Page 1


Copyright poems © Mark Callanan 2010; Copyright this edition © Frog Hollow Press 2010; All rights reserved.

Edited by Shane Neilson. Cover design by Mark Callanan & Caryl Peters; book design, typesetting & binding by caryl peters. Illustrations on the cover and pages 1, 7, 14 and 21 are from J.F. Bertuch's Bilderbuch für Kinder (1806). the mermaid illustration on page 32 is from iStock. Library & Archives Canada cataloguing in publication data Callanan, Mark, 1979Sea legend / Mark Callanan. Poems.

ISBN 978-0-9810354-6-8 I. Title.

PS8555.A497S42 2010 C2010-900489-2

C811’.6

Published in Canada by Frog Hollow Press 1758 Armstrong Avenue, Victoria BC v8R 5S6 www.froghollowpress.com Printed in Canada by Victoria Bindery 460 Tennyson Place, Victoria, BC v8z 6s8

31


colophon Printed on Mohawk Eggshell 80 lb. archival text; the type-faces are Bembo Book for text and Adobe Jenson Pro for display. Hand-sewn with silk thread into an inner cover of Indian cotton and wrapped (with french flaps) in mold-made St-Armand white cotton. The cover was printed at Frog Hollow Press on an Epson 3800 Sylus Pro using archival pigment inks.

SEA LEGEND was published in 2010 in an edition of 100 copies. This book is number

/100

frog hollow press


Copyright poems © Mark Callanan 2010; Copyright this edition © Frog Hollow Press 2010; All rights reserved.

Edited by Shane Neilson. Cover design by Mark Callanan & Caryl Peters; book design, typesetting & binding by caryl peters. Illustrations on the cover and pages 1, 7, 14 and 21 are from J.F. Bertuch's Bilderbuch für Kinder (1806). the mermaid illustration on page 32 is from iStock. Library & Archives Canada cataloguing in publication data Callanan, Mark, 1979Sea legend / Mark Callanan. Poems.

ISBN 978-0-9810354-6-8 I. Title.

PS8555.A497S42 2010 C2010-900489-2

C811’.6

Published in Canada by Frog Hollow Press 1758 Armstrong Avenue, Victoria BC v8R 5S6 www.froghollowpress.com Printed in Canada by Victoria Bindery 460 Tennyson Place, Victoria, BC v8z 6s8

31


Biography & Acknowledgements Mark Callanan lives in St. John's, Newfoundland. Scarecrow, his first poetry collection, was published in 2003 by Killick Press. His poems, essays and reviews have appeared in a number of periodicals, including Canadian Notes & Queries, The Globe & Mail, Quill & Quire and The Malahat Review. He is the managing editor of Riddle Fence (riddlefence.com), a journal of arts and culture. His second poetry collection is due to be published by Véhicule Press in the fall of 2011. The author gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts during the writing of some of these poems. Of the poems included in this chapbook, “Sea Legend” first appeared in Lichen, “The Meaning of Life” and “Snowman” first appeared in Canadian Notes & Queries, and "The Rain Stick" first appeared in The Fiddlehead.

30

for Andreae, Bonnie, Charlie, and TBA


Hammock 1 Bowed like a loaded sling, it droops, clutched in the fists of knotted rope.

2 Rock yourself from side to side — a boat described by head and feet.

3 Wind will make the cradle sway —  a hand that nobody can see.

4 You lounge between two states —  precariously, a breathing lung.

5 You could be either drifting home or out to sea in this funeral boat.

29


The Rain Stick

after Seamus Heaney

Heaven is a far cry from the contents of this messenger’s tube: pebbles or peas, desiccated seed or a fistful of beans that trick the ear into hearing last trickles of rain, water droplets cast upon hot griddles, god wringing out a tissue he’s wept into. These castanets or spilled rice grains, these coffee beans fed down a grinder’s chute create illusions. You want rain? Step outside and a high wind full of honest tears will teach you that this cactus stalk could never be enough to slake your thirst or wash away the curbside grim and drizzle fallen petals in the dirt, or paint her hair, just so, against a cheekbone and turn her cotton shirt into a peepshow, or make plain the fact of windowpanes and all the things that they obscure.

