Little Anne runs from flower to flower to flower
honey-haired happy every minute every hour.
Big Anne shops successfully and hardly stops.
Another Anne’s house abounds with the evening sounds and even words
of mysterious visiting birds.
Little Anne tosses sticks into River Thames
this is one of her camping games.
Big Anne reads on the beach and lets the waves reach her.
Another Anne says, ‘Well Polly how pretty you are.’ And ‘Just
listen to that canary up there.’
Little Anne Running, Big Anne shopping and reading on the beach,
Another Anne tending her mysterious visiting birds;
These Annes appear in different strips, unknown each to each,
so make their first acquaintance here in a blur of words.
my granddaughters are combing out their long hair sitting at night
on the rocks in Venezuela they have watched their babes
falling like white birds from the last of the treetop cradles
they have buried them in their hearts where they will never forget
to keep on singing them the old songs
brought down to earth they use twigs, flint scrapers acadian
their laughter underground makes the thyme flower in darkness
my granddaughters are thin as fishbones & hornfooted but they are
always beautiful under the stars: like little asian paperthings
they seem to open outward into their own waterbowl
mornings they waken to Light’s chink ricocheting
off an old Black’s Harbour sardinecan.
Reduce them the last evangelines make them part of the stars.
my granddaughters are coming out by night combing their burr
coloured hair by the rocks and streamtrickle in Venzuela
they are burnt out as falling stars but they laugh
and keep on singing them the old songs.
Colleen Thibaudeau, 1977
“My granddaughters are combing out their long hair” is from The Artemesia Book (1991), available from Brick Books.
When they pull my clock tower down
I will no longer walk this town.
At night her lucent face is seen
Homely and bright as margarine,
And when I wake when I should sleep
Sounds her Ding Bong sweet
And heart-sticking as the Knife-Man’s cry
When his squeaking cart goes by.
Matrons with baskets, old men with sticks, all stop
to gawk at my clock;
The shock-headed with the frost
Kid who sells papers, the popcorn man
Buttery knuckled, the shifter of ashcans,
Firebugs, tire-stealers, track fixers for the TTC,
Somnambulists, commune with me —
And we all move and love
To the grace of her sweet face.
Colleen Thibaudeau, 1949
First published in The Canadian Forum (30, July 1950), “The Clock Tower” also appears in The Wind Has Wings: Poems from Canada, an anthology of poems for children published by Oxford University Press in 1968.
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)