Tempera on paper
101.9 x 68.7 cm
Collection Christopher Rothko
These are the elements that have sung me
through my life. A bar of blue, a bar of green, a field
of terracotta; two ochre squares and three red
brushstrokes, all on a surround of indigo. Template,
for example, for my childhood drawings – sky and
garden, roof and two windows on a house.
Roundness not yet necessary, no people yet,
no ponies or cats or turtles. Just something standing,
smudged and breathing. These were the shapes and colours
unfolding below me as my flight landed
in this country: ocean and mountain, reservoir and orchard,
a shopping mall and a drive-in. And closer still,
from my window tonight, the ultramarine sky
over the burnt grass meadow, a derelict house
with two waiting windows, the vineyards
beyond. But always, I reach out to touch
the two ochre columns, their edges blurring.
Maybe they are work and love, and they support
the dark blue dreaming, sometimes peaceful,
sometimes quickened by the three red lines.
(published in The Fiddlehead, No. 252, Summer 2012, and included in The Poison Colour, Pedlar Press, 2015.)
The car of love drove into the rundown part of town,
past the Ropa Americana thrift shop and the earthquake-
damaged stores, their silvered wooden balconies
loosened like ties on a row of hungover guys.
Noisy white jalopy declaiming
Te amo, Te amo, Te amo –o –o –o –o –o – o
in a blue magic marker scrawl all along its sides.
It coughed to a stop beside the old stone fort
and stretched out its wings, its doors I mean,
to let the couple out. The way they danced
from turret to turret, a kiss and a laugh at each,
brought a pang of missing you.
The couple jumped back into the car of love
and drove off, their hurried honeymoon visit.
When I arrive home on another continent, you say my long
absence awoke a new fear in you – that other car,
the sleek black one with chariot wheels and obsidian
wings, the moon and stars in chrome on its grille.
You were wondering when it might alight
in our driveway, who would be the first
to slide into the passenger seat,
who would be the one to stand aside and watch.
(published in The Fiddlehead, No. 252, Summer 2012).
The Poison Colour
In the Knit-o-matic store I admire
a skein of Japanese wool; the saleswoman
shows me a knitted-up square –
I see Mexican tapestries, wild sunsets
in the south of France, mustard fields
ripening into full bloom.
Her finger on a brown strand, she says
They put a poison colour in each batch:
one colour that doesn’t match. So much
poison in the world, and here
is a use for it, in socks and scarves and trailing toques.
To look around in every group and think:
who is the poison colour here? The one who
makes the rest of the group run hard
to overcome her surliness, her dullness of spirit?
The colour so drab that it intensifies
the merriment of all the others,
their alacrity and charm. Is it me?
Take five pretty colours, pretty
like five slender sisters and add a sixth, the prickly
less-loved one who makes the others
seem sweet and tractable,
who forces their brilliance and grace.
The poison is not in the colour, or in the huge brass
vats sunk into the ground, or in the cones of powdered dye;
not in the boiling water that releases the indigo,
sumac scarlet, turmeric yellow. It’s inherited
like the skinny feet or weak eyes in the sisterhood,
all six of them, a thread that runs through them all.
(published inLiterary Review of Canada, Spring 2010;
longlisted for Best Canadian Poetry 2011)
To read or hear more of Maureen's work, check out the following sites:
Gerry Shikatani posts Maureen's poem, "On Reading Lorca's Poet in New York" on his website about the Lorca's Granada workshop. Maureen participated in Gerry's workshop in Granada, Spain in 2012. http://www.gerryshikatani.com/#/the-latest/4593438326
Maureen interviews Kim Trainor about her magnificent 2015 book of poetry from Brick Books, Karyotype.
Blog entry on political poetry for Best Canadian Poetry 2010, "The Level Gaze": http://www.bestcanadianpoetry.com/2010/12/political-poetry-level-gaze.html
In a special feature, Maureen interviews Carole Glasser Langille about her poetry book, Church of the Exquisite Panic: The Ophelia Poems: http://www.openbooktoronto.com/news/special_feature_maureen_hynes_interviews_carole_langille
Poem, "Why She Likes Knives": http://www.greenboathouse.com/poetryarchive/maureen_hynes.html
Maureen reads at the Mayworks Poetry Marathon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOnq8YUdxn8