28

Table of Contents 1 Sailors Sea Legend Whitbourne’s Mermaid Conch Shell And the Sea Shall Give Up Its Dead Kraken

 9 13 15 16 17 18

2 Nativity The Meaning of Life Medieval Woodcut morning tea snowman The Rainstick Hammock

23 24 25 26 27 28 29

endmatter

30-32


Snowman

for Bonnie Elliott Lennox

It seems absurd this dwarf in pilgrim’s hat — a plant pot stuck fast on his pate — should look so optimistic in our yard, his mouth agape as if surprised by rain that patters on his face and soaks the scarf lassoed around what passes for his neck. A pair of gloves conceals the splintered ends of bamboo torches in his sides: he’s armed by them in crucified or scarecrow pose. His eyes are stones plucked from the garden path, a path he seems to gesture at, would lead you down if he could find his feet. He knows his limitations and won’t beg salvation from the nails of rain or wave his arms to ward off winter birds, his mouth the perfect halo of a child’s, enthralled. It bothers me; it doesn’t bother him at all.

27


Morning Tea The kettle ticks like a cooling engine. A teapot garbed in knitwear sits and steams. Milk sours in the jug’s guts. If there was sweetener — but there’s nothing saccharine about this scene. The kettle glints like a sun-spangled hood. The teapot’s sweater is knobby wool. The milk jug’s lip is split: a racket in the sink, a row.

26

1


Medieval Woodcut Two travelers stand at the village gates, one twisted half around, looking back, amazed at the wolf that savages his side, as if he had not foreseen this meeting when he awoke and kissed his wife goodbye, pawed his son’s wild hair on the way to the door. His traveling companion offers no aid, stands, back pressed to the wall, one hand raised in gesture of protection or sign of the cross — both useless against these fangs and claws, the stomach of the beast attached. The wolf, as always, is just doing a job. No hard feelings. No guilt rides her back on the return journey to the den, her cubs growling as they nip each other’s skin. Hunger can only be staved off for so long. Meat has no name when the spirit is gone.

25


The Meaning of Life

sailors

It could be that this line drawn taut between my fist and Bonnie’s kite — the nylon wings and plastic strut — is closer than I’ll come to revelation. Or trust, I mean, in the sort of heaven a feather’s width between the fingertips of god and Adam insinuates, their faith enduring on a chapel ceiling.

1

I’m the kind of man whose mind is often flocked with herring gulls that dive for chicken skins in parking lots. And yet, at times, I almost grasp what’s lost down on this lower plane: the pull of unseen hands, a gentle tug. Instead, there’s tangled string; me staring up.

24

The women of Church Hill know for certain that in port towns there are always sailors, and if not the kind that roam the ocean, then at least those mariners who are at sea, adrift, cut loose and dragged by trade winds and by foreign tides, lashed by rain and drowned in storms, fog blind, finding harbour only in a rented flat, a rented room that reeks of last night’s cheap perfume and cologne bath. The starless sky provides no sign; no compass points the way.

9


2

Nativity

The women of Church Hill dress for comfort, dress down, garb themselves in tracksuits, ball caps, wear makeup laid as thick as tar that caulks the gaps in a ship’s frame. Although, there’s one in mini-skirt and parka, her tiny legs the clapper of a bell. On Sunday morning, church bells ring, solicit prayer. The women of Church Hill are nowhere to be seen. Weeknights they parade: a file of penitents, a train of pilgrims on the way to Compostela or to other places where the bones of saints are saved in darling little reliquaries.

Cows packed in the stable moan private miseries against the cold.

10

Is it ash or flakes of snow that fall on us between the slats of roofing? I trust in god sometimes. I must. I sit here starry-eyed and watch the idle goat that munches straw, his ancient jawbone ticking.

23


3 The women of Church Hill call the faithful, the Vicar with the pretty wife who every night refuses to accept his sacramental offerings, the priest whose whiskey breath exudes its holy ghosts of loneliness, of empty rooms in parish barracks, the lawyer with his prosecuting gaze — his girlfriend will not play with whips or chains. The women of Church Hill suffer for the driver, end-of-shift, whose last fare jumped on a red light, whose eyes are crucified by want of sleep.

