By: Bob Currie
More than once I left Chicago far behind,
fled the heat, the rub of life along the lake.
I slipped away, up the Soo Line into Canada,
stepped down, a burst of steam, took the tunnel
underneath the tracks, rose beneath the bright arch
of the division point station, found River Street
awash with rum and willing women, policemen
already trained to look the other way. Oh, sure,
I might have had an itch to dominate that action,
but this was small-time stuff, Chicago was my town.
What I liked up here was Overs’ Barber Shop,
walking in alone, no one with me, not a man,
dropping into that great leather chair, cleancut
Bill Beamish washing my hair, drawing damp strands
between the first and second fingers of his left hand,
the snep, snep of the scissors in his right, ahh,
settling deep into that chair, eyes closed, purrrr
of clippers on my neck, then the razor
by my throat, and no gun in my pocket,
snick, snick, snick, the sideburns squared away,
the sudden splash of Rum and Quinine Tonic,
the tingle on my scalp, fingers rubbed it in,
massaged the muscles of my neck,
worked above my ears, across my forehead,
Zzzz, a hive of bees at peace, a comb, perhaps,
a brush, something passed across my head.
Ah yes, more than once I had my hair cut here.
By: Renée Gagnon
pas souvent qu'on peut parler
un nous os
dans un presque total mouvement
dans présence une
quelqu'un là presque sur
là sur presque sur soi
ou nous en
pas souvent qu'on
tant que tu peux
que maintenant tu peux
te dis ce que tu sais
tire avec tes mains au bout tes bras tire fort épaules arrière fais c'mouvement de bras vers le haut comme lancer un mouvement vers l'arrière en arrière les bras tirent avec dans les mains ce
ce que maintenant tu puises
que tu puisses te dire tu sais
te dire me
quand tu veux
bourre ta pipe avec ce que tu me
tu sais me dire
que tu prises
que tu mâches me
hum faisque fais ce
arrrache me fait me lève
ta tête tout à arrrache ce que
arrache le peu
arrache qui peut
qui sort ou sauve qui
ce que tu me
ce qui dépasse
arrache tout ce qu'après peau
à peu près tout à
tout ce qui frippe
la peau de mes yeux
repasse deux fois sur mes
arrache-toi de là
sauve tu please
arrache ce qui pend
fais ce que je
fais comme je
oui oui fais ça
fais comme ça
fais du bruit
bouge dans le silence comble
fais plus avec tes bras
couvre bruit avec du bruit par-dessus
mets du bruit par-dessus tout
mets ce que tu cries
ou n'importe siffle fais du bruit arrache
fais du bruit avec tes pieds
cogne avec tes pieds sur le sol fort cogne fort saute pieds joints crie tape avec les mains sur le sol tape rouge cogne fais poing cogne avec ta tête fais du bruit avec ta tête avec ta bouche
ou parle ou tout ce que
dis tout ce que ce que tu me
arrache ta langue
crie-le que tu
crie que tu me
tu sais le dire sans t'étouffer
étrangler derrière cou tire prend la peau tire la peau plus les muscles les bras comme lancer derrière ramener à soi tire vers toi peau tend vers toi tire presque brise les os la peau bleue je veux du lendemain sans t'étouffer crie dans ta gorge sur mon cou
ou fais avec tes bras
fais ce que je dis
mime plus imite plus initie
tant que tu
autant mâche tes mots crache c'est-à-dire marche vers moi arrache les miens de mots fais-les me dedans entrer les mots dedans dedans ma tête sans le bruit sans le tout qui crie mots de dans des mots de dans fais-les me que j'avale moi que j'avale moi que j'avale que j'aille que moi je marche que moi je que moi je parte fais-les me dedans moi que je que moi je parle que je parle que je moi des mots à moi sans sans pour l'autre des mots pour moi des mots à moi avec moi avec moi dans mes mots moi je suis dans mes mots oui moi fais-les me moi fais-les que je comprenne que j'arrête de de que j'arrête que moi j'arrache que je m'arrache que je parte que moi je moi je sois dans dans dans l'arrache dans l'cri que j'arrête de te dire à te toi que j'arrête de te parler comment comment je te parle commande que j'arrête de demander vouloir toi vouloir toi que tu sois fasses que tu à moi fasses ou sur ou sur moi que moi je sois sur moi là parte moi que je parte moi fais-les me devenir moi devenir m'arrache me commande moi
fais ce que je
j'ai l'air de
prends les mots
pars avec les
hum fais ce que tu pas souvent avant
que maintenant tu peux
que maintenant tu cries
que tu me
que maintenant tu
By: Sheri Benning
wait. My grandfather’s crop is in so my dad can work road crew. Sixteen hour days driving grader. Saving eight bucks an hour to buy his own place. NW 18 36 22 W2nd. A name that will mark distance. But now, I imagine him humming small-songs that mean home:
work boots by a door; kitchen window frost; honey and tea; his hands unclenching against her breasts; stars. I’ve never really listened to his stories so
I don’t know where he is, but July sun, a whetstone, thins his body. Later scars of heat sweat clay splintered trees are totem to what breaks him. His eyes, the colour of a palmed drink from slough.
After, he’ll drink whiskey, woman-hand warm, to sshh away the many-million insect shriek of machine. To his ease bones into the camp’s plywood bunk-bed: hot cup, night- window, his hands, her breasts, stars. He is mad with grief, but
no one believes him. I’ve never listened to his stories, but there is no time for shame. Someone has thrown me in front of his blade. Throat, bare-mirror in sun. Quick! I’ll be ground into soil. Ash, smoke of an old war. My heart, clipped-tongue, caws for air. Quick!
Somewhere a man digs dirt in heat. Sweat clay splinters leaves in his hair. Plough on rock. He knows there will be ash, smoke. Woman-hands. Whiskey. Shriek of machine. And after that his name will mark distance. It’ll break him,
but no one believes. He is mad with grief. Why does he stop ploughing? Jump off the grader? Wipe dirt from my eyes? By my name he gives up so much. sshh. There is no time for shame. Now
By: Scott Inniss
For some reason I find
obscene the way he lounges there,
though only eight years old,
pensive yet not thoughtful
like a belly full
His delicate fingers
draw ripples across the bath,
veils of steam daub shiny beads
of perspiration on his brow, the weary
wet slosh of the wash
In the north where I was born, there are lakes that in winter are indistinguishable
from stone. When the warmth finally returns, at first only the smallest puddles
pockmark the softening ice. Days, then weeks, pass, resurrecting creeks
whose slow thaw plunks snow into swiftly swelling rivers. Bogs defrost, spring
reeking curls of vapour like green shoots or impatient fledglings towards the sky.
And everywhere the rushing racket of water. But not like this.
Pulling the plug, the grating suck
down the drainpipe
surfaces his pink wrinkled skin. It’s my job
to make sure he’s clean behind the ears or not drowning. Foundering
in ponderous towels, sometimes he offers twig-like arms.
But I am not his mother.
By: Katia Grubisic
Imagine arms you never want to get out of; imagine
a road that rises up to meet you and knows
exactly where you’re set to
before it comes. At the start of the highway, behind us the cliff
and the ocean’s creeping furor,
we photographed the mile marker of atlassed places.
Cardiff or Liverpool? you asked. On the sign the mermaid
laughed and we could not help
but follow. Now I can smell you
coming back, the trace in the shirt I wrap around
each same wavering time of night.
Is it a ploy to keep me
going? Meanwhile we never visited the local saint;
he still waits in his cave to slap us upside the head, wise
guy witness to my misplaced faith in a letter
posted from the mouth
of the river. I'll just put man in a car
possibly with troubled eyes, somewhere
between Cardiff and Liverpool. It is night I'll put
and they’ll find you. Would you believe
that, meticulously, fate would have someone else
at that junction, bizarrely suntanned arms
typing in the darkness? There is a typewriter
at the corner and I have been looking.
I can smell thunder beginning. You were there
when I dervished slow-mo in my wedding dress;
you saw me iridescent
like a street in the rain’s silence. Again the mermaid laughs;
we are drowning in it, her upside-down peals of lightning
and thunder that pass, but only diffusely,
into a misspelled late-nite coffee shop someplace
in the southwest. Where for?
Make your car comfortable, I say, take another
notion. Outside it is written
bikers welcome. Nope, we’re here
for the diffusion. I wouldn't worry too much; I accept as true
all kinds of things I shouldn't, you say. When I leave
I take the still-white sheet from the typewriter,
with its carbon and square familiar letters;
I take it all. Off we wander
across our respective suspension bridges
at opposite ends of the world. Light stabs
through. Our shadows together on the rock face
indicate we are with each other. We are trespassing.
We have not decided for certain. Will we
recognise ourselves? Wear a fake yellow rose,
a mink stole. I will know you. The letters blow off, catch fire
on the way and one more time
the mermaid laughs. The storm has started, I type.
Possibly stormless, I put; in need of wrack
and calm, and you’ll be found. It has started. Enjoy your storm.
