Stone Woman by Bernadette Gabay Dyer

Loneliness, nostalgia, aging, and family relationships are some of the themes evoked by the entries in Stone Woman, a collection of 63 poems penned by playwright, fiction writer, artist and storyteller Bernadette Gabay Dyer. A number of the poems in the collection have been previously published in magazines and anthologies, including Paperplates, the 1997 Strong Winds Anthology, Polar Borealis, and Zygote.

Many of the poems are pervaded with a sense of loss. “Lonely Room,” for example, begins with the lines:

Went into your room
Knowing you wouldn’t be there
Saw where you left your boots, shoes
And clothes crumpled under the window
Where light filtering in silently picked out
Dust particles, and the rich burgundy tones
Of your Persian rug.
How often have I seen you standing there
Feet bare . . .

While we, as readers, may not have been in that particular place, many of us have our own memories of people we have been close to in the past, who are no longer present in the same way in our lives, so the poem has a resonance despite its specificity. Similarly, in “The Idol With The Gabriel Face,” Dyer evokes a mood:

You are out of the country,
Yet I feel unspeakably close
I look at photographs, and wonder,
Do birds chirping at windows not know
That you are not here,
Or are they like me
At a loss for words to express

Dyer was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and later moved to Canada. Many of her poems are rooted in place, while others reflect on the immigrant experience and the longing for one’s homeland. Some poems make references to locations and landmarks in Toronto, Ontario, while some are set in other venues, including Jamaica. In “The Beloved,” Dyer states,

I cannot forget her
Jamaica, the land that shaped me, is my beloved,
She walks in balmy breezes,
Speaking tenderly in the hiss of her waterfalls,
She smolders in rippled fields of sugarcane,
Pungent mango groves, and in the hardy coconut palms
That bend like swans, where she juts out into the sea

“Star Boys in J.A.” provide a glimpse into the lives of newspaper sellers:

The evening, thick with crickets.
Frogs and mosquitoes give rise to ragged newspaper boys
Who shout “Star!” into the humid Kingston air.

A few of the poems have a speculative flair, evoking a sense of foreboding, menace, or mystery. “The Abductors” includes the lines, “From a door in the air, they silently come / Like angels on gossamer feet / A band of silver entities . . . ” In “The Face On Mars,” Dyer writes:

 . . . like a goddess
With an Aegean face
She remains still,
So still,
Frozen for all time
In a dark red sea
Of loneliness.

Many of the poems end with a twist, providing an element of surprise and often irony. “Effie,” a poem about a seamstress who has fallen on hard times, sees the title character remembering, at the end, “the fashionable clothes / She used to create for others”.

Dyer is unafraid to expose emotion, but her poems are wrought in such a way that they evoke mood through imagery rather than simply stating how the author might feel about a certain person or topic. The author uses metaphor and description to ground the poems. “While Her Hours Wound Down” includes the lines,

. . . she concentrated on the romance
Of trimming the vines and undergrowth
Of her secluded city garden,
That paradise where life like dying soldiers
Saluted with a pride gone yellow, gone slack. 

Some of the settings and situations in Stone Woman may be personal, but the themes are universal, and by sharing her thoughts and insights, the author invites us to reflect on our own experiences.

Bernadette Gabay Dyer is a Jamaican Canadian poet, playwright, fiction writer, artist, and storyteller. She graduated from The Immaculate Conception High School, The Jamaican School of Art, then trained as a teacher at Toronto’s Lakeshore Teacher’s College. She has published Villa Fair Stories ( 2000 ), Waltzes I Have Not Forgotten (2004), Chasing the Banyon Tree ( 2018 ) and Santiago’s Purple Skies at Morning Light ( 2019 ). Her poetry has been published in literary magazines in Canada, England, and the US and short stories anthologized in several collections.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Mosaic Press (July 5 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 102 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771616164
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771616164

Lisa Timpf is a retired HR and communications professional who lives in Simcoe, Ontario. Her writing has appeared in New Myths, Star*Line, The Future Fire, Triangulation: Habitats, and other venues. Lisa’s speculative haibun collection, In Days to Come, is available from Hiraeth Publishing. You can find out more about Lisa’s writing at