11


4 The women of Church Hill call the faithless, too, with husky voices, furred with want. One bums a cigarette and laughs, insists she isn’t crazy, standing here and shaking like a mystic having visions of the risen Christ in downtown bars or coffee shops, the Son of Man appearing on an eight ball, the Son of Man appearing on a teapot, the Son of Man appearing for us all.

12

2


Sea Legend They drew her up among the tons of codfish, a pair of glistening pearl studs at each ear. Two clam shell halves concealed her nipples, reminding them of dancing girls rigged out in tassels — an obscene mockery or a tease. From the waist up she was every woman: your mother from a photo on a Caribbean beach; a housewife transformed by the siren light of evening; the fifth grade teacher who leaned across your desk to demonstrate a silk brassiere, her cleavage with arithmetic. Below the waist she was scales and tail fin, no fit place to put a reassuring palm. They kept reaching out as if to pat a leg that wasn’t there. They were divided over what to do with her. Some said she should be laid to rest in a proper grave; others, she belonged at sea. So they settled on the latter, tipped the body into the water and watched it fade from view.

13


You can’t help but tap the glass as if the squid might scatter like a flock of birds, as if it weren’t a kind of relic from a time when the bones of saints could cure the sick and make the lame ditch crutches, dance a jig, as if it were a living thing, and that its eyes, the size of doorknobs, might then turn on you and see you looking in on death, watching your reflection in the glass.

19


Kraken

Whitbourne’s Mermaid

Past the diorama of the diving birds, the swimming birds, the birds perched on a cliff face, the faces of the cliff besmirched with splattered egg whites of faux bird shit; past the skeleton of the extinct auk in a glass case, propped up by a metal rod that pins his long-dead bones in place; a tank with riveted metal frame contains the giant squid.

She was visible for a moment only, long enough the captain knew for certain that he’d seen her,

You’d hardly think its phallic shape, its length (some porn star’s money shot at fame) would dredge more than giggles from the belly’s depths, but this decaying length of dick and tentacles once roiled the waters, crushed ships in its embrace, and gripped the minds of sailors, half afraid, half amazed.

18

her breasts like delicate sand dollars, a wake of hair trailing down her neck; more girl in form than woman, really. But that beauty, that rare creature must have recognized something wolfish in his gaze, for she turned tail and buried herself beneath the waves. Rumour has it he followed and caught her, emerged stark naked and dripping water, praising sea legends and the siren’s element. Though, once, while liquored up on heavy grog and singing every ballad we could think of, he confessed the seam of her dive was a quiet furrow, a locked oyster shell and other veiled analogies. 15


Conch Shell

And the Sea Shall Give Up Its Dead

Don’t talk to me about the laws of physics, the auditory tricks a conch can play, or tell me that this ocean’s nothing more than pink noise lisping through the shell, a sea-slug’s vacant home now leased to sound that speaks in rushing waves. I won’t sink into such certainty, great mysteries demystified, lost shipwrecks raised by scientific vessels to find dinnerware intact, un-chipped, still bearing makers’ marks in florid script, the wonder of it all dredged up, explained. I clutch this shell as I might hold a telephone, awaiting news of ailing relatives or births, buoyed by ignorance, in awe of how the waves communicate across the distance like floating spars report a recent wreck. The shushing in my ear is meant to soothe.

After the funeral had ended and the downpour stopped anointing shingled roofs, and the rain had run from eaves troughs in tributaries like a plant pot overfilled, and the casket slid into the hearse like a boat down a birch pole slip, I walked uphill in a raincoat, shivering, half sick with the thought of snow drifts six feet deep, enough to seal my front door shut, the house, a tomb. No resurrection here, I thought, and kicked a pile of sodden leaves. It burst. I closed my eyes and crossed the street. A passing bus raised ghosts of mist from asphalt.

