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downloadFrom my dedicated poetry shelf today’s selection, The Nights Also by Anna Swanson.

Without judgment or censorship, shared here with you, random poem, “Lullaby for small” at page 15.

Dedicated to Diana.

After you’ve read this poem, I’d love to hear what you think about it, your reactions, what feelings or memories the piece evoked.


What do I know of the world these days?
This room, the merciful windows
and whatever weather hits them. The world is
this: the eagles calling out into the sleepless night,
and me, small enough to fit in a coat pocket.
There is a box I keep on the table by my bed.
A box just large enough for all the doctors’
perfect remedies. The eagles call out into the night,
the falling notes of their cries like ripples around a pebble,
which has disappeared into dark water.
At five, a peacock walks the ledge
outside my bedroom window. The light
begins so slowly.  And me, curled in my bed,
small enough to fit in a coat pocket.
I have worn out my anger, and there is not much
of me left. I want the backseat
of our old orange Datsun. I want my father
to carry me in. I swore I’d never get too big.
sleep, baby, sleep. All the old songs.
Thy father tend the sheep. I want
The falling notes like ripples. The pebble.
The dark water closing around it.

Publisher: Tightrope Books
SBN: 978-1-926639-13-0

Other “Off the Shelf” Selections.


Photo: Barbara Bellows

Hard Light” by Michael Crummey is proving to be one of those books where I dread reading the last page.  Here … he retells and reinvents his father’s stories of outport Newfoundland and the Labrador fishery of a half century ago. Events long vanished are rendered here in myriad voices, with clarity and intensity of lived experience.

Today’s selection is at page 98.

‘At home on a cold winter’s night. The changing scenes of life. (1928)’

November bluster,
the night sky obscured by cloud.

On the tall ships I was taught
to steer by the stars,
took them for granted,
like a portrait of grandparents
hung in the hallway before
you came into the world.

There is a telescope on Mount Wilson
in California whose lens
weights 4 and one half tons
and measures 100 inches across –
they say it has mapped the heavens
for hundreds of millions of miles,
that the darkness is deeper than
we ever imagined.
New galaxies and constellations
discovered every day
and it is still only
the simplest things we understand.

The speed of light exceeds
eleven million miles a minute,
it travels through space
for thousands of years after
its star has collapsed;
it is possible
that all my life I have
taken my mark by
a body that does not exist.

A chunk of wood shifts in
the fireplace,
through the window I watch
winter clouds drift and gather.

Clotted field of stars beyond them,
light rooted hard in darkness.

Publisher: Brick Books
ISBN: 978-0-919626-95-9

Other “Off the Shelf” Selections.


A Letter to Barbara …

I finished reading ‘The Allegra Series‘ a few days ago and haven’t been able to pick up another book until I wrote you about how it affected me. I loved it! There is such precision and rich discipline inherent in your lush creativity, firmly rooted in a profound respect for your reader. You lead me into one captivating scene after another, graciously stepping aside to let me make of it what I would.

8047309 (304x475)That your fascinating characters are utterly believable is as much a factor of your constraint in the reveal, the easing into their psyches and degrees of self-awareness as it is your unrestrained honesty. You expose their traits a layer at a time, luring me to an emergent understanding of the ‘whole’ character, deftly cracking open the window onto acceptance of their eccentricities … and their nasty bits.

Complex, brittle characters, you took me inside to look out, to see how each viewed their particular world, whether skewed, hopeful or dark, where I discovered a silken thread of madness in each.

Mona, through her research, plaits a mystifying backdrop for this extraordinary love story. I don’t like Mona, so completely self-absorbed and dangerously opportunistic. Her perception of the history between her and Brad is shocking, whether true or a figurative symbol, claiming as theirs the story of Philomela? If real, then Brad is a far more sinister character than he seems. If, figurative, then Mona is calculatingly evil. How skilfully you hook the explanation for their fractious connection, at least as Mona identifies it, into one sentence, near the end of the book. My jaw dropped.

Allegra is captivating. I love her flaws, her desire to push on despite, or perhaps because of, a devastating diagnosis. I am inspired by her passion, drive and sexual volatility even in the progression of her disability. I admire her stubborn refusal to give up on the notion she will recover, that the strength of her will is sufficient to drive the debilitating disease from her body, denial paramount in the desperate risks taken with her physical safety.

Allegra believes love has found her again in Brad, an enigma to the very end. His attraction to Allegra is suspicious from the beginning, appearing to serve a need he himself can’t figure out, something ugly left behind when Mona walked out on him and their child. I want to believe he doesn’t initially understand his own intentions, though they appear to be deeply self-serving once he gains a modicum of insight into the ‘why’. The proof rests in the fact he hides the paintings of Allegra portraying the downward spiral of her progressive illness. Brad is at once overly protective and negligently dismissive, always at Allegra to make preparations for the life of an invalid, even while she hums with the vibrancy of the artist, so alive and passionate.

I will always wonder whether Allegra finds Angeline.

Was this really your debut novel, Barabara?


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