“The Clock Tower” by Colleen Thibaudeau

The Clock Tower

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.

Children, chickens,
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.

"The Clock Tower" by Colleen Thibaudeau from the Oxford University Press anthology The Wind Has Wings (1968).
“The Clock Tower” by Colleen Thibaudeau from the Oxford University Press anthology The Wind Has Wings (1968). The clock tower illustration is by Elizabeth Cleaver.
The Wind Has Wings: Poems from Canada, 1968, Oxford University Press. Compiled by Mary Alice Downie and Barbara Robertson; illustrated by Elizabeth Cleaver. (ISBN-0-19-540026-7)
The Wind Has Wings: Poems from Canada, 1968, Oxford University Press. Compiled by Mary Alice Downie and Barbara Robertson; illustrated by Elizabeth Cleaver. (ISBN-0-19-540026-7)

Colleen Thibaudeau’s “Aroha’s Fossil”

Aroha’s Fossil

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.

Susan Reaney (age 10) July 1969, Point No Point, BC. (Photo by Colleen Thibaudeau)
Susan Reaney (age 10) June 1969, Victoria, BC. (Photo by Colleen Thibaudeau)

For more about the poem, see Maureen Scott Harris‘s essay “The Unfolding Present: Rereading Colleen Thibaudeau” in Brick Books Celebration of Canadian Poetry.

The Dieppe Gardens Poems

“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.

August 2010: One ton of beach stones were sent from Ville de Dieppe, France, and installed in the Dieppe Memorial in Windsor, Ontario. (Photo courtesy The Windsor Star)
August 1942: Ontario Farm Service Force volunteer workers near Windsor, Ontario. (Photo courtesy The Estate of Colleen Thibaudeau)
August 1942: Colleen Thibaudeau (centre, age 16) was a volunteer farm worker that summer on a farm near Windsor, Ontario. (Photo courtesy The Estate of Colleen Thibaudeau)

 

 

Colleen Thibaudeau’s “White Bracelets”

White Bracelets

we all have old scars
and sometimes in winter
I can still see what was
white bracelets
(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.

Colleen Thibaudeau, 1971

“White Bracelets” is from The Artemesia Book (1991) and available from Brick Books.

( ( ( o ) ) )  Listen to Jean McKay read “White Bracelets” here.

Note from Susan Reaney:  Stan Dragland, poet and novelist, has high praise for Colleen Thibaudeau’s poetry in his new book The Bricoleur and His Sentences:

“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)

G.G. and Elizabeth at Port

G.G. AND ELIZABETH AT PORT

Elizabeth (four) would fete Mackie’s 75th anniversary
just as often as the car would get there.

Her “G.G.,” great-grandmother, also
favours Mackie’s, especially the “Specialty Sauce”

on chips. In sunlight sharp as Mackie’s Orange,
they sit together – eighty years seems not to separate

for both love waves, love water. “I could look forever, couldn’t you?”

That Sunday, though, their eyes harden,
for the waves are black, flung up coal dredged from the lake bottom.

“It is as if beasts are leaping out of the foam,”
G.G. shivers.    Elizabeth, only: “Let’s go home.”

 Colleen Thibaudeau, 1986

Colleen Thibaudeau’s poem “G.G. and Elizabeth at Port” is from The Patricia Album and Other Poems (1992).

GGElizabeth1986
Alice Pryce Thibaudeau (age 85), Colleen Thibaudeau’s mother, with her great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Reaney (age 4), August 1986 in Port Stanley, Ontario.
Mackie's at Port Stanley, Ontario.
Mackie’s at Port Stanley, Ontario.
Elizabeth Wallace Reaney, Colleen's granddaughter, at Port Stanley, August 1986
Elizabeth Wallace Reaney, Colleen’s granddaughter, at Port Stanley, August 1986

 

Colleen Thibaudeau’s Inwhich I put on my mother’s old thé dansant dress

Inwhich I Put On My Mother’s Old Thé Dansant Dress

“Yes,” said Janos, “you can put on a costume!”
So I go for a favourite, my mother’s old thé dansant dress
(black georgette and hand-made lace). When I was a child
I looked through snowy windows, seeing her leave
for “Tea For Two.” Leaves whirled, the hem dragged
in the mud when granddaughters sortied out for Hallowe’en;
and then I rescued, laundered, aired, and pressed
(black georgette and hand-made lace). Now it’s a humid Sunday
in the scorching summer of ’88. Jamie retreats to the doorway.
Janos, taking the photos, says, “Nearly done now.”
I think, my whole life-span is in this dress.
And, as I strew these words,
rose petals are falling from the matching hat she made.

