Frances Boyle writes: I chose this poem because it’s the first in my new collection, This White Nest and, in addition to inspiring the tree-woman image on the cover, it touches on most of the notions that inform the four sections of the book: interconnections between people and the natural world, witchy, incantatory and ghostly presences, and family stories infused with myth or fairy tale.

Frances Boyle

Stems knot and grow along my veins, branches
in grey-white landscape: low hills and lake. Ache
in my steps along boulders on the frozen road, steps
resonating up through my soles, a trudge
in my chest. That frisson I feel, the shimmy

of unreality in the way a tree trunk slants and bends,
grows somehow inside, beanstalk push. Burls
shape themselves in time-lapse, make sculpture
behind my lungs. Shadow land. The uncanny is breath
on back of neck. Voice of an unknown elder,

my father’s mother, perhaps, or some bad fairy. Spaces
urging me to tell, to know, to probe. Shedding light
creates shadow, and a single dry leaf pivoting on its stem
pulls at a place beneath my ribs. A knot in my neck
twangs when a muscle low on my back is kneaded.

Fascia current hums within me, spider-silk wispy
and adhesive, tensile vines reach out. Hungry
for daylight, they are etiolated, warped in growth to turn
towards the shaded window. Outside is blurred softness
like blanket edge. Not sky blue but snowbank shadow blue.

January afternoon, the crisp edges of wind-whipped
snow dunes have dulled to rolling ripples, open-ended
hush in soft pour. Light through bandy-legged
clouds, confections across the clean expanse.
Enigma opening its valves, spilling absence.

It flows in endings and beginnings, untampable
gush of emptiness. The softness a sponge, brief comfort
soaking up sorrow. But the surge continues, it blinds my eyes
like tears while driving, some reckless plunge down snow
corridors, wheels crunching, fenders scraping

unplowed drifts congealed to pebbly slush.
Windshield as fogged as my heedless vision, tunneling
through the loneliness -- worth, gains and losses toted,
found to add up to a gaping space, emptiness fuller
at the horizon, a wanting wasting vein, unmined.

This White Nest was published by Quattro Books late in 2019. Cancelled readings include additionalOttawa and Toronto, in Kingston, and several stops on a scheduled BC tour in May, including SFU Lunch Poems in Vancouver. The book is available at Ottawa bookstores Perfect Books, Octopus Books and Books on Beechwood (all of which deliver) as well as through Indigo. You can also order directly via Frances Boyle's website or by email frances<dot>boyle2<at>
Frances Boyle by John W. MacDonald