By: Miranda Pearson
Crows take over the beach and fog makes me ghostly,
a thin visitor who floats like a child
believing she is invisible and in fact she does cease to be,
imagining her presence away into the white sky. Distant
squawking birds, the waves self-soothe,
a muttering release of themselves; they speak for me,
this terrible passivity. But what did I expect? Hard
shadows, passion? A man, charitable and generous
between children and dinner, charitable and generous
with no-name desire, its very declaration an act of dignity?
Smoke, wine, each other's mouths, alive—and yet,
and yet, if authenticity is to be alone, most nights
I would rather sleep with books than men. I will walk
and pick up beach glass, green, softened like some old hurt.
Choose stones to turn over, study the petty details
of dry-stripped bird bones, a diseased pear. Lie down fetal
on the shingle, taste its salt, its fishy damp. A brown animal—
ferret, rat? skitters by, mangy citizen of this place.
In the foggy distance: the West Pier, an exoskeleton
of rotting frame. Poetry I've missed you, please take me back.
Suck of sea on gravel, break, break, break, the past collapsed
in its delicate cage of bone, its hooped skirt and small black heart.
By: Susan Elmslie
They hear a step on the stair and are mid-do-see-do
when we drop our bags by the shoe-rack. They pad
behind us, swinging the hammocks of their bellies,
pitch camp in every room we linger in, Frisbee-toss
themselves between the mattress and the clean sheet
when I snap it like a napkin under my chin. We eat
and they circle the pool of air under the table, waiting
for a somebody to drop lure. Unnerving
how the tabby with Bengal blood starts his motor
the moment I lay my hand on his upholstery,
every cell of his being bent on crawling down my throat.
Forget work: ginger tabby was born to swat
at pencils raised like the flags on country mailboxes.
They tear around the place while we sleep, wake us
from chary dreams, reciting jeremiads
for those who drown their kind in sacks.
By: Penn Kemp
Our near neighbours, the dead, shimmer beyond the fence line.
Suspended in air, why do they care for our silly antics?
Shouldn’t they be headed toward the light? Are they caught
by our yearning, pulled on the taut line of longing that holds
us to them? Memory, nothing but memories project out, project
beyond those viscous realms we can barely fathom.
Ancestors surround us, bemused. The space between us
looms like nothing, invisible fullness of spirit. Nothing
looms. Just about perfect. Almost right. Taken for granted.
Symmetries of either sphere don’t merge nor mesh.
The life to come is already here when time dissipates.
Mysteries of multiplicity displaced again shift shape.
The abstract dead regard our fears. They watch our coming
and goings-on. With a t/rope they could steer us along ways
less problematic. But then the word isn’t heard without an ear
and memory of mouth to utter. Utter confusion. Utter awe.
Shock sneaks a gap between event and reaction.
Animation suspended. Adrenaline overload. A zone
slowed down to zero and beyond. Cross at the corner
with the light or be accosted by cross border guards.
In and out of time, visitors file by, see-through poem in hand.
Wait for them. Send for them. You might wait a while.
Messages to the missing are seldom reported lost.
The dead collect, fan out with last
leaves’ fall. Not content to lie
mouldering in snow-softened grave
they hover mid air, mid-dimension, mid
dream. Their visiting hours limited to
the wee hours when all is possible
though nothing can be clearly seen.
They speak when spoken to just like
the good children they were raised
to be, but sound won’t carry across
the divide. Their mouths open and
close. Open and close. Great gulfs
of uninterrupted, uninterpreted anguish.
Nobody can lip read over here. Words
land on the sea, rest a second on that flat
flaccid surface and almost dissolve.
Snow falls, flake by flake. The dead descend
in tiny white shrouds, as in that last scene
from Joyce’s short story, John Huston’s film.
They linger alive for another moment of
morning and melt. Left mourning, I scry
between between words and worlds.
Reeled in by whatever realm entices.
Pale sun on snow
pulls me from the poem
to the window, lights
a shaft of reeling
crystals split to rainbow
in the glint and dull again
at instant cloud cover.
Indoor plants lean toward
the west, yearn for more.
Or. Less. Then. When.
The thermometer hovers at zero,
that zone where elements merge
confused, uncertain, in-between.
Tears course down the pane.
Beyond outer reaches of thought,
the land is luminous.
By: Ray Hsu
entends ce qu'est devenu le pays
où comme toi
depuis que tu t'es jetée en bas de la falaise
on ne vit plus que par les yeux
depuis les pins les cèdres de jadis
depuis les algonquins les hurons
les champlain les lecaron
venus souffrir souffrir pour dieu seul
jusqu'à philemon alonzo e b eddy
jusqu'aux draveurs juchés sur les trains de bois
jusqu'aux fonctionnaires perchés dans la place du portage
sors du lac cesse de jouer à la sainte-nitouche
viens faire un tour de ville plaines et collines
viens dans ce pays d'eau dans ce pays interdit
où la nuit loups huards chouettes last shows
mêlent leurs plaintes monotones aux rêves
viens dans ce pays des fils du brave cadieux
exilés anonymes jusqu'au dernier souffle
déguisés en spectateurs dociles à flanc de colline
surveillés par des hordes de constable polycarpe
comme tant d'autres il est arrivé ici
au confluent de l'outaouais de la gatineau
après des années d'apprenti robe-noire
sur les bords paisibles du lac des deux montagnes
où il canotait aux heures libres
vers hudson heights vers rigaud vers oka
arrivé à hull par une route d'ontario
pour habiter des rues étroites
de maisons en planches grises en papier goudronné
des cabanes qu'on allait bientôt démolir
qu'on a presque toutes démolies
qui n'existent plus ont-elles même déjà existé
à la place desquelles on a bâti des gratte-ciel des parkings
enchâssant vestiges vieilleries
dans des halls des tavernes des bars aux noms glorieux
raftsmen jos montferrand au bon vivant le fou du roi
comme tant d'autres
qui pleuraient en feuilletant les petites
annonces classés du droit
dans les chambres du château laurier du standish hall
qui ne voulaient pas penser à rester ici toute une vie
comptant les semaines à hull
avec le coup de canon dominical du parc major
abaque à poudre blanche
comme tant d'autres
il a fini par habiter cette terre de portage
tente astheure de la chanter
pour ceux d'ici qui ne sont toujours que de passage
ne s'avouant qu'ils ne sont plus d'ailleurs
à l'heure où les enfants partent ailleurs
pour ceux d'ailleurs qui ne voient toujours ici
qu'arrirère-pays ignorance débauche
depuis les bûcherons les pitounes de bytown
jusqu'aux gangsters de scarlet hull under chapital hill
womena sors du lac
dévoile ta jeunesse enfuie respire l'air d'octobre
enlève tes dentelles mortuaires festonnées de quenouilles
ne te contente plus des timides asters des noyés
ne laisse plus pockeye et mabeline tourner en rond sur la rive
saison après saison comme de lourds nuages gris
vieille folle frigide légendaire proie capricieuse
princesse à robe blanche de mariée avec une longue traîne
montre-toi à tes amoureux à l'un d'eux
que l'un des deux touche ta bouche mochez vieux humains
vous saurez vous rendre la vie par de tendres gestes
un peu de chaleur comme en ces jours d'été indien
avant rafales poudreries neige froid vide
ces yeux qui marchent sur l'eau
telles des libellules
dérivant s'accrochant aux roches de nulle part
tels des billots
lambeaux de chair du radeau colombo
visite une à une les pierres
qui retracent une histoire à jamais locale
vois ce pays celui dit de pontiac des outaouais
fantasme de cycliste tu as trop longtemps hésité
cesse de t'étriper dans des bagatelles d'adolescence
viens dans ce pays d'eau
au fur et à mesure détruit par le feu
dans ce pays sans queue ni tête
têtard tournoyant dans une chaudière sans anse
viens sans cribe ni drame l'habiter
fais sûr que ce pays soit le tien
fais sûr que ce pays soit le sien
By: Barry Dempster
Life delights in life, gushed William Blake
from his cosmic garden, one hand
on a daffodil, its waxy cream,
the other curled round his cock.
Luncheons at the Blake’s were often
feasts of flesh, indulgently holy.
Young women came to have their eyes
opened, the most luxuriant of
lashes. While young men laid their
buttocks in the moss, pure softies
in the worshipping of experience.
You are doing your best to delight
in him, 200 years hence, your
fingers dallying in your own lap.
If it wasn’t so cold, you’d gladly
lounge around the garden all day,
toes a squish of sand and mulch.
But it’s October and dying
clings to hair with its sweetest smoke.
What did he recommend for
the presence of death, presence being
the key word, all the brown stalks
proud as Egyptian kings, all
the bronze leaves streaming brazenly
to paradise? Even his Job
was swarthy and precious, a man
in love with his own unreason.
What you wouldn’t give to flee back
in time, a Sunday Indian summer,
air shedding its spare layers of skin.
You and Blake, nudists, scratching
with one hand, balancing cups of
universe with the other.
