Jane Eaton Hamilton

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

Tag: Love Will Burst Into A Thousand Shapes

Trenchcoat: a poem about Columbine

Bags of potpourri that the Littleton, Colorado, fire department made from flowers placed at Columbine High School: 3000

Trenchcoat

 

It was hard to drop her at school

that spring. She made me leave her

two blocks away

Low on her hip she

flicked dismissive fingers at me

in a way she hoped would be invisible

to other kids

 

It wasn’t just Columbine

Children were dying video gun deaths

all over the US

Other teens were being snapped in two in car accidents

breakable as bread sticks

or taken to lonely woods

and crumpled like test papers

 

At the swimming pool after

I watched a teen boy toss Meghann like pizza

his arms newly strong, voice

loud, sure, traveling out over the heads of toddlers

and kids in grade school

moms with infants at breast

 

She fought for footing on the bottom of the pool

came up sputtering

giggling

happy to be vanquished

 

I wanted to tell someone I loathed potpourri

 

 

 

Love Will (Still) Burst Into a Thousand Shapes

“…The next section of the collection following the one focused on artists is “Our Terrible Good Luck,” an apt oxymoron that encompasses the devastation that populates these poems on topics not often associated that kind of horror: motherhood and children. Oh boy, was this part of the collection hard for me. They’re just shattering to read: domestic abuse, the death of children, gun violence, mass murderers, the dark sides of motherhood, the physicality and sometimes grotesqueness of child birth. For me, they were painful and difficult to read, despite their being beautifully written. When I say devastating, this is what I mean:

In the month before they find your son’s body

downstream, you wake imagining

his fist clutching the spent elastic

of his pyjama bottoms, the pair with sailboats riding them

He’s swimming past your room toward milk and Cheerios

his cowlick alive on his small head, swimming

toward cartoons and baseballs, toward his skateboard

paddling his feet like flippers. You’re surprised

by how light he is, how his lips shimmer like water

how his eyes glow green as algae

He amazes you again and again, how he breathes

through water. Every morning you almost drown

fighting the undertow, the wild summer runoff

coughing into air exhausted, but your son is happy

He’s learning the language of gills and fins

of minnows and fry. That’s what he says

when you try to pull him to safety; he says he’s a stuntman

riding the waterfall down its awful lengths

to the log jam at the bottom pool

He’s cool to the touch; his beauty has you by the throat

He’s translucent, you can see his heart under

his young boy’s ribs, beating

as it once beat under the stretched skin of your belly

blue as airlessness, primed for vertical dive

HOLY FUCK, Jane Eaton Hamilton. I don’t remember the last time I read a poem so fucking sad and heartbreaking.” -Casey Stepaniuk

The Blodwyn Prize

I didn’t win this new prize for emerging writers–I am far from an emerging writer–but I am glad thinking so caused someone to read and enjoy my latest poetry book Love Will Burst Into a Thousand Shapes and All Lit Up to report on it.

Must-Follow-Canadian-Book-Instagrams-for-World-Photo-Day

Milktini

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Milktini

I) The Broom

is a pole with attached bristles
The broom can stand in a closet and be seen by no one
The broom comes alive only in hands:

a woman’s hands
ordinary, tremoring
sweeping mouse nests and spider webs across the kitchen tile
towards the living room carpet
under the underlay they lump like live things

The problem of cash
The problem of the vomiting child
The problem of varicose veins
The problem of the car’s bald tires
The problem of the husband’s fist

At the intersection of Drake and Thomas
a broom–turquoise, plastic, with short black bristles
has been struck, the pole twisted and warped,
the head de-throned

II) The Sponge

is not what the woman calls for when
her head splits, but it is all the boy thinks
to grab from the silver belly of the sink
and what he holds to her blood-clotted hair

It is the same sponge swiped the night before
across a clot of pork gravy

III) The Bucket

is worn by the boy when he wants to
shut out fighting
Is yellow. Has a
compartment to wring out the mop
When the boy wears the bucket he believes
he is invisible, an action hero
who can zip through the battlezone
as invisible as his mother
who is known to be clumsy
who calls in sick on average four days every month

