Calla & Édourd by Kathryn MacDonald, an excerpt

This novella, set in Eastern Ontario, bubbles with the details of everyday life. The cycle of the season is reflected in the lives of the central characters. It is a hymn/lament for that which is passing and that which is past. (Alistair MacLeod, author of two collections of short stories: The Lost Salt Gift of Blood and Island; and the award-winning novel: No Great Mischief, cover copy)

Calla & Édourd cover
Hidden Brook Press (HBP); ISBN 978-1-897475-39-3; 2009

It is a sad day when a book goes out of print. After ten years, this is the fate of my novella, all 23,000+ words, 129 pages.

From readers, Calla & Édourd garnered comments such as, “I was hooked after having read only the preface (as well as the entire book that same evening) [L.S.]. “I could see everything like a movie running through my head” [P.C.]. “I loved the explanation of perfection for Édourd on page 96 and the stories ‘…steeped in the tea of superstition and Catholicism’” [G.M.].

Chapter 1 begins:

Calla moves like a wave, from tree to tree, down the steep incline toward the water’s edge. Her left arm wrapping itself around rough-barked trunks. Her feet, beneath deep snow, searching for secure footing. Downward. Down to a spot where the water bubbles every day of the year from a silent, hidden spring.

Overhead, the sound of squabbling breaks the quiet. Lifting her face to the sky, Calla’s eyes find two black-capped chickadees. They slip from the sky to a tree branch where they hop over each other, reminding Calla of childhood games of leapfrog. The birds move along the branch away from the trunk before flying westward, their voices becoming lost in the distance. The momentary stillness soon fills with the rapid rat-tat-tatting of a downy woodpecker. It circles a birch tree; its head bobbing rhythmically; its black and white feathers blending into the birch. Without the movement, it would seem invisible.

Calla continues carefully downward, testing with her feet for buried rocks and broken branches beneath the snow. Slowly, she moves toward the white-crusted marsh. The red-winged blackbirds, that months ago perched on cattails, had now flown south, leaving the brown expanse of stalks and tails deserted.

The story begins when Calla is in the early throws of dementia. Then the backstory unfolds with innocence and love, the birth of children and their growing up and leaving home. But the unraveling of Calla’s mind cannot be avoided and takes a toll.

If you’re curious about the reference made by G.M. to the “perfection” passage:

Ah, but expectations of perfection was not something that plagued Édourd. He had grown in the shadow of Papa, a man shaped by the realities of the seasons and he knew that perfection came only masked as miracles. Perfection came with dark-bottomed cumulus clouds carrying rain in spring and with a clear dawn during haying season. It presented itself in the shifting colours as goldfinch feathers changed from drab olive to sunshine yellow, also in spring. Similar magic arrived with the return of the mallards, and shortly afterward, the arrival of ducklings in the marsh. Whether a miracle appeared to satisfy survival or to cause his spirit to leap, Édourd welcomed them like he had welcomed Papa’s stories.

In addition to Alistair MacLeod, Evelyn Bowering wrote cover copy: “Drawing their sustenance from past generations, Calla and Édourd’s love endures when traumatic loss gives way to fragmentation of memory, and past, present and future merge into one. MacDonald creates word paintings of nature and domestic life that linger after the last word is read. This is a beautiful story.”

I blush at the praise and thank everyone who bought books and a special thank you to those who sent their thoughts to me.

I am grateful to my publisher, Richard (Tai) Grove, Hidden Brook Press for taking the risk of publishing my first fiction. At that time, Tai was a new publisher and I was largely untried. We’ve both learned a lot in the intervening ten years.

Thank you for indulging my journey down memory lane.

Please share your experiences of publishing your first fiction and your thoughts if your book, like mine, has slipped out of print.

 

 

Three poems: excerpts from A Breeze You Whisper

I read the whole thing all at once…each poem made me want to read the next one, and then, it was over, leaving me wanting more. [] I was totally entranced. MacDonald’s work is sensual, moving. She plays with words….The poet takes us off the page and into her mind and heart, into our own minds and hearts and beyond. (Amazon review)

Book-NSKathrynMacDonald-ABreezeYouWhisper
ISBN 978-1-897475-66-9; Hidden Brook Press (HBP); 2011

The majority of the poems in the collection are in print for the first time, but some were previously published, including these three. The cover was created by the publisher from one of my photographs of a luna moth; the ink-brush drawings are also my creations. The book is divided into six sections: East; South; West; North; Above & Below.