Speaking of love as a breathable
nourishment, an essence, manna
drifting on the breeze. The real
mystery, you’ll agree, is how
anything gains dimension, spirit
sealing itself in solid spaces:
boxes and carapaces and seeds.
Your own body has never felt
so fragile, hyacinths of light
tying you up in squiggles of
smudged-blue flame. The two of you,
fall and eternal spring, sipping
honey, sticky with sunshine,
lost in a moment so new
it hasn’t even happened yet.
By: John Pass
Yes it’s best to settle things
with Sis, drink carrot juice, give thanks daily.
That’s what we living do, persist
best in attentiveness. Take care
of business. But just as we showed up on time
here purposeless, empty-handed, shoeless,
in transit, flux, fluidity itself ashimmer, destiny
from the depths, at the reaches
of biology, culture, so
we will go out (on, wherever) that is, utterly
oceanic and unresolved.
By: Suzanne Buffam
I’m done crying into my beer about love.
My days of riding the shiny brass school bus are behind me as
The changes come slowly but suddenly.
One day the sun will burn so brightly it will turn all our seas into
vast boiling vats.
Freedom comes from understanding our lack of ability to change
So lead me O Destiny whither is ordained by your decree.
Just don’t force me to vacuum the stairs.
The quiet that follows the storm may be the same as the quiet
Let the wind blow.
Let it blown down each tree on the bright boulevard.
The things I would most like to change are the things that make me
believe change is possible.
By: John Barton
What holds men apart is seldom just
Sleep, afternoons at Saltaire not often as
Tranquil, warm salty air still as water in a glass
Barely a soul to come between, you the one
Sprawled half awake under a blanket on sand
Powdery as ground embers of sugar, the other drowsy
Leaning from a fencepost as if
Lashed--poised, he daydreams, for arrows
Of heat to pierce his side ardently
Flesh thirsting after sacrifices anyone he knows well
Too quickly sates, desire thinning headlong into the cloudless
Sun, clothes at his feet dropped from the rampant
Form his body unshyly attenuates, torso
Flared upwards from the waist around the voracious
Lungs of a jaguar, skin a sail
Snapping fast about his ribs, nipples carried high
On the chest’s expansive surf, reverie pitching
Chin forwards, hands clasped behind
Post and back, wrists unbound yet the mind in
Frustration cinches them tight, the overhead
Hypnotic roar of the tide
Crashing ashore, vestiges of bark above his head skinned
Away by half imaginary breezes, knots
In the post so sun stroked and smooth they glow
Broken fencing uncoiling away in directionless
Waves across the dunes, thin slats unable to
Hold back heat, its scorching
Onslaught relentless, though sand is still
Yet to rise stinging
Freshets of air exhaled from the sea, the erosion of all
He might desire unbuoyed by tumbled
Echoes bounced down the barbwired stuporous
Miles of beach while you slumber speechless
Between slatted lines of every drifting thought
Any narrow stretch of sand where you could wake
Abandoned between weather beaten verticals
Lopsided and in want of redress, so very
Little of this landscape left unravished inside the long familiar
Wind shined climes of your flesh.
By: Soraya Peerbaye
The bird twists from the egg, skin translucent
as rice paper. He is amazed to see
the spine made of more light than bone;
an ink stain of heart; bloom of cranium
he cradles with one finger.
He lifts it from ground, where it lies, hatched
by hatchet of wind. It opens
its beak: hisses: breath
a hinge without song to turn.
The house hems the edge of the ravine, pins of sunlight
gleaming between its lips.
There are no adults, none without
their wonderless know-how. He scoops
the bird, takes it to his little sister to show her
their small task.
They forage through their father’s cabinet, find
an eyedropper; mash worms and centipedes, dip
the glass tongue into its gullet, crow
to see it swallow;
wait for it to utter a riddle of quills.
At night they nestle it in a shoebox,
an old shirt, some twigs.
She sleeps in the cricket-quilted dark,
but the boy returns, shining
his flashlight. The beam suspends the organs,
phosphorescent red, blue, in the bird’s clear
body. Tiny black stars traverse
towards its wakeful eye: beetles.
There are no adults, none with
their equivocal caches of chloroform.
It is up to him; both of them believe this.
He fills the washbasin.
He could simply let it sink. Instead he holds it
under, as though he were drowning a man.
She thinks the bird seems clearer, magnified
by water. A slow cyst of air.
Its head tilts back towards
an inversed sky of white ceramic.
Fingers unclench, a crippled claw. He feels betrayed,
returns the bird to the surface, half drowned: mercy
clotted in his hand.
She follows him, lurching against his heels like a wagon
as he heads to the green.
The ravine levels with him, the murmured tones
of leaves, wind, river. His stride quickens, cants; in mid-arc
he disowns his fist, releases
the bird. The full-fledged earth flies upwards.
She castles her chest, suddenly shy
before his élan, the ardent arc of his arm, all
the child burned away by grief;
his thin shoulders a marvel, holding
hurting and being hurt
like scapulae, wings.
By: Gillian Sze
This city has me by the ankles
it dragged me through the streets
in some heated mad dash.
I have found bitefuls of me on the curb,
scraps of me in the gutter,
this is my hair blown across
those glass angles of downtown;
a bird has made a nest with the strands
so I’m living in the trees
curled beneath fledglings,
and I am part-statue,
part church-top –
my eyes were once copper domes
now turned green –
I find my hands being worn
by every woman
working at a corner store,
my mouth is on the morning metro man,
and everyone who tastes my thighs
has done it
at least once before
this city has me by the ankles –
pieces pounded, pinned fast
against each pasted broadside.
By: David Seymour
In the middle of the city
someone shouts hello
as though they were lost in the woods.
A warm winter day—
spent indoors counting the fleas
on my cat’s back.
Snow all day
weighs down the pine boughs;
I consider my years
pulling ice from my beard.
Snow dusts the windowsill,
the sour smell of gardens
while we make love.
One day, one year
I will remember this grey sky
these two old pines
without such sorrow.
Cat asleep beside me
sound of the faucet dripping,
now’s your chance,
take a sip winter mice!
Unpainted walls of this room,
green asparagus hanging above me;
a long day of silence.
The young woman across the street
never looks up to my window.
Your voice so distant—
I cannot remember
our more comfortable silences.
The starling should have left by now,
so content on the pine bough.
My beard gone for spring,
the look on my face;
nothing older but the trees.
Perhaps a line or two
about the grackle
whose voice breaks
the morning air.
My father’s hands
as he releases the rabbit
from the snare;
two trembling hearts.
Evening sun, golden
off the budded elm:
How to be
where I am.
off my screen!
I’m feeling better today.
No use trying
to win a staring contest
with a ground squirrel.
Kill site on the trail
gore, torn fur, shit on the snow,
and the bare imprint
of an owl’s flight feathers.
First, silence—then song
of the Varied Thrush
then fear of bears, then heartbeat.
Shoes off, socks in shoes,
toes pointing toward the wall;
not a thought all day.
Choked voice in the pines,
then a raven skyward:
my hands will tell you
of its dark, tangled flight.
What an old man,
washing my socks in the sink,
bare feet cold on the tiles.
where does that train go
every night without me?
Spring chestnut trees,
their thousand flowers
like doused lanterns in the rain.
The monkey only drinks
because the master has left
all the wine within reach.
Where I sat, the lawn
pressed down, each blade folded
like an unasked question.
To be this dandelion,
to not even own a jacket,
and expect no visitors.
In the rusted barrels
the herbs are wilting
like monks at midday prayer.
the sun drinks the water
from my glass.
Water, a secret the air keeps;
hay dust kicked up
by the passing tractors.
Air so humid and still
my clothes feel waterlogged.
Hell, I think, will be drier.
Meat sizzling on the grill
distant grand applause,
sound of summer rainfall.
Early morning city—
just a garbage truck idling,
even the insects still sleep.
Call of the starling—
farewells, these days,
No call from the kingbird—
the moth trapped in its beak
thrashes silently, too.
Is greed or hunger
a heftier sadness—
cry of the seagull.
Call of the grackle—
I miss my brother,
the arguments in our youth.
The sunflowers stare
unblinking, like tall men
who have lost their sense.
Bright and heavy—
sun glints off the cars,
rising drone of the cicadas.
your aimlessness magnificent,
a metaphor for nothing.
An early leaf drops—
let it all be as simple,
ahead of its time.
Sheen of spiderweb,
insect wings glinting,
sunlit air messy with life.
Just once, like sparrows,
look at the world from the pines,
and then tell me.
No smell of salt,
but you’d swear there’s an ocean
crashing through those trees.
To have counsel
as determined, as robust,
as this constant wind.
New living quarters:
two paces from door to window,
one pace, desk to bed.
the view from this window
is another window.
You keep talking,
the lemon wedges slowly surface
in our water glasses.
City empty of people
our abandoned machinery
noiseless as animals.
No snow this morning,
but everything in disguise
not answering questions.
announced by the scrapers
at their car windows.
Trouble getting home—
all of this wine tonight
has made the sky heavy.
