I write a lot of business and marketing copy, and frankly, it’s pretty easy. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise hasn’t tried fiction or poetry. The hard stuff requires you to narrow down an idea, fleeting as a leaf in November, containing the end of a relationship or death of a loved one. So, to give some depth to all the fodder I churn out, I’ve added a poetry section. (All content is copyright of Margaret Doyle)
New Year’s Tracks
When midnight came last year
I was taking in breaths
slow and shallow
standing in time
as though in a river
that was rushing towards
of what I could not know
but in the soft dark
of the new year
I did not think of love.
Tonight all the ephemeral
of the year is gone
like mandarin orange
tissue lit and released into the dark.
tracks on a snowy night
by morning gone
but in the new year
In the Spring
Blossoms float down onto my lips
Full of promises given
On my front porch
When I thought love
In springtime was natural and
appeared as clouds of petals
Falling falling falling.
Now I am a woman
Somewhere in the middle of life
Watching cherry blossoms drift in the
Slow wind, carrying traces of promises
So intimately sworn and yet
Here they are now, blowing like
Velvet snowflakes across the sidewalk,
Settling on my skin, their touch faintly cold
Like the skin of strangers.
New Year’s Sequins
The day is lazy, slides slowly into dusk beneath
a languid purple cloud over mountain–
it has no regard for New Year’s Eve.
All night fireworks kiss harbours good night–
transient romance glitters brightly at midnight
from Hong Kong to Haida Gwaii, resolutions
drip like watercolours in the untidy reality of
And yet I want to take part,
find some sequined dress from the eighties and
press my face into a sweaty shoulder, Boy George
playing under strobe lights, my hope blind and teetering
on heels that give me just enough height to see
sparkles on the ceiling.
What was lost
is never discussed or measured
except at certain times of the year–
Christmas maybe, an amber drink of some kind
in your hand–what was it you always ordered?
a leftover habit of a happier you
from a trip to New York when
love wasn’t arbitrary,
when love was as real as a gunfight
the yin and yang of great loss at stake
balanced there between you
dangerous and loaded for defence
should you prove to be too weak.
Whiskey, a pass of vermouth and your own bitters
fill your glass as you
roam in midnight paths
through tangled thickets of memory–
do any traces of Chesterman remain?
a coastal map, my voice, our footprints,
wet and dark in the November sand
petrified for the future
at once a betrayal and a
promise, a kiss and a killing–
this is how we loved.
This is how we remember.
The Violence of Dreaming
At night all the scars come together
They grow and undulate and new stories are told
with scenes that were left out that had to be left out.
Now I wake with a sore neck
From screaming and screaming
The husk of my throat still raw
With all that I had to say.
At night the memories gather and swarm
Like minnows moving towards the light
The light of a crossword puzzle
Three squares down four across
Searching for that word I never had
The courage to speak.
Your eyes now surprised in the watery night as I
Cup your chin and tell it and tell it
The moon going round and round
Like a taxi waiting until I’m done.
Wheeling into the hospital I can’t speak
I’m breathing like a tiny animal
Limp in a predator’s mouth and captured in the night.
I’ve been here before–
Seventeen years ago, seventeen years in my cells
Now brother, we’re here together infected and grieving.
Your death hangs like a shadow, blue and tied round my neck
Open at the back so they can listen for clues:
Is it sure, is it true? Will I die too?
The nurses wrap me in warm blankets,
They roll me down hallways like good surrogate mothers
Brothers, fathers–they know there’s no one coming.
I wait behind a polite yellow curtain
As emergency room pain floats over me–
a broken leg, a fever, a certain, deathly test.
My breath is like a hopeless vapour aware
Of itself and unable to barter any deal:
I am face to face with no one; no one can hear.
They’ve gone deaf since birth, strung up by
A rosary that promised protection but
Delivered a poison, a cult bigger than God.
You my family will never be here
And I will never be there–
All that is left is my air, my air, my air.
I taste our history like a wafer
Its feathery lightness dissolves the sin:
We all know now we are just next of kin.
When you died brother we howled and kneeled
As a family should with keening and incense
And our fake religion and our fake pretense
Was like a bacteria spreading, that spreads still–
Sepsis unstoppable, a locomotive of pain
Generations’ board, generations’ wave adieu.
The doctor listens, he’s trying not to look
His stethoscope is pressed against my grief–
He’s heard it before of course, this Irish Catholic tale
Many deathbeds, many priests, many lies.
