During my last two years of high school in little Cornwall Ontario, I was in a secret relationship with my first boyfriend. Dana and I had long hair we called “bohemian” because we weren’t headbangers and we weren’t hippies. We were artists. I wrote poems and he played every musical instrument that was put in his hands. On a trip to Montreal to hit the dance clubs one weekend, we stopped at a bookstore chain (a Coles, I think) waiting for the night to be dark enough for partying.
At the back of the store, I picked up a white and blue covered poetry book, Lorna Crozier’s Angels of Flesh, Angels of Silence. The poems were so immediately captivating, the feel of the paper pages is still sharp in my memory.
The book gave me a private thrill in the bookstore aisles, injecting a kind of literary adrenalin in my blood, running cold down my arms, pricking up the backs of my ears. I had so many secrets I couldn’t share, a dozen dozen news items of my life that I had to keep out of the public eye, and here Angels of Flesh, Angels of Silence whispered inside me, intimate, like warm company on a solitary mission to Mars.
With my friends waiting for me at the bookstore exit, all I wanted was to stand there and read. So I spent some beer money on a poetry book, which is as good a marker as any of what it means to begin your life as a poet. Or an adult.
But why this book? What about it made my first poetry purchase feel so necessary. What the hell did a forty-something Saskatchewan divorcée who writes poems about angels have in common with a closeted fag in eastern Ontario?
Here was someone, I felt, confiding her secrets to me. Secrets I understood. Not just the obvious (infamous) Penis Poems, but “Sometimes My Body Leaves Me”, or “Twins”, which speak about a physical, visceral loneliness, an unwholesome disconnect, that I knew intimately.
I don’t know what [my body] feels,
if it feels anything;
or what it remembers,
if each cell holds a memory.
When I think of him
a mouth is born without a tongue,
a fox without a tail,
a bird with one broken wing
tries to fly.
Reading had always felt like company, and here, Lorna Crozier wasn’t just speaking, but seemed to hear me too. She knew so much about me. Here were the objects of a life I knew—pots and pans of poetry, worn jeans and dark-mooned fingernails—arranged in such a way that another life was revealed, a kind of cataloguing that uncovered, behind the obviousness of things, a code. More-ness. The world was rich and available in Crozier’s pages. The world was unreasonable, unfair, and perhaps even because of this, like each of us, it deserved to be loved.
To learn more about Lorna Crozier, please visit her website.
Michael V. Smith is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, performance artist and occasional clown teaching creative writing in the interdisciplinary program of the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies at UBC’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna, BC. His most recent book, My Body Is Yours, explores his emancipation from masculinity. Visit his website.