Adèle Barclay takes me through her dreamscapes and cityscapes of love, hurt, and desire. The poems in her debut collection, If I Were in a Cage I’d Reach Out for You, manage to be both rich and gritty: she is all witchery, butter, constellations, and salt in your hair. From a drive across the prairies to a blistered night of dancing, Barclay – to paraphrase – splits life into finer units of life. She writes with whiplash intimacy and surprise that you wear her words like smoke. In one poem, Barclay admits that she can never hit “the sweet spot / most people call ordinary life.” These poems do, many times, and there’s nothing ordinary about it.
NO MORE POTLUCKS
The wind broke the wind
when all the wood-frame houses
decided to stand still. Crabapple trees
stole my bed sheets when I slept
under a slanted roof for a week.
Teach me about how dogs
in ads for new technology
signal fidelity in the twentieth
and twenty-first centuries. At dawn
Aquarius drools lucid dreams.
Tonight we eat fiddleheads and dandelions
for Equinox as if life lives in foraged things.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO CHOOSE BUT YOU DO
Would you rather be the sun or the moon?
Would you rather sing like Jenny Lewis
or Fiona Apple? I gave you a box from Lithuania
and inside it wind and rain. And beside it space
for another box. This isn’t a nest
but a to-do list I vaguely mention
like I know what I’m doing tomorrow.
The alarm will go off and I’ll sink
into resignation that light isn’t the ocean
but it almost is. I’ve replaced living
with swimming and reading Anaïs Nin.
I like when she shuts down
Henry Miller for correcting her English
and trying to ply her away from her diary.
I read their letters and imagine
them both on Facebook messenger—
all the dick pics he’d send
her chatting up several men at once
and never recycling material.
Would you rather be blood or stone?
Would you rather receive or give a dick pic?
Would you rather be moved
or be the one doing the moving?
Between us a storm
and two completely different skies.
Better to be a white elephant
than a peach stone
you crack with a bullet
and plant beside
your neighbour’s rosemary bush
because temperature is subjective.
Just today I felt I was in San Francisco
drowning in fog and sun
starting over again in golden hues.
The vertigo of hills
keeps my nightmares interesting
I mean devastating.
I run up sidewalks
and concrete riptide sweeps me away
in front of all the surfers
and poets and you
were there like a novel
on a nightstand
its dust jacket
sleeping under my bed
Adèle Barclay’s writing has appeared in The Fiddlehead, The Puritan, PRISM, The Literary Review of Canada, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2016 Lit POP Award for Poetry and the 2016 Walrus Readers’ Choice Award for Poetry and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her debut poetry collection, If I Were in a Cage I’d Reach Out for You, (Nightwood, 2016) was nominated for the 2015 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. She is the Interviews Editor at The Rusty Toque, a poetry ambassador for Vancouver’s Poet Laureate Rachel Rose, and the 2017 Critic-in-Residence for Canadian Women In Literary Arts.