Aroha’s fossil goes clear through the washing cycle
still in the pocket of her wrangler jeans
and comes out deepsea clean & pure as
someone’s eyes are seas who’s
fallen right through the world
(straight through to China as we used to say)
Keelhauling, gutting, name it —
nothing of that shows.
She says, hey here’s my fossil back and
warms it in her hand.
Colleen Thibaudeau, 1972
“Aroha’s Fossil” is from The Artemesia Book (1991), available from Brick Books.
>>> Listen to Angela Graham read “Aroha’s Fossil” here.
“The Dieppe Gardens Poems” is one of Colleen Thibaudeau‘s poems from The Martha Landscapes (1984), available from Brick Books.
The Dieppe Gardens Poems
Eugene and Peter read their poems
about Dieppe Gardens, Windsor,
a September evening, here in London.
Dieppe Gardens, it’s not a park where I’ve walked,
but I remember the news of it coming — Dieppe — it came over the fences,
(field by field, farm by farm): “bad news from home.”
Someone called and we would leave off hoeing,
go to the fence, and there, crying or trying not to cry,
a Windsor girl asking us to pass bad news along
though all the lists not in… We threw ourselves at the ground,
and that day passed, (half-hope half-fear) as if just striving
might somehow balance out the half-knowing.
A time of drought: the fine dust caked our hair; our cracked
hands, blunt fingers scrabbled to put right
a bent plant; all was more bitter-precious on that day.
Evening came; on the gravel we walked barefoot, asking,
(field by field, farm by farm), could we use the phone,
but nothing changed: only “bad news from home”
day halved slowly into night. Your words,
Peter and Eugene, go active into memories long stilled,
and I am filled with wonder for the walkers there
in Dieppe Gardens now.
Colleen Thibaudeau, 1984
Note from Susan Reaney: In the poem, Colleen Thibaudeau recalls her own war-time experience working as a volunteer farm labourer for the Ontario Farm Service Force in August 1942 near Windsor, Ontario. The Dieppe Gardens in Windsor, Ontario are named in memory of the many members of the Essex-Kent Scottish Regiment who lost their lives during the World War II landing at Dieppe, France on August 19, 1942.
we all have old scars
and sometimes in winter
I can still see what was
(let’s call them white bracelets
just as my grandmother used to say
when we fell down steep stairways,
stop crying or you’ll miss hearing
the stairs—they’re still dancing)
what was once white bracelets
what before that showed pink
what before that was raw & festering
what before that was agony
down to the bones
what before that was
almost blacked out
& being dragged by the tractor
in the barbed wire
what before that was
surprise & yelling:
can’t you STOP STOP
what before that was
lying in the grass
reading a blue letter
looking up into sun & clouds
that were riffed
and quiet like white bracelets.
“Thibaudeau may be diffident about her process, but her leaping poems stretch wide from the domestic to the mythic and do so as naturally as if they had not actually been written but somehow just occurred. And I have never had the pleasure of editing any writer whose work called for less alteration.” (page 29)
Lights from the Highway sparser, softer now
and the Gorst lights gone and their house gone
just lost rib to new life in dark seas,
just dark seven sleepers gone seasabout the foot of our hill,
just the foot of the hill and a great cave opening up.
Lights from the glass cupboard !spark! the house dark;
And it’s up to the glass cupboard now! It looms
at James’ headheight, three paces from the kitchen sink,
one from table, length approximately my armspan, crafted
by an Albertan who loved the bush, the hills.
The Bay Highway kindles to blue Italian grotto glasses;
and green glasses, safe-and-wide as Sweden; and cheap
little ruby liqueurs sing; and cocktail Libbys supermart
violent and fresh from fists that swung axes, pounded down a territory
and rolled Malcolm Lowry into the soundmad surf dazzling no warning…
By an Albertan who loved the bush, the hills,
who made this cupboard ark that tends the tides
of dream. They light, they guard the house,
glow like an icon of Mike Todd, thirty-odd glasses,
touched off by random headlights moving toward the Bay.
Colleen Thibaudeau was a graduate student of Marshall McLuhan‘s at the University of Toronto in 1948-1949. Colleen remembers Professor McLuhan in this excerpt from an article by journalist James Stewart Reaney:
“I remember him from ’48, ’49 when I was in his M.A. class. Although ’49 wasn’t over yet, he bravely suggested the topic to me: Canadian poetry of 1949,” mom says. Later McLuhan would become famous for saying such things as: “Tomorrow is our permanent address.”
Back in 1948-1949, he was already using a similar approach. Mom calls it: “Writing about it before it’s taken place – almost.”
The thesis flourished as mom encountered such Canadian poets and creators as A.M. Klein, P.K. Page and Earle Birney. With his Cambridge ties, McLuhan also helped by introducing my mom to British critics like Queenie Leavis.
“When you get into the world of the ’49ers,’ you’ve left behind the pastoral world of earlier Canadian poetry, not entirely, but it’s going,” mom says.