So poor these days
no travel, just boil the tea
and hope friends arrive.
No climb up the mountain
no hawks kettling,
no eggplants in the garden.
Last year blows through the window,
the day finds me as ever.
By: Jan Conn
It’s long past the end of the 20th century
and the star catcher has been active
androgynous, in clothes the colour of deep seas
and new milk, trained in the subtle nuances
of human voice and gesture,
climbing on and off continental trains
in the hours between 2 and 4 AM
—when there were such trains
or mingling with common folk in bars, munching tapas,
drinking fine bottles of rioja
as much as anyone can
peering in amongst the skulls & thighbones
in medieval ossuaries
to better comprehend the Black Death
all the while evading detection as “other”
despite the odd outfit
—glittering titanium net in one hand,
platinum cage in the other
hours spent in libraries
poring over obscure star maps
keeping track of time by astrolabes, sextants, hourglasses
eyes overbright and too eager
so standing next to him in line
late on a Friday one might wonder
at the pulse ticking quickly
in the slender wrist
and not register the colour of her skin
—pale lavender shot through with fine golden threads
or, in a different light, burnished copper
inset with thousands of glittering minerals
the better to see far inside the neighbouring galaxy
where the bounty per domesticated star
is bound to exceed the value
of the whole purpose of his life
which by now has been abandoned
to the gorgeousness of a star-free night
overlooking a former planet
By: Louise Bernice Halfe
When are you coming home?
The baby blanket is waiting.
Spring is back and
geese are water dancing
our lake heaves and groans
highways are blessed by skunks
roadkill gophers and deer feed
starved ravens, magpies and crows
all the way to Calgary.
Racoons sound like Joni Mitchell's
smokers meow song racing
around our house
this midnight hour.
The going-away snow shrinks
the winter's waist line
coyotes trot acoss the groaning lake
race the barehills
when are you coming home?
By: Alice Major
His brain tearing
its figured lace, forgetting
the tale that held it all together.
She dreads the odor of
this ward on the second floor.
Sometimes death would be the easier
of partings. Sore, yes,
but not this sore.
But there is more
Always more. She had never cared
for babies. Smelly nappies
drooping from safety pins.
Tedium’s ether –
the looking after
and after, whatever weather
whirled the world skyward.
She dreaded the harness,
to be told forever
what falls apart must be held together.
Now his mind falls
years and words
a repetitious dust.
over she tried to teach
now you do
this, this, this. Fastening moments
And now the parting every time
she leaves the ward –
his small, heartbreaking wave
to the closing door
of the elevator.
His life confined
and her leaving. Rupture
of what had been
so long entwined,
By: Randall Maggs
That voice as we leave the ice. “Go home ya bums.
Get a shower ya need one. ” We look at the one fat guy
still up in the gallery. “Who gets to kill him?”
someone behind me muttered.
The greaseball on TV over the bar, so pleased
with his wit and his marvellous chin, “Folks, this has gotta be
the day’s big surprise, those Detroit Dead Things
Then the creep in the morning paper,
“The Wings blow another one, fans, but Terrible Terry
seems more himself, cursing yours truly and heaving a skate
at my head. Hey, maybe things are looking up.”
Gadsby came over after the game from a table
of Rangers. I noticed the others lean their heads together,
and one, a new kid who’d picked up a couple under his eye,
glanced over, grinning. “Sitting by yourself Terry?”
said Gadsby. “That’s quite a lip you got there.”
Whose face is worse, I was thinking,
looking at his battered nose.
The talk as always, who’s up, who’s down,
how do you know when to go, nobody’s got a clue.
“Ukey,” he bent to look me straight in the eye,
“You know I never said what they said
in the Times. Tweet Tweet?
Jesus Christ. Would I make fun of a guy like that?”
His look the same as he gave me late in the game,
trying to pull me over against the post.
Another short night by the time I got home.
I tossed and turned for a couple of hours then came out
behind the house to try to sleep. The morning sun feels good
on my bones and I’m watching the one bee in autumn’s
tough last flowers, when around the house she comes
waltzing, golden-brown from the sun, saying how do you do,
she only just moved in and heard that a hockey player
lived on the street. Well, here I am, not a stitch on
and my lip swollen up from last night. I shift the newspaper
over myself and we talk from a suitable distance—how warm
for late in the year, how dull it is here after living downtown,
her husband who leaves in the dark and comes home in the dark.
I find myself watching that bee as he labours from flower to flower,
his legs and back end hanging down, how aerodynamic
can that be? Awkwardly, he hauls himself
into the coarse yellow petals and struggles toward
the sweet centre. Stopped, he untangles himself and tries
another way, flipping his wings in frustration, and I’m pulling
for him though you’d think by now, the end of October,
he’d have this down better.
When I turn to look she’s gone, the blades of grass
unbending where she walked away.
That’s when it hits me my days are numbered.
Long after she’s gone, I glance at the paper still flat on my lap
with all its freight of another day’s unfolding.
A breeze flips a page and, Jesus,
wouldn’t you know,
there’s Gadsby’s ugly face grinning back at me.
By: André Roy
La réalité corrige nos sentiments.
À qui appartient ce texte?
Pour quelle peau ?
Tu penses à la lenteur des mots,
aux métaphores sur le vide entre deux étoiles,
au poète mince qui les écrit.
Qui a commis ce texte comme un péché?
Tu te réveilles, tu penses,
tu sens ton cœur dépenser follement son sang.
Il fait matin, terre qui tremble,
les fantômes sont partis
une fois l’acte sexuel accompli.
Je ne veux pas la fin de tout;
je veux le goût, la fièvre,
la beauté promise,
les mots en expansion dans l’espace.
Quelle heure est-il quand tu deviens doux ?
Il n’est jamais trop tard pour attendre
que les autres soient minces avec nous deux.
Le texte corrige mon sexe,
le rend simple pour toi,
il se montre courageux.
J’écris comme on se réveille
dans la réalité aux deux mille noms.
Je me lève, j’écris, je suis encore adorable.
Le temps des horloges lentes,
le nord glissant vers le sud,
le bleu déchiré au bord du ciel,
j’ai encore ma peau des sept jours de la semaine.
Poème qui fait du bruit,
Dis le poème, le texte qui craque,
qui dit oui, qui dit non.
donne-moi des exemples de métaphores.
Le poète n’a pas peur,
il est proche de toi
qui te tiens debout entre les étoiles.
J’ai toujours écrit dans le bleu,
celui du plein, du pas-pareil,
du souvenir aux quatre vérités.
Texte qui est,
exemple du cri,
du fait d’être réellement né.
La réalité sur mes épaules,
construite de passé et de présent,
n’est plus une métaphore;
c’est seulement toi étonné
de voir la folle vie imiter la vie folle
dans un poème écrit en l’an 2007.
By: Marie-Andrée Lamontagne
Je ne cherche pas: c’est lui.
Dans les salons aimables, les routes de rencontre où faire se lever les images
d’un cœur aventurier. Je ne cherche pas, je lève le bras, je fais signe.
De louches cohortes s’ébranlent et vont se ficher dans des Mémoires hésitants.
Je sais un homme qui se perd en factions dérisoires
au scrupule d’enfant devant du papier doré.
Il n’est pas de cornes pour déchirer ce papier, pas de vent pour l’emporter
quand l’homme ouvre la fenêtre à guillotine
et oppose à la nuit le masque d’un visage absent.
Je fais silence. Je ne cherche pas.
By: Rhea Tregebov
Everything I’ll never need is here
in the Lee Valley Tools catalogue:
a tomato cage; trellis strips; a Maslin pan
for brewing marmalades. For sugar testing,
the Brix refractometer; waxed whipping
and sewing cord. You can get shade cloth –
great for covering lettuce before it bolts. Trugs
(or try the Maine garden hod) for harvesting apples.
I might buy plans for an arched pergola,
might mail-order the Pulaski axe
for cutting through tree roots, unearthing
stumps. For fewer trips to the woodpile,
a firewood cart; a hand-forged poker
for tending fires indoors or out. I want
a drip-and-flow gravity irrigation system,
a telescoping lawn rake, a garden scare owl.
I want the Odjob concrete mixer that mixes
up to 60 lbs of mortar in about two minutes;
an easy shed kit, the Ashley book of knots, a yard.
By: France Boucher
Les hautes herbes du souvenir
cachent les pierres
menant à l'inconnu
les os des ancêtres
cet automne imparfait répond
à ma soif
à tous mes vertiges
sur les lèvres des enfants
coule la vie
naissent de nouvelles saveurs
les nénuphars signent l'éveil
tinte une urgence
l'argile maniée engage l'esprit
le libère des papillons
le vent chante
sous des cordes infatigables
créons une immense mémoire
Saluons les aïeules
des étés durant
soignant verveine et passiflore
purifiait la saison
en nous des figurines
des mises en scène
symboles de continuité
je repasse mes cheveux
humeurs et parfums se déploient
Des herbes folles
ondoient sur la neige
freinent tout à coup nos élans
les chiens continuent
nous voici en errance
j'égratigne la page si bleue
dans le feu du musée
les Oies ravivent mon émoi
By: Elizabeth Bachinsky
Remember that Sunday morning In February?
