Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Tag: Body Rain

Breathing Underground

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Breathing Underground

Jane Eaton Hamilton, from “Body Rain”

You are making spaghetti sauce. There are no mushrooms in the crisper. You require mushrooms There are canned mushrooms in the pantry cupboard but you have just ·read that there are maggots in cans of mushrooms: twenty per can, per one hundred grams. This statistic startles you. You waffle, rationalizing that statistics can be made to say anything. You move to the pantry and open the cupboard. You climb and put your hands among the cans: you move peaches and green beans and tuna fish. You find three small cans of mushrooms, a total of sixty maggots, which for the four of you is fifteen apiece. You imagine watching the pasta covered in your spaghetti sauce curling around forks, larvae entering your son and daughter’s mouths, your husband’s mouth. The taste of canned mushrooms has always reminded you of rubber, nothing like the original, but perhaps this was not the taste of mushrooms after all, perhaps this was the taste of maggots. Maggots are things you’ve seldom seen. Twice in the garbage and once long ago your mother bought a piece of beef from the supermarket and turned it over to find it blue and crawling. She stood at the kitchen counter poking a knife at it saying Oh, oh. A few years back a sofa you’d left outside all winter had them bobbing like daffodil petals when you lifted the cushions. Your stomach heaved. Maggots are more disgusting even than slugs which are more real and slide across your walkways in the rain, black or mustard colored, sometimes with spots. you do not ever dream of slugs but occasionally you dream of maggots and coffins and the impossibility of breathing underground.

You open the three cans of mushrooms. You drain them. You throw the lids into the trash under the sink, carry the cans to the stove and place them beside the pot simmering on the burner, the glub and bubble of your spaghetti sauce. The smell of basil and oregano coddles your nose. You lift a can. Although you expect movement nothing moves. When you upend it, the mushrooms land on the sauce quivering normally. You watch them sink slowly out of sight and add the rest. Then you stir with a long-handled spoon.

Saguaro, a poem about parenting teens

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Saguaro

 

My little thorn

you have grown on a thicker stalk

than I expected.

Sharper

than I ever guessed you might.

 

You hurt me.

Nothing is as simple as that.

I hurt you too?

 

There are lotteries.

Your unlucky numbers tumble through

a bin of teenage years.

I never meant

to speak and so offend you,

to be a mother

to cringe from

and yet you say I am.

 

I remember before breasts and boys.

We were happy.

We lay together

in a moon crater,

swaddled and safe and bouncing.

Tall branched thistle

you were my baby,

my sweet girl,

the coup of all my days.

 

I am no longer

Precisely human in your eyes,

hardly divine,

only old and big.

You come to me with scorn

that rubs like sandpaper.

 

The trick is

to bear this jagged war

like labour.

The trick is to wear

protective gloves.

Landlords and their plumblers

Twice this week, women I know have had plumbers accuse them of putting things down the toilet and causing thousands in damages.

So this is for them, an old poem from Body Rain about just such a happenstance:
Landlord

I know him.
He comes with golden spikes
driven through his hands.
No one is as sad as he is,
no one has ben used more
or more filthily.

There are whores residing
in his houses, harlots
who cry on his toes for
repairs and discounts.
See?  We have children and
no men; we raise cats and
gobble his coins with our cunts.

His radiance is what we crave,
his extravagant goodness, divinity
like a bellows, clean, male and
blowing sensibly across our dignity.
How superior he is
with his plumber in tow,
with his plumber who kows
we have shoved things down the
toilet, clogged the copper
piping just for this.
Oh, it is like loving a saint.

Love Canal

I don’t want to make another post today.  I am supposed to be on my way to two seasonal parties.  But I just heard that Love Canal is sending 100 truckloads of toxic waste to Canada.  I am heartbroken.

This, too, is from my old poetry collection Body Rain from Brick Books.

JEHLoveCanalBodyRainBrickBooks

CBC

On Considering Savagery

The wonderful poet Méira Cook is interviewing me for Brick Books about a long-ago poem I wrote from the imagined perspective of Ted Bundy’s mother during his execution.  I had to keyboard in this long poem tonight because I no longer had it on a computer.  What a surreal experience to be inside the imagined voice of an onlooker to violence while also being inside my young poet’s voice.  I remembered that mother-blaming was even worse then than it is now.  I remembered how enraged I became that Ted Bundy had caused so many women and their families pain and incalculable losses (my word, I had daughters, I could almost–), and how confusing was the struggle in my conscience when he was executed, since I remain against capital punishment.

