Passing Stranger


poems by Pam Galloway

114 Pages
November 14, 2014

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Passing Stranger is a memoir in verse of one woman’s life. Poems weave through a marriage, a desire for motherhood, considerations of fertility and infertility, an eventual divorce and a woman finding herself in late middle age, ready to experience life to the full. Its themes will speak to all women who have experienced the joys and the tribulations of motherhood in all its complexities. The interweaving of its story of divorce after many years of marriage reflects a new reality for many women of middle and past middle-age. Nothing in life, as we know, is certain. We make plans, head into directions that go awry, our destinations shift and we find ourselves in the company of people who, but for being family, might be strangers.

It is these “Passing Strangers” met essentially by happenstance, in the close relationships a woman forms throughout her life who are at the heart of these poems. First, the passion and intimacy in a marriage believed to be “till death us do part” soon to be followed by pregnancy and motherhood. But in the space between these two major life events great loss is recounted. As she walks the path into and along her life’s journey this woman experiences love and joy, disappointment and grief. There are glances back and forward through a  marriage and beyond. The desire for children is strong and appears to be denied in poems about pregnancy, loss and infertility. Until a birth brings a change of focus into motherhood. Ultimately, children grown, the marriage ends, and the woman realizes her strength.





Pam Galloway lives, works and writes in Vancouver and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Her poetry and non-fiction have been featured on CBC radio and her poetry has been published in numerous Canadian literary magazines including The Antigonish Review, The New Quarterly, Contemporary Verse 2, Grain, Descant, Dandelion, Event, The New Orphic Review, Room of One’s Own and twice on the website of the Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate. Her first book of poetry Parallel Lines was published in 2006.

Passing Stranger

Still not passed that fetus?
The nurse cajoles, jollying me along.
Should I have said I’m sorry?
I am sorry. Sorry I would never pass
a long, cooped-up winter listening
to the weight of your breath
through the dark, windows steamed
with the warmth of our closeness. In the night,
I might have passed my hands over you,
wondering that you were real and alive
and separate but connected to me.
I am sorry I’d never watch you pass a soccer ball
down a field, call out to receive a team-mate’s pass
and end mud-spattered and tired,
in need of a bath and hot cocoa.
Sorry not even to have the chance to pass you
on the street, a person I never met, catch your eye
and smile that uncertain, checking-you-out
kind of smile, a passing stranger’s tentative exchange,
half recognize something in your eyes
or maybe your walk. Something of me, once,
long ago when I was going to be your mother.

I am sorry I will eventually pass you,
a barely-formed collection of cells, coming apart,
disintegrating in the warm but caustic bath of my uterus,
so much blood and tissue, flowing warm against my skin
and I summon the passing bells to toll for you.

1 review for Passing Stranger

  1. InannaWebmaster

    “Gifted with a lyric and elegiac eye, Galloway marks many of life’s key moments–marriage, divorce, pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, parenting– with poems of exquisite tenderness and grace. These poems depict the ache and echo of loss with clarity, honesty and lyric intensity. This moving journey through heart and body bears witness to life’s myriad beginnings and endings, anticipations and losses.”
    —Fiona Lam

    “In Passing Stranger Pam Galloway combines direct language, striking imagery and beautifully rendered metaphors to take us inside a woman’s experiences with infertility, motherhood and marriage breakdown. The title poem and the sequence “Ways of knowing” are just two of several poignant pieces that peel back the veils around the pain of multiple miscarriages. Equally powerful, however, are celebratory poems like the gorgeous “Arrival”, about her daughter’s birth. Galloway is an accomplished free verse poet who is equally successful when she decides to write in forms, as in her exquisite palindrome “Remembering. Autumn.” and her delightful, “Three echoes of love”, a two-column poem that can be read three different ways. This book pulls no punches when it comes to diving into grief – but Galloway does not leave us stranded there; instead, she takes us through losses and into hope with lines like these, where an arbutus offers inspiration:
    This tree stands
    like a fork of lightning
    grabbed by the earth,
    it shouts of all that I could hold,
    the entire sky,
    if I would open up my arms, stretch
    if I would let the air smooth my skin,
    let it peel, know
    there are stronger layers beneath.

    (from “On Galiano”)”
    —Sandy Shreve

    “Pam Galloway’s Passing Stranger is a world many women will embrace as a familiar, a voice given to a shared understanding. And for many men a sliver more understanding of the other half of the world, and how they endure.”
    —Michael Dennis

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