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Elizabeth Cunningham

Born in Toronto, Elizabeth’s first job was at the Village Book Store on Gerrard Street in the late 60’s where she worked with its generous, affable proprietor Marty Ahvenus. He introduced her to many of the emerging writers, artists, and small presses of the time whom he supported and encouraged. She lived on Toronto Island, where she joined the resilient community to fight for and save the Island homes from demolition by the city. Moving to Eden Mills, near Guelph, with her three children and husband for a teaching position in the 90’s, Elizabeth volunteered for many years at the Eden Mills Writer’s Festival where eventually she read her own poetry after winning first prize in the literary competition at that event in 2015. This award encouraged her to keep working towards publishing this collection of poetry. Now residing in Nelson, B.C. with composer Doug Jamieson, her partner for over 40 years, Elizabeth spends her time exploring the mountains, playing with her grandchildren, writing, teaching, photography, music, and enjoying her practice as an Expressive Arts Therapist.

Intrepid Wanderers

We are intrepid wanderers,
stubborn, beaming elderwomen,
our hair blanched colourless
or streaked steely-grey,
faces etched with life’s
inscrutable scars.

We slog the deep snow,
denying the weight and ache
of so many decades.
We draw our breath deeply
from the troughs of the mountains.

We stop and gasp at liminal clouds,
Some of us sing,
harmony the only mystery
that can approach what is revealed.

Some of us speak
of grief unsurmountable,
peering into unfathomable
chasms of loss.

None of us turn back.
We may meander off the trail,
stagger and fall.
But we are never lost.

Under the Larches
for Patricia Rose

We walk a pathway
of long light,
the colour of burnt sienna.

Dark shadows
brush silently against us
while the illuminated trail
leads us further
into the forest.

There is a subtle
movement in the air.

We look up
and gold filigree,
continuous as snowfall,
drifts down
from the glowing crowns
of the vibrant trees.

The reaching branches
gaze ceaselessly
at the sky,
turning their soft needles
into tiny shafts
of light.

They fall in delicate strands
into our outstretched hands.

Gold is an elusive hue;
and these filaments
ephemeral as the scent
of forest incense
and the faint glimmer
of a fading autumn day.

Hoar Frost

Sparse hoar frost
crisps the crackling branches
of countless gnarled trees
that clutch the mountainside.

The brightly wrinkled faces
of our tromping gaggle of women
beam at the impossible stars shimmering
on countless mounds of snow
clumping between the trunks.

Pale winter sunlight
glimmers on the ice-shattered limbs.
They cackle with us
as we pass.

We clomp steadfastly,
leaving shuffle marks in the snow.
The going up is hard,
the descent worse.
Mysterious blue shadows
block the light.

Beneath our dazzlefrosted hair
and deeply furrowed brows
are young and laughing minds,
wondering which part of us
is telling lies
about our age.


From A Fragile Grace
by Elizabeth Cunningham
© 2018 Elizabeth Cunningham
Published by Ekstasis Editions