Thank you to Wolsak and Wynn for making this book available to me at the 2014 Toronto Word on the Street festival
We tend to think of life as a linear construct. We laugh, we cry, we sleep, continue. But do we take the time to seriously look at the cycle that is life? One work of beautifully crafted poetry has me carefully considering life in general and that is Cantos From A Small Room by Robert Hilles.
Canto 7: There Are No Accidents Between Lovers (Excerpt -Page 26)
I turned away and did not speak but
listened to your voice waver as
your mother’s final breath passed.
We waited all day knowing that it would be
soon tomorrow or the day after but soon
and still it was too quick as if suddenly
a switch had been thrown somewhere.
Both of us wanted her to stand up to walk over
to where we were sitting and put her
arms around us as she has often done
in the past. But we knew that the past
is a fragrance that could not reach into her room.
Looking at her closed eyes I wondered if
where she dreamed there was
a bird singing outside her window.
After she died, I gripped your hand and
saw that in death even music falters.
There are some well-crafted thoughts here. Hilles has pondered some serious moments of his life and – in turn – listed some important elements of the human condition. It was a pleasure to read this and consider moments out of my own life.
Canto 10: Canto For The Dead (Except Page 36)
Does it matter that you are not strong that even
as a child you could not look at death without
being caught in its delicate stare? Does it matter
that your thighs sing in the morning and do not move
but rest beneath the covers?
Your fist is strong but shatters nothing lands
on your own knee. Crazy, you are listening to the world
hiss in the throat of a lover. Listen to the kindness
you have left behind its long dress hanging in a
window down the street. A bird laughs by your window,
as illogical and true as that may sound, you laugh too
walk across the street and tear a daffodil out of the ground.
Softly you begin to tear the skin from your eyes
begin to peel the scales from your tongue.
You are prepared to enter any graveyard and listen.
Death the act of hearing a bird laugh at your window
the blinds hiding its face a tanager or a swallow
it’s not important as you look at your hands and smile.
It is important to carefully read and re-read passages in this book. This is one of these works that needs to be pondered and considered. A quiet corner with a few hours to spare makes reading these words worthwhile.
Combs (Excerpt -page 60)
You comb your hair and
this dark room is filled
with splashes of static.
My body is shaped
by your hair and I listen
as you sigh into the mirror
and escape in it to another room
one larger than this where
the moonlight strips the sheets
from the bed and children whisper
their fears at the door.
My hands tremble as
they reach across to you
feeling your soft tongue moisten
them. Our bodies continue
to praise each other even as we
sleep our lives equipped with
different dreams and it is dangerous
to anticipate another’s plummet
into the world alone.
Cantos From A Small Room by Robert Hilles is a well-crafted work which gave me pause to reconsider the human condition. His thoughts are profound and carefully considered. A pleasure to read and re-read.