16

17


Conch Shell

And the Sea Shall Give Up Its Dead

Don’t talk to me about the laws of physics, the auditory tricks a conch can play, or tell me that this ocean’s nothing more than pink noise lisping through the shell, a sea-slug’s vacant home now leased to sound that speaks in rushing waves. I won’t sink into such certainty, great mysteries demystified, lost shipwrecks raised by scientific vessels to find dinnerware intact, un-chipped, still bearing makers’ marks in florid script, the wonder of it all dredged up, explained. I clutch this shell as I might hold a telephone, awaiting news of ailing relatives or births, buoyed by ignorance, in awe of how the waves communicate across the distance like floating spars report a recent wreck. The shushing in my ear is meant to soothe.

After the funeral had ended and the downpour stopped anointing shingled roofs, and the rain had run from eaves troughs in tributaries like a plant pot overfilled, and the casket slid into the hearse like a boat down a birch pole slip, I walked uphill in a raincoat, shivering, half sick with the thought of snow drifts six feet deep, enough to seal my front door shut, the house, a tomb. No resurrection here, I thought, and kicked a pile of sodden leaves. It burst. I closed my eyes and crossed the street. A passing bus raised ghosts of mist from asphalt.

16

17


Kraken

Whitbourne’s Mermaid

Past the diorama of the diving birds, the swimming birds, the birds perched on a cliff face, the faces of the cliff besmirched with splattered egg whites of faux bird shit; past the skeleton of the extinct auk in a glass case, propped up by a metal rod that pins his long-dead bones in place; a tank with riveted metal frame contains the giant squid.

She was visible for a moment only, long enough the captain knew for certain that he’d seen her,

You’d hardly think its phallic shape, its length (some porn star’s money shot at fame) would dredge more than giggles from the belly’s depths, but this decaying length of dick and tentacles once roiled the waters, crushed ships in its embrace, and gripped the minds of sailors, half afraid, half amazed.

18

her breasts like delicate sand dollars, a wake of hair trailing down her neck; more girl in form than woman, really. But that beauty, that rare creature must have recognized something wolfish in his gaze, for she turned tail and buried herself beneath the waves. Rumour has it he followed and caught her, emerged stark naked and dripping water, praising sea legends and the siren’s element. Though, once, while liquored up on heavy grog and singing every ballad we could think of, he confessed the seam of her dive was a quiet furrow, a locked oyster shell and other veiled analogies. 15


You can’t help but tap the glass as if the squid might scatter like a flock of birds, as if it weren’t a kind of relic from a time when the bones of saints could cure the sick and make the lame ditch crutches, dance a jig, as if it were a living thing, and that its eyes, the size of doorknobs, might then turn on you and see you looking in on death, watching your reflection in the glass.

19


Sea Legend They drew her up among the tons of codfish, a pair of glistening pearl studs at each ear. Two clam shell halves concealed her nipples, reminding them of dancing girls rigged out in tassels — an obscene mockery or a tease. From the waist up she was every woman: your mother from a photo on a Caribbean beach; a housewife transformed by the siren light of evening; the fifth grade teacher who leaned across your desk to demonstrate a silk brassiere, her cleavage with arithmetic. Below the waist she was scales and tail fin, no fit place to put a reassuring palm. They kept reaching out as if to pat a leg that wasn’t there. They were divided over what to do with her. Some said she should be laid to rest in a proper grave; others, she belonged at sea. So they settled on the latter, tipped the body into the water and watched it fade from view.

13


4 The women of Church Hill call the faithless, too, with husky voices, furred with want. One bums a cigarette and laughs, insists she isn’t crazy, standing here and shaking like a mystic having visions of the risen Christ in downtown bars or coffee shops, the Son of Man appearing on an eight ball, the Son of Man appearing on a teapot, the Son of Man appearing for us all.

12

2


3 The women of Church Hill call the faithful, the Vicar with the pretty wife who every night refuses to accept his sacramental offerings, the priest whose whiskey breath exudes its holy ghosts of loneliness, of empty rooms in parish barracks, the lawyer with his prosecuting gaze — his girlfriend will not play with whips or chains. The women of Church Hill suffer for the driver, end-of-shift, whose last fare jumped on a red light, whose eyes are crucified by want of sleep.

