when this world comes to an end | kate cayley | my thoughts

When This World Comes to an End

Kate Cayley

Brick Books 2013

Poems of Note:

  • Walking – p12

  • Love Poem from the Dictionary – p38

  • Nick Drake and Emily Dickinson Meet in the Afterlife – p14

  • Simone Weil – p11

  • Reading Gwendolyn MacEwan’s T.E. Lawrence poems (p7)

The section titled Curio: 12 Photographs is very nearly skippable in my opinion. The two poems that explore the cover’s subject, Toronto’s diving horses, are the only pair that redeem this section.

There you are, flattened
to the breath-stealing
photograph; you are absorbed, a presence
in white. But are you the horse

or a woman in the crowd below,
white dress streaked
with grey, suddenly, painfully weeping
for the flight before you? (p26)

While I consider the poems exploring Toronto’s diving horses to the be the strongest of the folio, they are still a bit heavy-handed for my taste. The rest of the section explores turn of the century photographs that offer us snapshots into the lives of the subjects.

With Walking (p12) we are all beneath the same shroud of grief, imagining the weight of our lovers after a great fire. Like some other poems in the book, this opens with an epigraph that provides context (whether this context is needed or not varies from poem to poem) and sets the scene in Nagasaki. “Perhaps he thought: / is this her true weight? was she ever / heavier than this? the poet wonders as we watch (but also participate) in the collecting of the ashes of the subject’s wife, all that is left of her. I feel this is one of the book’s strongest poems, speaking to our collective empathy as lovers and witnesses to tragedy. Walking both makes an island out of the reader and ruthlessly connects us.

Another of my favourites from the book is Love Poem from the Dictionary which is a longer poem with a building rhythm and emotion that, once you finish the poem, pulls the air from your lungs in a satisfying way. It is difficult to discuss this poem without posting it in its entirety, so I won’t do more than say it is one of the book’s highlights. The structure of the poem is that a word is given and the poet explores the definition, in her own way:

Absence

the state of being
away from a place
or person
the time or duration of being away
lack

the condition of uncertainty the pause
thoughtful
before a kiss. (p38)

Overall I recommend this book, it had a definite readability that makes it enjoyable for bus or car rides. There is more than one poem you will need to read several times over before you are satisfied, that thoughtful hum at the end of reading it will become addictive.

I look forward to seeing more of what this poet has to offer in the future.

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