IV) The Vacuum

was originally her mother’s vacuum
is so old it has a fabric electrical cord
a two-pronged plug

The bags fill up like paper pregnancies
to be discarded
She would like a wet-dry vac

The vacuum makes an unholy roar. Sounds like aircraft

V) The Mop

also combats dirt
the kind that adheres
the way a bruise adheres

When dinner is flung from the table
a broom will take care of the mess
(Caesar salad, green beans, rice, salmon)
but anything wet
blood in particular
leaves a sticky film

The mop is a fright wig
a Medussa head

VI) The Toilet Bowl Cleanser

Pine Sol. The boy adds it to water
where it turns to milk
While his mother serves ice cream
he passes it to his father
Milktini, Dad! Drink your milktini!

-Jane Eaton Hamilton, from LOVE WILL BURST INTO A THOUSAND SHAPES, 2014

Woman With a Mango

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Woman With A Mango (by Gauguin): Etta Cone

 

Gertrude you are a Gertrude are a Gertrude

no one in Baltimore is a Gertrude anymore

If you can’t say anything nice about anyone

come sit next to me

you said

and I did

under Mother and Child come sitting

in Baltimore in Paris in Baltimore

no one is a Gertrude is a Gertrude enough

 

There were the two of us, you said, we were not sisters

We were not large not then we were not rich

we were not so different one from the other one

an eye was an eye was an eye, gazing

 

A woman would smell

a woman would hold out her smell and smell and petals

would drop from Large Reclining Nude

white petals cool and fragrant and soft

and dropping and dropping and dropping down

Three Lives my fingers sore my wrists aching typing

Come sit next to me you said

and I did sit I did sit I sat and sat and after I sat I sat and sat

 

I typed until the “G” key stuck

Three lives, yours, Claribel’s, mine

I was sitting and sitting under

Woman With a Mango under Blue Nude

I was sitting with textiles draped over me

hoping their weight

but they are not you, because you have–

Alice? Alice? Alice?

 

Is an Alice?

Gertrude you undertake to overthrow my undertaking

You say my dessicated loneliness is

across the ocean in Baltimore and you pull Alice onto

your lap on the large brown broken armchair

where you sat with me

while Pablo’s portrait strains above

You sit, running Alice’s hair through your hands

her hair through your fingers

Your fingers in my hair unpinning tangling

your lips against my neck

There is no there there now

anymore

there is Henri there is Vincent there is Paul and Paul there is Gustave

my neck a neck is a neck with a rose

that died and petals like brown rain

I like what is, you said

I like what is mine I like it

 

*with reference to: Three Lives, Stanzas in Meditaion (VII), Sacred Emily, by Gertrude Stein

-from the book Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes by Jane Eaton Hamilton 2014

The Sick Boy

 

The Sick Boy

Jane Eaton Hamilton

from Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes, 2014

 

The spot inside the sick boy’s brain was

invisible, it burrowed there pale as a tuber,

stubborn and engorged. His hair lifted

from his scalp like angel fuzz; his eyes

gleamed and struck us. Dumb and

wanting, we watched him teeter to the lip of the

nest, his skin traced blue with veins. Fledgling,

we thought, and gathered our children closer, under

shivering arms. The sick boy wanted Christmas

cards and he got thousands, maybe millions,

a Guiness record in any case, cards enough

to fill warehouses, from everywhere

in the world. There was his father, his mother,

his sister and brother, and there were all those cards,

and there was his brain cancer, growing like

a nightmare’s garden, spreading like a bleach spot

into September and death. We almost

knew something dangerous that glowed

the way an umbilicus will; we almost

saw reflections of silver in the mirror, but then

we didn’t. We only saw ourselves, lustrous

as poster paints, our terrible good luck.

