Bookmark #3 Kingston, Ontario

“Mexican Sunsets, by Bronwen Wallace


Nothing’s the same any more.
Here in Kingston, even limestone forgets itself
and the staid Protestant church towers
succumb to gothic fantasies, windows ablaze
with dragons’ fire and the pink screams
of captured damsels…
— from “Mexican Sunsets” from Common Magic by Bronwen Wallace, published by Oberon Press. Bookmarked at the corner of Clergy and Princess Streets, Kingston on September 23, 2010.

 

About Bronwen Wallace and “Mexican Sunsets”

Bronwen Wallace was born in 1945 in Kingston, Ontario, where she spent most of her life. A dedicated community activist and feminist, Wallace began writing seriously in the mid-1970s, while working as a secretary, teacher and crisis counselor. She published five collections of poetry, numerous essays and newspaper columns, the short story collection People You’d Trust Your Life To, and also co-directed two documentary films. Wallace received the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, a National Magazine Award, the Du Maurier Award for Poetry and was named regional winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. Bronwen Wallace died in 1989, and the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers was established in her memory.

“Mexican Sunsets” is from the collection Common Magic, published in 1985. Like much of Wallace’s writing, the poem uses a recognizable Kingston backdrop to make empathetic connections between neighbours, strangers and all humanity.

Common Magic is published by Oberon Press.

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The Poem

Mexican Sunsets

Somewhere in Mexico, a volcano erupts
spewing dust that drifts northward
disturbing the atmosphere of Southern Ontario
so that all this autumn, small, grey
English-speaking towns are startled
by inordinate sunsets: shameless
fuchsias, brazen corals flaunt
their outlandish origins in a country
where anything can happen.

Nothing’s the same any more.
Here in Kingston, even limestone forgets itself
and the staid Protestant church towers
succumb to gothic fantasies, windows ablaze
with dragons’ fire and the pink screams
of captured damsels; while the bare, old
branches of trees are elegant filigrees,
burnt black and delicate
by so much colour.

It’s November, but no-one believes it.
Winter’s a crass rumour like the threat
of a layoff or a government’s economic policy.
And the people inhabiting the lavender streets
have the stature of fabled creatures
from that land we all believe in, somewhere
between imagination and nostalgia.

You could call it
a state of grace, although
it’s only for a season, like the love
we risk for each other
on the first fine day in March,
or during the perfect anarchy
of a heavy snowfall
when everyone’s late for work
and doesn’t give a damn.

A kind of conspiracy
we let ourselves get caught in,
half-bewildered, half-encouraged
by the sky’s extravagance, this
fragile crust of earth
pulsing beneath us.