The poems in Red Velvet Forest become the trail that must be followed back through a dark wood reminiscent of the forest that consumed Grimm's Hansel and Gretel. The poet's quest is to find a magic clearing in the forest she remembers from childhood where she first experienced silence in nature, but the way there is fraught with the twists and deceptions of memory.  


 

The Muses' Company, 2009

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"Tracking the dead ends of suburbia through to the dream forests of childhood, Lemay's "ink trails" are "an enticing undergrowth."

These are poems that read with an intense privacy, as diary entries, raw and loose, written as if never to be seen."

- Jennifer Still, Winnipeg Free Press

 


From Red Velvet Forest:

Thin-Skinned

I won't lie, I began.
For a long while I worked on the jewelled scales.
I studied the epidermises of crocodiles, salamanders
in particular salamanders.
Once I even almost entered the flames.
Not yet thick enough.
I carried on.

Now I find it difficult, awkwardly personal
to describe how it came to be
that I welded steel and quaver set stones naked.
I made headway. If I'd continued
I'd be speaking to you now from out of the flames.

But why not make it a point to consider advice
to the contrary?
I only had to ask myself what precisely it mattered
whether beneath thick or thin
that the humiliation would be draped?

My skin becomes taut
you can almost see through it held up so to the sun
though the scaling goes on.
The scars, luckily, for the most part, are off to the edges
so it only remains to be seen
whether my reinvention will be in folio, quarto, or octavo.


Assassination Plot

The wrong word comes out.
This is fine.
I'm among friends who know the red map
that appears on my face.
I believe they can read it and know
where I had really meant to take them.

Sometimes a whole row of words leaves me
and I know, just a moment too late
that they're not quite right.
There they go, shiny regiment in mismatched uniforms
marching into the fray
a humiliating battle.
They're about to be massacred
but they can't turn back.
They lie down and try to disappear
mix their indecipherable blood with the loam.

I'm saved by words that are handwritten.
I sit in my room and write silent letters to myself
letters full of the wounded.
A redolence of damp earth and thyme about them.

Only now and then a shimmering string
knotted and teased into cat's cradle.

How to write them down with my fingers so imprisoned?