Persephone Hears a Layered Singing

by Susan McCaslin

singerFlanked by milling shoppers
jockeying for positions in line ups,
I walk through a labyrinthine, underground mall,
past elegant makeup counters, robotic joggers,
into rooms of stockpiled merchandise,
oil tanks, missiles, endless silent hallways
that open at last on a corn-yellow room
where light streams from a skylight
on the braided head of a woman
playing a grand piano and singing.
She is not young or old, familiar or unfamiliar,
but has the timbre of one who had been my mother,
one long thought dead.
And what a voice, as of all octaves slung together,
an Ella voice, a rich contralto hymning “Summertime,”
voice broken and repaired in each measure,
voice beyond control and controlling
voice of longing and release
voice of resisting and yielding,
voice making no division
between upper and lower worlds,
liminal, liberating voice without score
no ulterior motive but to sing
the song which is the world
in all its rich atonalities, lifts and falls.
(For if one can so sing, anything may be possible.)
So this is how I come to the upper world,
not shoving one foot before the other,
but remaining where I am and rising on a voice.
Often now, I am in the deep underground
and simultaneously above,
being both spring and winter,
all seasons rotating together.

Susan McCaslin

Susan McCaslin is a Canadian poet who has published thirteen volumes of poetry, including The Disarmed Heart (The St. Thomas Poetry Series, 2014), and Demeter Goes Skydiving (University of Alberta Press, 2011), a volume short-listed for the BC Book Prize and first-place winner of the Alberta Book Publishing Award. Susan has recently published an autobiography, Into the Mystic: My Years with Olga (Inanna Publications, 2014), about her relationship with the Canadian mystic Olga Park (1891-1985). In 2012, she initiated the Han Shan Poetry Project as part of a successful campaign to save a local rainforest outside Fort Langley in the Fraser Valley. Susan, who completed her Ph.D. in English at UBC in 1984, is Faculty Emerita of Douglas College in New Westminster, B.C. Susan has a new volume of poetry forthcoming from Quattro Books (Toronto, Oct. 2016) titled Painter, Poet, Mountain: After Cézanne.
Susan McCaslin

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