The Weeping Purple Beech Collective

Weathering was written by five women. We have been meeting to discuss poems (both our own and by poets we admire) for several years, and were sparked into doing a collaborative poem sometime in 2006, when one or two of us read Braided Creek by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser.

We decided on the order in which the poem would travel among us, and one person began with a single stanza. Email was our method of distribution; as each person finished her stanza she added it to the poem and sent the accumulated stanzas only to the person responsible for the next.

No time limit was set for sending the poem on, nor did we determine in advance how long it should be. Though the poem generally moved quickly, occasionally it languished on one writing table or another. When we felt it was time to stop we simply made sure it would come full circle, so that each of us would have contributed the same number of stanzas.

Once the poem was done we felt it was successful enough to publish. We produced a chapbook of it in 2008, which we launched at a Prosecco-drenched midsummer bacchanal in 2009.





an exchange of poems

If I could I would
rise high up if I loved you
long like a teaneck.

The shingles are white with frost
and frost sparkles in the grass.
Nothing rises but smoke
on this longnecked morning.
With a certain reluctance
bending to his better judgment
Icarus unbuckles his wings.

In the fierce wind
her judgment swayed
and buckled
like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
Her choices narrow.
Still, the sea meets the sky.
Of the known things,
dark boat and water
wriggle out of the deep.

Oh you, with your dark eyes and hedging,
what about meeting
at the edge?
You, with your sweet meats and oranges,
to whet my appetite
and stone to whet my knife.
Hone, hone, carve to the bone
the pink soapstone from Kenya.
The world’s skeleton
is rattling awake.
Can you hear it
knocking at the door?
Close by the window,
the broken lute unravels strings
on the rough ladder.
Its thin sounds
nibble against the glass
a haunting song
that wants in.

Blood singing in the veins,
pulse dancing in the wrist—
Rouse the drummer.

No, break her sticks,
silence her sound
so we may hear the shadows

the darkness that seeks
to loose its limbs,
the yawn
that is beckoning.

Outside, black flames
snarl a chain,
a game of catch

but the ball goes missing,
an orange flare that
skids and dances
across the cobbles,

skirting curbs,
scattering the dark
into startled glimpses.

The musicians put down
their instruments, the dancers
cease their slow
and stately sarabande.

Where are you left?
Night and possibility
unknown, if and if

like the thinker in rehab
manly, moody—tired
of giving pleasure

longing for the clarity
of that tiny mountain stream
where he swam as a boy,
its continual falling over rocks.

takes place anywhere
water and/or
air can penetrate.*

The question is whether
we become weatherproofed
against weather’s moods.

The answer in the pocket
of my raincoat, half a chocolate
bar stashed last fall.

How odd, how odd —
to find new aura
in surface imperfections

all those things we’d grown
accustomed to — the scabbing
on the doorknob, the sway in the stairs

a kind of scaffolding —
the unremarked familiar —
a way to walk through thin air

a feather hiding
in wind’s

peeks out
a peacock
speckled with eyes

taken in by the water
the egg-shaped wind
cranking out variances

the shape of waves
sharp fins, for instance,
or do I mean the shape of eaves?

slant roof close
above the maid’s head
rain beating in her dream

in the silence
between rain’s

the measure
of the gap between

never, ever said
she’d do it risking heresy
only a voice in ear
turned deaf against it

or hand folded into itself
small fist of feeling
with its murmurs.

At the pond’s edge
she flung handfuls
of bruised barley
to the greedy mallards

loosening and unwinding
all that hunkered deep down
furled, coiled, knotted

hungry for release
from hunger, indifference
of the water’s tongue.

And yet the minnowed
threads hang like loose leaves
cast off from the gasp

and yaw, the raw morning
edging in, a slight beam
in the windless silence:

the stillness
like a word
she can almost remember

memory a fraying bridge
tentative handshake between
was and is

present: precarious
knife’s-edge vantage,
here is all she’ll ever.

* A found poem, from an article entitled “Weathering, Soils, and Erosion,” on the University of Alabama website at


The Weeping Purple Beech Collective:

Sue Chenette's Slender Human Weight was published in December 2009 by Guernica Editions. She is also the author of three chapbooks: A Transport of Grief; Solitude in Cloud and Sun, and The Time Between Us, which won the Canadian Poetry Association’s 2001 Shaunt Basmajian Award. A classical pianist who grew up in northern Wisconsin, she has lived in Canada since 1972.

Maureen Scott Harris is the author of A Possible Landscape (Brick Books, 1993) and Drowning Lessons (Pedlar Press, 2004), which was awarded the 2005 Trillium Prize for Poetry. Harris lives in Toronto, where she is production manager for Brick Books.

Author of They’re Still Women After All: The Second World War and Canadian Womanhood (McClelland & Stewart 1986) among other academic studies, Ruth Roach Pierson has published two poetry collections, both with BuschekBooks of Ottawa: Where No Window Was (2002) and Aide-Mémoire (2007), which was shortlisted for the 2008 Governor General’s Award. She lives in Toronto with her partner and their two cats, Haiku and Orange Roughy.

Toronto poet and editor Patria Rivera has published two books of poetry with Frontenac House Press: Puti/White (2005) which was shortlisted for the 2006 Trillium Prize for Poetry, and The Bride Anthology (2007). In addition to fellowships to the Banff Centre for the Arts and the Hawthornden Castle International Writers Retreat Centre in Scotland, she has also received the Global Filipino Literary Award for Poetry in 2007.

Julie Roorda has published two collections of poetry, Eleventh Toe (2001) and Courage Underground (2006), as well as a collection of short stories, Naked in the Sanctuary (2004), all with Guernica Editions. Her novel for young adults, Wings of a Bee, was published by Sumach Press in 2007.