“All My Falling Women” by P.W. Bridgman

ALL MY FALLING WOMEN*

(For my mother, and for John Swanson)


I. How to descend narrow stairs

You prepare by
angling the body—
and thus the feet—
to the right. Then…

You find a hand grip,
somewhere.

You move
cautiously.

You place your feet on the stair treads
with the toes pointing
right.

You do not allow
your purchase to lessen
by permitting the toes (or more)
to point forward, projecting out
over the edge of a narrow
stair.

You descend slowly
(but not too slowly), and
confidently.


II. To me it all seemed a bit much, then

As a seven-year-old, I thought my mother’s
cautious way of descending the stairs
in our little house
did seem a bit
much.


III. The birth of mio incubo ricorrente

As a nine-year-old
I once saw a friend’s mother fall.
She was rushing about, frantically—tidying
newspapers and toys before Melvin’s seething,
always-angry dad got home from
work.

She caught her toe on the edge of the carpet
and fell down
hard.

Though I couldn’t really
understand why, on my way home I
cried.

This became my recurring
night terror, mio
incubo ricorrente.

Women
falling.

My mother
falling.

My mother’s precautions,
I then realized,
weren’t a bit much
at all.


IV. Strangers are not strangers (not really)

As a thirty-five-year-old
I once noticed an older woman
walking on a sidewalk. She was
wearing a red scarf. I saw her
while I was driving home from
work.

She was making her way along
the north side of West 12th Avenue,
passing a park, a few blocks west of
Arbutus.

This woman was
unknown to me—a
stranger.

I saw her catch her toe on something
and fall down
hard.

I stopped the car and
ran to
help.

I tried to calm her,
to stop the blood flowing
from her face and scalp
with a sleeve torn from my
shirt.

I asked a pedestrian
to run to a nearby house
and get someone to
please call an
ambulance.

“She’ll be fine,”
the paramedic told me later
as I cradled her head.
“You can go
now.”

Once I was back in my car, I
cried.


V. Cautious ways are rewarded

My mother never had a serious
fall.

Not, at least, until 1998 when—
at the appointed age for all the matriarchs
in her family dating back generations (75)—
she fell from this earth,
straight up:

more sensed than seen,
swept up through the window,
out and skyward into an
inky darkness worthy of
Chagall.


VI. Il mio incubo riemerge nell’esperienza vissuta

Today I am sixty-
seven.

While L and I were out
walking together this afternoon,
she caught the toe of her shoe on
something.

(Was it the edge of a sidewalk panel
forced up by tree roots? I don’t
know.)

She fell down
hard.

I didn’t see it
coming.

And I couldn’t stop it
happening.

It was a “lucky fall”—
no broken bones, no sprains—
but there were scrapes
and shock. Broken glasses.
And she felt nausea and
faintness.

“Still,” she said, “I am
very lucky. I’ll be
fine.”

“Yes,” I
agreed.

And yet.

Back home—after
cleaning up the scrapes
with alcohol swabs
and placing bandages
carefully on knee and wrist—
once I was alone
in the bathroom, I
cried.


VII. L’incubo si ripete ancora e ancora

The bad dream,
the recurring night terror,
l’incubo, is never far
away.

In it, the women I love,
and some I don’t know
(strangers who aren’t strangers)

keep

falling

and

falling.


VIII. I am a bit much myself

My grandson (“Mr. O”) watches me closely
as, carefully but confidently,
I descend the narrow stairs
from my study (where many boring
books without pictures live, he knows,
but also, the
computer).

I’m sure that this little performance
by his Nonno seems, to him,
a bit
much.

“It’s okay, Mr. O,”
I tell him. “You can go on
ahead. But, be
careful.”


IX. An unspoken lesson learned

And so it
goes.

(And so, indeed, it has gone
since I was
nine.)

I learned by my mother’s example
and I learned
well.

