Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sylvia Barta

Sylvia Barta lives in Fonthill, Ontario. She belongs to the Niagara branch of the Canadian Authors' Association. Her poetry has appeared in The Saving Bannister, (she won their contest in 2001) Grey Borders, Hammered Out, and Synapse Magazine. This month she won the Sault. Ste. Marie Poetry Contest. In December 2006, she and five Niagara writers launched a collection of poems about women’s lives entitled The Price of Eggs. The book is available for $15.00 plus postage at


She is cozy in her cot
in the kitchen of the shack eight
jam the second room. Glare

of bare bulb dangling
from stained ceiling wakes
her; covers slipped; naked
chest exposed; she squints.

Dad straddles chair placed
near bed; chin supported
on one hand; stares at
budding breasts.

Dark eyes—same look as
neighbour’s cat watching
baby birds
in apple tree. But
astonishment too
—a kind of awe.

Thinks she understands
—been bushwhacked also by
these guerilla growths.

Feigning sleep—wishing she had
pajamas—she turns her back to him.

The chair scrapes; he groans as
he rises to continue his journey

to the outhouse.


The truck wheels snarl
as she leaps out my hands snatch
her skirt and she is
Glaring at the ripped ruf-
fle of her birthday dress
draped round her
my sister is not pleased,
(she's only three).

Serotonin spills flood her
brain at twenty with Voices and Vill-
ains and Halidol is Mr.
Clean at no extra cost a
costume of slack-
ened lip and rigid gait gaz-
ing into her mirror
my sister is not pleased Mr.
Clean drowns in the toilet she
goes on the lam
lies low in a cave miles and years deep
till fire devours the tasty building
next door lions licking two-by-fours and crunch-
ing walls she listens to their hungry tongues
thumbs to a nearby town phones me at dawn.

My Paladin, bleached by time
remains at her post as
precisely-placed coins glare
from furniture faces,
and T.V. growls low,
in her one-room-drug-free realm.
She removes the dimes,
disarms one chair for company.
Tempered by rules of refinement,
I make my humble offerings,
non-violent videos, Gregorian chants.

Sometimes she's gracious,
sometimes the bridge is up.


.. Andre Kertesz, 1894 - 1985.

That’s my mother-in-law on the wall.
A Catherine wheel of limbs spins
around a dazzling grin perched
above the collar of a costume
which sleeks her saucy torso black.
Satin shoes tap the air,
point out the headless naked man
who twists away from the love seat
where she’s flopped to pose for Andre
in the style of Beothy (the sculptor)
whose Parisian floor,
her carefree fingers flick.
She saved her tears for us
at the cottage in Canada
where duvets and pillows
smothered the arms and legs,
suffering head averted
from sunshine and family,
focused on the torment
of the tic douloureux,
spawned by the butcher
who extracted her grin.
Her life spun out on couches, beds, pills,
till she cut the thread.
When Kertesz died, her picture soared
to market aerie and hatched college for grandchildren
she never knew.
My son displays her poster in his condo.


That autumn the girl went crazy
her mother urged her to take up cello.
An angel practised in the lamplight;
golden hair and anorexic limbs
embraced the humming wood.

The mother ignored the heavy make-up
and the costumes the girl wore
to do homework at the table
in front of the window because
she didn’t know about the boys outside.

The cello crooned till Christmas,
lulling Mother, soothing Mother,
until the boys came inside
through the heating ducts,
taunting the girl as she sobbed
and crawled across the floor.

A saviour from Eli Lilly
arrived in white
—bearing silence.

The cello slouches in a corner
draped in black.
“An unforgiving instrument,”
the daughter says.
“Unless you’re perfect it sounds ugly.”


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