About the Author

Susan Gillis

Susan Gillis has lived on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Canada, and now lives most of the year in Montreal, where she teaches English. Her books include Volta (Signature Editions, 2002), which won the A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry, and Swimming Among the Ruins (Signature Editions, 2000), and a chapbook, Twenty Views of the Lachine Rapids (Gaspereau Press, 2012). Whisk, with Yoko’s Dogs, is forthcoming in 2013 from Pedlar Press. The Rapids is Susan’s third collection (Brick Books, 2012).

Books by this Author
Swimming Among the Ruins

Blackberries, Brambles

Akhmatova wrote, "O look!—that fresh dark elderberry branch is like a letter from Marina..." And she was right, branches criss- cross, words sharpen. We lop them down, fit them into envelopes. But I forget: you don't do letters: Too much tangled in thickets and desperation.

Did I say envelopes? I meant elevators. See, I've snagged favourite sweaters in high rises, snarled hair in hedges, given up skin scrapings for blackberries, tongueburst, the sweet stain, explosion under light canine pressure. Don't you just wish you were a dog sometimes? No panic. Romping through brambles.

Even in delirium, near death, Akhmatova remembered. Her bitter friend had been dead a long time. Love. Don't think I'm thinking about you. Anything but you.



The lake is still, after the flash rain.

A water spider crosses from shore to dock propelled by snapping legs fine as a strand of hair.

I lie on my stomach on rough cedar, watch through one of the gaps a green wedge of this strange world. The sun wraps me in a warm skin, dries the damp behind my knees and in the small of my back, brushes the hair on my neck. Heat passes through me. I am cooled in stripes by the fresh water under me. A young eel writhes into the green, spirals between minnows like a lost necklace falling through time into obscuring grass. I miss you. My fingers slip into the crack beside my eyes.

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The Rapids

The Rapids

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Love poses a Question

Once there were answers: things corresponded, the planets in motion struck heavenly chords, all was as it should be. If the humours got out of sorts, the gods laughed and fetched healing elements from the four corners; if Pan, sprung, made pandemonium, it was answered. The world is noisier now, and depleted of explanations. Who can say how we are nourished by land-mines or car-bombs? What is a bomb? Tell me, because my heart trembles. Brothers and sisters, the earth is a question that swallows sense. Walking with you in the Alberta hoodoos, laying a hand on the bark of a lodgepole pine, letting the long flowering grasses wash clean the crowded mind; world-as-it-is. You asked, I listened; this much was given. Mornings, the sun rises and traffic intensifies for a time; oceans flood, then recede; modulations without end. The world, with you in it; then kingfishers, rattling over the plain.


This is not a loss exactly

I buried the cat in the hill I look at every morning over coffee. Dug the hole, laid it in, tamped the clod over.

It used to purr when you played your tapes of Oum Khalthoum, Empress, Nightingale, Star of the Nile. You sang along

swirling the offbeats and drones I never could wrap my tongue around. I spoke like the cat

you said. I couldn't look as I buried it but now most days I can look at the hill

without thinking of it, and this is not a loss exactly.

But something spins when I look away; at the edge of hearing, a voice warms up.

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Yellow Crane

Yellow Crane

also available: Paperback
tagged : canadian
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