I prepare for every descent
(except the big one into oblivion)
by angling my body—
and thus my feet—
to the right.
(The opposite of my
politics!)

I find a grip,
somewhere.

I move
cautiously.

I place my feet on the stair treads
with my toes pointing
right.

I do not allow
my purchase on them to lessen
by permitting my toes (or more)
to project forward, out over
the edge of a
stair.

I descend slowly, but not too slowly, and
confidently. (Success is not
guaranteed, but risk is
lessened.)

And yet, when it comes
to the big question of falling,
I am far from out of the
woods.


X. All my falling women

Still, I must not let myself forget that
when I awaken in a clammy sweat
(as I did this morning), I more
and more quickly remember now that it was a dream,
that no one has really fallen—and that, well,
once my pounding heart has again regained its grip,
this latest night terror, too, will
lift.

And once it has lifted, I will lean over
(as I always do) and kiss L’s sleeping
forehead.

I will say a prayer for my
mother.

I will say a prayer for L,
and for Melvin’s mom whose toe
caught the edge of the carpet,
and for that woman
who tripped on the sidewalk
on West 12th Avenue,
not far past Arbutus,
and for all the other nameless and
numberless women who, in my sleep,
I am powerless to
protect.

And if—
as one of us heads down our narrow stairs
tomorrow to make the morning espresso—
there is momentary inattention, a misstep,
I know that my mother’s example
(her almost hand) will guide us:
Angle right, feet right. No guarantees,
but…

Her almost hand—beckoning, guiding—
will steady our every descending footfall.

But not, alas, the dreamsteps of all my falling
dreamwomen.

Not even her
own.


*Some text fragments in this poem have been borrowed from John Swanson’s collection of poetry and photography an almost hand, beckoning (San Francisco: Blurb Books, 2019).


P.W. BRIDGMAN’s most recent book—a selection of poems entitled A Lamb—was published by Ekstasis Editions in 2018. His poetry and fiction have appeared in, among other publications, Antigonish ReviewGrainMoth Magazine, Glasgow Review of Books, Honest Ulsterman, Galway ReviewLitro UK, Litro NY and The High Window.
Learn more at www.pwbridgman.ca.

Poems by Victoria LeBlanc

Migrant

Swallow’s wing    dismembered   
mud-slick among the rushes

I pick you up

limp rag of feathers    blue-black flattened vanes
bound to broken forelimbs   

            arm    fused wrist    hand    three fingers

hollow origami bones   

weight    one ounce

you    passerine    long distant migrant
hugging the coast to South America

                                    back in May   

I bury your wing in the dark cello nest of earth

mute
mutable. 



Afternoon in winter

Raw umber    no other colour

you lay it on the white paper
with a fine brush
and it streams down slowly   
slowly
staining the white

the white is of snow
that day by the river   
the umber is of reeds locked in ice          
no stirring    
no wind even

            you must capture this

how you felt    standing by the river
in the winter 
how you crouched among the stalks
unseen
how the reeds towered   
how their frayed dried heads bowed   
and bent in the cold   
and how the sky was grey 
and how     
in the white snow under the reeds
you lay your body down
as on a bed    
as in
a shelter      

and cried for beauty
and death.


VICTORIA LEBLANC is a writer, artist, and curator. Contributor to over 40 publications on Canadian artists.  In 2019, she published her first collection of poetry, Hold.  Forthcoming: Mudlark.As a visual artist, she has participated in solo and group exhibitions across Canada.  Former Director of the Visual Arts Centre and McClure Gallery (1996-2017). Curator of City of Westmount Gallery since 1998.

