Born in Saint John in 1911, Kay Smith was a poet and educator whose career spanned more than fifty years and whose circle included such luminaries as painter Miller Brittain and writer-artist P. K. Page. Smith was known for her modernist style and her distinctly metaphysical poetic sensibility, and her poems frequently appeared in major literary publications such as Contemporary Verse, The Cormorant and The Fiddlehead. She published her first book, Footnote to the Lord's Prayer, in 1951, and her last, The Bright Particulars, in 1987. Kay Smith died in 2004. (Image courtesy of UNB Archives & Special Collections, UNB Public Relations Department Photograph Collection, Series 4, no. 264.)
Through the cracked blind the Saturday sunlight sifts,
street noises festoon her limbs and sprout in her veins,
child of chaos, she hides in these, then drifts
through a jungle growth down shrill green lanes.
Ah, the scarlet burning of eyes in the leaves, the mists
that form in funeral lilies and fall like the rain!
On the pillow the small face smeared with cream takes with bland innocence the dream.
The dream scatters defenses with ripping claws,
even the cloak of fear falling from head to feet,
to the potent voice of the seed, its cry that draws
the sun to its womb in the blind beginning of wheat,
the silk of her nays dribbles from streaming jaws,
what seemed intimately hers is rent like meat,
all is scattered like chaff the wind blows. The small face on the pillow knows?
If she knows in the dream, is there hope for her scattered?
Question answers question. Does season follow season?
Does earth waste a single leaf battered
on her breast? Nature's rhythm is reason,
the law no meddling hand has ever shattered.
On waking, if the world is paper hoop, treason
against the ache to be, will she leap through the real, kneel with the stone and sail with the gull?
In This Season of Frosts and Separation
When under your kindling touch,
I burned in your arms like a forest. There was no need of words.
Now in this season of frosts and separation
I burn alone, a single torch Among the leafless columns.
I beg the silence to speak in tongues
Of crystal meanings that could not be Save for your absence and my burning.
In the nights alone I cannot beg
The words I need for healing, And so I ask instead for crystal meanings.