the canary

“Sometimes one goes along the street, sad
Asking for the canary not to die”*

because it is canary yellow
because the notes of its song
are crisp and gilded, they cheerily crustate
the furthest corner of a wired cage
but on balconies, all along the street
geraniums are discomforted
shedding vermillion like stigmata
summer is in culmination
and I’m already too late for the funeral

I barely knew of la poetisa
never heard the words she was so famous for
today was just a chance discovery of death
finding she had already left us
behind a fabulous body of work
the lascivious pen lying low at last
her tongue silent, once so foreign sounding
huskily brusque in that Cuban Spanish way
and we’ll reap her repertoire for seeds
press each and every poem between dry pages

the canary asks for her along the street
sad that she no longer goes there

*opening translation from Encuentro – remembering Carilda Oliver Labra- 1922-2018 and joining open link night at dVerse

27 Comments on “the canary

  1. I actually know that poetisa… we had a prompt on her by Grace on toads years ago. I remember I was especially taken in by her poem “declaration of love”… the love under the threat of missiles… I didn’t know that she had died so recently.

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  2. The culmination of both the summer and the poetess’ words is quite a lovely parallel. Also, canary and death always make for an evocative combination. I really liked this bit: “we’ll reap her repertoire for seeds/press each and every poem between dry pages”. The canary’s sadness is felt in that last line.
    -HA

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    • thank you HA – the canary became a potent motif as the poem developed – I was saddened by her death and not having known much of her before

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  3. The caged canary is sadness itself, crusted in its corner, pressed seeds and falling geraniums. I love your images. They take me along a bright Cuban street.

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  4. Cuba itself is the canary, and midst the poverty and authoritarian rule, poetry and literature still thrive; tribute to the human spirit. You put me in mind of the canary in the coal mine; very evocative tribute.

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    • What ever the personal and political circumstances poetry bubbles to the surface – glad you liked this tribute to Labra

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  5. This is wonderfully rich, evocative and lyrical in its portrayal of loss and death.. especially love; “we’ll reap her repertoire for seeds press each and every poem between dry pages.” ❤

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  6. She is wonderful passionate poet and I didn’t know that she had died too. I find poets who write in a different language, has a unique way of expressing themselves. Thanks for reminding me about the beauty of her work.

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    • I like Spanish language poets most because I love and learn it. Hope this poem was tribute enough to her beautiful work

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  7. I’ve had this experience of encounter and discovery of recent death…it has its own sadness. Your poem makes me want to read this poet.

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  8. Your poem is so delicate and sad, Laura. I love the the brightness of the opening lines with their canary yellow and crisp, gilded notes of song, the surprise of the discomforted vermillion geraniums and the poetisa’s funeral. I also enjoyed the alliteration and contrast in the lines:
    ‘the lascivious pen lying low at last
    her tongue silent, once so foreign sounding
    huskily brusque in that Cuban Spanish way’.

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  9. I’m not familiar with her work but your poem is a heart-tugging tribute!

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  10. and we’ll reap her repertoire for seeds
    press each and every poem between dry pages

    my favourite lines,

    your poetry has finesse, graceful really, very gentle as it flows out to the reader.

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