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Smart Girls Writing Something Catch the Eye at Once – for Alison

Carleton Wilson's poem placed first in U of T Magazine's Alumni Short Story and Writing Contest

Been three years since and I can still picture you
at that table in Robarts Library, framed before a
window, the late spring campus a distant smudge
dropping past your left shoulder. Maybe I’d gone

downstairs for a quick coffee or to make a phone call,
but climbing back up into the stacks I caught, just in
time, you giving yourself a little hug against the dusk
gathering outside. Then you started writing again,

head bowed to the page, wisps of hair falling free
from the bundle loose about the nape of your neck.
What was it I wanted to tell you then but couldn’t?
Maybe that, when I found you like this, I thought

of all the afternoons we’d spent together in Ned’s after
class, how it made me smile each time you’d insist that
we get our coffee in glass mugs instead of Styrofoam
cups (the environment!); or our late-night conversations

in Fran’s, most times more silence than talk, how you’d
carefully choose songs on the jukebox then sit across
from me, and I’d watch your eyebrows wrinkle with
concentration, as your fingers intently fidgeted away,

and wonder how you could be so truly wonderfully
captivated by a sugar packet. Maybe this was what
I wanted to tell you then but couldn’t; instead, just
sat back down without a word and watched you

tuck the stray strand of hair behind your ear, then
bite your bottom lip and frown slightly. This is how
I want to remember you: writing up in the stacks
at Robarts Library, not even noticing my return for

a few moments, until you look up at me and smile.

Carleton Wilson (BA 2000 Innis) has an honours degree in English. He is the publisher and editor of Junction Books, and the poetry editor for Nightwood Editions. In 1998, he was awarded the E.J. Pratt Medal in Poetry for “Junction Sonnets.”

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  1. 3 Responses to “ Smart Girls Writing Something Catch the Eye at Once – for Alison ”

  2. Brian James White says:

    What a great poem -- so carefully and well-crafted and so poignant! I have to go out right away today and buy every book Carleton Wilson has ever written. So much of contemporary Canadian -- and other countries' -- poetry is just dross. It's fantastic when you just serendipitously run across somebody who gives strong evidence that one day they might be mentioned in the same sentence as, for example, Yeats, Heine, Verlaine, Pasternak, Lampman, ee cummings, Auden -- to mention but a few. Frankly, that won't be happening to bp nichol anytime soon (just my opinion, I concede)...