“Earth,” was originally published in Ascent Aspirations Magazine (2007):

EARTH

Worms wiggle through soil
and at the end of the robin’s beak.

Ants build labyrinthine passageways
and a room fit for a queen’s eggs.

Below the raspberries
a brown field mouse curls in her nest.

Away from the garden path
under the evergreen rabbits burrow.

My fingers reach for weedy roots
find mysteries buried deep.

Gravity hold more than loam
to its stony heart.

East section pg 1

“City Hunter” was originally published in Descant (1981; a prestigious literary journal that published from 1970-2015):

CITY HUNTER

I watched the jazz man
reach through his horn
felt his mellow
breath caress my ears.
His dancing fingers
pushed the air
around the
room
rippling waves
of smoke
broke against
my flesh
the current
pulling toward his
plunging
centre.

He soared and
fell
catching his prey
in the quiet
echo
of his rhythm.

Above & Below section pg 107

The third poem that I’m sharing with you from the collection A Breeze You Whisper is titled “Migration.” It was first published in Northward Journal (under a pen name: Deneau; 1981; Penumbra Press).

MIGRATION

He watched fear
enter her eyes
as she bellied
through the prairie grasses.
He imagined
the pressure
against
her fleshy triangle as
the grasses pushed
between her legs.
Snaking forward, she,
initiation offering,
would clamp him
in her hairy, circular
trap
and devour
his hunger until the
fear leaped into
his eyes.
Slowly he watched the
seeds sown in her belly
swell.
His ear upon her naval
listening
to drums and gurgling
streams
to thundering hoof beats and
rustling grasses.
From the fissure sprung
the red waters
as the migrating herds
returned.

I thought perhaps after reading my reviews, you might be curious what kind of poetry I write. I would love to learn what you think of these poems, and if you’ve read the book, what you think of it.

Available online: A Breeze You Whisper.

(The caption is a quote from the book review on Amazon.)

Choreography: a poem

Frigate birds soar skyward / become specks of dust in the blue / before slow spirals…

On September 24, 2019, Amethyst Review published “Choreography.”

Choreography

            by Kathryn MacDonald

Frigate birds soar skyward
become specks of dust in the blue
before slow spirals toward sea
their wingspan increasing
split tails          like swallows gliding
aerial grace          becoming
kites on currents
floating on aqua ripples.
Sunshine warms bare legs
spread for balance on the foredeck
eyes shielded against glare
while becoming other
shedding feathers and scales
until reaching the centre
and all drops away.

 

Sailboats and frigate birds 2018-12-21 #008 sm (1 of 1)
Sailboats and frigate birds (Isla Mujeres, Yucatan, Mexico)

Check out Amethyst Review and the FB page. Please share the links with your friends.

Past Midnight: poem

“The lines cast off / we glide….”

In August, Amethyst Review published “Past Midnight.”

 

PAST MIDNIGHT
by Kathryn MacDonald

The lines cast off
we glide through still water
insistent weeds
and water lily leaves.

We slip past sailboats
held fast to docks
by tendrils of black or white
blue or red          lines like thoughts
tethered to mourning and borders.

We venture into the other world
beyond safe harbour
and sense some things
have changed forever.

 

I’d love to know what you think of Past Midnight (and please “share” the link — Amethyst Review deserves reading).

 

Ducks in mist-PEC-sm (1 of 1)
Leaving safe harbour in heavy mist. (The photograph “Zen Serenity” was selected for a juried show, 2018.)

 

 

 

 

 

“Casting Off” one poem-two passions

Seldom do I write cantatory poems, but last Thanksgiving during a week at a Northern lake, my rhythm changed. The poem “Casting Off” feels to me almost like prayer. Out of awareness comes oneness.

Casting Off

    (for Linda)

When mist hangs thick as cloud
blanketing the dark lake
          in translucent veil
          magical and mysterious
walk the damp path
beyond alizarin maples
glistening birch-bark
and hemlock soaring skyward
          rough bark breathing
          moss and fungi
          shallow roots clinging
          to ancient bedrock
walk out onto the dock
feel the quiver of your weight
settle          breathe wood smoke
as the sun bursts through
in topaz glow.

Kathryn MacDonald
Devour: Art & Lit Canada (page 42)

Before the sun burst through the mist, a fisher-guy broke the quiet and entered the cloaked world:

Morning Mist Wahwashkesh L 2018 sm.jpg (1 of 1)

For poems and photos by others, check out Devour: Art & Lit Canada, just a click away.

And please let me know what you think.