

                                    hard of heart,

            Jerusalem will not yield

                        even one of her gates!

 

 

 

 

Breadcrumbs

 

In memory of Shoshi Hyman

 

 

Will the blue birds

                        perch today

with breadcrumbs in their beaks

or with wings still

                        rest in the back garden

where your abandoned studio stands

                        behind the spacious house

on Ben Maimon?

 

You were always on a tight schedule,

                        too too busy

--so what was the rush,

                                              Shoshi,

to leave so soon?

 

 

June 9, 1996

22 Sivan 5756

 

 

 

Pebbles                                                                                                         

 

for Ben Hollander

 

 

However hewn the stones of Jerusalem,

the fine pebbles of Camp Ramah

reveal a more modest finish.

Scraped smooth from the slow retreat

of crushing glaciers,

                                        they have learned

the silence of long seasons

endlessly repeating under the impassive

Canadian sky. 

                            They have less

to say, perhaps nothing at all:

blood trickling into their veins of ore

draws from expiring mosquitoes--

or from bloodroot

                                  yielding its sanguine

essence without pain,

                                          without the piercing

shrapnel of speech.

 

 

Skeleton Lake, Muskoka

 



 

Whose Light

 

In memory of Louis Dudek

 

Whose light is this anyway?

A cosmic stunt

for credulous eyes?

 

While beyond the exponential

                        distance

the darkness enfolds itself

up to the first second

 

before the crack

of instant creation--

Who believes in light

                        everlasting

 

enlightening

silence, darkness

and the first and final word?

 

 

 

Equinox

 

 

If 

early

light

returns,

is

there

renewed

hope

for

ailing

tongues

rising

in

darkness?

 



 

Crows

 

 

The

crows

of

Sandy

Hill

are

much

too

big,

sleek

with

wide

bristling

wings.



 

 

Hail

 

 

Hail peppered the air like seed

            as you were lowered

below the frost line.

 

All those bags--careful       

            markings by flower and plant

you put aside for another season.

 

Passed on to others

            devoted to the soil,

will they sprout--abundant--

           

erasing the sting of words,

            deeds undone?

Will your green touch

 

resuscitate unseen,

            healing

a winter of silence?



 

 

Real Estate

 

 

My father passed on

            no faithful piety.

Whomever he may

            have addressed in prayer

the name was never bequeathed

            in letter or will.

 

Nor did he let on who

            sent his guardian angel

to wave his way

            --when he was barely tall--

from the ripe horizon

            of a field of high grain.

Out there he was safe

            in sun or beating rain.

 

He never forgot

            those pear trees

hung with succulent gold

            and the maturing soil

yielding what was tastiest

            from his distant

corner of Ukraine.

 

Here in his last town,

            Montreal,

he held no plot dearer

            than his backyard,

his row of tomato plants

            and cucumbers inching

forward in green formation

            to a briny fate.

 

Who will tend

            with the same devotion

his final real

            estate in De la Savane,

claimed as it will be

            to the end

with his bare

            chiselled name?

 


Raindrops

 

In memory of Ralph Gustafson

 

 

Hanging

from the underbelly

of bark,

full

raindrops

wait

for your eyes

to behold them.

They glimmer

for the thousandth

time

not knowing

you have gone

only to return

with words

turning

pages

into your

refined

yet vulnerable

voice.

 

 

 

Frost

 

 

Cold

morning,

winter’s

reconnaissance

scouts

out

the

terrain

for

a

sortie

of

sudden

snow.




 

December Flight

 

 

These

starlings

swerve

in

flocks,

turning

their

frantic

wings

towards

the

sun’s

slanting

light.

 

 

 

Vessels

 

 

As if scattered in celebration

             of God’s domestic air,

this show of confetti

            stills the festive

tongue with silent wonder:

 

foolscap shredding

            sheet after sheet,

            each torn flake flying

then embedding like seed--

 

today’s snow recycling

            feeds into yesterday’s

swollen solar pumpkin

            and next season’s

blueberry bush

            crowded with vessels

            of pungent wine.

 

all poems © Seymour Mayne

 

 

 

 

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