Half a Baby, a poem

Love will Burst

From Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes

Half A Baby

 

I’d been there

to photograph the woman’s belly, that tiny unyeasted loaf

that Lilliputian bump, that craving convexity that yearned towards

life but could not manage

and the baby’s father, who tucked his hand atop

the still-beating second heart of his wife

this firstborn son to this couple

who had believed they were charmed

 

I was also there when the night turned soft

a hush, only the three of us at 4 a.m., and something

tangible in the air, brushing our skins

tender as feathers whispering our arms, our necks

 

Just—don’t

Don’t tell me how macabre

it was with my camera, its heavy clacking

We were there, three of us, then four

five briefly, then four, then three

and the night was more astonishing than

the love I feel for my daughters

the night was more blistering than divorce

and we loved each other

 

He was only 20 weeks, halfway to whole, half a baby

half a son, half way, pushing down and out

and when his miniature head finally crowned

showing a black whorl of hair

time shuddered a little before dripping off the clock

The child slid through his mother’s labouring cervix

no bigger than dust

He sank through her vagina gasping towards air

and parentage, slipping through the hot bleed

A nurse caught him, small in her palm

wrapped him in a green receiving blanket

his lips as round as a cherry as he started to breathe

and breathed

 

she passed him to his mother’s breasts and left us

his blue birth eyes jittered and opened

the lashes wet-clumped and his mother said

He has your ears

and her husband said He has your lips

he was covered in a web of blue veins

extra skin he never filled, protuberant bones

a dangling cord, vernix, merconium

 

It felt like silver rain

The parents named him Christopher Jerome, speaking his name

He convulsed, shivered his undersized death rattle, and stopped

And stopped

 

I talked to him, to them

There we are, there we go, brave boy

sweet boy, and in this rare and grieving moment

I tried to speak his silence

I’m just going to lift, I told him, and

photographed his hand, the size of a quarter, as if clasping

first his mother’s, then his father’s

Now, ChristopherJerome, I said, I said again, there now

His mother touched her sore hurting lips to his forehead

 

Don’t—

Don’t speak to me

Just don’t

The Twins, a poem

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From ‘Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes,’ poetry collection, Jane Eaton Hamilton, 2014

The Twins

We watched TV, my daughter and I

sitting forward on the couch

legs and our arms aligned, pressing

as if we could get a hint

of what it was like to be conjoined

 

Once we had shared a body, of course

but that was twelve years ago

“Look, Mom!” Meghann said. “Only two

legs!” those two words repeating

(two legs, two legs) as the girls on the screen

 

toddled on their two legs, as their

two legs whistled them sweet down

a playground slide. Top-heavy, joined hip

to shoulder, each had a spine

a heart and lungs, but they shared kidneys

 

intestines, liver, blood and also

their red bud of sex. To part

them was to part something none of us

could understand. If they were

sweaters, yanks of wool would unravel them

 

Then they could be knit again

separate but whole

Their mother brought Cabbage Patch dolls to

the hospital, velcroed tight

and showed them how it would be, apart

 

The rip was loud

“Won’t they miss each other?” asked

Meghann, and I didn’t know how to

say I missed her even when

she slipped out of me

 

I didn’t know how to say their pain

would be vaster than the folds

of any mother’s love

I nodded, kissed her and

pulled her close

 

Four days later, one twin died, her own

heart not healthy, not sound, not good

Under my arms, I could feel

Meghann’s beating strong

beating clear

 

The surviving twin craned left

eyes huge

bewildered, thrust

into a too-large silence

On screen, the moment verbed

Meghann clutched me

She’d never seen a look that wide

The most excellent writer Karrie Higgins reviewed my book on Goodreads!

Love will Burst

It’s so great to have your work celebrated. Thanks, Karrie Higgins!

Goodreads

The Drowning

JEHthedoor

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton, Musée de L’Orangerie, Paris 2014

Another poem from “Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes.”

