Don Gutteridge – Mara’s Lamp

Gutteridge LE P&W June 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing June 2023

Mara’s Lamp, poems by Don Gutteridge.

Mara’s Lamp

Mara’s lamp was only
a street light like a
crumpled cookie-cutter,
scattering its lambent glow
and luring us night
after night, like mesmerized
moths in a candle’s flare,
to re-enact our ritual
game: hide-and-go-
seek: we became denizens
of the dream-dark, huddled
in nook and cranny, beyond
its radiant reach, we were
shibboleths of shadow
in the utter absence of light
until the “all free”
drew us running like shepherds
below a Bethlehem star,
whose bright beam
steadied our furled world.


For Anna Yin
You offer to translate a dozen
of my poems into ancient Chinese,
and I imagine my verse as ink-
brushed slashes in their picto-
graphic simplicity, like just-
bred syllables scrawled
on a Neanderthalian wall
to be read in some far
century, when words have lost
their lustre, by a mendicant
mandarin with a passion for poetry
and the prick of its puzzle

Till the music stops

For Anna, again
My poems were not penned
with a quill, plucked from some
luckless bird, or a stiff-
nibbed instrument, pummeling
the page (with more splatter
than matter), or the fancy ‘fountain’
brand, where the fluid flows
like a cut carotid, but I’ve since
found that a thirty-cent
biro would do if the words
were willing – still, I hope
one day, like you, to dip
my brush in an ink-clotted
pot, and stroke the syllables
singing inside till the music

For John B. Lee
We started a conversation
about poems and their making,
about the inheld breath
before we say the syllables
to ourselves and dream
them onto the page,
willing some meaning
that seems beyond knowing,
some home-truth
that needs no proof
to startle the world we build
together in a friendship
welded by words.

© Don Gutteridge
Don Gutteridge is a Canadian author of 40 books: fiction, poetry and scholarly works, one of his poetry books was a finalist for Governor General’s Literary Awards in 1973. He taught at Western University in the Department of English Methods. He is now professor emeritus and lives in London, Ontario.

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