We went to the Labour Temple in Regina
to watch our cousin Jenny practice
with the Poltava dancers. The family had
buried our grandmother’s ashes the day before
beside our grandfather’s grave in a graveyard
just outside the city. It was bitter cold.
It was snowing. Everyone wore long black coats.
Our mother and aunts and uncle lowered
Grandma’s urn into a hole in permafrost
so hard the gravedigger must have had to drill it
with an auger. The next day, we watched
Jenny dance. I remembered Jenny from
years ago at our cousin’s wedding outside
Medicine Hat; that same wedding where Mom
had a low blood sugar late at night and almost
died because we couldn’t find any juice or
Life Savers in the hotel room. We’d danced
all night in our polka dot dresses, begged
Jenny to spin in the middle of the dance floor
all ba-donk-a-donk-donk and junk-in-the-trunk,
but she refused and refused until, finally, she gave
up and spun like a revved-up ballerina.
It was pretty cool, years later, to see her dancing
at the hall with the whole troupe. They were super
young, weren’t they? Warming up, the girls
seemed like ballet dancers in their legwarmers
and leggings and the boys were lean and tall
and wore soccer jerseys. Man, those boys could jump.
They’d swagger from one end of the hall
to the other and mimic dance moves they’d studied
on a video sent from Ukraine. They were stars.
And the girls; you could tell those girls loved them.
No wonder Jenny didn’t want to take centre stage
at that wedding. That job’s for men. But she could
spin and spin and spin and spin. Across town,
Granny’s ashes lay newly marked by a numbered
flag flying from a four-foot pole in case
we should need to find her in the snow. Jenny told us
she’d found our mother’s red boots in the attic
at the hall. Her name Cathy Gnius marked on the soles
in black marker. I mean, I know we know the story
of how our parents met, but didn’t you think
it felt like proof, knowing those boots were there?
By: Jason Camlot
The Victorian period is alive today.
The sandwich men are lurking in the streets.
They invented new machines for thrashing wheat,
hammers for pummeling men back into clay,
systems to guarantee that workers pay
with lacerated hands and blistered feet.
Victorian children learned to cheat
properly, to apologize always
when battling other children to the death.
A was for Asylum, B for Bricks, C
for Crimean War. Victorian breath
was just like ours, but lacey. Believe me
when I say they prayed with words like “Saith.”
Their deeds shall live for an eternity.
By: Patricia Young
One morning they appear in nameless droves.
Fabulous creatures flicking their silver fins and ancient jewels.
A long lost mythology? Weird migration?
They lurched onto the tundra like bawling infants,
announced themselves with the subtlety of a brass band.
Wave upon wave, antlers vibrating, tails ablaze.
Who? we asked. Who are you?
One day they weren’t there and the next
they were traveling toward us
with the speed of a birchwood forest.
We gathered to mourn those passing
swiftly into memory, the polar bear and arctic seal.
The century was thinner than ice.
We had 1200 words for reindeer but not one
for hornet, robin, elk, salmon, barn owl.
Try to understand: we had never seen a barn.
Never stepped into such a cavernous space.
We have never stepped into a cavernous space.
Try to understand: we have never seen a barn.
Hornet, robin, elk, salmon, barn owl.
We have 1200 words for reindeer but not one
for a century thinner than ice.
Swiftly into memory: the polar bear and arctic seal.
We gather to mourn those passing
with the speed of a birchwood forest,
the new ones travelling toward us.
One day they aren’t here and the next
we ask, Who? Who are you?
Wave upon wave, antlers vibrating, tails ablaze.
They announce themselves with the subtlety of a brass band,
lurch onto the tundra like bawling infants.
A long lost mythology? Weird migration?
Fabulous creatures flicking their silver fins and ancient jewels
appear one morning in nameless droves.
By: Sue Goyette
There is a boy. Whose only companion is a lion. A lion quite a bit smaller than him. A miniature lion. A collectable. This lion’s ears are ripe with secrets from an orchard of whispers the boy picks from daily. The boy, it is said, was once a great warrior. He is six. Three birds had sung at his birth. He’d been reincarnated with a scar on his arm he won’t talk about. But how could he without boasting? There is a boy with a lion of secrets who roars his adventure. He is six. He asks why about everything. No one knows how to answer him. Don’t say because, he bellows. Don’t say why not, he growls. Forgive us. The small words we used are lost now. The way we counted, forgotten. One by one, he’ll win us over. But who taught him how to kick like that? How to punch? The lion, a maned comet, arcs through the sky back into his arms.
By: Helen Guri
Let me tell you about the cactus Linda bought and I kept,
Echinopsis Oxygona I learned later from a plant encyclopedia,
how it parked surly as a toe fungus in my windowsill
and bit me every time I drew near. A year after she’d gone
it shrivelled like a blowfish, I thought it was dead,
I put it on the patio beside the frozen shoes. It was the thinness
of my slippers, its polished brown spines
that stopped me from grinding its innards to paste underfoot.
Night passed—frostless first time in months, February breaking,
and morning rolled in like blue paint. The bloom
was so huge my dreams gagged on it,
it had thrust its cherry snout against the glass of my patio door.
I swear its faint tapping woke me—astonishing,
big as a face and red like a nostril turned inside out,
so large it could have gulped me whole,
my Cactus In Bloom! Some delight,
some humiliation made me take that pink monster inside,
drink my tea milkless examining its throat;
how swan-thin the stem that attached it to the root,
how precarious the whole structure—what monumental joy,
or was it hunger, to spring from this terse potted wart.
Blossom of incubated secrets, flame-petals tickling
the dry insides of a skull until they burst through.
It seemed an instruction to my own body, own mind
though I told myself Don’t be stupid, Robert, don’t be stupid,
a plant cannot be you or any part of your life,
a plant is its own thing, try to see it literally,
see how it hoards its own succulence in the light,
see how its red maw chases you away,
but I slunk to my bed thinking of Linda despite everything,
and I cried milk tears as one does in the desert.
By: Julie Berry
philosophically and logistically speaking
there are some problems with my theory
of separate heavens for separate people
as my sister pointed out the other night
when we met for coffee after going to
the funeral home
wouldn't it be lonely she wondered
my response involves advanced theories of quantum physics in which the universe is expanding so fast that there are infinite alternate universes created which are almost identical to other universes except that in one universe there might be raccoons up
in trees while hound dogs bark underneath them and in another universe the raccoons
are in the cornfield feasting while in heaven right next door somebody has plugged
a radio into a long extension cord and music from the local radio station has scared
the raccoons away and bushels of corn are picked by a woman who loves the feel
of the perfect ears in her hands because this is her heaven you see not the heaven
By: George Murray
The couple in the basement argue in the space
they've rented and we can hear every word,
shouted, spoken, or hissed through bitten lips.
We sit quietly, hoping and dreading the fight
will finish before they reach and resolve
some issue of our own, saving us the trouble.
In the patterns of paisley on the wallpaper
faces emerge, grotesque little Mandelbrots that
once viewed cannot be unseen.
Constellations break into asterisms and form
bodies, flatbreads show saviours,
windows reflect a variety of virgins.
Makes me wonder what the people upstairs
think of these silent evenings at our desks,
and if those below hear aught from those below them.
By: Jamella Hagen
Ice. The long white tongue of it.
All day this glacier
and falls thundering, piece
by piece, into the blue.
Icebergs bob in the swells, one
turns over—slow tilt, then a quick slip
and burst of submerged hull. Naked,
wet-blue, it drifts loose of this
sixty metre wall of evidence things are
slipping away. Each time
an iceberg calves, the lake rises
to receive it. A wave ripples out
and sweeps the shore, collecting
what it can. Travellers
have disappeared this way,
washed under in their quest
to get close, to get closer.
By: Laura Lush
Look at the cloister of phlox.
Purple splashing the eastview
of hayfield, young and garrulous
with its fresh-yellowed bails.
Reverence aside, they are effervescent, fulfilled.
Or maybe it’s just us. Gawking---
entranced by their steamy
blaze. Once or twice,
life’s like that, the circuitry of all-things-after
suddenly wrecked, the lay of love always
slightly off balance.
Roots sinew through the toughest foundation---
grab and tighten.
A fizzled breath releases
and you turn the corner again.
By: Patrick Warner
Five one-gallon cans filled to the brim
with stain, a Doberman Pinscher brown.
Long-handled scraper with cupboard door grip,
its buttoned down blade like a hieroglyph.
Four-inch stain brush with bristles that fan
like recently barbered hair on the palm.
Hammer and nails to tap in loose pickets.
Sledge and shims to wedge posts in pockets.
In all, two hundred and forty of them
await a scrape and a new coat of stain.