He knows what ails me and tells me I won’t die.
So brother I leave you, I’m buying up new shares
I’m getting off the train; I’m on my newborn way
Naked as a medical text I am going to tell the truth and
Hope one day you’ll forgive me for what I have to say.
The boughs hang
like nursing breasts
filled with pink petals
gorged on Spring.
The moon penetrates
the trough of winter
calls the songbirds forward
seeds desire, a call, a kiss.
You flare and burst
filaments of memory
residue of fireworks
sparks falling into water
finally absorbed into the past.
You Are Here
Years later I wake in a cloud of white sheets, squinting and expecting you there.
I’ve dreamt I was running, looking for you, panting through a street I seem to know but–
we were never there, no, we never made it there.
As I am running I am thinking you are here, you are here! And my breath
sluices through me like terrible remembered sorrow in my panic to find you.
Are you here? Are you here? Are you here?
You are still here.
Even in my sleep, I cannot leave you.
Even as she knows it
the intentions that were
once hidden by lips nuzzling a neck
the intentions that came with your
hand turning a key in a car that would
drive to her
drive to her
drive to her
she wants to believe they’re not true.
They are there, clear as a poker hand
spread out on a table
thin and black as a Jack of Spades
wanting to be a Jack of Hearts.
In the woods the car slows down
and the intentions of your life
fall away as shadows of trees,
pattern windows and leaves twist and fall,
making small regrets that mute the world
as we construct a moment
transparent as rain.
I want to find the world outside my world.
Pungent, swish of branch, subtle lean of
grass in wind, open sky.
I want my mind to be empty
filled only with what is,
the textured and sweet taste of life in
my mouth like summer fruit,
the sensation of goodness
ripened for this moment.
Your Last Teen Year
There are many reasons not to talk tonight.
There will be many more.
On the far edge of the apartment you
wrestle demons, carry the heft and weight of
them, navigate the dark alone never knowing
I am also awake at the far edge of the
apartment wishing you would let me in.
A slash of ocean
gray skyscrapers next to Stanley Park
layers of blue mountains, white snow,
turgid sky of clouds tumbling into the harbour
wet and persistent
with another new year.
West coast worry.
What will come?
What will roll in?
Can it be gentle?
Can it be forgiving?
Twigs break underfoot,
ruminating. To the left,
dark forest, grim as a dying handshake.
To the right, horizon, peninsula poems,
Lightness of probability without measurement.
I wonder, secretly, silently
will my small house
survive the gales of this year?
Toss a rock into the waves,
trudge through wet sand, notice
the pearlescent hope of shells, wide
open to the sky, unaware of their
I never knew how special they were those afternoons with everyone at school when from downstairs I would hear you begin to play the piano the cascading trills of your fingers dancing light as air across the keys the house made instantly poetic as I scurried down to peer through the crack in the door and witness you lost in the soft light as your body remembered all the notes you had lost.
I want life to feel like feathers pulled through
the tail of a comet
light light light.
I want to watch memories fall, sluice through to eternal
darkness, and disappear as soundlessly as they came to me.
I want to speak to you and have the space of
orbits moving slowly between us–
we turn and turn and turn and there is no separation,
Morning lands with the weight of death.
All through the night I have remembered.
Over and over:
Who was it?
Will we survive?
that is never cured.
A family infected.
Is it wrong to still feel you near me?
Your memory, like pungent incense sinks into my clothes,
mixes into my food like small doses of saffron–
you are everywhere–
a certain smell, a leaf falling, the sound of autumn rain.
Most of the time everything is ordinary,
like hospital food I know I need to live.
Then I see you in my mind’s eye
and clutch at anything to stay steady, having
completely forgotten how much I still love you.
I’m not that kind of woman.
The kind that is effortlessly efficient
in the kitchen. Baking is for genius’.
I am defenceless against the rattle of measuring spoons.
No, I am the kind of woman a chef wants to feed.
I am reverent, in awe of the tufted tops of Yorkshire, the precise
timing of beans, potatoes, fish, roast chicken–
I quietly accept dripping sauce from a spoon held to my lips,
my eyes meeting theirs in happiness, a perfect balance of hunger and
Here’s an old one I dug up. Seemed fitting with all the rain these days. It was when my son was a baby after a particularly hard day of rain and life.
Drop the groceries.
Watch an orange tumble towards the sink.
You don’t care.
The baby is crying.
