Lorna Goodison: Four Poems

By Lorna Goodison

Whale Dreams

Wet basalt back of whale passing one hundred feet
from the deck, makes me call you to run come from
front gate to the sea side to watch this great token
made manifest in the glassy March sea.

I kneel down on these rocks astonished at the sight
of Jonah’s container that carried him against his will
to warn people he thought less worthy than a hurry-
come-up castor oil tree.

I had gone to visit the seals pups in the far haul-out
when a pack of marauding orcas came wilding.
I bawled out Your name and pleaded the blood
and the gangster orcas plunged.

Two silent men in dark suits and felt hats launch
A crepe draped empty coffin out on to the waves.
We turn and head towards shore. Thankful.
Currently breasting the waves.

All a swim in the same sea with Jonah’s whale.

A Woman Like You

Two women who hitch outside Trail Bay mall call me
as I breeze across Cowrie street; Hey Sister, what you
doing in these parts? I drift over and join them.

Like me they’re no longer young, just not yet past it.
Think trio of ripened hipsters going soft pear shaped;
green at core and heart.

I hover like the hummingbird become totem in a re-set
of my style. Think West Coast-West Indian between
two wide seas: Salish and Caribbean.

Both, aren’t you going to tell us where you’re from?

Jamaica. We Love Jamaica! Loud laugh, start chant
stir up, stir up Marley and Toots. Needs must, I join
in the rub a dub on the sidewalk.

Then a pause. One says, You should come with us.
Where would you take me? She, I know people
who would really love a woman like you.

The wild woman is not all gone; she still shows
herself when her kind appear running hard.

Many Native Women Missing.

At first it seemed
it was just
the cedar tree
extending a limb
to one or two
red dresses.

But now the forest
is redolent
with wind-sock
frocks twisting
from branches
of firs, pines
and arbutus.

The shadow
of a black mother
bear climbs up
unto warning posters,
tears at the hems
of empty dresses.
Scores of native
women missing.


It is Sunday and we are off to the Lion park.
But first we must pass this parade of ostriches:
mother and father and a float of small babies

with fabulous plumage still in tufty stage soft
furze that will in time feather into ostentations,
ladies used to die for to decorate their hats.

This parade causes the car to slow at the crossing
sign that warns : Beware of smaller animals.
Parents taking children to bush Sunday school?

Thule gears down and we observe the birds: a lark
thrilla on a thorn bush, and to welcome me back
the blacksmith plover strikes up.

The lion enclosure gates are guarded by a young woman
you ask if she is afraid, Wonder Girl says, no, never.
Look behind her.  Right there all golden and large,

nothing between us but razor wire fence and metal gate
Miss lion-heart operates, there in your line of sight,
seated sphinx-like, cross-wise the dusty trail, is a lioness.

No zoo beast this. In her element she is magnificence.
That head; even with tresses relinquished to flash locks
of man-lion, even so, that low afro head cropped close,

is its own planet.  A sizable sun set on a turmeric
powdered body. We pull up alongside the fence, we read
the sign, we do all it says, this makes sense.

There have been incidents. There is tape. That woman last
year who thought she’d film a lion up close because it was
lazing all at ease and Disney, till it lifted up, and there is no

stop watch to clock the speed which cut the distance
between woman and lion.  We wind the windows
all the way up, the lioness lolls in a beauty queen pose.

Done win already.  Miss honey, sweet-biscuit, amber
and pollen. For her, Joburg’s mines have been stripped.
This lion queen never deigns to roar, she just shows

full set of teeth as she half rotates her massive world
head set there, a golden globe on her strong stem neck.
That is all that’s needed, that is her” don’t even test”.

We gaze at her majestic under her own sign, the sun
applying more gold streaks and highlights to her pelt.

Lorna Goodison is a Canadian-Jamaican poet and the author of more than eight books of poetry, including Travelling Mercies,Controlling the Silver, and Goldengrove: New and Selected Poems, two collections of short stories, and an acclaimed memoir, From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her People, which was a finalist for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction and won the B.C. Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. Her Collected Poems was published in 2017 by Carcanet, U. K. Her latest publication is Redemption Ground, a book of essays and adventures. Lorna has received much international recognition for her fiction and poetry, including the 2019 Queen’s Medal for Poetry––the first Canadian and Jamaican to ever receive the prize. She lives in Halfmoon Bay, B.C. with her husband J. Edward Chamberlin. Retired from teaching at the University of Michigan four years ago, Lorna and Ted no longer have a residence in Toronto. She now divides her time between British Columbia and Jamaica.

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