“the poems you like” by Mike Bove

all begin mid-sentence with a cool edge
tumbling inward to a vermillion core

they possess images                they make images

& many of them are quite striking
due to disavowal of standard punctuation
with the exception of instances of extreme
emphasis or necessity.

your grandmother’s pain lives inside
them along her mahogany shelves
next to a framed photograph of a dead soldier
& the window is open because the poem must
have a question but in place of an answer

there is the wind                                 you hear

angry fathers in the lines
& see vast expanses of ice on january lakes
off the backroads leading to a city of great joy
& a love which someone you know has left
buried beneath the big oak in the park

all the poems you like feature a sunflower

all the poems you like are flapping
like maple leaves and in them your old pets
have come back to life & so has miles davis

please don’t forget the burnished sun
& the russet fields                  

that steamy vermillion core

please don’t forget that all the poems you like
end with

this & this
or this


MIKE BOVE‘s poems have appeared recently in RattleThe Cafe Review, and others. His first book, Big Little City, was published by Moon Pie Press in 2018. He lives in Portland, Maine with his family and teaches in the English Department at Southern Maine Community College. 

“Black Rain” by Ilona Martonfi

terraced rice fields
sheltering in a wooden hut
leaking thatched roof
my yukata gets wet
with black rain 

a freezing winter day
charcoal-burning stove
smell of roasted sesame
organic sweet miso soup
dosimeter clicking sound

I take photographs
with my father’s muddy lens
dark, blurry images
similar to my memories
which I am slowly losing

a spit of fields and sand 
where a pine forest grows 
after the tsunami 
what I really want is to
once again live in my home


ILONA MARTONFI is the author of four poetry books, Blue Poppy, Black Grass, The Snow Kimono and Salt Bride. Her work has published in numerous journals across North America and abroad. Six chapbooks, Visiting the Ridge, Charivari, Magda, Adagio, Mud and Moth. Her poem “Dachau on a Rainy Day” was nominated for the 2018 Pushcart Prize. Artistic director of Visual Arts Centre Reading Series and Argo Bookshop Reading Series. QWF 2010 Community Award.

“Firework” by Sophie Luo

A gunshot wound,

Blooms across the night sky
Like a carnivorous flower.

Illuminates its crowd
Red, then green, then gold.

And the sun
Does not set until midnight.


SOPHIE LUO is a student and emerging writer from Vancouver currently studying Biomedical Sciences at McGill University. From anatomy to poetry, her strange combination of passions yields an indecisive personality, a penchant for rumination, and a disproportionate fascination in ordinary things – all of which she records and expresses in writing.

‘Midnight is Dark Lunch’ by Ingrid Cui

When my girl is not in the room
I let myself down and climb
out of the divided line. I psychoanalyze
chunks in my skin, that phase of
my youth; your condescending
glance surveying my paper:
stop using that and which
when you don’t even know the difference.
Obey precocity’s flirt,
prostrate nietzsche at stone’s depth,
flaunt abercrombie stitches.

Meet the boys with white shirts
sipping high london tea, dream
chiaroscuro thrillers
in bars at deep midnight –
dorian tried opium
maybe you should too.
When the phase moves on,
give baudelaire a good burial.

My girl cannot stop the time;
she is gone, gone
through the crowd of loose
bodies, and her eyeshadow sways
music into stillness. He did this too, morgan,
smith; there must have been clubs back then.
There is nothing soft
about the dancing of animals.

When we go to denny’s after
I ask, what does a man amount to
if he only lives for three years?
You take my temperature
and tell me to eat my pancakes.

 


INGRID CUI is a student at the University of Toronto and an editor for The Trinity Review (https://www.thetrinityreview.com/). Her work has been published in L’Éphémère Review, Half a Grapefruit Magazine, Ghost City Review, and Poetry Institute of Canada.

Copyright © 2020 by Ingrid Cui. All rights reserved.

 

Poems by Cole Hartin

WAFFLES

 

I woke early in the fog
to take out the garbage at the church.

My sons sprung up with me
while it was still dark.

I grimaced and made coffee.

The aroma of toasted waffles,
the cheap kind, made with buttermilk,
mingled with the cloying scent of children’s vitamins
as I opened their lid.