The baby is crying.
You jostle him on your hip,
and slide milk into the fridge.
The phone rings,
the phone rings,
it’s money they want,
it’s money you don’t have.
Somewhere a nuclear family is
singing hey la-dee-da and snuggling
into their mortgage.
It’s Vancouver. It’s November.
Except for one small forehead that meets yours,
and you inhale soft blonde hair
that smells like a reason to live.
A Summer I Will Never Know With You
I never knew you in summer.
What your back would look like
biking ahead of me down a country road
twisting a cork out of a bottle and pouring
wine into plastic cups by the seaside
kissing with only the sound of morning birds and
the delight of lake water waiting to be dove into.
I will never know you this way.
Yet you stay, you stay with me under the watchful sun,
ghost memories like spider webs
still spinning in my heart.
You found me just as I was stepping into
the river one last time
my pockets weighted down like Virginia’s
though the rocks weren’t my own and I
was hardly aware they were pulling me
into the whirling and froth of your illusion
so beautiful in a certain light
so deadly in another.
Living in a land
wired for bombs, celebrity
bellies, child filmmakers
a young mother’s morning
coffee as she writes her
first blog and her coffee drips
down over a keyboard.
Is it just a Gen Z moment
or is it the fascia that connects us?
The telepathic sorrow of
insominiacs sharing secrets at
3 am that holds us together
or in some digital moments,
lets us fall apart.
Translation isn’t neccesary-
we’re digital misfits longing
for story, sharing our typed language
where we join in deeply electronic kisses
despite the tsunami’s, sinking bank accounts, and child soldiers.
The revolution isn’t
in your head:
it’s in translatia, the space between
our fingers and the message.
The Weight Of It
Love is not
revelation kill you
Let it press down
on your chest
until you have no breath
and at last you weep
realizing there was no
weight but your own
I only just
realized a kiss
is not a way but
to the moment
I answer yes is
a silent one,
led by my own
voice and no other.
You were a polaroid
we both loved
we would look at it
for hours together
the way you smiled
the larger than life halo
the blue light refracting
off of your shining promise
the way your easy bachelor smile
floated up and out of the
snapshot so full of the
human being you wanted
me to believe you were.
You need to feel it,
you need to
let it in.
Even if your heart feels like
barnacles, hard salt and sea foam
feel its soft tongue of petal velvet
like a lovers hand stroking your brow
ever so softly in the afternoon,
your naked shoulder open to her kiss.
Let spring in.
Once I held on
I held on
I held on
I held on
I held on
I held on
Until I let go
I let go
I let go
I let go
I let go
I let go
And yet, the scar that
should be softly silver by now
still blooms red.
I am speaking at the end of many things.
I am speaking to you.
You, as hapless as a songbird there
under a blooming apple tree.
You should know what is coming.
This may be the time to brace yourself.
I’m speaking about Lady Lazurus.
I’m speaking about flaming hair.
I’m speaking about my voice,
Shouting in the square,
The old story you
Feared would come back one day:
My memory, the star of our play
Splintering the fourth wall of
For My Son On Valentine’s
Love doesn’t know anything.
I’ve said love a thousand times.
Where are those words now?
Like vacuous cumuli
Taken by any old gust of wind.
But I know true love
Whenever I look at you or
Your beloved art–
and drop to my knees
In my hope it never ends.
You, Who Are Not Yet Named
Your arrow carefully,
between your fingers
balanced there for
fifteen years? Thirteen?
We don’t know
We don’t know
is loosened, and released–
sluicing the dark air
with French precision
finding its mark
deep into flesh, now
feral from your
If I cannot be unbuttoned
will I still be found?
Only my own two hands
on my body as I
bury romance in a quiet service, just me and I.
Goodbye goodbye goodbye!
I throw flowers on her shallow grave–
a choir the size of a school of fish
sings in the background
relieved I have let it all go
and returned to my self
to repair the ruin, a root of
lightning in my hand, a new desire
both dark and willing in my heart.
The Life You Were Meant For
I tug my boots on, head to the
winter beach of my childhood.
There are the same red freighters
like aquatic grandfathers sitting
patiently between the mountains
and the shore.
There is the sand, the same sand
I lay in as a tiny child.
There is the water, the same water
I swam in as a girl,
the same faded fish and chips stand,
the same wood counter I rested my chin on as my sister
bought us lunch.
I used to think you needed to run away from
your childhood home to find yourself.