To add to this, of course it just the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre at École Polytechnique this past weekend (along with the anniversary of my mother-in-law’s death, from whence many losses issued).  Here in Vancouver, there was a Saturday vigil in response to Montreal, then a Sunday vigil for Canada’s missing and indigenous women.

I have been worrying a lot about police violence, too, as everyone has.  Recently I watched Brian Lindstrom’s film Alien Boy about the Portland murder of James Chasse, and again footage of the Robert Dziekanski police murder at YVR.  Did these murders presage the militarization of police in N America and the new wave of shootings of Black men across the US?  A Vietnamese man in Vancouver, Du Na Phuong, waving a piece of lumber in a crosswalk, was also shot and killed by police a few blocks from here a couple weeks ago.  Story here.

And even as I watch footage of these men dying from police brutality, and try to come to terms, I know that women also die in police custody, and that reporters don’t note it the way they do male deaths.

Let’s see it.  Let’s name it.  Let’s not look away.  Can we not look away?

Can I not avert my eyes one more time?

JEHAllergyfromBodyRainBrickBooks

Bloodline: for Diane Corkum 1955-1989

Excerpted from my collection, Body Rain.  In 1989, a few blocks from where I now sit, on Laurel Street in Vancouver, my friend Diane was shot through her sliding glass doors near Hallowe’en night, when everyone mistook the noise of the gunshot for fireworks.  Eventually (many years later) her ex’s brother was convicted of the crime.  This is a solemn poem for Hallowe’en, and also a cautionary poem during this week in which we consider male violence.

Bloodline

1)

What we left unsaid is jabbering—

I haven’t enough ears.

The man who killed you,

who was he

with his bullets, Diane?

 

You loved me.

Perhaps it is the promise

of love I feel,

the redemption of arousal,

a giddy comprehension.

I was stupified, then,

you know I was,

pregnant, foggy as milk.

 

It is late, now, to understand.

Will you forgive me

my exile?

Saturday I stood on the shore

with daisies cascading from my fingers.

Diane, the ocean would not swallow them—

yellow was caught in her throat

like sorrow

 

Who knows this season

better than you?

Hunters rustle the undergrowth

in October.

In my yard the sumac

drops lit candles.

 

I would show you how to flee, Diane.

 

2)

Sweetheart

consider the pumpkin on the stooop,

the quick torture of its hide under my knife.

 

I have costumes in my closet

and we’ll go out like breath

this night, like perfect witch women

in our black hats. On broomsticks

our voices wake like bats.

Flow, flow,

darkest of hearts.

 

3)

You wait outside the gate,

an apparition.

I take your shattered chest

against my own.

I heat you and melt you

with the force of the living,

with the love of the living

for living things.

 

Brick Books’ podcasts

Jane Eaton Hamilton reads from Body Rain

A Mother’s Day Poem

Happy Mother’s Day for those of you celebrating the occasion.  I have always loved it, for it brings spring flowers and my children to my side, along with reminiscences like breast feeding my girls.  My best Mother’s Day gift was when my children were very very small, and, in daycare, Sarah had made an ashtray (which I cherished).  Her little sister, almost two, wasn’t to be outdone.  She peeled out of my bedroom in a blaze and a minute later returned with her head cocked, blushing with pleasure, hiding something behind her back.  “What did you bring me, sweetheart?” I asked and she held it out.  Something from her room.  Something she could bear to part with:  a dirty sock.