I begin with rote, with repetitive motion,
work each plank with steady down-strokes,
until self like a muscle absorbed in the task
lifts out of the furrow of nine-to-five angst,
thrills to the scraper, a fearsome machete,
forearms dappled with paint chip confetti,
a ticker tape swirl for this conquering hero
who flays the wood to whiskers and fibre.
But by picket one-twenty or one-twenty-one
I feel the weight of what I’ve taken on.
Lift comes again when the prep is done.
The stain brush loaded nuzzles the grain
which grizzled and parched drinks it in,
and it’s all slap and tickle, all nudge and wink,
as always your cover is what you reveal
(in the end you are what you fully conceal).
Against these slippery notions of artifice
I lever the thought of simple self-sacrifice:
now a queen and a princess saunter on in
tapping packet seeds like tambourines.
As a bubble jet’s ink requires the page
the domestic life requires this stage.
But stooping to scrape a picket I missed
I hear only a cold streptococcal lisp.
I’m an actor on stage, act three still to go,
where once was technique I now see only flaw,
to finish the last two sections of fence
feels to the body like an act of violence.
And then—all at once—the work is done.
I look back, but without satisfaction,
and will feel none until a fresh zip of energy
pushes that labour deep into memory,
where it will live as an excised tumour,
with that fence as reminder, a fading suture.
By: Cadieu Pierre
I don’t say anything in my letters, you say,
& complain abt my grammar
the first casualty of travel
is the sweep it creates
& sometimes provides
the wind out a breath
we would otherwise make
an underline, email
ontario snow up a wind chill
of alberta depth, some minus fifty
in your eighteenth year, a measure
, a bootstrap
you would yourself pull
a word I would from childhood
to measure: bare miles
By: Michael Nardone
Variation: soaks down dandelion, marigold punctures,
spreads. Rises, bursts. Blends. Again the blond lobs
against abyss. Again the. Again the firecracker timpani.
Everything in fits. Circumsplotch the shades; flares
fleshed to the polestar fade. A windchange. Inflection:
left perspectives right, holds. Gold and silver fold,
fold. Everything fits. And did the feeling? Did it was
it real for you? So unexpected too. Tangerine
to persimmon blooms through the ceiling. Some silence
misleads me. Cracks red, red and blue. What
could be the Old Glory blows away while forming.
Well send me down where the winds turn over.
Burned blind white, a wind comes avalanche. We will,
we will. Smoke screens the atmosphere.
By: David Solway
Negative thirty eight.
The bus pulls up at the side
of the highway and settles in to wait
for the tardy passenger to find his ride.
In this climate
you don’t get punished for being late
or marched downfield for having to create
a barrier, a divide,
a windbreak, or, say, some offside state
of mind to be applied
against that minus thirty eight.
It’s like the flicker in the grate
a hardiness, or a courtesy. Tried
by weather and space at the desolate
margins where Nature is defied
by a nature equal to its fate,
you play the game here as you bide
your time. Prairie tough. Rider pride.
By: Carmine Starnino
Join at the joint of noon, start with a slight delay
two hold back and two go on, and what they try to say
climbs the commotion of itself, fed, pushing its way
like a pent-up head of water, so that each smack of contact, each outlay
of peal, each throatful of clout and clang is a melee
moving to the brink of havoc, and when the notes spray
we lower our voices, ears to the air, the erupting ave
bone-heard—tense, touch-sensitive, suddenly supernumeray and fey,
racing past each other in surging deceleration, runaway
and woken through, their knocking thrown into flower, into epic play
until our heartbeats slow, mid-swing, stalling to a sway
slack, slaked, huge and half elsewhere, the heaven-taken grey
hanging in belfry emptiness, sacks to dry till Sunday
By: Mary Dalton
It was just about then, Alba noticed,
she had begun to dress like a beetle.
Before that she’d been given to
rigging herself out like a
Painted Lady or a Question Mark.
Oh she was aerial:
high wire was her mode.
The night sultry, thick with rose-smells,
a swathe around her: a pashmina
insinuating, a skin on her skin.
Wind letting loose a long riff through the aspens,
sliding in, like Flynn, silky-fingered,
quick through the wide-open window.
Now she was donning the gear
of a hunkered-down soldier—
the duns and mouse-grays,
taupes, rotted greens.
Was it a matter of camouflage
or some Jane Austen manoeuvre?
Would it tip just a bit further—
into lace collars, antimacassars,
doilies, and little skirts for the cat?
By: Wendy Morton
Say Tseshaht, Hupacasath, Ahousaht,
Say canoe, salmon,
baskets made of spruce root, cedar.
Say Potlatch, feast.
Say Reservation. Say tuberculosis.
Say the children.
Raised with the sacred,
the ravens, the seasons of the moon,
to honour the earth, the elders.
Say residential school.
The men who came in gunboats,
to take the children.
Say hunger. Say death.
Say the dark things without names.
Say these words.
By: Claudine Bertrand
Où es-tu poète disparu
Aux murs sauvages de l’exil
À travers le tam-tam de mon corps
L’écho comme une absence
Quand l’éclair frappe
La surface de la chair
Les mots du ventre gémissent
Semblables à ceux de la mère
Cris, murmures inscrits sur tes seins
Ravagés de foudre et d’incertitude
Au générique du scénario clandestin
Une magicienne à la langue de feu
Scande des phrases du Nouveau Monde
Pourtant le spectacle est muet
Qu’une plainte intérieure en contorsion
N’ai-je pas entendu ta voix?
Allongée sur le drap
Des jours à venir
La peau de ton âme
Parle dans la nuit des blessures
La bouche tremblante de désir
Trop près de tes lèvres
En forme d’absolu
Quand tu délirais de tendresse
Il neigeait et à travers la neige
D’autres neiges de braise
Tes yeux sondent les forêts vierges folles
Dans l’Équatorial de mes tempêtes
Et explosent dans ma chevelure en dérive
Je te raconterai tout
Comme la mer(e) agitée
Qui m’a ôté la vie
Je recommencerai chaque nuit
La visite des châteaux abandonnés
La danse de la spirale sacrée
Dans l’océantume de mes jours
Où es-tu poète disparu
Au regard de bateau ivre
Si près de la nuit mon corps s’ennuie
Des gestes que tu n’as jamais posés
Dans le jardin des caresses
Le jeu de la passion et du hasard
Nue devant celui qu’elle n’attend plus
Derrière les persiennes closes une fêlure
Sous un ciel trop lourd
N’est-ce pas ta mélodie ton silence
Qui remontent comme une averse
À moins que tout ne soit que rêves et chimères?
By: Tracy Hamon
My father’s death drowns me—
the tumbling yawn, the roar
in my ears, a narrowing waterfall,
and my anger at this coffin.
The world sleeps.
Death’s fabric unfolds. I watch
the box. Silence binds me
to those hours, to the last
breath, and all the past year’s
insanity slips to calm. I move
closer to the pine case, carve the trail
of tracks, an engine, freight cars
into the soft wood with tip of his pen knife.
This knife his father left him. All his life
he used it to cut string, to pare an apple
but he never gave it to me—
The knife I stole from his jacket
so many days ago.
I remember he carried it in his pocket,
nestled near the pocket watch. Late
afternoons I rested on his knee, imitating
the train’s chug, whistle, the short bursts
of steam. I’d reach in his pocket for the
ivory-handle, touch its intricate carvings,
admire its power to make me bleed.
And later he brought me
a tool of my own—
the dark crayon, charcoal and oil,
pushed it into my hand, taught me how
to shape rectangles
on thin sheets of paper,
how to sketch on the delicate white plane,
palm to table, to draw
steam, a few boxes, how to blend
the silhouettes I now gouge into wood.
Long lines. Steam. No steam.
My days darken
from grief’s underhanded pressure—
so much time extinguished.
It takes three teachers
to teach my mother
my talent is real.
I pass the conductor
my ticket, wave goodbye
to my sisters, fail to hold them
long enough. I tell myself not to show
weakness as my mother hands me
a wallet that was once my father’s,
the brown leather worn,
soft as lips kissed goodnight.
I swallow and press my cheek
to the material before tucking
it between my shirt and chest.
I glance up at the second story
window that used to be my home.
My mother’s voice the incessant
itch of an insect bite: do this, do that.
I journey away, past open fields,
mustard and grape vines, the most recent
wave of creation
blossoming beside me.
Metal sparks underneath,
the clack of the train’s carriage,
the rails stiff-spined
like my mother’s backbone
on all our lives. I count only the milestones
through the glass; how far I have come,
how far to go, and all those cemented
grave markers passing behind.
By: Pam Galloway
Will they puff into nothing these ghosts of pine
that haunt the forest now?
Scarab-like crystals, amulets,
decorate the bark after trees bleed sap.
And boughs wilt brown
then flare – orange! Fire’s
simulacrum, ineffectual blaze
before mountain-side spectres loom
ghastly, powdery grey.
But scattered across this view, white patches
glint from the tops of wasted pines
like kites taken by the wind
and caught; like beacons
but more solid than light,
revealed as each one lifts: bald eagles,
bright heads pull their bodies
as their fingered wings carry them
By: Steven Heighton
The printer who sets this page with skill, though he may not admire it. Singers of solo expertise who defer and find harmonies instead.
