Monday, July 3, 2023

Grant Wilkins : In Which Pearl Pirie Consults Julian of Norwich On Gardens, Suffering And The Revelation Of Love

from Report from the Pirie Society, Vol. 1 No. 1







Your prayer came to me as a gift

of white blossoms

and applesauce in spring

your love and desire

your pain and understanding

a vision of knowing despair

folded into my lap

as a small inhale of coal dark words;

a poem endlessly overthrown

in which you and I are brought to nothing,

like seedlings left too long on the windowsill

while the shadow of the winter sun

dies slowly in the west.




The Horizon



While I was still alive,

to become a poem

meant to stand apart –

to become a vision of a vision –

an instrument of storm and suffering

when the sun hovered

two fingers above the horizon.

We did this willingly,

writing poetry like Manitoba maples,

the completeness of our love

resonant and fresh,

for seasons out of time

and time out of mind,

knowing the words

would eventually develop 

like a fine-flowering rose bush

carefully covered in winter.




Mustard Jar



I wish I could have been there

when the lid on the mustard jar

finally swallowed

your splendid and glorious tongue.

The smell of ozone and fear

was made reverent by its lingering –

and your emerald eyes

lit small flares that began to flower,

covering the ground

with beetles and chicory stems

like blood and panic in the afternoon,

like vertigo.







Love is not a reward, you said

it is a spiritual thirst

a longing and a compassion

for all that is made

when Spring bursts forth like a bead of sap,

Nature at some tipping point

we can never see.

The eternal providence

of long winter nights,

frost-wet earth

and pine needles burned to rust in the snow –

the contemplative life up against

champagne, dancing, potatoes boiled in their skins

and ecosystem collapse,

arriving just as the geese begin migrating north again

to the Maple trees, insomnia

and small Crucifixions

that flower each spring,

once the rotted manure

has been forked into the soil.







I sometimes forget

to paddle the canoe around

those poor, unworldly creatures

sinning and sunning there on the peninsula.


I sometimes forget

the universal truth that although we are all one,

I should keep practicing my French,

just in case.


I sometimes forget

the extent to which all in the world is not good,

but that – whether I like it or not –

some days, I am the gun.


I sometimes forget

that I could have been there with the Magdalene

stoic, spiky and unsubmissive,

with very harsh words for His childhood.


I sometimes forget

the power of incanted song,

hymns to death and delirium

sung out while rejoicing in heated pools, caffeine,

and cold bottles of craft beer.


I sometimes forget

that I am a deus ex machina,

filled with silence and patience

and the capacity to transcend biologies

when sown indoors during spring.




A Hazelnut



“I will make all things well” was the pledge,

name-dropped as a couplet and a coup

to the glory of the sky.

The promise made was a small thing,

the size of a hazelnut

bright as a mote

and in need of the shade of a book.

These are the seed moments

of our security and comfort,

truly taught and listened for

like chrysanthemums

and blood pumps in the ICU,

where we heal and we breathe

and stand against the tribulations to come,

translucent as glass

hard as Spruce bark

seedlings, unseen,

still covered in an inch of soil.





Pearl Pirie. footlights (Radiant Press, 2020).

Julian of Norwich. Revelations of Divine Love (short text) (Penguin Classics, 1994 / Trans. Elizabeth Spearing).






Grant Wilkins is an occasional poet, printer and papermaker from Ottawa who has made a practice of doing strange things to other people’s words. He has degrees in History & Classical Civilization and in English, and he likes ink, metal, paper, letters, sounds and words, and combinations thereof.

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