Memory, Power

I’ve forgotten so much of what’s passed through my history. Surprising, at times, is what I remember. Poems I wrote years ago can stick like a pop song if their backdrop, as I wrote, was sharp and strong. For something like a decade I was part of a writing group, the Monday Muses, a group of sparkling, deeply creative, and dedicated writing women who nudged each other’s work always further into excellence, and whose unique writing and reading voices I can still hear, powerfully, in memory. These writers were my companions through the years of drafting and publishing my 2007 poetry collection, Economies of Gratitude. From one Ottawa/Outaouais living room to another, from the Glebe to Copeland Park to St. Laurent to Chelsea, we accompanied each other through life and death–yes, even death in our own group–and the writing that sprang from it all. This poem, written in 2005, was shaped in Evangeline’s living room on Fifth Avenue in the Glebe, and is dedicated to the Muses: Betty, Evangeline, Joan, Joan, Mary, and Patricia. This is an edited version.


“And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.”

The onion does
what it does. We each must live this way.
The blinding tears you’ve caused me,
the laughter-flavoured days,
they are of my own making
yet they are yours. You must love the way
you live your life. You must love your own
rich juices, your protective skin, the layers
of your heart revealing
chamber after secret chamber,
the floating centre. You must love
the way your roots have nourished you
and clung to dirt to keep you honest.
Remember your power.
Do not ask me to believe
you are anyone but yourself.

Quote from Naomi Shihab Nye, “The Travelling Onion”, from Yellow Glove, 1986.

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