Frances ItaniCanadaWriting2009
Back
First Snow

There are certain unpredictable days
when I drive through the city
when I can’t get by the cemetery
can’t keep myself from veering
through the still stone gates
climbing from my car at the marker, possessed
of your chiselled name.


Like today. I want to say: Listen
Are you listening? I stopped by to tell you:
this is the day of the first snow.
remember the fresh new flakes
trapped on the tongue
dissolved in the mouth’s warm cavern?


Often when I think of you, it is you
in the black chair, the tumour
wedged urgent in your brain.
How from the doorway I chided you
for dragging yourself backwards up the stairs
so you could have a real bath, one last time.
How you put your hand to your nose
and gave me the thumb, saying
Ha to being sensible; that was over for you.
How you looked at me one final day
from your parlour bed
and in mock grimness, said
Think of it. I’ll never see the inside
of my closet again.


At the grave I am crouched over a solemn pit.
It is the way we faced our annual nascent slide
into the bottomless gully after the first good freeze,
that singular moment perched on the edge
before our daredevil plunge; seconds later
the shredded air galloping upwards
past our descending cheeks


Late in the day we turned home
fingertips and toes numb to the cold
shaking onto the surface of stove, ice
that snarled in our mitts.
In crazed circles iceballs danced
and spit round the sweltering rings.
We gave in to our bodies
We gave in to our perfect fatigue
We sank to the floor on spread newspapers
tugging the boots from each other’s feet


I want to say all of this; I want to say:
Listen Are you listening?
What did we learn?
What did we know?
What was it for?


In the end, there is nothing, really to say.
So I stand in unspeakable silence, staring down
while long-tailed mockingbirds
wing purposefully to the woods
while rodent eyes of squirrels
rivet from the trees.

Excerpt from 'Deafening'

This is an excerpt from one of my novels about a young deaf woman, Grania. (p.132)


In the tower apartment they lay on the blue blanket, the parlour curtains pulled back so that they could see the night sky. He lay beside her in the dark and she turned on her right side, where she could tuck in closely.


She wanted to talk. The room was dark unless there was a moon, but she did not need the moon. She closed her eyes and raised the fingers of her left hand to his lips. Though at first he was astonished, he understood and began to speak. His careful words fell into her fingertips and she whispered back and they conversed like this, side by side. She had been well taught; her hands and body remembered the countless times at school when she had sat on a chair facing her teacher.


"Place your fingertips over my mouth. Lightly now. Feel the word. Now to my throat, back to the lips. Let the shape of the word fall into your fingers. Scoop it up with your hand."


He had never known a language that so thoroughly encompassed love.


She had never felt so safe.