Good morning, everyone. It’ s hard to believe we’re already in the middle of what everyone now calls “the holiday season,” which seems to begin while people are still carving pumpkins for Hallowe’en. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving with family and friends.
The lively, happy young poet you see here is Janet MacFadyen, who is already well along in a poetry career that includes prize nominations, residencies and editorial positions.
The author of two well-regarded poetry collections, Waiting to Be Born (Dos Madres Press, 2017), and A Newfoundland Journal (Killick Press, 2019) as well as two chapbooks, she is the managing editor of Slate Roof Press and lives in western Massachusetts, where she also works as a free-lance editor. Her work has been nominated for the Forward and Pushcart prizes and has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including The Atlanta Review and Poetry. She has held a nine-month residency at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, residencies at Cill Rialaig in Ireland, and the Fowler and C-Scape dune shacks in Provincetown.
I have to say that the energy and enthusiasm she shows in the photo above have paid off in her achievements thus far. So here below, with pleasure, are three poems by Janet MacFadyen.
Even in Our Play
Ask the children. In their eyes perhaps are the answers. — Marc Chagall
I wrap my arms around a hen, bury
my face in her ample feathers.
Protector, provider, valiant steed on whom
I gallop like a knight, gripping the ruff
of her Elizabethan collar. At night
dreams pad through our hallways — the one
with horns, the feathered one softly
brushing my lips, paper airplanes growling
and soaring. I embrace a peony, we sing
to each other, petal by petal.
I throw my arms over the rough
beautiful back of an apple tree. Steeds everywhere
then poof! People vanishing. The girl
yanked up the stairs by one arm.
The fox headed and halo headed side by side
like cousins. Even in our play we see
how animals and light are bound together.
They are our parents — the animals move
wide-eyed in eternity, and the grownups
also move, but sensing a shadow, some
barrier to cross. They frown anxiously,
or plow forward like the Queen
powered by bluster. Which grownup
is that, one nose in the ground, one head
crying and shielding itself from blows?
Or the one doe-eyed and calm? Who comes for me,
wrapping the arms around my shoulders,
touching my cheek, my hair, sweet child,
sweet child, it is morning and yes,
you shall ride on my broad back forever.
Carefully I hold the goldfish bowl
so the water will not spill.
I hold the globe trying to find my place on it.
I hold a large round polished stone like a child.
I cannot see the future in it, only the past:
as it actually happened, not as it is told.
Over the years
the story gets heavier.
I wish some else would help me carry it,
but by now no one knows what I mean.
I could swallow the words,
break the bowl—then what?
I could let the stony core heat up,
knowing sooner or later there will be an explosion.
But I have built my life around protection,
holding, cradling, oh yes—
and now the weight of this odd child
grows and grows.
Funny, it was never mine at all,
but given to me when I was a child
and did not understand that one could say no,
that one could walk away from obligations
that were not my own.
So why did I hold on so tightly
to this weight for fifty years?
So that the ones I loved did not have to?
I catch a glimpse of them if I look just right:
the people I once belonged to,
whose lives they gave me for safe keeping
because they were tired and wished to be released,
and I was young and frightened
and just wanted
to be held.
On Vineyard Sound
have followed the worn paths of the bathers
into the sea, to wrap my arms with vines along the bottom.
I went looking for my mother and found her,
one eye in the water, one eye
in the mud like a flounder. I wanted to kiss her:
she said, all right,
but first lay down beside me.
I ate my fingers instead, wandered the ocean bottom
with no eyes, no legs, all stomach and mouth.
Even so, the sea was a bowl.
I climbed out, limb by limb
and lay in the sand.
I was hungry. I went after
the gulls with my hands; I went after
the old ghosts, the flies and clams.
I went after the white beasts with their wings:
they lit on my shoulders,
they carried me off in their teeth. The wind
hollowed my bone, my shirt was clotted
with drying feathers—
I could fly forever and her hand
would rise like a gray moth from the eye of the sea
and follow me. The wind is winding
sheets of spray, clouds rip across the sky.
I am walking with my mother in the surf,
she is up to her knees
in weeds and knotted kelp; she is holding
the sea like a child.
(originally appeared in Crannóg, Spring 2016)