This is a poem by Karen Mulhallen whose book of selected poems Acquainted With Absence came out in 2009 (I selected the poems and wrote the introduction). Karen is an old friend, publisher of Descant, the venerable Toronto magazine, a Blake scholar and a poet (look her up) who also had a dog named Lucy once upon a time. Karen and I both come from southwestern Ontario. We both know the Halton Sand Hills and the definition of a turtleback. For years we’ve met for lunch at Southside Louie’s on College Street, a favourite haunt of my boys.
Start, don’t arrive
Give, don’t receive
Sow, sow, never harvest
Burn, don’t be consumed.
To be impoverished, but not to cheat
To be disappointed, and again to trust
To be thirsty, yet not to drink
To live once,
and still die a hundred times.
Have faith, live in sin
Hurt, ask no forgiveness
Break, do not bend.
the summer’s heat
Waiting for the one who never comes
Still among lightning
—Karen Mulhallen, from Acquainted With Absence