Anyone whose skeleton is susceptible to music.
She who, having loved a book or record, instantly passes it on.
Whose heart lilts at a span of vacant highway, the fervent surge of acceleration, psalm of the
Adults content to let children bury them in sand or leaves.
Those for whom sustaining hatred is a difficulty.
Surprised by tenderness on meeting, at a reunion, the persecutors of their youth.
Likely to forget debts owed them but never a debt they owe.
Apt to read Plutarch or Thich Naht Hahn with the urgency of one reading the morning news.
Frightened ones who fight to keep fear from keeping them from life.
The barber who, no matter how long the line, will not rush the masterful shave or cut.
The small-scale makers of precious obscurios—pomegranate spoons, conductors’ batons,
harpsichord tuning hammers, War of 1812 re-enactors’ ramrods, hand-cranks
The gradeschool that renewed the brownfields back of the A & P and made them ample miraculous
May and June.
The streetgang that casts no comment as they thin out to let Bob the barking man squawk past
them on the sidewalk.
The two African medical students in Belgrade, 1983, who seeing a traveller lost and broke
took him in and fed him rice and beans cooked over a camp stove in their cubicle of
a room and let him sleep there while one of them studied all night at the desk
between the beds with the lamp swung low.
Those who sit on front porches, not in fenced privacy, in the erotic inaugural summer night
Who redeem from neglect a gorgeous, long-orphaned word.
Who treat dogs with a sincere and comical diplomacy.
Attempt to craft a decent wine in a desperate climate.
Clip the chain of consequence by letting others have the last word.
Master the banjo.
Are operatically loud in love.
These people, without knowing it, are saving the world.
*The first and last lines are translated from Jorge Luis Borges’s poem “The Just”.
By: Sue Sinclair
not the ashes
but whatever it is that survives
and will not be dispersed.
Cold sinks into the body
and lies still, like an animal
breathing. Thus inhabited,
we yield to stark, unnarrative
matter. Everything lies open,
spread feast-like before us,
inviting, yet can't be touched,
can't be moved ahead.
Like a photograph:
tree limbs thick with snow.
Naked as the dead are naked.
Inside everything, the worn
fragments of self.
They harden and harden:
to live is to carry forward
the weight of dying.
By: John Terpstra
I brought you rocks in a bucket,
not flowers wrapped in paper,
not chocolate in a box, and not stones,
which would be too small, you said,
to use as props for your children’s story,
but smooth and amiably misshapen earth-apples
that were about the size of my fist.
Perfect, you said. My pleasure, I replied.
I picked them up the street, from the rocky
front yard of someone who wasn’t home,
whose cat answered my knock at the door
by crossing the driveway, curling about the stoop,
and looking up expectantly at the door knob,
and to whom eventually I explained myself,
setting down my plastic bucket and,
as though they were the portobello mushrooms
we remark upon each week at the market
but never buy, I plucked rocks, nine
all told, and brought them home to you.
And you said, Perfect.
I did not ask which children’s story
requires rocks, not stones, as props,
and I did not see if you picked one up
to admire its shape and heft, as I had, nine times,
their buoyant heaviness
which was tinged, I thought, with a kind of longing.
It was enough that you asked
that I could find and gather,
and that after the rocks had served your purpose
I could return them to the yard up the street
and to the companionship of the rocks
I did not choose for you,
and who, I imagined, as I fit their nine siblings
into the shapely palms of soil they were lifted from,
may have felt left out, and wondered
what they had missed, what the story was,
looking up at me with their perfect, round faces.
By: Mary di Michele
In some city, not after all
Trieste or Udine, but in Rome,
though not on its streets of ancient stone
but on the margins, in shanty-town –
and not in spring, on some avenue of flowering
yellow linden, but golden in autumn,
with the first cold rain, with the leaves he falls
the sun well past its gloaming
in the no light of night alone.
For the love of boys, or for the love of one lost
boy with curls darkening his forehead,
a beautiful boy, a frog prince, he would give his last
lira for the love of this or any stranger
to whom he owes nothing, or all, a bit of money, a hot
meal for an embrace with no backward
looking goodbye. In blue jeans, his shirt blood-
soaked, see his body cooling, see his body cooler
than the sand under his shoes, sand
warm when he was still warm moments
before and forever
shut his eyes under unblinking stars,
a man not yet old, a man not
a saint, but with a saint’s
love for strangers, lying face up in the dirt,
on a feast day, on All Saints’ at last
a seed squandered no longer
beaten on the beaten ground of Ostia.
By: Linda Frank
This is the painting they buy
to put in the Louvre in Paris
this stinking city of philistines
this city of self-serving fakes
They put my jeweled hand on the cover
of Vogue, they design a ‘robe Mme Rivera’
in my honour. To hell with Breton
and this lousy place. These French
‘intellectual’ artists disgust me
I’d rather sit on the floor in the market of Toluca
and sell tortillas than have anything to do
with those “artistic” bitches of Paris
Miró hugs me. Kandinsky kisses me
Picasso gives me a gift of earrings, beautiful
tortoise shell hands with gold cuffs. But to Breton
and the others I am a Mexican trophy
Only a woman could embody their exotic idea
of Mexico. Patronizing bastards
I am not crafting a decorative object
Look closely. The periphery becomes
more intricate, the boundary more vivid
than the woman in the centre
who is no longer fully there
This is what a woman
looks like when she is vanishing
By: Makeba Cooper
Yesterday’s burden has been drained:
two thumbs slid down the lids,
interstices laced with fine metal thread;
the wrists, the mouth, the long body
pocket emptied of small change and spleen.
The Dracula machine is done digesting;
pancake tan spread over visible skin,
spackled into the old hole in your neck;
starched shirt collars fastened with pins.
A velvet curtain separates you and your box
from the fold-out chairs, and few faces
suspended in disbelief.
The fourth wall separates you
from the audience that does not applaud,
does not know your shoulders carried me
until I was almost grown,
how Sundays at the river, you sometimes
set the yellow perch free.
By: John Reibetanz
All nature, from the crag windbreakered in granite
that melts into the nuzzling of the clouds’ wet snouts,
to the motes of grit that rise up every morning
and dance in a fountain over the windowsill,
all nature wants to be water. Curled tongues of fire
and sharp tongues of wind stutter and lisp through forests,
longing for the fluency of streams. Clays trapped in
marble fifty million years ago still practice
ripple and purl in rehearsal for the aeon
that will free their liquid hearts, Virginia creeper
clambers on splay-fingered hands up walls and treetrunks
to throw itself down in cascading sprays, even
heaven seeks out lakes where its unfrozen double
pulses. Still more besotted, water can’t get enough
of nature. Rain, the sky’s gift of spirit, so pure
a distillate of blue it abstains from colour,
falls all over the earth, and snowflakes leave unique
designs they’ve spun their lives into, coming undone
to kiss the same ground the river’s whitest water,
charging seaward, turns inside out to wave back at.
Starving for love, the pilgrim waterdrop shivers
under its hood of light, dwindles to mist, and slips
into crevasses between crumbs of soil, to rise
as breath through root-hairs and be at one with the trees.
Or with you, for water also loves the nature
that is human. Kissing lips, then tongue, it races
down throat-rapids, threads through bone into your very
marrow and, in a blush of passion, spills over
and floods the heart’s chambers scarlet. Your smitten heart
loves back, a lifetime of embraces fluttering
like eyelids when they caress the film of water
pressing against your lenses. You look through them at
a dead tree leaning over a stream. The bleached trunk
so yearns to become water, it has given up
branches and bark in working its way from cedar
to drift. Now pain puts on a coat of warm water
and runs down your cheek. Like the ocean that loved all
nature into first life, it kisses you with salt.
By: Paul Vermeersch
Their discovery has been a kind of homecoming, too.
Part of you has been here before, germinal, hidden.
A painted hand resting on the stone. A molecule.
A memory of muscled, brawling giants buried
deep within, their horns goring the darkness
locked in the rock of ages. These horses were born
thousands, tens of thousands of years too soon
to be anything but horses. Too soon to be centaurs,
too soon to be starships. Remember, these herds
are the same on these walls as they were in their fields
as they are in your mind. Listen. Their hoof beats
trampling this ancestral earth are still the drums
that drive the song rising red in your marrow.
The abiding chant of the hundred billion dead
who came before you. Their distant voices vanished
into your voice, deepening it. Their song the song
that’s been snarled in your heart – breaking it,
trying to work its way free – for your entire life.
By: Elise Partridge
While its Stargazer cousins shot up,
doubling weekly until
their heavy buds, like beaks,
bobbed and jabbed at the woodshed’s sill,
this stubby one
struggled through choking bindweed
sideways -- craning,
lunging as far as it could toward sun.
One sullen dusk, gales slashed.
Next day I found
the stalk slumping,
curled leaves awry, smudged brown
under raindrop loads,
two pale buds swinging, doused.
