The Pacific Rim Review of Books, Issue 6, Summer 2007
MOON AS SYMBOL: The Mysterious Feminine in Carolyn Zonailo
by Nola Accili
A finalist in the A.M. Klein Poetry Prize for her collection The Goddess in the Garden, Carolyn Zonailo was born in Vancouver and now lives in Montreal. In this, her 12th book, she presents a delicately rendered yet powerful vision of the feminine essence, Sophia or spiritual wisdom, embodied in the metaphor of the moon. In her striving to unify nature and spirit, Zonailo takes the reader through various "lunar" phases that trace a movement from a kind of spiritual darkness, or eclipse, to full light or vision.
The poetic journey begins with exile, a series of work that represent the mind's struggle to locate order, peace, and unity in the midst of a chaotic, violent and sometimes very oppressive world—a world in which time, for instance, inevitably wears on the physical self. "Why do they call it / the golden years?" the narrative voice asks in "My Body is a Machine", followed by the questions:
Am I the eye inside
these five senses: seeing,
or the I that drives the machine?
Am I a consciousness,
a brain sitting on top
of the corporeal me?
In "The Garden of the Dead", the image of a decaying Eden is presented:
This garden is planted with parts of corpses,
planted with fear and panic and tears,
planted with the seeds of war—
There is a sense of urgency in this first group of poems that culminates in a plea to all humanity to do better—that it is indeed possible to do better. In a prayer called "Beloved", Zonailo conjures the need for a collective and universal end to conflict and for the sun and moon to, alas, unite: "We pray for Mars and Venus to conjoin/in love, not war." And "We pray: do nothing. We pray: kill nobody."
Next Zonailo moves to desire—a phase that strives to link body and spirit through the notion of a quiet, contemplative mysticism. Leaving images of the decaying body behind, the reader is carried out of the moon's wintry phase and into dream-like spring.
In "Afternoon Sleep" the ethereal voice evokes this vision:
I want another's body
to lay down beside
my perfect body
on blue cotton sheets
that are soft and freshly
laundered, with pillows plumped
This notion of mystic unity re-emerges in the poem "Three", where Zonailo presents an androgynous equilibrium with the feminine (Moon) and masculine (Sun) of Leonardo's famous pentagram:
Yes, a star on your back,
five-pointed like da Vinci's
extended legs, head on top
In the final phase of the moon, or blessing, meditations on rebirth and healing appear as Zonailo revisits ancestral lines, myth and regeneration, thus celebrating the power of the matriarchal spirit. In "Mother Egg—Split in Two Parts", the moment of conception and its ensuing joy, and hope, is entwined with nature. Eden is brought back to its original state: green, organic and pure.
I slipped from the womb
like a shucked pea
from its pod—the green nest
split down the middle—
inside, sweet-tasting peas
lined up in a row,
delicate as a newborn's toes
and fingers, ripened perfectly
Nola Accili teaches French at the University College of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, B.C. Her work recently appeared in Down in the Valley, An Anthology.
Copyright reverts to author upon identification: www.carolynzonailo.com,