Colleen Thibaudeau, 1988

( ( ( o ) ) )  Listen to Jean McKay read the poem here.

Colleen’s poem appears in The Artemesia Book (1991),
available from Brick Books.

Colleen Thibaudeau in her mother's old the dansant dress, at her home in London, Ontario, 1999. Photo by Janos.
Colleen Thibaudeau in her mother’s old thé dansant dress, at her home in London, Ontario, 1988. Photo by Janos.

Poetry Stratford celebrates Four Women for National Poetry Month 2013

On April 21, 2013, Poetry Stratford featured the four poets from the Red Kite Press anthology Four Women: Gloria Alvernaz Mulcahy, Penn Kemp,  Marianne Micros, and Colleen Thibaudeau. Gloria, Penn, and Marianne read their own work, and poet Patricia Black read the late Colleen Thibaudeau’s poems. Here is one of Colleen’s “Inwhich” poems from Four Women:

Inwhich I Decide To Look Once More at the Story of Never Meeting Pete & Doris, But Solving the Puzzle of the Valuable Little Stamp My Mother Has Pressed Into My Hand

I am once more in the street and just at that time of day
which the poets of the future will make much of.
The violet hour of the pearly exhaust fumes
(can’t you hear them chanting?) like the inside
of a fresh-water clamshell, the sky (once long-ago
their grandfather showed them where they had been).
Soon the greenish fluorescent lights of the great city
will stratify, very regular (lichen bands), very exact,
the steep, straight-up mountainsides of the great downtown.
Luminous lichen bands.  In the darkness they will hear
the small incessant torrents of electricity falling.

Colleen Thibaudeau, 1999

 

April 21, 2013: Gloria Alvernaz Mulcahy, Patricia Black, Penn Kemp, and Marianne Micros read from Four Women.

 

 

Colleen Thibaudeau’s “This Elastic Moment”

Many thanks to the editors of Brick (Issue 89, page 182) for printing this poem by Colleen Thibaudeau.

This Elastic Moment

Yes we are that too: we are everything who feel it.
Everything that has meaning has the same meaning as angels: these
hoverers and whirrers: occupied with us.
Men may be in the parkgrass sleeping: or be he who sits in his
shirtsleeves every blessed Sunday: rasping away at his child who
is catching some sunshine: from the sticky cloud hanging over the
Laura Secord factory: and teetering on the pales of the green
iron fence: higher up than the briary bushes.
I pass and make no sound: but the silver and whirr of my bicycle
going round: but must see them who don’t see: get their fit, man
and child: let this elastic moment stretch out in me: till that
point where they are inside and invisible.
It is not to afterward eat a candy: picket that factory: nor to
go by again and see that rickety child on the fence.
When the band of the moment breaks there will come angelic
recurrence.

Colleen Thibaudeau, 1977

Also in Issue 89 of Brick, Stan Dragland  remembers Applegarth Follies, another London, Ontario publisher:

“… Colleen Thibaudeau’s Ten Letters, the first chapbook I published [under the forerunner of Brick Books], was printed offset by Mike Niederman at Applegarth Follies. I had set the text in the Baskerville type donated by James Reaney to The Belial Press at the university after he completed his ten-year run of Alphabet. One of Applegarth’s presses was the old foot-pumped jobber on which Reaney had printed his magazine. There was plenty of literary interconnection in London back then.”

Brick: A LIterary Journal Issue 89, Summer 2012
Brick: A Literary Journal Issue 89, Summer 2012