Lorna Crozier’s Watching My Lover

Though I’ll have to admit I’ve hit a stretch in 15 Canadian Poets X 3 where fewer poems interest me, I did like most of Lorna Crozier’s poems. Croszier “claims to be looking for the ‘spark of the spiritual in everyday life.’? If the poems included here are representative of her work, she appears to have done precisely that.

I suspect each of the poems in the selection is reinforced by similar poems surrounding it rather than standing as a single gem, but my favorite poem here is:


I watch him hold his mother
as she vomits in a bowl.
After, he washes her face
with a wet cloth and we try
to remove her soiled gown
tied in the back with strings.

Unable to lift her
I pull the green cotton
from under the blankets, afraid
I’ll tear her skin.
He removes the paper diaper,
No one has taught us
how to do this, what to say.
Everything’s so fragile here
a breath could break you.

She covers her breasts with hands
bruised from tubes and needles,
turns her face away.
It’s okay, Mom, he says.
Don’t feel shy. I’ve undressed
dozens of women in my time.
In this room where lover
bares his mother, we three laugh.

Later, I curl naked beside him
in our bed, listen to his sleeping,
breath by breath. So worn out
he burns with fever — the fires
his flesh light to keep him
from the cold.

Though he has washed
I smell her on his skin
as if she has licked him
from head to toe
with old woman’s tongue
so everyone who lies with him
will know he’s still
his mother’s son.

As a young college student I would probably have been repulsed, rather than attracted, by this poem, but life experiences have taught me to see it through different eyes, as it does to all of us who have taken care of parents no longer able to care for themselves.

The incident is so accurately and sensitively revealed that little remains to be said about it. The most poignant lines are undoubtedly “No one has taught us/ how to do this, what to say./ Everything’s so fragile here/ a breath could break you.? Taking care of a parent is such a dramatic reversal of what life has taught us, that I’m not sure anything but the experience itself could ever teach us how to do it or what to say.

The fact that the man can do these things with a sense of humor reveals a large part of his character, and, of course, a large part of his mother’s character as suggested in the last paragraph.