At the stem’s base
officious sowbugs, armored, twitching, flowed.
Finally eked out one flower.
by the spiky apple even past twilight --
crowded by brassy dandelions
it tilted --
a quivering face, elated, at blank sky.
By: Brian Bartlett
Home from another day of grade one, she says
with a leap in her voice like a swinging gibbon
grabbing a branch, today she learned
the biggest number of all.
A billion, her father expects, a trillion,
but she flings her jacket to the floor,
kicks off her boots and shouts, “Infinity!”
Lit up and propelled by the idea, she runs
into the dining room calling, “Infinity! Infinity!”
to the cats sleeping on the place mats.
She laughs as if endlessness were a joke
only a child can get. Returned to her father,
she throws her arms around his knees: “And it looks
like a sideways 8!” Her glance suggests
he’s a mathematical dunce, Pater Ignoramus.
Infinity might be a wild Arabian stallion
whose trust she wins slipping sugar cubes
into the wooden pen where he paces.
Sunday, the family follows a path around
a pond, where mallards and mergansers drift among
ice chunks, snow dwindled into the pockets
of permanent shadows. A fallen branch becomes
a walking stick, a staff. Her brother teases,
“Midget wizard.” By a brook wide as her mother’s stride
she fishes for last fall’s residue,
catches a pocked, drenched oak leaf.
“Beautiful,” she says of such decay
picked off the stick’s end. As the sun keeps up
its meltwater tinkling, she says the same
of an ice cake her father lifts from the shallows
and holds up high enough for sunlight
to strike – a mass of flashing gems.
Before they finish circling the pond, where turtles’
heartbeats begin to quicken out of hibernation,
she abandons her stick and with one finger
traces in the dark mud along the water
a sign her parents, hand in hand, slowly read.
By: Stuart Ian McKay
are newly-formed These two
the old carpet over the backs of
chairs set in uneven rows take
turns hosing down sudden tectonics
Streams on the brevity of
mould decays from corners
falls corrupted lakes
stain his hands
Labour-heavy peaks burnish
under the fresh wind the sun
By: Phil Hall
To listen—they lean forward—kids do
when you read to them—they list
they know how to listen
but adults think of things they have to do
they lean back—tick off items on a list
while you read—it’s to themselves they listen
kids pull the fire out of a word
drawing its heat up into themselves
by magic—like a cheroot above an oil lamp use to
but adults have been burnt by words
they know what’s bad to do—have trained themselves
to pulse like neon—don’t waver the ways they used to
if you have a choice—read to kids
without a school board close at hand
to tick off which words have been outlawed
lean in to kids
read a monstrosity like a fire in the hand
a classic that was once outlawed
By: Marko Sijan
The smog duvet blankets the city,
Covers the sun’s repetitive light,
Smothers the sun’s redundant form…
I have no money. No smooth shaved grin.
Stuck to the sidewalk. Hoping for nothing.
Ogling the smog. Seeking no purpose.
Mind shrivels in drought of purpose;
I think about leaving the city
As two men glide by: nothing
But oily hairdos and tailored suits lit
By bronze glowing skin. I grin:
What barbell bench-pressed forms!
Mother says, Honey, fill in the forms.
Give your life some much-needed purpose.
A job to smudge the sky and my grin
With smog, as if the city
Needs more oil or bronze monuments or streetlights
Steeped in soot. That means nothing;
Honey, you’re not nothing.
She wants me to fit myself into the form
Of the erect sooty streetlight
Shining a path for people with purpose
And bronze skin: monuments to the city.
Money flexes its steroid grin.
Damnit, honey! Will you please stop grinning?
And stop it with these endless nothings.
I just need to get out of the city.
I’m…feeling out of form.
Now you’re insulting me on purpose.
When are you going to see the light!?
What do you mean by light?
A stable job to wipe that grin Off your face, smart-ass. Oh, purposeful Mother, brighten my life with more nothing! Well, you’re broke, you bum. A well-formed Adult makes money and thrives in the city. Mother chides me for nothing. The sun’s light Can’t pierce the city’s purpose Behind the smog that bronzes my well-formed grin.
By: Larissa Andrusyshyn
The grotto is overgrown, concrete chips
away where it says Do Not Feed the Bear.
The cement softens now that the grotto is empty,
it sinks and weathers, sprouts weeds, moulds
in the humid air. The trees hang over the basin, drop
leaves in the pooled rain water.
We are masters of carpentry, cement pouring,
the stenciling of letters. We put the bear there,
pulled the gate shut, slid the bolt across. And people came
to stare at the thing they called a bear. The animal
they contained in a thick concrete hole, where nothing grew
and the bear recognized nothing.
Now there is just the cage here at the entrance to the aquarium,
with its beluga whales swimming circles in their concrete Antarctica,
surrounded by Stanley Park, the sea wall, the people of British Colombia
and the mountains that stretch all the way to Alaska.
By: Susan Gillis
Tonight the river is green and radiant with forging.
I could believe in an earlier us, fish with small limbs
racing toward the estuary, leaping in the spring-tide,
piscis ludens splashing at the shore.
The currents carving the river a wider bed.
New sea-vegetables springing up at the mouth.
Just a few nights ago the moon was new.
Even over the city the sky was dark enough to see stars
and Mars appeared, our precursor, oracle
of city-shambles, blood-blasted desert, drought.
I've been watching the satellite news.
First, "water was found."
Then "horizons of salt rose in our eyes, far out in the abyss
where a mountain was forming—"
Dear friend, for weeks it's been too hot to do anything.
The world is calling out for the world
and all the fish are making for the same green state—
By: John Donlan
“Nobody helped me.” “Something big and metal
is moving.” Snug as a snail in its flak jacket
brooding over entropy, O deathy death
I’m tired of pulling you around in the wagon.
In all natural history’s grand assembly
and dispersal, you’re the one event the vultures watch for
but that’s their business, not ours. You begin
where understanding ends, so a sound mind
turns gratefully back from your abstraction
to plunge into its own wealth of world-awareness,
like Scrooge McDuck in his coin-filled swimming pool.
We revel in having more than we deserve,
more than can ever be taken away
however rapidly decimated, some scrubby bush
to wander in, or just wind spinning some paper
unexpectedly before hurrying on.
By: Don Domanski
clouds in lowercase moths on their
maiden flights and grief ever returning
from somewhere high up in the poplar trees
it’s 2004 and I’m on the Yangtze River
where Li Po fell from his boat and drowned
trying to embrace the reflection of the moon
in the flowing water
same moon tonight same reflection
shadows of our masters still metastasizing
somewhere in the places of power
improvisations of mist still ineffable
stars still creating myth out of shrugs of light
indifferent to our attempts at divination
indifferent to our applied mathematics
tonight I’m a bit of pigment in a T’ang scroll
rusted blemish that bleeds through
from the future
bamboo along the shore brushed
dark and darker the mountains
raising their effigies and fetishes to heaven
ten million bales of black silk have unfurled
between the gorges the Celestials
like paper fish glow and float to the surface
their words for our sorrows unknown
to us still their silence on every subject
intricate and unwavering
a river crocodile slides under our boat
ink lines of its lips fixed in a permanent smile
its clinched armour a counterpane
for an arterial sleep blood’s dodge
in unlit waters someone’s heart at ease.
By: Maggie Helwig
winter and this, the year's pardon, these
something too small and simple
to be possible
we rock ourselves
almond on the tongue
as crisp as paper
or the risk of spring, each year the melt the
breaking of hearts and nutrient soil the
back of the neck exposed, bending, open
the pointless gifts that descend
flutter of tongue in darkness
and I am faithless, all my belief
vested in negative, and yet
I choose this language
eat and drink and kneel
because the weight is real and the arms bend
and there is no barrier between
the stone and flesh
preserve us in this hour
still somewhat good
By: Moez Surani
Near the pagoda,
I made joke after joke,
too shy to take your hand.
And with songs and books,
I thought of you.
I thought of you.
And in my beige uniform
my walking, my way in talking
everything of me was different.
And the further songs,
the further books . . .
I tied my scarf to the library’s gate.
I wake these weeks into the smolder of dreams,
and touch my face
how from your room
to mine, you will have laid
flowers that I pass
too quickly over to
give either foot
a petal’s pleasure.
And inhaling the air
around your dark hair,
I will stand with all my selves,
and call you mother, sister, wife, daughter.
By: Thierry Dimanche
Nos deux corps solidaires
font un poulpe
où bourgeonnent d'autres associations
de verts et creux jaillissements
nous disent que chaque idée possède
huit directions huit fouets huit laisses
et qu’une liberté demande sans cesse
qu'on la rattrape
en des cultes plus souples
As the steward of the Parliamentary Poet Laureate, the Library of Parliament strives to achieve balance between its mission and organizational values, and the artistic expression of Poets Laureate. Poets Laureate have the discretion to determine how to exercise specific activities relevant to their role, as defined in the Parliament of Canada Act, while endeavouring to carry out their duties in such a way as to not compromise public confidence and trust in the Parliament of Canada.