photo: York University / Rishma Dunlop
Rishma Dunlop, a gifted poet and professor at York University, passed away this month after a long battle with cancer. She gave a memorable reading at Poetry London back in 2006 and I was deeply impressed with her poems and her eloquence. She had been a recepient of the Emily Dickinson Prize for Poetry as well as being received as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
In additon to being an editor of several literary anthologies, Rishma Dunlop authored five books of poetry including Lover Through Departure: New and Selected Poems (Mansfield Press, 2011).
Small things keep you safe:
prayers like the Japanese tie to trees,
clasp of your child’s hand,
angels at the gates of your city,
schedules of commuter trains.
Until the blasted church,
rush hour bombs on subways,
carnage that is the failure of love.
Clothed in our convictions,
we feel our brains slip,
in every bone the fossil of murder,
illness we cannot vomit up
a hurt so fierce it takes more than
all human grief to beat it down.
You see the exact perspective of
loss as a fading pencil study,
loved one’s features blur, smudged detail,
clouds of centuries pass over the image,
through cross-hatched strokes
only a wrist in forced memory remains,
a hand caressing.
In the archives of accusations,
vengeance and the unforgiven,
we are nailed together, flying the black
flag of ourselves.
The farmer continues to till his fields.
In the city we awaken, turn off alarm clocks,
drink our coffee, kiss our lovers and children,
begin again at the train stations, at bus stops,
briefcases in hand.
In deafness to political speech
the eye permits change.
You imagine words fit for a newborn.
Touch me. In the burned city,
we have become beautiful.
Love’s no secret now.
©Rishma Dunlop 2005
from Metropolis, published by Mansfield Press
Rishma Dunlop website: http://www.rishmadunlop.com