Catherine Graham

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the poet

Catherine Graham’s most recent book, Æther: An Out-of-Body Lyric, was a finalist for the Toronto Book Award; while her sixth collection of poems The Celery Forest was named a CBC Best Book of the Year – as well as being a finalist for the Fred Cogswell Award. A previous winner of the Toronto International Festival of Authors’ Poetry NOW, Catherine leads its monthly Book Club, and teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto. Her second novel, The Most Cunning Heart, is due out in spring 2022.

the poems

Put Flowers Around Us
and Pretend We’re Dead

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            The moon arcs—in and out, playing form.
            Stars wrap our fate while intruder dreams
            signal: come back. They hold our stability with quickened steps.

            Stand where grass weaves basket strands, make
            the centre heave, the pinched earth speak,
            before thoughts erase and we have no names.

            Fixed on the busy you miss the owl-winter, the who-cold
            crizzling lake. Raindrops inside snowdrops.
            When our shoes sprout hello-flowers, cold lips pucker, speak—

            What to do but follow this thread? Wind circular words
            to chain our necks. A necklace without clasps
            means another light’s not listening.

            To think story is to construct from that other realm
            where jade water cools fire’s friction. Pockets where pleasure finds memory.
            Take this nosegay, touch intuition, before we float off the page.

            Now go past sentence. Air-sheets shatter—absorbed
            by grasses and creatures scurrying there.
            Viral green points down, we watch the swarm.

            Swan’s neck quickens to question—her wings,
            snow-blinding flaps. Nest birds have it—twiggy cup to sink into
            after cracking. The rub that brought forth twine and twig weaves the cradle.

            Head naked like a freshly hatched bird, moist with dew from the wormfield.
            What moves in tawny spurts, jolts. Silence rearranges. It does not mend.
            Seed. But know bloom. Unravelling defies gravity. False to think otherwise.

            Fools. We have a future to hatch. When roots shoot out—
            the sun-calling art of escape: leaf, sepal, petal—the sun
            plays hide-and-seek. Silence is a kind of flight.

            Scratch light to a rain-flecked level. Twitch strategic to inhabit submission.
            Repetition renews. Upland by the railroad tracks—eggs disguised as stones.
            Slip past daylight to a time held by skein of old stars—

            past evening, past waiting—
            Enough! Never enough, until pulled to flight or sleep.
            And a dog bounds helplessly wet for a tossed stick he cannot find.

MRI

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            No metal implants or fragments.

            A long, fibrous stalk.

            You signed consent, removed jewellery.

            Face down through the doughnut hole.

            Tapering into leaves.

            Contrast material running through your veins.

            Magnets. Pinnate to bipinnate with rhombic leaflets.

            Still – lie still.

            You’ve been given earphones, a padded table.

            Seeds are broad ovoids.

            Cushioned openings for breasts to hang.

            Grown in an open garden.

            Thumping. Clicking. Knocks and taps.

            The celery’s a cleansing tonic.

            Whirs with car-accident screeches –

            a father’s skull, mother’s mouth.

            Wide range of cultivars.

            The technician stands in a nearby room.

            Inside, a seed; inside, a small fruit.

Sleep Patterns
for Seamus Heaney

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            We hold sleep patterns for him.

            Clip flowers from seeds; mist


            hours from worries

            into a line’s heartbeat.


            Tears are rinsers,

            not energy takers.


            Never waterfalls.

            We don’t envy


            his gift, we coax

            something out—


            Take me, for instance,

            my dead


            mother’s voice—

            You’re a game changer, a post-autumn woman.

Publishing credits

Put Flowers Around Us and Pretend We're Dead:

  Finalist for the Montreal International Poetry Prize

MRI: The Celery Forest (Wolsak & Wynn / Buckrider Books)

Sleep Patterns for Seamus Heaney: The Belfield Literary Review