Dodge Days

A young woman in the lane next to me,
drives a worn-out Dodge van. She moves
her head in time to music, rock or folk?
Maybe an early Tracy Chapman.
Give me one reason to stay here
and I’ll turn right back around.
She has an outer island, tie-dyed farm girl
sort of look even though she’s about twenty-two.
One day, she’ll look back on these summer days
when she’s my age and I’m long gone, reminisce,
remember the old van, days at the wheel, guitar
and sleeping bag in the back, drinking kombucha,
patting the joint in the pocket of her plaid shirt,
bandana in her short blonde hair.

She thinks about the snack stand at the ferry
on Denman, the two women in black, tangled
in one another against their knapsacks, the low clouds
over Vancouver Island – then in Fanny Bay,
the pewter-haired bikers revving their motors
for all they’re worth.

She heads for Cowichan, the warm land –
Around the fire, strangers will share intimacies,
flames in the dark, never alluded to in the light.

Mary Ann Moore (2016)


How to be a Poet

Take long walks in the rain. Lean against an arbutus stretching towards the sea. Breathe deeply. Write on the backs of can labels, the corners of serviettes. Carry a small, pocket-size notebook. Read Neruda, Rilke, Crozier and Lane. Do nothing. Bring some forsythia inside. Look inside a rhododendron. Talk to a dog – and a cat and a house finch on the railing. Listen to poets. Go for a beer with them.  Learn colours and the names of things. Eat a fresh fig, slowly. Watch the phases of the moon. Play hookey. Take a ferry to an island – like Gabriola or Bowen or Lasqueti. Cut words out of flyers. Recycle them into poems. Write what you know. What you don’t. Laugh at yourself. Cry  over lunch. Wear your nightgown past noon. Plant some seeds. Trust. Talk to a stranger. Talk to yourself.  Phone home. Eavesdrop. Remember your dreams. Call yourself a poet.

Mary Ann Moore
from Fishing for Mermaids (Leaf Press, 2014)



Walking the Labyrinth at Honeymoon Bay

. . . the past is present within objects as souls are kept in their earthen bodies,
and in that awareness I found a consoling beauty that bound me to life.

Orhan Pamuk


The sun is setting behind the poets’ retreat,
the old school, lumbermen’s cottages in orderly rows.
Along the spiral path, a feather by the boxwoods,
the ever-present crow. Magic is everywhere,
anything is possible.

I’ll take you on a ferry across the Sea of Marmara,
a horse-drawn carriage under the pines of Heybeliada.
We’ll visit Aya Sofya, her marble columns from the Temple of Artemis,
taste rose paprika and poppyseeds in the spice market,
dab rose oil from Basmakci behind each other’s ears.
A bird tells fortunes in his cage outside the Suleymaniye Mosque.

Seed pods and nut casings in the labyrinth –
poets are here with their Eliot and Carlos Williams,
their Heaney and Hass. New poems have been made.
Stanzas are rooms of marvels, gifts out of time –
a museum of verbal artifacts.

Pamuk created the Museum of Innocence in Nisantasi,
filled with all the objects from his novel –
Kemal’s obsessive collecting: his lover’s cigarette butts,
her hair clips; her lipstick; the teapot stolen from her parents’ apartment.
He walked and walked the streets
As if I was seeking out my own centre.

The sun is rising over the minarets of that far city.
Here, the sun has slipped below the horizon,
streaks of clouds and ochre. In the labyrinth,
I have reached my own centre.
I return the way I have come.

Mary Ann Moore
from Fishing for Mermaids (Leaf Press, 2014)


Shiny Under the Moon

The blue bottle foretells a fire, children thrown
through an open window into the trees.
She can see them on the branches in their cowboy pajamas
stealing pearl buttons from the nests of the crows.

The red bottle tells her of the souls of the Totonac women
who cook vanilla and chocolate with their hands.
She can smell the smoke, hear the stories, remember
her mother baking sugar cookies in the woodstove.

In the garden outside her kitchen door,
She plucks a radish from amongst its rough leaves,
squats on the earth, takes a bite.
Swallows the world whole.

Mary Ann Moore
from Fishing for Mermaids (Leaf Press, April 2014)


Saturday Market

It could be Eganville.
It could be Honeymoon Bay.
Baseball caps. Tanned and weathered skin.
Decades of threshing and lumbering. Daughters leaving home.
Wives continuing to sew aprons and pot holders
no one uses anymore.

On the Eganville farm we ate pork chops fried to shoe leather,
toast with cinnamon for dessert. During threshing season
the men came in sweaty and hot for dinner
in the summer kitchen at noon.
Hilda swatted the flies. Laddie found a shady spot.
On the cooler days the women sat around the quilting frame.
Cotton batting for a filler,
bleached flour sacks for a back,
scraps of flowered housedresses for the faded squares.

My father’s sister Oris spent seven years in a sanitarium
in Gravenhurst where she lost a lung.
The cure for tuberculosis back then.
I didn’t meet her until I was fifty.
She said “Welcome to our lives.”
Her gift, a small bundle of wild Saskatchewan sage
tied with wool.

Driving across the prairies with Oris and Dad we sang
I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses.
Dugouts and coolies, flax and rapeseed,
one remaining grain elevator.
Hollyhocks against the outside wall. Hummingbirds at the sill.
A big kitchen sink and a woodstove. The three of us
sat at the table.

We put our keys on the table.
We put light from the south-facing window there.
We put the softness of bread there.
Sound of a raven. Sound of a train.
We put all that happened there. All we wanted to do in life.
We put that there.
Those we loved. Those we lost.
My mother who left me for days at a time.
We put her there. We put the lost lung there.
Some eggs and some milk.
Our hunger and our fullness we placed there.

Mary Ann Moore
From Fishing for Mermaids (Leaf Press, April 2014)