Yes! The Sure Footed Poems of Rosemary Griebel

Canadian poet Rosemary Griebel

Canadian poet Rosemary Griebel

PLACES TO LOOK FOR A MOTHER

for Joan Shillington


After your mother’s death
I wanted to tell you, grief
makes you a traveler
in the foreign territory
of every day. Look for her
in small places: the pure loneliness
of early morning; the hollows
alongside animal trails leading
to salt; where the Milky
Way touches the darkness.

You will want to talk to her
as you fold empty clothes
into a garbage bag. Speak.
Later, the aroma of cloves
and you will be peeling
apples when she calls your name
through the clicks of a warming stove.
Listen. She is telling you
all that’s gone is not lost.

Rosemary Griebel from Yes., Frontenac House, 2011

I picked up the full-length poetry collection Yes. by Calgary-based poet Rosemary Griebel, a few weeks ago . Read through it for the first time in three or four years. I was dumbfounded by the emotional resonance is so many of the poems. Images as delicate as rice paper yet strong enough to hold the sorrows of a life – the death of a mother, of a brother – and even stronger: able to bring such an isness of what has gone as to bring it back through the alchemy of words, into a hope that somewhere, somehow what is gone is not lost.

Griebel’s images and metaphors are sure footed on the page. Confident with a knowing that comes only from the inside out. The poem writing the writer not the other way around. Like this line from her elegiac poem Tell Me: I didn’t know the hollow bones of the heart break like small twigs. And these lines: Tell me the mystery is not the light but how it passes through us./ How sorrow is like birds that life, resettle and one day are gone./ You wanted to stay. Tell me that.

I’m not sure how had I let Griebel’s poems disappear from reach but I’m glad they were just a book shelf away, that I had not lost them! Then I wondered how many poems, books, have I let vanish from my life, like this, in my chasing after the next latest book?

Which poems come back? Which books? Twigs, small branches, leaves in a stream, or bigger, a river. Passed then gone. The small beauty. Silver flash, water moves, shifts. A tremor lit up by light and something more, something other, perhaps. Memory allows the stream, the river to stop. The twig or branch retrieved. Remembered. Let go. Remembered.

As every metaphor does, this one breaks. I lose it. But I know where it began. All the poems and books and poems I have read. Glimpsed for a minute than gone. But some I find again. A book shelf is not a river. At first glance, none of the flashing movement. Beauty as transient, momentary. But look! A book can be retrieved and inside poems can flash and move, white pages, a river of sorts as they open and close.

Today I am on retreat at Honeymoon Bay on Lake Cowichan, near Duncan on Vancouver Island. A group of us led by Canadian poet Jan Zwicky – our theme: Writing and Environmental Witness. We began with a discussion of hope at a moment when we may be on an irreversible course to environmental catastrophe. How do we write in the shadow of that reality. What hope written against this can be anything but false?

What I left that discussion with was the unshakeable conviction that all I can do is stay awake, pay attention and celebrate the beauty still here even as so much vanishes every day. My job as a poet, as a writer. To see the beauty, sometimes even in the harsh or difficult things. The way Rosemary Griebel sees:


WHAT IS HOLY

The white pages of a book.

The many ways a hand can open
   and close.

The brief darkness
   of a plane in front of the sun,
lives suspended overhead.

The way plants eat light –
that is holy.

The endless voice of the ocean.

The streets of early morning
   when lone lights shine from the windows
of the elderly.

The eyes of someone who has lost love.

It is in the breath and gathers into  small sounds:
bread, home, yes.

When you bite into an apple and taste rain.
   That is.

Rosemary Griebel, ibid

5 Comments

  1. Posted April 24, 2017 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful to read Rosemary’s poems and to have met her at one of the Honeymoon Bay Retreats where you and I like to hang out! Glad to hear the Honeymoon Bay tradition continues with Jan Zwicky.

  2. Mary Nelson
    Posted April 24, 2017 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    I don’t post very often
    but these poems particularly touched me.
    Thanks for your site, Richard. I read it! just don’t tell you.
    Mary

  3. Richard Osler
    Posted April 24, 2017 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Bless you Mary. Glad these touched you. Perhaps the mother poem in particular?

  4. Posted April 24, 2017 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Rosemary, your work is so tender it brings tears to my eyes. What it must be like to live inside such a mind. Thank you for your beautiful poems.
    Heidi

  5. Richard Osler
    Posted April 25, 2017 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the comment Heidi. Rosemary has a way with images that quite undoes me!

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