The Drowning

In the month before they find your son’s body

downstream, you wake imagining

his fist clutching the spent elastic

of his pyjama bottoms, the pair with sailboats riding them

He’s swimming past your room towards milk and Cheerios

his cowlick alive on his small head, swimming

towards cartoons and baseballs, towards his skateboard

paddling his feet like flippers. You’re surprised

by how light he is, how his lips shimmer like water

how his eyes glow green as algae

He amazes you again and again, how he breathes

through water. Every morning you almost drown

fighting the undertow, the wild summer runoff

coughing into air exhausted, but your son is happy

He’s learning the language of gills and fins

Of minnows and fry. That’s what he says

when you try to pull him to safety; he says he’s a stuntman

riding the waterfall down its awful lengths

to the log jam at the bottom pool

He’s cool to the touch; his beauty has you by the throat

He’s translucent, you can see his heart under

his young boy’s ribs, beating

as it once beat under the stretched skin of your belly

blue as airlessness, primed for the vertical dive

Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes, the poem

LoveWillBurstCOVER

The eponymous poem from my last collection:

Love Will Burst Into a Thousand Shapes*: Frida Kahlo

 

The first time I married Diego

he could not lift the paintbrush

from my womb

I bled cadmium from interior spaces

yawning with pubic hair, seeds

cactus roots

cavernous with absence

feeding myself with the milk of Solanaceae

Demeter’s teats

spitting out sugary skeletons

instead of babies

slipping towards parthenogenesis

 

After I married Diego a second time

he wound necklaces of thorns around my throat

I bled alizaran crimson from soft flesh

feeding myself dead birds

Other women crowded around

masticating and cheering, but they were nothing

even my sister was nothing

(was I? Was I nothing? With my lovers?)

 

Diego grabbed the sky

through the cavern in my chest

his arm a straight unbearable pole

and told me this was all the love

he had

 

Fair is fair; I didn’t have a heart at all anymore

just something swollen

a girl’s red castle of pain

wetly beating on sand

 

*Frida Kahlo, note to Diego Rivera

my gay son, the excellent bill bissett

JEHbillbissett2014

bill bissett reads his mama’s Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes 2014, Toronto, Glad Day Books

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton

The Surprisingness of Babyland

babySMALL

photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2015

A grand-babe joined the family in 2015 (6 months as I write). I especially love my regained joy of being up close to someone developing capabilities, interests and language–especially language. I delighted in this with my own children and getting another chance to observe it is luck past measure. Watching the baby scrutinize my mouth to see how shapes are formed makes me wish I was more fluent in foreign languages; watching her mimic them is intriguing. I have a friend whose family used German, English and French interchangeably when she was young; she soaked it up; it was years before she realized they were separate languages. G-baby could be the same with a multi-lingual mom. She’s 6 months and she’s said intelligible things for quite a while now–she’s conquered “Mommy” and “Amma” for the long term, and remains rivetted by sound (and, incidentally, texture). I adore observing her setting goals–language goals and movement goals the most visible–and seeing her work concertedly to realize them.

The other almost accidental by-product of the g-baby’s birth is that I have gotten to spend winsome, celebratory time with my daughter. Getting to see her expand into her new role and love is a dream I didn’t know I had. I have been proud at her for many things in our 37 years together, but never moreso than watching her ace this hardest job going.

This time around, I barely saw my step g-baby, but we got some time where she pretty much pulverized me with tickles and swimming play before she flew off to the east. Razor-sharp, strong, talented girl who owns a big chunk of my heart.

Just by way of throwing something literary in here:

I had a book-baby in 2014 (Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes), now my daughter has brought forth this astonishing human book in 2015 (g-baby will slowly fill its blank pages), and, upcoming in 2016, my novel Weekend.

Congratulations, It’s a Six Pound Eight Ounce Novel

Proust Questionnaire: Open Book Toronto

 

JEHReading2015

 

LoveWillBurstCOVER

To celebrate ‘Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes,’ Open Book Toronto had me back to answer the Proust Questionnaire.

