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MARY DALTON

A Riddle Fence Selection

 

 

 

Mary Dalton in Southword JournalMary Dalton is Professor of English at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. She has published four volumes of poetry, the latest of which are Merrybegot (Véhicule Press, 2003), and Red Ledger (Véhicule Press, 2006). Merrybegot was also released as an audiobook by Rattling Books in 2005. A letterpress chapbook of riddle poems entitled Between You and the Weather was published by Running the Goat in 2008. Merrybegot won the 2005 E.J. Pratt Poetry Award. Her latest book, Red Ledger was shortlisted for the Atlantic Poetry Prize and the E.J. Pratt Poetry Award for 2007 and named as one of The Globe and Mail’s Top 100 Books of the Year. In 2008 she was a member of the poetry faculty at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Her next book, Hooking, is coming out in 2013.

 

Photo © Daly

_____

 

from In the Cracks of the City

from Pith and Wry: Canadian Poetry

from Red Ledger

from Allowing the Light

from Merrybegot

 

_____

 

 

from In the Cracks of the City

St. John's Haiku

 

 

a bronze-lettered plaque,

oil tanks ice-rimed—

headland dragons sleep

 

round the bowl of the harbour

ships’ horns ricochet—

a skein of gulls wheels.

 

cars bumper to bumper,

headed for the cove:

beached caplin roiling.

 

shattered concrete step,

dock unfurls its frills in cracks—

ship clears the Narrows.

 

Dalton, Mary. “St. John’s Haiku.” In the Cracks of the City. Unpublished recent work.

 

 

Back to Top.

 

 

 

from Pith and Wry: Canadian Poetry

 

What Came

 

 

Awkward Alba, hunched over

an old orange-crate desk. Rain

riffed easy along the roof;

then a lunatic moon shed its grief

through the window. She

was, it might be, setting out

in a poem words that would net

a glimpse, or faint spoor,

of the shy beast named Love.

 

She was expecting Cupid to drop in,

that petulant boy, so careless

with toys. Or Aengus,

dreamy-eyed after travels. Or

Heathcliff, or Dracula, their capes flung back

to reveal the red lining

as thunder roared, bolts carved up the sky.

 

What came, though, was quieter:

the arc of a hand as it pulled

thread through a needle, wielded

a paintbrush on sickroom walls;

a shoulder taut in the hoisting

a bed frame, wrought-iron, up stairs.

 

 

Dalton, Mary. “What Came.” Pith and Wry: Canadian Poetry, ed. Susan McMaster. Sudbury, Ontario: Scrivener Press, 2010.

 

 

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from Red Ledger

 

July

 

 

Dragged on in a stew of heat—

that bird hung around the whole muggy month,

shrilled like an old telephone.

It bothered me so:

it wasn’t you calling.

 

 

_________

 

Runes

 

 

Read the month:

the runes promise ice.

Close the book. Follow

the vein of the leaf,

your stiffening hand.

 

 

 

_________

 

 

 

Salt Mounds, St. John's Harbour

 

 

If Lot’s wife were to lie flat on her back,

a giant salt woman sprawling at ease on the waterfront,

these would be her breasts—

these massive salt mounds

laced tight in their black vinyl tarps,

many-teated, studded with rings of battered old tires.

A two-domed harbinger of winter,

any day now she’ll rouse herself, hoist up her bulk.

White-socketed, eyeless, she’ll traipse up from the harbour.

She’ll tramp the wry streets, on the prowl for

the blinking bright follies, the glitter of George Street.

Ceres’ barren daughter, she’ll burn all she touches.

Where she walks: the skid and the squeal,

crumpled metal, broken hips, lost gloves,

black ice and blizzards,

the lanes crying their toxic brown slush,

the blundering snowploughs,

our tilting away from the sun.

 

 

Dalton, Mary. “July,” “Runes,” “Salt Mounds, St. John's Harbour.” Red Ledger. Montreal: Signal Editions/ Véhicule Press, 2006.

 

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from Allowing the Light

 

Grace
i.m. E.J.D.

 

She is at home

In a room

Or a poem. In alcoves

Angling a fuschia

For last rays of sun.

Gauging the heft

Of image and vowel.

 

In her house,

Chairs welcome

Space, form to pour in,

And windows, wordless, widen,

Avenues,

Allowing the light.

 

 

_________

 

 

buttercup poem

 

 

take this poem

buttercup

petals velvet, simple

face up to the sun

curved to hold rain—

look in, all’s clear—

wheel of lacy yellow dust

the green exclamations

 

come into this poem—

or are you wanting some

Rosicrucian software

moon-orchids

a syntax of torture—

this poem is open

 

 

Dalton, Mary. “buttercup poem,” “Grace i.m. E.J.D.” ALLOWING THE LIGHT. St. John’s, NL: Breakwater Books, 1993. Poems used by permission from Breakwater Books Ltd.

 

Back to Top.

 

 

from Merrybegot

Bachelor Brothers

 

 

They never were part of a crew—

Kept to themselves under the hill,

Kept up the peaked-roof house,

Set the small cabbage garden.

No marriage. Stubbly beards,

A raffish, ramshackle walk.

Mothers keeping their children in line:

The bogeyman will get you

If you don’t be good.

One deaf. Or was he.

When they cross the mind’s eye

Something of the terror of farms

And four green fields

Comes upon me.

 

 

_________

 

 

Merrybegot

 

 

When the moon was newing and the night burnt black,

Some rapscallion, some young pelt, some nuzzle-tripe

Set off down the path with the go of a born-again preacher,

Crept in under our apple tree, shinnied on up,

Swift and hungry as a starved mosquito, stripped

It bare.

And himself playing Don Juan in the kitchen—

Not a sound did he hear—

No apples for winter

And from the look of her belly

A good chance of a merrybegot.

 

 

Dalton, Mary. “Bachelor Brothers,” “Merrybegot.” Merrybegot. Montreal: Signal Editions/ Véhicule Press, 2003.

 

 

 

Author Links

 

Interview with Dalton at Véhicule Press

'Mary Dalton's poetry: explorations and accolades'

Dalton at Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage

Riddle Fence literary magazine

 

 

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