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Poets & Storytellers 2021

Carolyne Van Der Meer, Montreal

Carolyne Van Der Meer is a journalist, public relations professional and university lecturer who has published articles, essays, short stories and poems internationally. Her work includes Motherlode: A Mosaic of Dutch Wartime Experience (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2014), Journeywoman (Inanna, 2017), and Heart of Goodness: The Life of Marguerite Bourgeoys in 30 Poems | Du coeur à l’âme : La vie de Marguerite Bourgeoysen 30 poèmes (Guernica, 2020). The last one won second prize in the Poetry Category of the 2021 Catholic Media Association Book Awards and has been shortlisted in the Specialty Books Category of The Word Guild’s Annual Word Awards. Her third full-length collection of poetry, Sensorial, is forthcoming from Inanna in 2022. Carolyne lives in Montreal, Quebec.

Poem: my father came in many colours

Each was a hue that required tight adaptation
a nervous flexibility as if a gymnast
a mid-air somersault, a walk along the balance beam
a vault over the box horse—
we found the right move
and neatly executed

The colours were harder to predict
Sometimes he was red from the sun, vitiligo robbing him
of pigment, leaving angry blotches in its wake
Other times yellow, jaundiced from a lack of expression
from sitting in his armchair quietly smoking a pipe
a puff every quarter of an hour, barely engaging

He could be white, the molten embers of a temper
angry about something undefined, incapable of
articulating it but we knew—because that fall
from the balance beam, that faulty vault—
had triggered a wasteland of silence
my mother bearing the weight of it for days

There was blue, those sky-coloured eyes
twinkling with mischief as he teased
razzing me ‘til I cried because he couldn’t find the line
between just right and too much
But that glittering blue laughter was arresting
a fleeting approval we all sought

And now there is grey, that mane of black hair faded
eyes lightened by time, pigment gone, Parkinson’s wasting him
moving him involuntarily, taking his voice without warning
a rainy-day shadow of the virility that near destroyed us all
a mild-mannered gentleman reconciling all the colours
in the twilight hours that remain

Carolyne Van Der Meer