Umbrella
A Journal of poetry and kindred prose


Catherine Chandler,

a native of New York and Pennsylvania now living in Canada, has poems and translations published or forthcoming in Iambs and Trochees, Raintown Review, Blue Unicorn, Möbius, The Lyric, Modern Haiku, Texas Poetry Journal, First Things, Candelabrum, The HyperTexts, The Barefoot Muse and other journals.

Her poems will soon be published in two anthologies in the U.K. and the U.S. Among other awards and honors, her poem “66” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lectures in Spanish at McGill University, where she also works as financial administrator for a Health Canada/McGill University language-training project.


—Back to Poetry Contents—

The Dogs of Ushuaia

In search of the exotic I had flown
as far as Ushuaia. I would see
the penguin and the lenga, for I’d grown
accustomed to the birch, the chickadee.

I crossed the Beagle Channel, met the prince
who sails upon the air; immersed my mind
in images I trusted would convince
myself I’d left the commonplace behind:

the setting sun at midnight, and the way
the cordillera bears from west to east,
how wind and weather shift throughout the day;
a poet’s fodder, at the very least.

And yet, in retrospect, what I recall
most often when I need the proper noun
is not Olivia or Martial,
but intimations of a downhill town:

a bleak, forsaken prison, silent bogs,
a landscape ravaged by the beaver, frail
impromptu housing, countless scrawny dogs,
a monument to the Malvinas, stale

abandoned factories that bear the brunt
of empty promises, a roadside shrine
to plaster saints, a tourist’s waterfront
complete with tourists from the steamship line.

Though many miles from home, this land would show
that there is really nothing new, indeed,
under the sun, beyond the point of no
return, beyond its calafate seed,

beyond all hemispheres, beyond each pole,
beyond the boundaries nations call their own.
The dogs of Ushuaia hound my soul
and gnaw upon it, as they would a bone.

 

Roses and Biscuits

When roses are in bloom
their scent confounds the air.
My life is a pantoum,
a name, a nom de guerre.

Their scent confounds the air,
it comforts and it wounds;
the name, the nom de guerre,
the butterflies, cocoons.

It comforts and it wounds,
the petal and the thorn,
the butterflies, cocoons,
the tassels and the corn.

The petal and the thorn,
the curds and whey, the cream,
the tassels and the corn,
the essence and the dream.

The curds and whey, the cream—
my life is a pantoum,
an essence and a dream,
when roses are in bloom.

 

Sapodilla

You’ve heard it said: we can’t go home again.
The past, forever flown, we tend to see
in mind’s eye only, rather differently,
as apparitions of what might have been.

I’ll side with Proust. For, although fifty years
have roughened up the tender girl, it takes
such little effort—less than spongy cakes
and tea—to resurrect her souvenirs.

Ah, there’s Poughkeepsie. Nineteen fifty-four.
I skip along the Hudson. As the boats
go by, my father calls to me and quotes,
Still waters run deep, as clearly as before

the sky fell in; when, like this chewing-gum,
my life was one sweet, succulent cliché,
where, dauntless in the sun that could not stay,
I climbed the evergreen, I ate the plum.

 

Ragbag In remembrance of Charles Beaudelaire and William Butler Yeats

This is an art of foraging for rags,
for scrap and speck, for shard and smithereen,
for snippets gathered from the streets in bags
straining to hold the residue of spleen.
Recast, old players once reduced to dust
rejuvenate, and in the rebirth, show
another’s been there, done that, be it just
an hour or millennia ago.

So, blessèd be the boy who banks, at best,
his smoldering fires of fancy with the fuel
of sensibility; and in his call
to be the city’s ragman, may his quest
permit a vision that transcends the pool
of vomit, to the flower in the wall.