Lost Poetry Project

Once upon a time – it was a dark and stormy night, as I recall, my poor heart in turmoil, my tongue let loose upon the world in verse and worse – once upon a time, when I was younger, quite a lot younger in fact, and of course much less sensible than I am now, now when I think and talk mostly in prose, I was a writer of pomes, long and short, a few of them published, in little (very little) magazines but most of them – not that there are many – folded in darkness, and to all intents lost.

But now, as I sort through boxes of old letters, photographs, scribblings, mementos, the big clean-up in preparation for our return to Toronto, a fistful of old poems have resurfaced. Some of them I think had best remain in the cupboard, and a few, for the sin of bad writing, belong in the dustbin. But there are a few – just a few – that I might allow out, for a spin down the driveway or a night at the ball, before midnight strikes and the party is over.

I call this the Lost Poetry Project, and here is a modest first instalment.

Matisse's Painting of a Nude

In Matisse's painting of a nude
the woman sits with her back to us,
arms lifted up, doing her hair.
Paint moulds her body; it is as if
Matisse's fingers, without a brush,
by pure feel, have touched
and shaped her into life.
Domesticity and love: her tender
curves, her weight, sturdy
yet delicate - the intimacy
and trust of a moment held forever
in Matisse's mind.

Feeling her presence, stillness,
almost imagining her scent,
I realise it is not the painter
who has shaped the girl - 
it is she who has filled his heart,
moulded thought and feeling into one,
and projected herself there.

So this year
rises in my mind: everything
you have said, gesture, touch,
inhabits these spaces
and re-creates you here.

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