"No blank space anywhere here”


Frances Boyle

Frances Boyle (she/her) is the author of two books of poetry, most recently This White Nest (Quattro Books, 2019), and also of the short story collection Seeking Shade (The Porcupine’s Quill, 2020) and the novella Tower (Fish Gotta Swim Editions, 2018). Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Best Canadian Poetry 2020, Event, Prairie Fire, Dreich, The Wild Word, and Mookychick. She lives in Ottawa and writes reviews for Canthius and Arc Poetry Magazine.

“‘No blank space anywhere here’ is a response to the poem ‘Morgonfåglar’ by Tomas Tranströmer, translated as ‘Morning Birds,’ in particular the repeated line which I’ve used as the title and an echoing and varied element throughout my poem. It also partially reflects my feelings of being tangled up as I read the original Swedish (which I don’t understand).”

“‘Heartstream’ is my response to — and incorporates the rhythms of — Suzanne Vega’s song “Tom’s Diner,” especially her original version (which I adore) but also the DNA remix. The song’s beats and pauses have long remained with me, and they echo the sensations of my own arrhythmic heartbeat when I was experiencing heart conditions known as ‘atrial flutter’ and ‘atrial fibrillation.’ Those feelings took me on the rhyming journey in the poem, which also includes nods to Ursula K. Le Guin, James Taylor, and J. R. R. Tolkien.”

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all the colouring book lines filled / scribbling right to the edges / no blank space / no rest for the eyes / no restful moment but in letting eyelids slide shut / brief blink / no white space at the margins / no room for the writing to breathe / its denseness a claustrophobic cobweb of damning intensity / no blank space anywhere and I fight my way through dream drapery / claw my way through fabric / feel it drag on my head and shoulders / feel it cling to my back as I try to push through/to just a bit of blank space / no deep breaths anywhere just shallow ragged panting / engine-puff of exhaustion / overcome by heartsickness / a triggered moment / a remembering / crayon scribbles of scenery and scent filling the page / no blank space anyway // no crack no cold air return / the weight of old perfume on the air / Tabu or Shalimar / cloying/choking me with a past I don’t want to sense again / sounds of engines clanging / alarms off but relentless in how they leave no blank space to hear my own thoughts / there is no blank space between the trees / no path I can take just false breaks / and roots and rocks to trip me / there is no way through that won’t catch me with brambles / whack me with branches feral in their outrage / their length an affront to any wind / loose-fallen among still-standing boughs / they fill every blank space in the weave / thread it through with menace / a fall / a tumble to ground when the wind rocks / there is no blank space / there is no back door / when I am ready I will leave but now // now I am scribbled over / erased by foliage or fabric / scent or scenery, the siren wail of failures

   Where’s the rhythm? goes my heartbeat, it is full and fast and false
   Where’s the rhythm in my heartbeat and a second chance to waltz?
   There’s a lurching in the rhythm      in the rhythm there’s a pause
   And I just go on despite it       That is just the way it was
   when the blurring and the shine came to wipe me clear at root
   and I walked inside the magic and I scarcely went a foot
   til I found the sleepy silence of the fish that met the net
   as a blockage, not a capture not a sequence of events

   Where’s the wriggle, where’s the pulsing and the time so free and fast
   Here’s a heartbeat, here’s a giggle, time to make this moment last
   Where’s the oceanic meaning? heartbeat pause and watch and drum
   Come to me my baby darling, don’t you know what you’ll become
   You’ll become a shriek at morning, you’ll become a lazy cow
   you’ll be walking in the phrase-book long beyond the girl-faced sun
   And Ms Vega of the rhythm that is ticking in my soul
   says the rhythm is the moment where you never can grow old

   Lose the rhythm lose momentum, find the rhythm it can raise
   Catch the heartbeat, move the heartbeat, looking for the words to praise
   Hold up holy, hold up scandal, hold up faces as they age
   Delight in what we’re doing, fear that things may never change
   Worry pictures, worry puppies, worry how I’m going to grow
   Here’s the heartbeat, it will carry me along the road below
   Find the rhythm, keep the heartstream, brave into the fire I go
   And I sing lalala lala             and I sing before I know

   And I sing a song to fire       and I sing a song of rain
   just like James did on the stereo when my singing was my pain
   along the edge of notice in the shadow of the word
   And the word for world is forest       and the singing of a bird
   comes above the beat I hear here, though the singing sounds absurd
   Scream and trill aren’t all in rhythm       No, I lost it with the birds

   Back to heartbeat, that’s my centre that is where it all will end
   When I sing the trail before me I will see beyond the bend
   see the river rush and wander       see the trees grow tall or fall
   And I weep because I have to       no fine lines to shape it all
   Words are shifty, words are lala       and words can run away
   and the words go on forever til the finish of the day
   And it’s all so very very same and different as it goes
   and I rhyme the same old rhymes from my head down to my toes

   Old, familiar are the shapes and words and patterns as they come
   and I write the sweet familiar don’t go beating on a drum
   Find the rhythm outside rhythm       find the silence that I spin
   in the net that is the throbbing    central    focus of the din
   Beyond the noise and silence little rhythm that I hum
   I will tell the world my stories       words and spaces as they come

   And the road goes on forever (there’s a hobbit in my song!)
   and I write the world I see here       in the rhythm of the sun
   in the rhythm of the downpour       in the rhythm of the room
   and the net will hold us tight and weather words will tell the tune

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