LWBITS review

Love will Burst

Always a celebratory day for me when one of my books gets a great review. Here’s Julie R. Enszer writing for Lambda Literary, reviewing ‘Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes’ and Judith Barrington’s ‘The Conversation.’

Lambda Literary

Thanks, Lambda Literary and Julie R Enszer.

Review of Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes

Love will Burst

Esther Griffin, a student in the optional residency MFA at UBC and an English teacher in ON, has generously reviewed the book for Prism where, as she notes, I twice won the fiction prize. Someone was just asking me with what stories:  Sperm King and Goombay Smash.

Prism review

 

Reading! Let’s launch Sassafrass Lowry

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Come help me launch “Lost Boi” by Sassafrass Lowry with Leah Horlick, author of “For Your Own Good” and Amber Dawn!

Xtra, Xtra, read all about it

 

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Daily Xtra, Canada’s gay rag, has a look-see at three current lesbian books:

Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes, poems

100 Days of Rain, by Carellin Brooks, novel

For Your Own Good, by Leah Horlick, poems

Yummy.  I knew about Leah’s book and have been looking forward to it, but I didn’t realize Carellin had a novel.  Can’t wait to read them.

Sedona, AZ

JEHCandles

A poem from Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes Image: JEH: candles in a Quebec church

Sedona, Arizona

Nuns in white habits, swinging crosses

climbing red rocks

conversing in German, hands grasping sizzling rock

I imagined their lives at night

oppressive Phoenix heat

sweat blooming between breasts

ashen bloodless thighs

(the shock of springy hair, moist petals)

women in dark solitudes

rubbing hard beads

 

At the Frank Lloyd Wright church

candles flickered behind red vases hot with wishes

Please make Richard concede and sign all the papers
Please sell my house in AZ

 

You on the rocks getting further away

untouchable

(loneliness is part of this story)

The outcroppings in the rocks you clung to were not even

as large as your nail beds

Contrails shredded clouds

A vortex Juniper spiraled above me

You spidered too small to see

I heard you shout my name from the apex of Bell Rock

 

At the church, a woman curled her hand around red vase

light through fingers

the way, at moments, women in love go transparent

 

Harsh sun on my skin

Rosaries swaying like clocks

In the churchyard, I put my hand through Jesus’s ribs

The body could refuse refuge, the body could refuse

time and lethargy. The body could refuse

anything that binds it to earth

How cool, Amber Dawn

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sketch by Jane Eaton Hamilton (after Picasso)

Where the World End and My Body Begins

Reason for celebration!  Amber Dawn has a new book out this spring, and I’m excited.  Here, listen to what I cribbed from Arsenal:

The first full-length poetry book by the Lambda Literary and Vancouver Book Award Winner.

Award-winning writer Amber Dawn reveals a gutsy lyrical sensibility in her debut poetry collection: a suite of glosa poems written as an homage to and an interaction with queer poets, such as the legendary Gertrude Stein, Christina Rossetti, and Adrienne Rich, as well as up-and-comers like Leah Horlick, Rachel Rose, and Trish Salah. (Glosas, a 15th-century Spanish form, typically open with a quatrain from an existing poem by another writer, followed by four stanzas of ten lines each, and usually end with a line repeated from the opening quatrain.)

By doing so, Amber Dawn delves deeper into the themes of trauma, memory, and unblushing sexuality that define her work.

But wait a little more.  Here are the blurbs:

“Revel in the way Amber Dawn’s hard femme survivor poetics create testimony bridges between queer survivor poets then and now, mapping a cartography you can tuck in your pocket, reminding you of where we’ve been.” —Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, author of The Revolution Starts At Home: Confronting Intimate Violence In Activist Communities and Love Cake

“You’ll be sweetened, entranced and scared in equal measure by Amber Dawn’s glosas. This is a wordsmith at the height of her powers. You’ll have to read these again and again, just to be sure the gorgeous is real.” —Jane Eaton Hamilton, author of Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes and Hunger

 

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