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Catherine Graham, one of Canada's finest poets

Eyewear is very honoured to publish these four new poems by Catherine Graham, who I think is one of Canada's best poets born since 1960.  She made the selection for my Selected Poems, due out in 2014.  She has been writing during her recent treatment for cancer, and these poems represent her at her best. Her most recent collection will be published this fall, Her Red Hair Rises
with the Wings of Insects
from the excellent press Wolsak and Wynn; they make beautiful-looking books.


Slide in like a deli-cut

of meat, be domed

by a crazed traffic of hellish sounds;

despite the lend of (useless) headphones, dense

metal filings of noise worm their way in

like tics to melt your mental brain pan.

No centre of pain to repel the whipped

sensation; just bombs of clangs with gears

and charging cracks and…


till it gears again.

to see cell deep

inside what tocks

within a calcified cloud, ready

to burst its way out—

and seed a master colony

of take and take and take.

Catherine Graham


Cloud insitu

You branded the dream into me.

In a plane, you, hightailing pilot,

newly licensed and I, your eager passenger.

We enter the blue you can’t see

when you’re inside it. Ocean below.

Clouds layered above. Until

lost, we stop along a long floating runway, flat,

and I walk out—too close to the cirrus edge—

to look down at new Eden. See? Clouds can be solid.

(All those water drops tight as ice.) But you

worry until I turn back like a dream that can’t.


What’s in me: contained.

A deadly trap inside the breast, eager

to snap (for cells are hungry to penetrate). Passed

down from the mother, a genie

hankering to fly out.


in situ   Latin   in its place

Like my manners—please

(stay in) thank you (for listening).

But carcinoma is a scary word

like pain or death.


That night the weatherman warns

of tornadoes. Climactic sky

of fungus green against chalk black.

Later, when we look up—

shapes we’ve never seen before—

giant pouches hang beneath

a bone of cloud, countless udders,

holding viewers captive in a cloud.

Catherine Graham


First Surgery

A plastic gas mask is placed

over your face, your mouth. “Breathe slowly.”

And then, “Do you feel tired yet?”

Out – into the land of the illusion

of nothing, nothing but the cutting

around the calcified nugget (wire-mapped twice

with such dense breasts) and the surgeon’s skilful

lifting – followed by a three-week stretch of hope

for clean edges—

                                      You awake with a shake—

“It’s over, Catherine.” And what rises from the inside out

is primal through the IV drip of tears.

Raw-stunned in your groggy state,

you have entered her pain at the age of her death,

the first operation before her last release

down that long ago Christmas Day

when she went to the land of nothing

of no illusion without coming back, unlike

these tears, rising so quietly wet, until you wipe them.

Catherine Graham


Sword Lily

And I am given the flowers

I brought to your grave

that long ago April day we

buried you after the frozen

winter finally let go, like the last

leaf of fall, into the messy wind,

the snow drip-dripping

the slow melt of ice, the frozen

earth becoming loose enough to take

you in and close you up, shovel by shovel,

like a wound with red blooming

swords resting over it, spears

without glinting edges, bandage

beauty for sealing pain.

Catherine Graham

all poems copyright 2013, by Catherine Graham.
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