11


2

Nativity

The women of Church Hill dress for comfort, dress down, garb themselves in tracksuits, ball caps, wear makeup laid as thick as tar that caulks the gaps in a ship’s frame. Although, there’s one in mini-skirt and parka, her tiny legs the clapper of a bell. On Sunday morning, church bells ring, solicit prayer. The women of Church Hill are nowhere to be seen. Weeknights they parade: a file of penitents, a train of pilgrims on the way to Compostela or to other places where the bones of saints are saved in darling little reliquaries.

Cows packed in the stable moan private miseries against the cold.

10

Is it ash or flakes of snow that fall on us between the slats of roofing? I trust in god sometimes. I must. I sit here starry-eyed and watch the idle goat that munches straw, his ancient jawbone ticking.

23


The Meaning of Life

sailors

It could be that this line drawn taut between my fist and Bonnie’s kite — the nylon wings and plastic strut — is closer than I’ll come to revelation. Or trust, I mean, in the sort of heaven a feather’s width between the fingertips of god and Adam insinuates, their faith enduring on a chapel ceiling.

1

I’m the kind of man whose mind is often flocked with herring gulls that dive for chicken skins in parking lots. And yet, at times, I almost grasp what’s lost down on this lower plane: the pull of unseen hands, a gentle tug. Instead, there’s tangled string; me staring up.

24

The women of Church Hill know for certain that in port towns there are always sailors, and if not the kind that roam the ocean, then at least those mariners who are at sea, adrift, cut loose and dragged by trade winds and by foreign tides, lashed by rain and drowned in storms, fog blind, finding harbour only in a rented flat, a rented room that reeks of last night’s cheap perfume and cologne bath. The starless sky provides no sign; no compass points the way.

9


Medieval Woodcut Two travelers stand at the village gates, one twisted half around, looking back, amazed at the wolf that savages his side, as if he had not foreseen this meeting when he awoke and kissed his wife goodbye, pawed his son’s wild hair on the way to the door. His traveling companion offers no aid, stands, back pressed to the wall, one hand raised in gesture of protection or sign of the cross — both useless against these fangs and claws, the stomach of the beast attached. The wolf, as always, is just doing a job. No hard feelings. No guilt rides her back on the return journey to the den, her cubs growling as they nip each other’s skin. Hunger can only be staved off for so long. Meat has no name when the spirit is gone.

25


Morning Tea The kettle ticks like a cooling engine. A teapot garbed in knitwear sits and steams. Milk sours in the jug’s guts. If there was sweetener — but there’s nothing saccharine about this scene. The kettle glints like a sun-spangled hood. The teapot’s sweater is knobby wool. The milk jug’s lip is split: a racket in the sink, a row.

26

1


Snowman

for Bonnie Elliott Lennox

It seems absurd this dwarf in pilgrim’s hat — a plant pot stuck fast on his pate — should look so optimistic in our yard, his mouth agape as if surprised by rain that patters on his face and soaks the scarf lassoed around what passes for his neck. A pair of gloves conceals the splintered ends of bamboo torches in his sides: he’s armed by them in crucified or scarecrow pose. His eyes are stones plucked from the garden path, a path he seems to gesture at, would lead you down if he could find his feet. He knows his limitations and won’t beg salvation from the nails of rain or wave his arms to ward off winter birds, his mouth the perfect halo of a child’s, enthralled. It bothers me; it doesn’t bother him at all.

27


The Rain Stick

after Seamus Heaney

Heaven is a far cry from the contents of this messenger’s tube: pebbles or peas, desiccated seed or a fistful of beans that trick the ear into hearing last trickles of rain, water droplets cast upon hot griddles, god wringing out a tissue he’s wept into. These castanets or spilled rice grains, these coffee beans fed down a grinder’s chute create illusions. You want rain? Step outside and a high wind full of honest tears will teach you that this cactus stalk could never be enough to slake your thirst or wash away the curbside grim and drizzle fallen petals in the dirt, or paint her hair, just so, against a cheekbone and turn her cotton shirt into a peepshow, or make plain the fact of windowpanes and all the things that they obscure.