Today wet logs hunker down in the cold dark sand as
low clouds gently float across the first afternoon of a
My lungs fill with the ease of letting go and
I pull up the last tent pegs of a life I wasn’t meant to live.
The Mountain We Did Not Climb
like footprints in snow
so clear when the sky is open
and the galaxy is blinding in her blue light
as Sirius and hopeful angels bend towards
Your footpath lit by stars,
lucent edges of purpose
ahead of me in the night
like footprints in the snow
when the sky is closed
and a slow wind begins to whip
and froth out of the German forest.
The sky goes dark as a closed theatre,
tracks vanish in a feral gust,
and the earth spins faster
until it is singing white,
a shrieking comet of regret
so great there is
nothing to do but
let it consume me.
A year after
you can see the
looks exactly the same,
but buried below
our names together
never to be found.
Just the thought of it
makes me want to have a cigarette
and a large Bushmill–
Sláinte and all of that.
It’s only 30 days so
what am I so afraid of?
Don’t bother with that bravado here.
My stomach roils at the
thought I’ll have to live through them yet,
those days–you know which ones–
when you carried me in the rain and
walked with me near the endless ocean
and we drank amber port in a sun-drenched winter dream
so real it even had a number on a door–
do you remember Room 11?
The door that led to the place
where our bodies coiled and curled
in the liquid night and each heart depended on the
other to reach morning.
Now, the red numbers on a
calendar before me,
ticking off one
by one by one like a
No less, no more.
Far away, sounds of a storm, an ocean that
no longer belongs to us, my tears, your voice.
November, at the end of you
pry open my palm and make me let go
of love like a balloon into an old sky:
A Small Promise Kept Against the Cold
The Italian pajamas you bought
weren’t really my style–
they had a demure frill and seemed
re-purposed from another life
you’d known that had never known me.
In the late October chill,
I pull them out of a buried drawer
and let the frill sit on my skin without judgement
feeling the light, soft weight of their
intent hold me in remembered care.
I cracked open my rib cage
snipped apart heart scar tissue
carefully cut the last tendons that
kept you from crawling in
and you lay within
and we sang, we sang
the same song in one body.
The leaves will fall
just as they are
dropping past my shoulder
landing there and there and there.
I won’t put my hand out to catch them
and imagine them veined with an
A love so great
it would make the tree it came from
long for it back.
(This poem is written for the character of Lily for a transmedia play I am collaborating with my writing partner on. Here Lily addresses the audience directly in a quiet moment).
I would be pure If I thought you were.
I’d roll your dirty cigarettes
And pick you up at the stage door.
I would hold your face
and tell you Haikus that made you think
you never knew love before me.
If I thought you were pure
my secrets would be safe,
and what you whisper to me when you are naked
would be true.
Now we kiss with a mouthful of lies, one of us waiting to turn Brutus.
I wake to dawn,
to a room without
hunger, vice or blue light.
I wake to a world you do not live in
just as I had last year.
It took me you to come back to me, to wake to this
morning, in this way, no longer hearing the death drum roll rumbling
there in your words.
I resuscitated myself.
I won’t lie and say I haven’t thought about
kissing you over vodka
but then if I did, I wouldn’t be as
beautiful as I feel now.
I was like a bunkhouse,
your wartime getaway, with
so no one could look inside.
You took me in detail
piece by tiny piece
held me to the light,
and I was assessed, experienced,
I thought I was
Later, you shook your head
and felt bad about that
last time while I lay awake
all night burnishing you with
gold, my love blind with belief.
I tried to change the river;
the river could not change.
I tried to stop the sun shining through my window;
it shone anyway, blinding me.
I tried to light the darkness,
lit fire upon fire to burn down its stubborn edge
but it came, it had your name, and held me whispering
stars and oceans remain as I will, as I will.
After you left, I kept my heart still and contained like rain water.
I did not bend to winds that stormed through me and
howled at the undoing of my self with a growling oxygen
itching to light the dry kindling of your lie,
pour gas on every ich liebe dich and
After months I still wake to the same place
unable to erase us from my day–
you appear like a crossword puzzle in a newspaper
I did not want.
Perhaps that is the point.
I am to hold the expression of our love
and bear witness it occurred, a small weight on your
Fall (audio recording)
As you must fall, fall
Be soft in the dropping from
Boughs, hushed, beneath this
Autumn moon, no less dead
Than the last unattended moment
The last lips brushed against cheek
The last hand clasped on shoulder,
Now gone before the first frost.
