Sunday, April 09, 2006


I’m currently working my way through an anthology of ghost poems Chance of a Ghost, to write a review for Gerald England and, whilst it is taking much longer than I’d like due to a continued shortage of reading time, it’s already paid off with a new discovery – Marjorie Stelmach.

So far, I haven’t found out much about her, except that she's Canadian, has one published collection and various poems published in various journals. I'm continuing to dig. Meanwhile, here’s her poem from the anthology (I think the second strophe is outstanding):



I appear in doorways. I always know
something they should know.
I call them in to hear the tidings, or out
to watch the world do whatever it’s doing.
Sometimes I’ve come to warn them – No.
Don’t look: the shuttle’s crashed;
the beautiful child’s stillborn; wait,
the stairway’s gone.
Then I vanish or my words wake them.
Either way, my part is over.

It’s a gift of sorts, a calling: I appear
and disappear my body like a wink
or a moon,
thin into rooms and out,
as if my cells could take the shapes
of ornamental spaces in a lacework of worlds.

Meanwhile, in my own dreams I move slow motion.
Dreamfields unfold like lifetimes before me;
buffeted by landscapes, I can’t seem to fly.
I watch my doorways fill
with clear gaps where no one stands,
and never will again. I listen.
No word comes.

After years of being told at breakfast or in letters
of my appearances,
I’ve begun to feel an awkwardness in living.
Our comings and goings, the expansions
and contradictions of the air between us,
these cumbersome tissues we call our lives,
how could these be real?

And dreams?
Words spoken in dreams stay
Or they don’t. Screams
doppler off into breakfasts,
words of comfort sink into the sweetened milk.
If, in broad day we suddenly turn
and look over our shoulders at doorways,
it’s nothing. We know we’re alone;
but sometimes
we think we may not be.


Steven said...

Niice, I think I was expecting something a little more spare and enigmatic, but there are some lovely turns of phrase in there such as 'lacework of worlds' that sound wonderful also.

By the way, I can't log-in to the PFFA anymore, hence my non-posting. It's really bizarre, but I've had a few virus issues with my computer lately; but anyway, it's really odd.

Anyway, thanks for your encouragement, as always.


N. Thomas said...

I admire Marjorie Stelmach a great deal. She actually lives in St. Louis, Missouri (Manchester, to be precise). She is a very humble person. Elizabeth Bishop is one of her favorite poets and a major influence on her work. She is reading some of her work at an upcoming River Styx "Poetry Feast" at Duff's Restaurant in St. Louis. She taught me most of what I know about modern poetry.

Noah Thomas

N. Thomas said...

P.S.--Stelmach was mentored by Howard Nemerov (poet laureate) at Washington University, so obviously his work exerts some presence in hers as well.

N. Thomas

Messalina said...

Hi Noah,

Thanks very much for that.

Anonymous said...

I've known MS a long time, but didn't know (and didn't think) she was Canadian - are you sure? At the very least she's been in St. Louis for a minimum of 35 years.

Without doubt, she is remarkable, insightful, incisive, wry, and intensely, serenely human.

Anonymous said...

Marjorie Stelmach taught me in college. I'm sure it'll gladden you to know that her character is as lovely as her writing.

Anonymous said...

MS was raised in St. Louis, the daughter of a faculty doctor associated with Washington University medical school. She was my teacher in my "Methods of English Teaching" class in grad school and later my colleague in the English department of a public high school here in St. Louis. She has since retired from that job but works with creative writing undergraduate fellows at Washington University.

Anonymous said...

Lovely poem. Marjorie Stelmach was my teacher in 7th grade and engendered a life-long love of poetry. My thanks to her and to you for the posting.

Anonymous said...

the depth of her influence is great. MS had a profound effect on my life. her words on paper are complicated to me even now. her kindness and humanity have always been clear and touchingly simple.