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George Amabile

George Amabile is a Canadian poet. His poetry, fiction and non-fiction have been published in Canada, the USA, Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand in over a hundred anthologies, magazines, journals and periodicals including The Penguin Book of Canadian Verse, The New Yorker Book of Poems, Saturday Night, The New Yorker, Harper's, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Poetry Australia, Sur (Buenos Aires), Poetry Canada Review, Canadian Literature, and Margin (England). He has edited The Far Point, Northern Light and has published seven books. The Presence of Fire (McClelland & Stewart, 1982) won the Canadian Authors’ Association Silver Medal for Poetry; his long poem, Dur, placed third in the CBC Literary Competition for 1991; "Popular Crime" won first prize in the Sidney Booktown International Poetry Contest in February, 2000; and he is the subject of a special issue of Prairie Fire (Vol. 21,No. 1, May 2000). From October 2000 to April 2001 he was Writer in Residence at the Winnipeg Public library. His most recent publications are Rumours of Paradise / Rumours of War (McClelland and Stewart, 1995), Tasting the Dark: New and Selected Poems (The Muses Company, an imprint of J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing Inc., 2001), and Dancing, with Mirrors (Porcupine's Quill, 2011). You can find his books on and

Transit in Absentia
. . . . . .
A fuzzy half-moon hangs from the bruised night.
It looks as though it has become infected
with some as yet uncatalogued fungus, tenacious
as angelhair. It has lost its place
in the old stories—Astarte, Nanna,
His-wang-mu, or the Mexican Trickster
Conejo—and must be content
with its role as pock-marked veteran
of obscure plagues and wars,
the unearthly darkness packed like grease
around a bearing
that won’t hold up much longer.

And all the while they were imagining
soft landings, the night sky,
the moon a pearl among diamonds,
the empty sleeves
                             of the sea.
Later, they abandoned each other
to ambivalent shade, breathing
shallow afternoons and closing the books
they had leafed through as a hedge against boredom.
It was enough to dream with half closed eyes,
to speak in fragments, in a vernacular
conditioned by boutiques and cafes.
Pods ripen and fall.
They gather their towels and cups,
their headbands, their unread mail, and that is all they have time for
under cliffs with their fossil records
lying carelessly open,
a rough Braille in the decaying light.

The big boat shudders and hums.
Light sparkles under a thin haze.
As the stern
                             and steadies,
blue hills drift away. The gulls
adjust. The air-vent grills
quiver and blur, and the waves,
slate grey like the backs
of the gulls, change
textures: chipped
stone like a primitive axe-head,
hammered lead,
burred steel and a cross-hatch
of loosely woven linen...
The breeze dies. The sea is a mirror
filled with nothing but time.
The breeze dies. The sea is a mirror
filled with nothing but time.

Reprinted from Dancing, with Mirrors


All afternoon the snowflakes swirl and fall.
In the park, skaters turn on the scraped mirror
of the duck pond. They are entranced by winter
like figurines trapped in a glass ball.

This is a Christmas card, an icon of safety
and it seems to return each year out of a past
that can still reach us. It speaks for things that last,
like a breathless charm against catastrophe

and those who watch from the road are reassured
by the calm skill, the terse redundancy
that circulates in that time-warped vortex
at the edge of day, near the old stone fort
where forebears dreamed, in their nation’s infancy,
that every ill we suffer could be cured.

Reprinted from Tasting the Dark: New and Selected Poems

White on White

Snow blowing and drifting
beyond the double-glazed patio doors,
the starched carnation, leaning
from a ceramic eggshell
vase over creased linen, the thin
skin of a cigarette and the chains
of foam in a drained beer glass echo
the shock of my beard, my shirt, the hair
on my wrist, and I remember Summer,
a rush of angel wings from the outboard,
the swerve and flash of a fish,
little puffs like phosphate meringue
on the lake top near shore.

In Asia it's the colour of death.
Here it announces purity
in a bridal veil, a hospital gown
or celebrates the belief
that everything begins again
each day, false
                             dawn a clean page or a blank
check, open to forecasts
and signatures which are valid only
till sunset
burns down to a flurry of moths.

Reprinted from Tasting the Dark: New and Selected Poems

Tivoli: The Villa D'Este

     The body dies; the body's beauty lives.
— Wallace Stevens

The fountains glistened and sang as the wind rose.
Hadrian watched a water-jet struggling to keep
its willowy shape intact in a storm of rainbows
and saw Aphrodite, crowned with foam, deep
in the mind.
                                   How many shrines, stars
empires have fallen since then? A second wind
sweeps the reflective pool to chipped marble
but the stone girls of Karyai stand, sustained

by what? Folds of soaked fine-woven cloth
are pressed, still, against thigh and nipple
by imagined weather, desire eased out of thought
and found again under the powdering tip

of a chisel. It blows where I stand, has blown
for thousands of years, in the flesh, between water and stone.

Reprinted from Tasting the Dark: New and Selected Poems


Light falls
at the foot
of a Dutch bridge.

It is morning.
No one comes.

Reprinted from Tasting the Dark: New and Selected Poems

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