From these bones dug up,
Churned into warm sourdough biscuits,
Plated and perfect–
I’ll construct anything to resemble
You, mo chuisle.
Fall, fall, fall
While I sleep and in the morning
Wake to a yard of leaves, your memory
In the claw of a rake, returned to earth.
It is too late
To take my love back now.
I’ve hung it in the afternoon sun
Pink, blue, something old, something new–
The wind has done its work, the sun
Has bleached our touch of tongue.
Now I have folded the crispy towels that
Scrape and scratch–
No more envelope my skin in your universe
Of midnight baths and bare toes in bed.
Still, I hold them to my face
To smell the sun
Like a thumbprint
I search for you in.
Theatre of the Absurd
Dinner is set.
Cutlery placed neatly by
as linen napkins float down
Chet Baker plays with
a half-smile from
the other room.
I look across at the buttons on your shirt,
remembering how they felt between my fingers,
slipping open, one by one
My mouth closes on warm brie, mixed
with soft blackberry, and I swallow slowly,
staining my white napkin as I bring it
to my lips.
Across from me you offer to refill her
glass, a question you’ve asked a million times.
The berry seeps in,
spreads through tiny threads
It is dusk when you dive in.
At first you shudder then kick hard to warm up;
Loneliness like a vapour surrounds you.
End-of-the-day waves lap tiredly against the dock,
As a loon sings her sad aria.
Now you move neatly away from
The bobbing oars and cast off hats that
sleep like turtles on the wharf.
Backstroke, backstroke, sidestroke then breast.
On the beach a chair lies sideways
Beside a red table, beer bottles faintly shine in the slow
Night sun as mothers pull cool sheets over tanned bodies.
Ahead the aphotic rim meets boughs that hang like
Slack tongues into the water’s edge and you
Long for the mystery there in the numinous edges
Beyond family games of
Gin rummy, backgammon and scrabble.
Water swirls in your hair and around your sleek skull
Goosebumps flare up on your white thighs that shine
Below a feral moon and you wonder, who have I become?
Between tenebrous poems and cottage chores
The hanging of children’s suits and unwritten stories that
Wake you at 3 am–
You are pulled this way,
Towards the distant mountain hide that bristles with Fir trees
To doorways you dare not open.
On the shore a dog’s solitary winsome bark
Reels you back to shore, and you are suddenly thankful
With a mouthful of salty tears as you
Kick and stroke back towards those tiny anchors
Moored so deeply on the bottom of your silty mother-heart
Son, daughter, husband
calling you from their summer sleep.
Margaret Doyle ©2011
From the window
But no air enters.
The heat descends
Languid as a lover
On the bed as
Trace back to
Where he has
She sketches the shapes
Across her naked hip–
Hours slip by
In the city’s
Below a shimmering starry sky.
She has a longing so sharp
the glass edge of it
Sinks in and scars her.
Alone in the night heat
Her mouth opens
On her summer tongue.
Oui, I will come
at dawn, in the time
before our world’s awake,
in the tender air not yet filled with
before fires have been built,
or wardrobes tied,
before horses are groomed, while their
breath blows warm in the cold air of your stables,
and young couturiers
collapse into their royal beds.
I will come, mon bien-aimé
and speak our secret language
and a thousand kisses will
be set free, like small birds appearing
in the sky, your name in their song,
you in me.
(Inspired also by the story of ‘Petite‘ or Louise de la Vallière, a little-known mistress of Louis XIV, whose story is brilliantly explored by Sandra Gulland in her book Mistress of the Sun. Here is an interview with Sandra talking about Petite’s fascinating story.)
Oh let it slip, let it unfold, then fold back on itself
your life there curled like a cat
just step out of it like it was a suit
you no longer need–oh yes, a suit that
never fit you anyway.
See? this red lipstick
has nothing to do with duty
it is a wide red dahlia saying
my name down the street
sashaying free as party ribbon.
Dear dear dear
get me out of here
before I stay.
Here is my poem for One Stop Poetry’s Sunday poetry challenge, featuring photographer Adam Romanowicz. Below is an image of his I was inspired by and in fact wish I could just enter into. Thanks Adam for letting me escape for a moment.
Would you like to create a memory?
Come, walk with me, down this sleeping path
Of white sand–hush, be still–undo your hard laces,
Loosen your tie, step out of all that you know.
There now, have your toes known such happiness as this?
