These poems are steeped in loss and lament as they concern the death of the poet’s family members, particularly her father and the premature death of two brothers two years apart. The collection’s tone is often elegiac, but rarely maudlin, and the clipped narrative is frequently imbued with lyrical strains. There is an abundance of quotes and hat-tip allusions that act as sign posts along the grieving journey.
Maxwell’s poems are emotional counterpoints to life’s implacable realities. Sickness and old age come to her father, as eventually does death. Her brothers are taken before their time and once again death enters her life. In the resulting response she learns that self-recrimination, denial, or anger cannot change the course of events. She teaches us that grief is a singular and deeply emotional experience and the poems convey this intimacy.
About the author
Mary Maxwell has published articles, short fiction, opinion pieces and poems. She has worked as a registered nurse for 40 years, and has degrees in English and extensive study in grief counselling. She has one previous poetry book: Arrangements (Hag Papers). Her work has appeared in the anthologies, Eating Apples: Knowing Womens’ Lives, Chicken and Fingers (NeWest Press 1994), Work and Leisure: Chicken and Fingers (McGraw Hill Ryerson 1995), Running Barefoot: Women Write the Land, Cut Stalks in Her Arms (Rowan Books 2001); Health Issues 8: Chicken and Fingers (McGraw Hill Ryerson 2002); Listening with the Ear of the Heart, A Wise Heart (St Peter’s Press 2003), and in Grain Magazine, NeWest Review, CV2, and Descant.
Excerpt: Wind Leaves Absence (by (author) Mary Maxwell)
You had a horse, didn’t you Dad?
Yes, Sandy. He saved my life.
I hand him a pencil, a piece of paper.
He holds it in his left hand
as if it’s another finger
as if it’s always been there
holds it with such intention and purpose--
pulls the lead in one diagonal line.
From all the times he’s drawn this line
I know it’s Sandy’s neck.
He puts the pencil down, looks at me,
doesn’t know what
the next line should be.