FAMOUS BLUE MOLESKINS after Leonard Cohen It’s four in the morning, the depth of September. I can’t sleep, you’re not here, my belly is painful. London is muggy, the window is open. My passport is useless, there’s no rain, I miss you. My father is losing the maps he has followed. Perhaps Canada misses me, the prairies are endless.
Mercury is the toxic, seductive element that NancyMattson uses here instead of ink to try to capture 1990s London. But truth keeps sliding off the page, and Canadian and Finnish memories, myths, and family stories intrude, giving the poems a double or triple perspective and a complex linguistic and cultural texture. These poems move between menace and generosity, loss and renewal, reflection and exuberance. They trace women’s lives from Browniehood to motherhood, postmarriage cynicism to post-romantic love, celebrating friendship and speaking passionately about violence against women.
Along the way they chronicle odd customs such as totem-pole raising, falconry, ice fishing, eel mongering, berry picking and watching drive-in movies. Writing with Mercury is Mattson’s second full collection. Her first, Maria Breaks Her Silence (Regina: Coteau, 1989), was based on the life of a Finnish woman who emigrated to Canada in the 19th century. It was short-listed for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for best first book of poetry in Canada and adapted for the stage as Lye Soap and Dancing Cows.