Shade your eyes, look out to no one, the ocean now our
Only audience, forgiving, and forgiving, and forgiving
Washing us like stones until we rise up gleaming under a lover’s sun.
Take my hand, come to the water’s edge, sink into wet sand,
Surrender to warm wind whispers, let your lips be lazy at my throat,
With nowhere else to go
But each moment together.
Margaret Doyle © 2011
At first you phoned every day.
I loved the small sounds your breath made
between words your tongue pausing
just before you tell me you want me
my mouth curving into a smile
my ear cataloging the moments
before you hang up, as though by
recording them in my mind they would
be permanent, archival,
Now the phone stares at me for days
mocking in its solemn black, like a stern widow
fool fool fool the numbers whisper
like little girls on a playground
chanting your number over and over
daring me to call–just once?
Cruel silence now hangs like
a slack lover, the clock an indifferent
metronome marking the hours without you.
My nerves align with wires pulled taut
like violin strings, waiting for your voice
to come back to me, your breath filling
me with your words.
Te he amado
In the dark belly of night
barely breathing, cupped to me
like a bird, my will the fulcrum
the hours pass around like a ferris wheel
the inhalation of you is us.
My darling, my darling
if you knew how much I loved you
all your breath would come easy
but God didn’t make us this way no,
love is ours alone to learn
in a caress or savage strike–
my darling my darling
I have loved you since
the moment you chose me
and still choose me each day, every day
gloriously alive, my child,
A table not set, waiting
A bed made, hospital corners
Longing to be torn
Glasses, standing like silent
Lovers, wanting to be held
Garter hooks softly curled,
In unopened drawers
Telephone gone mute
Lips remembering your taste.
I feel your eyes on the back of my neck
the beating there soft as the tiny hearts
of nighttime prey as
thoughts scurry and
scatter under the certainty of your hunt,
eyes wide searching for invisibility.
But there is no stopping it–
my white skin is phosphorescent,
a beacon for your hard grip that comes
swooping into me and we sink
into pine and spruce, fungi and
last-minute cologne, shred of silk,
gasping in our shared ending.
Margaret Doyle © 2011
It started out as a dream
You swimming somewhere in the cosmos towards me
Then inside your stubborn heel pressed up
And into my ribs for all of August
Then your tiny hands wrapped around mine curled
In my hair as I walked for miles to the store
Your legs dangling out of a thriftstore pack I
Bought for five bucks from the second-hand store
The cashier who was a single mom too gave us a toddler bed
That you were too small for but I wanted to
Believe you could do it sleep by yourself and you did
Then a miracle you crawled out of your diapers as though you knew
They were too expensive to keep up with never making
Me feel less than not once and when you were four
We ate our last box of Kraft dinner and I thought maybe
Your auntie could take you just for a while?
But you calmly looked me in the eye from the cooling bathtub
Water and said that you would rather sleep in a car than be with
Anyone else and this was the moment I really became your mother
Because you’d chosen me now you are my
Teenager long legs hanging off your bed as sure of your place
In the world as any child raised in kingdoms of wealth
Your lovely eyes fully open.
Margaret Doyle © 2011
(For One-shot Wednesday poetry/ Week 43, at One Stop Poetry)
Argument by the Bay
My clear tears that day in the bay
did not hew my cheeks in rage
but slipped down like little whores
as open and porous as two large breasts
freed from whalebone.
Twice you left.
And twice came back.
My jaw lost its pins
and hung like a dime-store mannequin
jigsawed with fear and slumped in
If only I could I have been a ventriloquist
I would have sung the star-spangled banner
so the men in their skiffs would have
beat their fish hearts in sympathy for me.
My fishbone words, my testament, were eaten by gulls
that flew flapping from your vestments.
You said ‘let’s end it all’ as a
family of three giggled insipidly
past my weeping hag act
and the sea a smiling mirror of amusement park cheer
as all the stick men and women marched by with
appendages of red and white checked gear.
You said you loved me
before you turned on the gas.
You said you loved me
before you turned the screw.
Oh, for night vision to see into the inky black heart of you.
I pleaded, take one rib, take two!
But you put on your mask
pieced together my cadaverous heart
and dipped me in the ice-cold Pacific–
twice for good luck–
Until I rose up
baptized in kelp
my slippery eel love
bleached white and brittle
in the beak of a dove.Margaret Doyle © 2011
Who will lay with me
In the ancient night
With my bones thin as papyrus
My heart luminously open,
My mind having figured it all out?
