An Old Poem

In honour of National Poetry Month, I’m posting this verse from a Canadian writer of long ago. Lucy Maud Montgomery, who wrote the Anne series, starting with Anne of Green Gables, turned her hand to poetry as well.

The Garden in Winter
by L.M. Montgomery

Frosty-white and cold it lies
Underneath the fretful skies;
Snowflakes flutter where the red
Banners of the poppies spread,
And the drifts are wide and deep
Where the lilies fell asleep.

But the sunsets o’er it throw
Flame-like splendor, lucent glow,
And the moonshine makes it gleam
Like a wonderland of dream,
And the sharp winds all the day
Pipe and whistle shrilly gay.

Safe beneath the snowdrifts lie
Rainbow buds of by-and-by;
In the long, sweet days of spring
Music of bluebells shall ring,
And its faintly golden cup
Many a primrose will hold up.

Though the winds are keen and chill
Roses’ hearts are beating still,
And the garden tranquilly
Dreams of happy hours to be―
In the summer days of blue
All its dreamings will come true.

FACES

by Edgar Guest

I look into the faces of the people passing by,
the glad ones and the sad ones, and the lined with misery
and I wonder why the sorrow or the twinkle in the eye;
but the pale and weary faces are the ones that trouble me.

I saw a face this morning and time was when it was fair;
youth had brushed it bright with color in the distant long ago
and the princess of the lovely once had kept a temple there,
but the cheeks were pale with grieving and the eyes were dull with woe.

Who has done this thing, I wondered; what has wrought the ruin here?
Why are these sunken cheeks and pallid where the roses once were pink?
Why had beauty fled her palace; did some vandal hand appear?
Did her lover prove unfaithful or her husband take to drink?

Once the golden voice of promise whispered sweetly in her ears;
she was born to be a garden where the smile of love might lurk;
now the eyes that shone like jewels are but gateways for her tears
and she takes her place among us, toilers early bound for work.

Is it fate that writes so sadly, or the cruelty of man?
What foul deed has marred the parchment of a life so fair as this?
What has wrecked this lovely temple and destroyed the Maker’s plan,
raining blows on cheeks of beauty God had fashioned just to kiss?

Oh, the pale and weary faces of the people that I see
are the ones that seem to haunt me, and I pray to God above
that such cruel desolation shall not ever come to be
stamped forever in the future on the faces that I love.

.
From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

Faceless, Voiceless Women

we knew they lived
those faceless voiceless women
up in that small room

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the book, Write Like Issa: A Haiku How-To, writer David G Lanoue says, “Write with compassion yet understatement. Leave space for your readers’ minds to wander and wonder.” In the verse above there should be ample room for you to wonder and surmise — just as I have over the years.

Putting together my collection of haiku verses now, I often wonder if I should stick with Mr Lanoue’s advice, or share a few lines of back-story that led to my writing this verse? What do you think? Do you like to read the story behind the story or verse?

Here’s the story behind the verse above:

Back in the fall of 1981 we bought a small 1½-storey house and moved into a small hamlet in SW Ontario. The neighbours were friendly and different ones dropped by to visit after we were settled; through their accounts we learned quite a few details about our home’s history. One elderly couple, Jim & Jean, enjoyed visiting and had lived in the village for years. Since they’d known a number our home’s past owners, we found out some interesting details from them.

For example, Jean talked about the school teacher and his wife who lived in our place years back (I’m thinking late 1950s) and how they’d visit this couple from time to time. I’m guessing the teacher & wife were middle-aged and had no children still at home, but his aged mother and sister lived with them.

Jean told me, “We never saw them. His mother and sister stayed upstairs in their room whenever we were there. They never came down when the teacher had company — we never knew why.”

I sometimes think of those two women and wonder, why did they live as recluses in that tiny bedroom? Did they have embarrassing health issues; did the mother have dementia and couldn’t be left alone? Did they refuse to visit with the locals; were they snobby, shy, or did they think “it isn’t our place”? Were they not allowed to join the company, ordered to stay upstairs and not “interfere”? How free were they otherwise? My mind is very free to wander and wonder about that situation.

I’ll never know the answer, but since today is International Women’s Day, this is the perfect opportunity to appreciate and express my thanks for the many options women have now.