Passing Stranger. Pam Galloway. Inanna Publications and Education, Inc. Toronto, Ontario. 2014.
Sometimes being a man is of no help what so ever. So I read some of these poems to my much wiser wife.
Her response: "Excellent poetry." When K speaks, I listen.
Pam Galloway's Passing Stranger deals with loss and growth, the empty marriage bed that comes with divorce, miscarriages, all that emptiness left behind.
I sit in rooms with women
Ideas flash as fast as the shreds
from the mandoline. Cabbage,
cucumber and carrot
fall with barely a touch, settle
into the centre of the wrap,
permit an enfolding
disturbed only by slow
bits and mmm, delicious --
must have the recipe.
And just as quick: a turn.
The book we're gathered to discuss
pulls the conversation
into the backstreets of the city,
into the life of another woman who tells
how crime was her route to a meal,
another who writes to feel whole.
Ours is the spirit
that knows what it wants
and is unabashedly Woman.
Beautiful and clever,
all-knowing and yes, wise.
We may one day steal to stay alive,
on another, realize
that living is multi-hued
and we manage all its shakes and colours
the way we might throw
a black shawl, casual,
calculated, across a red cowl-neck sweater.
This is poetry written in the language of women. What I mean is that Galloway is unconcerned with what men need to know, she is past that, her concern is with what women need to say. Her clarion call is no whisper for the faint of heart.
Out of place and disintegrated
into a million pieces, scattering
into eternity like a supernova burnt out,
my anticipation of a birth.
I try to imagine
black tunnel, microscopic shaft buried beneath
the surface, a secret: silent,
but wide enough to guide an egg,
wide enough to grow an embryo.
Not wide enough: a silent bursting and blood
seeps and swills like a slough
filling after a storm, blood like water
finds its place, flows to every cranny,
lies in wait.
beyond the gloves,
the greens, the masks,
the eyes. A hand
strokes. I pan
the room made ready.
Give myself over,
fall into oblivion
I relinquish memory,
contemplation of what might have been.
Each moment resounds like a pulse,
a heartbeat trapped inside a vacuum.
Morphine is a cozy high, I am warm,
I am safe, I am smiling, I am safe,
I am alive, I am safe, I am not thinking
I am not pregnant.
Days later, home again, my bed cannot hold me
the way I need to be held. I am scared
I will fall from the edge:
no baby; my belly sliced and sewn
for no baby.
I weep for my mother to hold me, for a woman
who will know, to hold me. You tell me
you can hold me.
Do you know?
But there is hope and Today's book of poetry is a big fan of hope.
Galloway's sad losses are our conduit to understanding, because through them she allows us to experience something new, she expresses a woman's experience in ways other women will understand and recognize as truth.
Galloway isn't strident or terse or proselytizing from some great podium. Nothing like that. This is the clear thinking voice of reason. If you haven't heard it before - perhaps you weren't listening, we often only hear what we want, I'm convinced my newest intern is deaf.
The wasp and I
Trapped behind a Venetian blind,
the wasp believes freedom lies upward
beyond the window. Its goal:
bright sky and a pine tree beyond.
The wasp makes the ascent, fights through
a waterfall of condensation, diverts
to a zig-zag path across the glass, takes off,
brief sorties in the narrow air between glass
and metal slats. But up is where it wants to be.
Again and again it tries to break free
and then the inevitable fall,
close to the exit path.
But the wasp cannot see. Drawn to the window
and sunlight blazing hope, it will persist.
It will never learn
the glass will not dissolve or fall away
just because it wants it, just because
it beats its head against impossibility.
Pam Galloway's Passing Stranger is a world many women will embrace as a familiar, a voice given to a shared understanding. And for many men a sliver more understanding of the other half of the world, and how they endure.
Pam Galloway lives, works and writes in Vancouver and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Her poetry and non-fiction have been featured on CBC radio and her poetry has been published in numerous Canadian literary magazines including The Antigonish Review, The New Quarterly, Contemporary Verse 2, Grain, Descant, Dandelion, Event, The New Orphic Review, Room of One’s Own and twice on the website of the Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate. Her first book of poetry Parallel Lines was published in 2006.
BLURBS"Gifted with a lyric and elegiac eye, Galloway marks many of life's key moments--marriage, divorce, pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, parenting-- with poems of exquisite tenderness and grace. These poems depict the ache and echo of loss with clarity, honesty and lyric intensity. This moving journey through heart and body bears witness to life's myriad beginnings and endings, anticipations and losses."
“In Passing Stranger Pam Galloway combines direct language, striking imagery and beautifully rendered metaphors to take us inside a woman’s experiences with infertility, motherhood and marriage breakdown. The title poem and the sequence “Ways of knowing” are just two of several poignant pieces that peel back the veils around the pain of multiple miscarriages. Equally powerful, however, are celebratory poems like the gorgeous “Arrival”, about her daughter’s birth. Galloway is an accomplished free verse poet who is equally successful when she decides to write in forms, as in her exquisite palindrome “Remembering. Autumn.” and her delightful, “Three echoes of love”, a two-column poem that can be read three different ways. This book pulls no punches when it comes to diving into grief – but Galloway does not leave us stranded there; instead, she takes us through losses and into hope..."
Federation of BC Writers Drive
Featuring Pam Galloway - Feb. 11, 2012
video by planetjanetcreations
Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher. They are shown here for publicity and review purposes. For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.