28

Table of Contents 1 Sailors Sea Legend Whitbourne’s Mermaid Conch Shell And the Sea Shall Give Up Its Dead Kraken

 9 13 15 16 17 18

2 Nativity The Meaning of Life Medieval Woodcut morning tea snowman The Rainstick Hammock

23 24 25 26 27 28 29

endmatter

30-32


Hammock 1 Bowed like a loaded sling, it droops, clutched in the fists of knotted rope.

2 Rock yourself from side to side — a boat described by head and feet.

3 Wind will make the cradle sway —  a hand that nobody can see.

4 You lounge between two states —  precariously, a breathing lung.

5 You could be either drifting home or out to sea in this funeral boat.

29


Biography & Acknowledgements Mark Callanan lives in St. John's, Newfoundland. Scarecrow, his first poetry collection, was published in 2003 by Killick Press. His poems, essays and reviews have appeared in a number of periodicals, including Canadian Notes & Queries, The Globe & Mail, Quill & Quire and The Malahat Review. He is the managing editor of Riddle Fence (riddlefence.com), a journal of arts and culture. His second poetry collection is due to be published by Véhicule Press in the fall of 2011. The author gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts during the writing of some of these poems. Of the poems included in this chapbook, “Sea Legend” first appeared in Lichen, “The Meaning of Life” and “Snowman” first appeared in Canadian Notes & Queries, and "The Rain Stick" first appeared in The Fiddlehead.

30

for Andreae, Bonnie, Charlie, and TBA


Copyright poems © Mark Callanan 2010; Copyright this edition © Frog Hollow Press 2010; All rights reserved.

Edited by Shane Neilson. Cover design by Mark Callanan & Caryl Peters; book design, typesetting & binding by caryl peters. Illustrations on the cover and pages 1, 7, 14 and 21 are from J.F. Bertuch's Bilderbuch für Kinder (1806). the mermaid illustration on page 32 is from iStock. Library & Archives Canada cataloguing in publication data Callanan, Mark, 1979Sea legend / Mark Callanan. Poems.

ISBN 978-0-9810354-6-8 I. Title.

PS8555.A497S42 2010 C2010-900489-2

C811’.6

Published in Canada by Frog Hollow Press 1758 Armstrong Avenue, Victoria BC v8R 5S6 www.froghollowpress.com Printed in Canada by Victoria Bindery 460 Tennyson Place, Victoria, BC v8z 6s8

31


colophon Printed on Mohawk Eggshell 80 lb. archival text; the type-faces are Bembo Book for text and Adobe Jenson Pro for display. Hand-sewn with silk thread into an inner cover of Indian cotton and wrapped (with french flaps) in mold-made St-Armand white cotton. The cover was printed at Frog Hollow Press on an Epson 3800 Sylus Pro using archival pigment inks.

SEA LEGEND was published in 2010 in an edition of 100 copies. This book is number

/100

frog hollow press


Copyright poems © Mark Callanan 2010; Copyright this edition © Frog Hollow Press 2010; All rights reserved.

Edited by Shane Neilson. Cover design by Mark Callanan & Caryl Peters; book design, typesetting & binding by caryl peters. Illustrations on the cover and pages 1, 7, 14 and 21 are from J.F. Bertuch's Bilderbuch für Kinder (1806). the mermaid illustration on page 32 is from iStock. Library & Archives Canada cataloguing in publication data Callanan, Mark, 1979Sea legend / Mark Callanan. Poems.

ISBN 978-0-9810354-6-8 I. Title.

PS8555.A497S42 2010 C2010-900489-2

C811’.6

Published in Canada by Frog Hollow Press 1758 Armstrong Avenue, Victoria BC v8R 5S6 www.froghollowpress.com Printed in Canada by Victoria Bindery 460 Tennyson Place, Victoria, BC v8z 6s8

31


Sea Legend  

*Shortlisted for the 2010 bpNichol Chapbook Award* "Mark Callanan has written a nautical tale bent by poet's logic, replete with Newfoundla...

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