Gertrude Olga Down

Image and Verse



Gertrude Olga (Trudi) Down
at her writing table

Biography of Gertrude Olga Down            

The Poet

I have been writing since I was a child but became more interested in poetry in my early teens. I credit my membership in The Tower Poetry Society with pushing me to express myself in this lyric medium; I have written poetry extensively since joining the TPS in the early 1980s.

Poetry is for me a wonderfully engaging method of expression. I love the challenge of creating a poem that is crisp and concise, that uses words and the sounds of words to paint a picture in the mind of the reader. I always try to keep the reader/listener in mind when I write. I believe a poet must strive to write in a way that provides enough clues to the meaning of the poem by how the structure of the poem is developed, the words that are used, and the placement of words and stanzas on the page. For me, the visual impact of a poem is almost as important as what the poem says. I write almost exclusively in free verse, but always try to make use of slant rhymes and alliteration.

Typically, I develop a poem from a phrase or group of words that meander around in my head. The poem “Car Lot”, for example, started with thinking about how we refer to cars as having so much “horse power”. I also get inspired by the view from my cottage window overlooking Lake Erie as is evident in “How I long for the loon’s lament”. Often a picture, photograph or piece of artwork will provide the spark for a poem. More recently, I have been moved to write about political events, with an emphasis on how those events affect the ordinary person.

When I started to write poetry for publication, I decided to keep my personal writing distinct from my professional writing and editing work. That is why, although everyone knows me as Trudi, I publish my poetry under my formal name, Gertrude Olga Down.

Gertrude Olga Down September 2007



Stiff cardboard boxes
have invaded a quiet room.
Skulking, resolute,
they arrived slowly one by one.

sensing victory
they suddenly stormed together,
overwhelming one quiet corner,
staking a foothold at carpet’s edge.

they hunch, stoically
like a council of faceless Buddhas:
squat, cold, determined, menacing.
They dominate the room:
righteous, rigid reminders of death.

Filled with anger
I long to mount a vicious attack,
tear them apart and scatter contents
in glorious wanton disarray
and fill the room with your laughter.


Outport Visit

Grandfather’s dory leaks salt tears
That trickle down the ancient rock,
Seep between perfect pebbles
Washed round and smooth, clean, renewed.

Grandfather’s dory dreams mornings,
The green air’s chill, the fierce black depths,
Gentle dip of the up-down waves,
The trill of wind-whipped waters.

Stiffening, she’d brace to cradle
The crushing catch, boundless booty,
Ladled by hands hard and strong,
Filling her stout, moist belly.

Resolute, she’d hunch her round staves,
Brave storms, rain and the stinging sleet,
Racing the roils to harbour,
Home. Beat again the danger.

Or, overwhelmed by viscous fog —
Wretched thief fuelled by treachery —
She’d creak, crack familiar song,
Calming the fears of frozen men.

Filled foolish with dreams, a harbour boy
Skips stones into the up-down sea,
Climbs in and out, in and out of
Grandfather’s empty dory.


Car Lot

A town on the edge of prosperity
Boasts a lot crammed with cars.
Autos — New and Used. Shiny machines
Corralled behind the silver fence, they rest
Nose to tail in long, motionless lines.
They reek of lubricant, rubber and paint,
Of new upholstery — suffocating scent —
Of heat leaking through open windows.
Sleek and un-natural, they stand
At the edge of man-made dreams,
Promising speed and escape.

Wild horses race the wind somewhere,
Thunder a hymn to freedom.


On Pulling Laundry From the Washer

A small white button,
Fallen from a shirt now languishing
In a local Thrift Shop —
A white shirt that once enveloped
The crisp conciseness that was you.

You of the starched shirts
Worn as shields, day by day,
Against promises, hurts.

It is satin-smooth, this white button:
Like the skin my fingers would seek,
Would caress into pulsing heat;
Like the skin my tongue would tease
Into love, succulent and sweet;
Soft skin, wet with anticipation,
Pressed between flat sheets and rising need.

Lying in my palm, this button
Is cold and hard,
Is all I have.

photo courtesy of Gertrude Olga Down

St. Petersburg 2002

Crowned by gaudy onion domes
bursting with sun-kissed gems
that melt their candied hues
into silent black canals,
stands The Church-on-Spilled-Blood.

