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Poems | Poems | Old Ladies of Montreal

Old Ladies of Montreal

In this city there is honour
in being old and female.
Legions of old ladies
can be seen—on the buses,
in the metro, in shops
and on the streets. They form
a whole constituency of their own
within the metropolis—
some seen scarcely more than
four feet tall; others are seen
in pairs, like salt and pepper sets,
with matching raincoats, berets, scarves.
They wear fur coats
that were stylish
thirty years ago;
they wear any old clothes
long since out of fashion,
or they elegant and timely,
maintaining all their beauty regimes
as if devotees of a religion.

One will catch the lapel
of your overcoat
as you leave the restaurant,
squeezing the material
in her boney fingers,
asking where you bought
this garment; another
wears a magenta sweater
and chartreuse blouse,
lunching every day at the same
table near the entrance,
holding forth on her world
views; two old ladies
waiting for the bus
argue together, discussing politics:
oh, these old ladies
do not take a back seat—
at a hundred and four
years of age they are wheeled
out to cast their ballot
for unity; they are forces
to be reckoned with, these
old ladies of Montreal,
with their size five feet
in winter boots
decorated to look like
fairy shoes, their diminutive
statures, their wrinkled
faces—no staying at home
or keeping quiet
for these women: they
have earned their chin
whiskers or mouths where
lipstick runs over the edges
of their lips; they have withstood
the tests of time,
the moving away of children,
the burying of husbands;
these women are resonant
with the beauty of inner strength—
look—just take time
to observe, and you will see
these old ladies
in any neighbourhood,
in all their ethnic
or economic diversity:
those who have endured the events
of a lifetime—careers, motherhood,
marriage, widowhood,
hard lives or lives of privilege—
even the wealthy
have born children,
kept house, taken care of elderly
parents, run businesses,
cooked many meals
for families and friends;
kept up appearances,
kept marching on
through snowy streets,
through winter winds,
staying essentially feminine,
holding to whatever values
of decency and peace
they believe in;
these old ladies visible
to the careful observer
are ordinary citizens
who have accomplished
the extraordinary
containing within themselves
the seed of our generation
and future ones,
and even now
in one of the numerous churches
of this city, an old lady
is praying for your soul,
preparing to leave the world
having given of her female body
the power of life within
so that we may also enjoy
the fruits of these
long lives of labour.


Copyright by Carolyn Zonailo:, 2004 | Poems | Old Ladies of Montreal
Wave Goddess
The Wave Goddess
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Zonailo attended ...
CZ is a visionary poet who writes with compassion and careful detail about the world she lives in.
GoddessThe Goddess in the Garden combines mystical insight and sensual language to evoke a timeless meadow where humans and deities play out eternal passions.
She draws on her study of mythology, astrology, and Jungian psychology, for a seemingly inexhaustible source of imagery.
There is a quality in her work which makes all her poems hers, but Zonailo’s style does differ. Compendium is a collection of short, lyrical poetry; Zone 5 of prose. Each book is an extension of her poetic exploration and a separate expression.
Over the years of sitting in Grant's Cafe or the Europa and talking poetry with Lewis Gretsinger, the questions have been asked: why write? what are you saying? what are your poetics?
Last Will and Testament
I give my soul to God.
I give my body to the earth.
I give my poems to posterity.
I give my spirit to tolerance.
I give my mind to the future.
Forthcoming Titles
The Land of Motionless ChildhoodThe Land of Motionless Childhood is a memoir of short stories by Carolyn Zonailo about growing up in Vancouver, and her Doukhobor heritage.
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Spanning the years 1955 to 2005, the Carolyn Zonailo Papers holds, as nearly as possible, a currently complete collection of Zonailo's extant literary papers.
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