And With Thy Spirit
By April Bulmer
Trade Paperback: 81 pages
Publication Date: April 1, 2016
Suggested Retail (Paperback): $19.95
In her new book of poetry And With Thy Spirit, award-winning writer April Bulmer claims we have passed this way before. Firmly committed to the concept of reincarnation, the Eastern religious or philosophical belief that the soul begins a life after biological death in a new body (human, animal, or spiritual), her poems are visions of her feminine roots firmly buried in the fertile soil of her soul.
The book reflects the lives of 15 women and their various ethnic and religious backgrounds. It begins with her current incarnation as April and her complex relationship with her father which she believes is mired in the damp earth of earlier days. Psychoanalysts and hypnotherapists sometimes suggest that we travel in karmic groups and affect each other’s destiny life after life as our paths cross.
After her father died in 2001, April imagined he was ill at first, his eyes “sick and rheumy” and his spiritual body in need of medicine and the comfort of nurses and women. But there are moments of peace in her poems when she imagines he sleeps with blankets in the afterlife and is “warm to dream,” his former troubled mind “an aura of evergreen.”
While April is concerned with her father, Bernadette is mother-centered and focused on feminine issues. She prays for mums “their shades/ their suns.” For her mother “will die like a blossom” and “her stem will lean/ into light/ though her roots/ will wither in the dim,” she says.
Lucille Sky, a contemporary Native woman, lives on the Grand River in western Ontario. It speaks to her of people kneeling at its bank “washing the fish/ from their hands.” She has reverence for the Grand for God “built” it and delivered it “in His great Arms,” she says. Lucille is also devoted to her lover whose medicines are a “musk” on her skin but who, at night, is “shiver-and-gone,“ though he prays for her, kneeling “upon cut wheat/ a temple in chanting rain.”
Elizabeth, however, is Roman Catholic and identifies with Jesus and the Virgin Mary. In fact, Mary calls to her from a Miracle Site on the Saskatchewan prairie. But Elizabeth also suffers from mood swings and in a later poem “Mania” her eyes are like “swollen fish/ drowned and risen.” Fortunately, she finds relief in Mary, who is “lined with herbs, potions/and remedies,” like a medicine woman.
Elvira focuses on the Goddess, a celestial deity who plays the moon and strikes “it with the palms of her white hands.” Great-with-child, Elvira imagines her daughter will “bloom/ in the sun” and that her hands will “open like buds.”
Lucinda, Reader of Dreams, blossoms “among the shadows/ of a full moon/ on a chill month.” She identifies with the Dream Maker his “patterns and glue.”
Lily, however, is Chinese and concerned with her mother, who has recently passed, and who “is the fabric/ of silk.”
Miriam lives in Israel and experiences God as uncomfortably silent. He speaks “the language of flowers/ their quiet songs.”
Maria is haunted by ghosts “their thin clothes/ smell like the breeze” and desires a child who will hatch like a dove from her “cage of frail bone.”
Cora lived in Greece and was murdered by her lover before the gods, their holy feet. The tortured lovers meet again in a place by a river where she dreams “his hands/ and a skein of rope.”
Then, we hear the voice of Daughter of the Moon, an early Native woman, whose shadow stretches across shadows, “all that blue.”