 

four a.m. feeding

I light no lamp
i go by ache
and touch

the song of your hunger
guides me
to your humid nest   my hands
curl under your arms and lift

it’s instinct this gift
i give you at night
i know you
differently
smell you   when i can’t see you

buttons to unfasten
half asleep
it’s hard to work my fingers
and juggle you
but sooon   i fold you
in the crook of my arm
these pouches of stone
four hours without you
look what it does

you seek me
blindly   rooting for the source
i croon
it is there
i melt and gush
you choke break cough
too much
too fast
gurgling to your belly

milk splatters your face and fuzzy scalp
milk sweet and warm   such
plenty to grow on

i nuzzle your head
and rock the chair
slip my hand
under your gown
to fondle

your miniature toes

little peach little plum
i cannot imagine you
grown
-Jane Eaton Hamilton from “Body Rain”

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Matt Haig on feelings

“I believe one of the jobs of a writer is to feel life and then report on feelings. Fiction may be fantastical, but it is also emotional reportage. (Non-fiction = external truths. Fiction = internal ones. Discuss.)”  –Matt Haig

As Graham Greene noted, and Matt Haig paraphrases, writers bank emotion, and when we write, we withdraw our funds.  Again and again, easily enough to retire on.  We use them to build a bed, a room, a house, and then when we publish, we invite you in.

“You need to feel life’s terror to feel its wonder.”-  Matt Haig

I believe this.  To lead a full emotion life is a talent.  To not be frightened to feel is a gift.  To cherish it all–the rocks, the glass, the soft down of a magnolia petal–is to live fully.

To quote Leon Rooke on one of my book blurbs, “She sits you down in her hardest chair, litters tacks on the floor about your naked feet, and holds you there petrified but alert as she speaks the body’s news.”

We have accounts full of celebration and joy and dancing, full of critical analysis, full of the sights and sounds of our lives, full of our daughter’s smiles.  If we’re lucky and talented, we are able to translate the entire shebang in ways that might alarm but also move you.

The Thin-Skinned Writer

I read from my collection, Body Rain (Brick Books)

Me on You Tube reading from her poetry collection, Body Rain, Brick Books. 

four a.m. feeding

This is a poem I once wrote for my eldest daughter:

four a.m. feeding

 

i light no lamp

i go by ache

and touch

 

the song of your hunger

guides me

to your humid nest    my hands

curl under your arms and lift

it’s instinct this gift

i give you at night

i know you

differently

smell you    when i can’t see you

 

buttons to unfasten

half asleep

it’s hard to work my fingers

and juggle you

but soon    i fold you

in the crook of my arm

these pouches of stone

four hours without you

look what it does

 

you seek me

blindly    rooting for the source

i croon

it is there

i melt and gush

you choke break cough

too much

too fast

gurgling to your belly

 

milk splatters your face and fuzzy scalp

milk sweet and warm   such

plenty to grow on

 

i nuzzle your head

and rock the chair

slip my hand

under your gown

to fondle

 

your miniature toes

 

little peach little plum

i cannot imagine you

grown

by: Jane Eaton Hamilton, from the collection Body Rain, Brick Books

Sudden Fiction

Hummingbird

She loved it, this baby who flitted from corner to corner against the ceilings of her house.  She loved it, surely.  She was its mother.  She didn’t love its mouth dragging down her breasts and cracking open her nipples, the spit-up curdled milk tacking lazily down her shoulders and soaking her shirts, she didn’t love the crying or all the diapers, the sweet yellow shit she wiped off with a warm damp cloth.  She did love the gurgles of its pleasures, its fat extremities, its bow-legs and the soft spot on its fuzzy warm skull.  She loved the idea of ten miniature fingers and toes.  But she loved it best when it ascended because it was always happy, always supremely cherubic in air.  She was frightened to take it for a walk in the stroller.  What if?  In the bakery?  At the park?  Already she had discovered it in the eaves of the attic, hovering beneath the splintery wooden roof.  She wished it would take her up, with her suitcase of baby supplies, with her stretch marks and milk-plumped breasts.  She kept the placenta in a wooden bowl in the refrigerator.  She buried it beside the tomatoes in the garden.  The baby dipped and flew curlicues through the leaves of the pear tree above her head.  The beat and silvery breeze of its wings swept over her and she stood, lifting her arms.  Her hands dripped birth blood and dirt.  The baby she surely loved rose and rose, rose and rose.

Jane Eaton Hamilton from Body Rain, Brick Books

Pink

This is a sensational poem.

Avoid it.

Think of a sweet pea.

There are different sorts

but this particular sweet pea is

a pink sweet pea

on a Chilean vine

in a doctor’s garden.

Do you believe flowers are erotic?

Do you believe in torture?

This pink sweet pea

is the sweet pea a soldier

arresting the doctor

grinds underfoot

so it bleeds on the sole

of his boot.

Do you believe flowers ask for it?

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