Who will know me then?
Who will hear my words
Now that I have found my voice?
Who will know my stories
Of my life long lived, my heart
No less alive in this prison I am in.
Margaret Doyle © 2011
It was five different coloured balloons
It was ecstatic roses in love-forever red
It was delicately wrapped pink shoes and tucked away cards
It was lacy bustiers and flavoured lube and dress up time–
It would have turned any tomboy into a lollypop sucking fool.
I was jumping for joy, I was in full-sail, like a girlie
Regatta aimed for your harbour of illusion.
Candy-flavoured promises melted on my glossy lips
Sweet as Sunday communion and I gulped down your
Your Kool-Aid with dollar store abandon.
But man-made Princess stories
Nearly always get turned into the Devil’s work–
Pop! Pop! Pop! goes the fairytale and just as well–
My plain but sturdy feet stay on the ground,
Rooted there and never swept away.
Margaret Doyle © 2011
I wished I were a shore
so that waves came upon me
day after day
until all of you was washed away
and shards of glass softened
from white foam phosphorescence
covered my skin like scales
and I became crustacean
blood cold, under a moon with no memory.
Margaret Doyle © 2011
Champagne in the Afternoon
I sit across from you
in your uncle’s chairs
drinking champagne at 2
it’s as though you do this everyday
and I find I love you for it–
innocent bubbles on my tongue,
so welcome, so new.
I was your wild west lover
your Irish immigrant, your
horse’s mouth that took
your bit and your saddle that said:
you are mine, you are mine.
I was your untamed thing
unfettered as red sand blowing
through a canyon or prairie grasses whistling–
you could say you were caught up in my freedom
panning for gold, searching in the lawless
saloon of my heart for your own permissions.
But you were were of the east coast,
the never-ending Protestant brick,
building and building and planning
and planning and your tight suit held you
and your Lincoln love held you and she held you
that woman from the place between us, a
nowhere place of importance but nonetheless
on the karma map.
I left, riding bareback,
the house of dreams up in smoke, ashes of
words, silent after burn.
I know you can drive.
Your hands tell the story
of your infinite control
the grip and release of someone
who understands subordination
the delicate place where you exact
direction and the necessary
relinquishment to get to
the finish line.
Yet– I want you before
the moment you decide to win–
in that place where there is
is still space for two.
walk run kneel fall
opened or closed
by your mother
offer your heart without
panhandling for love
Margaret Doyle © 2011
All day I hear it. Fat talk.
How it bulges under the arm
The neck, the knee, the eyes even—
Women everywhere each day
Falling out of themselves
Careening around in these fat, fat bodies
Jumping from fat thigh to fat chin
Like a game of weight watcher’s hopscotch.
No one seems to remember the real use
Of their body, small miracles like touching your toes
Or breathing, that sacred privilege of the living.
Instead, we dine on castigation
And delight as our needs diminish into bone.
Our lives are arranged around fat talk.
Little fences contain our
Proportionately measured hours
Each day regulated by a careful map of calories
Egg whites, grapefruit, water
Lunges, running, weights
Like Stations of the Cross we kneel down and
get blessed for our beauty.
The media likes it best
When even your soul weighs
When you are filament, transparent
As a wet blossom, like a Geisha without
How did we become so small
While talking about how enormous we are?
Margaret Doyle © 2009
Here’s a live, mostly improvised version of ‘FAT’ performed with some of Carolyn Mark’s band and guests at the Orange Hall in Victoria, BC:
This morning at the wood pile
A crow or raven?
Flutters black overhead
Then is gone.
Now a day full of longing
From some umbilical place
As though my infancy
Could be explained by wings.
Last Romance (audio recording)
I don’t want a paper ring
I don’t want a swath of lace
I don’t want your something blue
I don’t want a love that can be replaced
I don’t want transient lips
That kiss with opera flash
I don’t want a limpy hand
That isn’t sure where to go
I don’t want to be a wife
I don’t want to be that scourge
I don’t want to be your recycled ideals
I don’t want to be any leftover urge
I don’t want you to just stay over
Or your early morning grudging kiss
I don’t want your drunken dance
Or your late night hit and miss
I want the silty bottom of your soul
I want the salty tears you cried when you were six
I want the shame the guilt the rage
I want the moment when you let go
And slip down into love
As though it were your last chance,
Your last dance,
your last romance.