“How Can I Begin?”: poems from Milk Stone by Pat Lowther

Burning the Iris_by GogitaFroggies1

“How Can I Begin?”: poems from Milk Stone by Pat Lowther

. . .
How Can I Begin
How can I begin?
So many skins
of silence upon me
Not that they blunt me,
but I have become
accustomed to
walking like a pregnant woman
carrying something
alive yet remote.
My thoughts,
though less articulate
than image,
still have in them
something like a skeleton,
a durable beginning
waiting for
unpredicted flesh
and deliverance.
I would ask
you: learn as I learn
patience with mine
and your own silence.

. . .

String-figure man outside the door
Didn’t I too catch the sun
in a cradle spun
of my own gut string?
If now outside my house some thing
makes a sound like dry skins scraping,
should my bones dissolve to jelly
in my narrowing flesh?
It is fitting to strangle me in the mesh
of my own making.
I who made the sun
come in my belly.
I shall open my door
and accept the evil as I did before
the shining One.

. . .

Stone Deaf
Imagine it
– tympanum, cochlea,
cunning little frogs-legs ossicles,
all that delicate absurd machinery
petrified, rattling stonily
in the skull’s cavity
like garnets in a hollow rock.
Or like a whale’s eardrum
I saw once preserved,
blank as a great flint chip
and lonely as one cymbal.
And the blood’s surf beating
then always like the sea
unheard on solitary stone.

. . .

Fragments of shell
shards of protein alphabet
my hands are blind
at my skin’s circumference
i fumble
seams openings
(is this an organ
for breaking shells?)
i smell snow on this beach
what colour
are my eyes?

. . .

Touch Home
My daughter, a statistic
in a population explosion
out of my body like a cork.
The doctors called for oxygen,
the birth too sudden, violent,
the child seemed pale
But my daughter lay
in perfect tranquillity
touching the new air
with her
elegant hands.

. . .

The Last Room
I am waiting for you
in the lowest room beneath the building
I am smooth as a gourd
without resistance
my shape spreads
seeking the lowest
centre of gravity
I spend hours memorizing
the labyrinth
beneath our skins
by which I came
waiting for your long shadow
in the passage
I am green as a gourd
but inside I am red
All through the folded hours
I am burning
I am becoming a red hollow
a gourd for drinking
Only now do I recognize
shards patterning the dust
between my legs
they are my former skins
How many times
have I come here
How long have I been waiting

. . .

to be broken
split apart with a mighty tearing
like an apple broken
to unfold
the delicate open veined petal pattern
inside the fruit
I am arrogant
what I can do
for a man
I am arrogant
for fear
I may be broken
utterly open
and he not see
the flower shape of me

. . .

It’s a kind of justice
for our having left them
face down
while we grew branched
They held out
dumb paws for grace
We gave them ritual
Even the spare comfort
they negotiated
we fattened on,
driving them always
to the edges
It’s a kind of justice
that in certain seasons
they possess us
like planets,
like territories

. . .

For Selected Friends
Work one face of a stone
so I can always have you:
at times I am one-dimensional.
Love on paper.
It’s easier to photograph you
with my mind
arresting you at mid-point
in some brilliant exposition
before discovery moves you
off the surface.
Although I know you’re
a cave splendid with crystals
and white bats,
sometimes I am
afraid to go there.

. . .

Letter to the Majority
We are not what you think we are.
In another space
enclosing another space
we have grown
whole crops of quiet.
Even our laughter
laughing at ourselves
has been too soft for you to hear.
You have thought us a mirror
to your torments
and your homely pleasures.
You have been watching
motion on a screen only.
You send us casual
directives – Eat me, Drink me.
We brush your language
from the pages of books.
It is a momentary diversion.
The only way you can
speak to us
is by speaking to the whole world.

. . .

All poems © Pat Lowther Estate and Borealis Press, from Milk Stone (published 1974)

.     .     .

Toronto poet Sonia Di Placido is running a poetry workshop about Pat Lowther and her complete + unpublished poems every Saturday beginning September 13th through November 29th, 2014.  The workshop is part of Di Placido’s Poetry of the Canadian Moderns series.  Click the link for more details:


.     .     .     .     .

Pat Lowther: “Escríbeme, cariño, del otro mundo. Y envíame aceitunas.”





Te digo:  cae la oscuridad

como flechas y hambre

Ato en nudos mi cabello

para recordar otros imperios

Cae a través de mi cabeza el mundo

sin óbice – como la lluvia

Tengo que decirte:  no puedo

mover siempre con el decoro

Como meteores cae la oscuridad

pétalos de negro caliente

Me escapo, quemando, solamente porque

Yo soy la oscuridad.







Quiero decir:


quien eres,

y me das

una respuesta clara,

quien eres

pues, pienso en

la pregunta inversa

como un cuchillo

con hoja hacia mí


quien eres

: soy una metedura

una boca, llorando

una figura corriendo

con las manos al ángulo derecho

de los brazos

Y pienso, después

de todo, que

no te preguntaré

quien eres.







I tell you the darkness comes down

like arrows and hunger

I tie knots in my hair

to remember other empires

The world falls through my forehead

resistlessly as rain

I must tell you I can not

always move with decorum

The darkness comes down like meteors

petals of hot black

I escape burning only because

I am the darkness.







i want to say

tell me

who you are,

and you give me

a clear answer,

who you are

then i think of

the question reversed

like a knife

bladed toward me

tell me

who you are

: i’m a blunder

a mouth, crying,

a figure running

with hands upright

at right angles

to the arms

and i think after all

i won’t

ask you

who you are.




Carta a Pablo número 3



Honrando a los muertos

con grasa de carne

con pan bien crujiente

con miel y ajo,

Anciano lamendo el aceite

de tus pulgares – y eructando,

eres más lustroso que

las flores.

Claveles, amapolas,

caen su especia y su bravura

en un polvo de pétalos agitados;

pasas por la imagen

para honrar la barriga,

las manos      las fauces y los dientes,

el incienso de la comida

el sacramento del pan.




Letter to Pablo 3



Honouring your dead

with fat of meat

with well-crusted bread

with honey and garlic,

Old man licking the oil

off your thumbs – and belching,

you are more lustrous than


Carnations, poppies,

their spice and bravura

fall in a dusting of

petals shaken;

you move past the image

to honour the belly,

the hands  —   the jaws and teeth,

the incense of cooking

the sacrament of bread.





” Escríbeme, cariño,

del otro mundo.

Y envíame aceitunas. ”




” Write to me, darling,

from the other world.

And send me olives. ”




Pat Lowther (1935-1975) nació en Vancouver, British Columbia, Canadá.

Su inspiración – con el poema y con la política – era el maestro-poeta chileno,

Pablo Neruda.

Estes poemas vienen de la colleción póstumo, Diario de Piedra (1977).

Traducción al español:  Alexander Best


Pat Lowther (1935-1975) was born in Vancouver, British Columbia.

She was inspired poetically / politically by Chilean master-poet

Pablo Neruda.

These poems appeared in A Stone Diary,

published posthumously in 1977.

Translation into Spanish:  Alexander Best