On its stone steps Old Russia begs.
Kerchiefed rigid matriarchs line
the well-worn path that leads to God.
Effigies to failed promises
each one grasps hope by a handle —
cold, censorious metal cups —
every dropped coin a requiem.

On cobbled walk New Russia busks.
In long skirt and loose peasant blouse
she coaxes ageless themes from strings.
Brilliantly her symphonic gift
embraces the Church, the day.
Coins whisper sung in velvet case,
dream of distant Conservatoire.

I place a burnished coin
on a velvet tomorrow.


Rich Autumn Hours

Rich Autumn hours float

Past curtain-free windows
Like endless clouds of Monarchs.

Undulating waves of
Black and orange wings
Follow instincts
Stronger than the breezes,
Desires more potent than the scents
From heady harvest blooms
That race across the fields.

With airy lightness
Butterflies dance goodbye
To golden painted forests.

Fall sails warm currents,
Meanders down back roads,
Samples the pies and jams
From October fairs; or
Struggles against tides
Of advancing Winter,
Storing hot harvest heat
In butters and preserves
For memory-filled feasts.



Eagle is my love,
Elegant and strong.
He cradles sun in his wings,
Wears a cloak of forest green.
He offers savory meadow flowers
And other rarest gifts.

From the barren heights
Of a waning day
He swoops, grasps me to his breast,
Flies to a solitary ledge
Sweet-filled with fresh green apple boughs,
Fresh-lined with satin leaves.

Hovering mid-air,
Softly descending,
He skims the naked landscape
Of my senses, ripe with hope.
In wild desperate strength he clings
As to a falling branch —

Tears the breath from my mouth
And fills my soul with song.


High-Water Song

Today’s lake sings a sad song.
Tentative waves roll,
Troll a listless wet
Against the naked shoreline.
Last year, pregnant with full surf,
Swollen waters plucked,
Sucked at shallow pools,
Flung white-capped swells, roiling.
That summer’s crashing surf sang
A high-water song,
Long thundering notes
Soaking me with memories
Of waters distant and deep.

photo courtesy of Stella Mazur Preda


How I long for the loon’s lament,
The daisy’s swaying dance.

Yesterday wallowed wet with waves,
Rolled in wanton breakers,
Surged with reason. Today slumbers
Silent as stone, barren as rock.
Imperious gull, dressed to dine,
Struts the frozen expanse of lake —
Shuttered for the season.

Perplexed, he eyes the ice, then knocks.
The silence mocks his impudence,
Ruffles his dignity.
Effortlessly, he leaves this place
Crying: Kee-ow, Kee Kee,
Casting my laughter at the clouds,
And is lost on the frosty air.

How I long for the loon’s lament,
The daisy’s swaying dance.


On Receiving Get-Well Wishes

In a chilled grey afternoon I open
your crisp envelope of stored delights,
release a blizzard of rare ardent words
as singular as soft falling snow.
These phrases — bounty of beneficence —
swelling to enfold the icy sweep
of my confinement, murmur and melt
to a halcyon blanket. I burrow
deep into memories of your voices,
snug in the cushioning warmth of friendship.


Trudi Down oversees
the Tower Poetry table at the launch
of the 50th Anniversary issue (June 2001)

Gertrude Olga Down

Gertrude Olga (Trudi) Down has been writing poetry since she was a small child. Recurring themes in her work include life experiences and the beauty of the natural world. Many of her poems have been influenced by her travels and as well as by national and international political events. Trudi has been a member of the Tower Poetry Society since the mid-1980s.

Trudi was born in Newfoundland, (the best province in Canada!) She is a graduate of McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) with a BA in history (1971), and of the Hamilton Teacher’s College (1972). Unable to secure a fulltime teaching position in Hamilton, she took a clerical position in the library at McMaster and, in 1975 was promoted to Head, Circulation Department. In 1984, she left McMaster to start a freelance career, writing general interest articles for magazines, newspapers and trade publications. Under her business name, The Corporate Word, she also writes communication pieces for education and corporate clients, and provides editing and proofreading services.

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