Before morning prayer,
I fill empty stomachs
and do my best to make banter, crusty.

The morning is cool and dark
with light diffused, deadened by cloud.
I’m in the chapel now,
readying myself to pray.

I love this aloneness.
The quiet before the day.
I think about God and life
and worry about my failures.

It’s so easy for me to deceive myself.

 


 

TO LIVE IN PEACE

 

I hiss fry eggs in my heavy cast iron.
Not hungry, I eat,
though my bowels feel blown up like balloons.
I always feel them inside of me,
pressing, reminding me of the ugliness and filth of excrement.

Looking in the mirror is a relief,
while I brush my teeth.
I’m tired, haggard, even,
but my face is still mine, still human,
still placid, despite the pit-of-stomach dread.

I’ve long abandoned the hope prayer in these situations
Like beads rubbing a groove in my brain,
my prayers never get below the surface.
I say them faithfully.

Each day I force myself out of the door,
like a diver off of the edge of a cliff.
I know nothing of the bottom,
only the terror of the fall.

 


COLE HARTIN is an Anglican priest serving in Saint John, NB, where he lives with his wife, their sons, and a sad cat. He has a Ph.D. in theological studies.

Copyright © 2020 by Cole Hartin. All rights reserved.

‘Heyday’ by Robert Nisbet

It was not promising. The train
went into Swansea High Street backwards.
(Some points thing, they said).
He looked. Landore, copper, steelworks,
smoking with time’s grey industry.
Ahead, an unknown Wales.

But there lay ahead
quotidian reassurance, office and evenings,
espresso’s hiss, the Everly Brothers,
the bouffant Swansea girls, the age’s hum
of liberation. In their heyday then,
to the Mumbles pier, bank holiday,
the candy and the carnal thoughts
of Kiss-Me-Quick.
Young, they invented the weekend
in the immediate sunshine.

 


ROBERT NISBET is a Welsh poet living just a few miles down the coast from Dylan Thomas’s Boathouse. He has published widely and in roughly equal measures in Britain and the USA. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee for 2020.

Copyright © 2020 by Robert Nisbet. All rights reserved.

Poems by Chris Pollard

CIRCUS

between
the circus I want to be
and the circus I am
is the circus
that came to town
one summer
and refused to leave
no matter how nicely
we asked.

 


 

SKINNY JEANS

from space
no one can tell the difference
between the cool kids
doing the cool things
cool kids do
and the uncool kids
doing the cool things
they saw the cool kids doing
believing it must make them cool too.

 


CHRIS POLLARD lives in Ottawa, works in a grocery store and is at an age where he can now safely say he has been writing for decades and the math will bear him out.

Copyright © 2020 by Chris Pollard. All rights reserved.

Poems by Louise Carson

THE LABYRINTH

Unlike some, this one is low.
I walk on grass paths separated by inlaid brick.
I could cheat and step right to the centre
where a birdbath reflects the changeable sky:
cloudy, sunny.

But I don’t, and wind my way,
questing with a half-smile.
When I arrive, what then?
Nothing – the birdbath –
so I unwind the way I came.

 

 


 

TWO WORDS

so far
i am
a struggling
illiterate

ignore
word’s red warning
underscore
another teacher

am more frustrated
when word
ignores me

it likes capitals
to begin
each
line

gertrude,
word,
word,
stein

 


LOUISE CARSON has published nine books including mysteries, historical fiction and poetry. Her collection A Clearing was published by Signature Editions in 2015. One of her books In Which, Broken Rules Press, was shortlisted for a 2019 Quebec Writers’ Federation award. She has recently had work in Grain, Event and Queen’s Quarterly and online with Montreal Serai and carte blanche. Her next collection Dog Poems will appear in 2020 from Aeolus House. Though born in Montreal, she has lived beyond the West Island for most of her life.

Copyright © 2020 by Louise Carson. All rights reserved.