Monday, November 14, 2005

Clare Latremouille & the moon

Usually it takes forever to get work out of Ottawa writer Clare Latremouille, who, despite herself, has managed to appear in a number of journals throughout the 1990s (usually through me submitting her writing to journals who had asked, or simply including her in whatever project I was editing at the time), including Hostbox, graffito: the poetry poster, The Carleton Arts Review, The Backwater Review, Missing Jacket, Paperplates and STANZAS, as well as numerous above/ground press poem broadsides and the chapbook, I will write a poem for you. Now: (above/ground press, 1995). More recently, her poetry appeared in the first issue of ottawater, the ongoing Peter F. Yacht Club, and the anthologies Written in the Skin (1998), Shadowy Technicians: New Ottawa Poets (2000) and Groundswell: best of above/ground press, 1993-2003 (2003), as well as the forthcoming anthology decalogue: ten Ottawa fiction writers (Chaudiere Books, 2007). The first season of the new Chaudiere Books catalogue in fall 2006 will also feature her first novel, Desmond Road Book of the Dead, that she has been working on for over a decade.

There’s a poem I wrote recently, about the bridge near McCrimmon’s Corners in Glengarry County, and a memory I have of a night out with Clare Latremouille and others of our group, back when we all still lived there and went to high school in Alexandria. I don’t even remember what we were doing, or how we ended up there, well after midnight, at the north end of the county, as Clare swung from the bottom of the bridge. All of us laughing, and Kahlil Capuccino or Doug McPherson or someone else saying, “I want what she’s on,” or something else along those lines. I remember comments about the full moon, and the reflection in the water, what Clare was trying to catch as she hung from the bridge.

a brief history of the moon

as unreal as anything could be
green grass, hills, water down streaming
moonlight becomes
a practiced bulb of feeling under
bridges, clare a troll & climbing
over rock face, water face &
“i want what shes having”
mere months into our marvel
& a transition line, a lie

Not a piece on any large event but a fragment, a sliver of Glengarry life and my life too. Since writing the poem, researching the area for my McLennan / MacLennan / McLellan genealogy, I’ve discovered that the bridge at McCrimmon’s Corners was even called the “moon bridge” for the same reasons we saw back in the late 1980s. But Clare probably knew that; she might even have said it at the time. The reflection of the moon in the water. Writing of a period between 1845 and 1878, when the Bullfrog Tavern was active at Lot 26, Concession 9, Lochiel township, McCrimmon’s Corners, the book Lochinvar to Skye, 1794-1987 writes:

The Lochinvar Bridge

Not far from the Bullfrog Tavern, a bridge crossed the River de Grasse and during the time when the Bullfrog Tavern was serving the community, it made a good stopping place for nearby residents. One evening a well inebriated citizen was making his way home from the Tavern. When he came to the bridge at Lochinvar over the river, he stopped to rest. It was a beautiful clear moonlight night so the traveller looked down over the bridge railing and contemplated the scene below. Suddenly a yell of “Help! Help! I’m standing on top of the moon,” was heard.

(LOCHINVAR TO SKYE, 1794-1987 by Madeleine McCrimmon and Donaldson R. MacLeod, published 1978)

It’s amazing how little can change in one hundred and fifty years. Going through a file I keep in my computer of poems by Clare, I find one with a Glengarry reference or two. I haven’t opened this file in years, since I worked on her section of the anthology Shadowy Technicians: New Ottawa Poets (2000). Clare, who appeared a year ahead of me in high school, suddenly in her last year with her five-year-old son Noah (dropping out three or four times previously), and one of two valedictorians in her final year. Clare, who I met as VanBerkom (what her son Noah is), returned to her family name Latremouille (which she writes under), and now, married as McDonnell. Her husband, Bryan, a descendant of one of the original St. Raphael’s settlers. Set on the same bridge, on the same river, her poem was written while we were still in high school, sometime before the end of 1988.

I stand on this car with you for the last time

more than skin
your bottomless brown bottle eyes demand
one more sip
one more whispered protest
(a thousand delights)
on your hood the light of my glorious mystery veiled in thin
music and endless oxygen
my bare dirty feet scratching the warm metal
the moon finds beauty in this smelly brown puddle full of Wonder
bread bags, scum, and the spent passion of Glengarry pioneers
here with music bouncing off the dry mud and strange birds winking in
bushes, surrounded by naked frogs, obscene cupids panting like heatwaves, here
we eat mosquitoes and run like snakes
through the grass, falling
like sugarsick kingdoms out of the air and into grins as big as all damnation,
rolling in billowing waves of grass and beer foam,
tumbling like weeds,
there is no reaper in these fields tonight tonight tonight will creep secretly
like a poisonout dream through every touch every word every lover
that is not now that is not this
and in the morning distant sons Glengarry pioneers will mount sturdy
John Deeres and plough across the earth left beside the Glengarry River
after the Apocalypse

Is it worth telling her there is no “Glengarry River?” The Nation, the South Branch, the Raisin. In the end, does it really matter? A poem over the River de Grasse. When we were still all in high school, it was Clare who exuded experience and living, who wrote poems on the side and helped the rest of us do that too, with some who went on to continue, and others, who moved in other directions: Terry MacDonald, who became a journalist; Patrick Leroux, a franco-ontarien playwrite, who started his own theatre company and has produced dozens of his own plays; Chris Page, formerly of the band The Stand, who now produces material under the name Glen Nervous, named after the hamlet he was from, the mis-heard Glen Nevis; Doug McPherson, also in The Stand, along with drummer Glen Wallace and the original bass player, Todd Gibbon, who afterward founded the band Crash 13, and now fronts the alt-country band, The Fiftymen. Through Paul Newmann, a year ahead of me, as Clare was, we all published poems and stories under false names in our high school ‘zine, originally called The U-Name-it ‘Zine (when we thought we would have a contest to name the thing), eventually shortening it to simply The Zine. I still have copies in a box somewhere. I like having them, even if I don’t want to have to look at them. Apparently Gary Geddes’ youngest daughter, Bronwen, even published pieces in The Zine, a few years after we left.

And Clare, who considers publishing but never gets around to it; who can lose herself for eight hours or more on her computer, tweaking one of her two novels or that short story she read from, "The Adventures of Jesus Drysdale" that she read from at the Peter F. Yacht Club reading / regatta at the Carleton Tavern in October. After she read at the ottawa international writers festival to help launch Groundswell in the fall of 2003, she gained a whole new group of admirers, who all said the same thing. "I can't believe she doesn't have a book of fiction out." It's good to finally say that soon she will.

related entry: Stephen Brockwell's Glengarry poems

(taken from a longer essay in progress, “writing and reading Glengarry county”)


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Anonymous said...

The moon is gone.

She fled as dawn approached.

Dawn as a slowly opening eye.

White sea birds skimming over the water,

looking for an early morning snack.

The mirror brightens.

From a blood moon at dawn to a mirror

reflecting waking life...


I woke her to take the moon.

Her campaign was swift and terrible.

Metallic and fierce.

Flaring up in the twilight.

But the moon was both implacable and unreacheable

and in the end the war against the moon failed.

As dawn rose slowly from her bed, the moon slipped away.

But in the end, all that was lost,

was a little sleep....

Anonymous said...

My Aunt Clare has just recently passed. This post gave me comfort. Thank you.