Saturday, February 28, 2015

by the end of february

winter has pressed for four long months 
against the windows. the mind,

time's vehicle, thinks:
it's about time things change.

what you think about time is irrelevant,
or what you think about change 

is always changing. winter still presses 
at the windows. ice still skirts the glass.

november  the sills were clean.
december  perhaps a little dusty.

january  seven house flies took to their backs
and now a desiccated spider is entombed in a web of time's making.

Friday, February 27, 2015

23.9344696 hours

on the east side of the hill the young boy is funneling out of the loam,
separating the till by pressure of his 13 year old pate, trailing along his gigantic size 12 feet

while on the west side of the hill the grandparents are settling into their seats, 65 and 76,
birthday presents in their laps, hands folded neatly, like varve

Thursday, February 26, 2015


there are six of us in a room.
at least two of us are dying quickly.
two or three of us are dying less quickly.
and one or two of us will die eventually.
the room is white. the beds are metal.
two beds. four visitors.
five of us are over sixty.
one of us is under fifty.
the youngest sports big black toes
with no toe nails.
she runs. she's run them right off.
it's summer. she's in sandals.
every eye in the room
looks in amazement 
at the toes of the runner.
huh, they marvel,
so as you run 
this happens!

you speak the earth (a walk by snowshoe, feb 25, 2015)

i see how the hood of your mouth accommodates the mouthful lac aux sables
and how your cheeks have widened to say the metaplutonic words feldspar and quartz
and how you've lowered your tongue to let loose the body of the river aux sables.
walking through the winter woods this day along the river, 
aspen, pine, birch and spruce solid against the white and creaking sky,
late day your river tongue thrashing like grouse wings beneath the ice, 
my heart hurts with the words you say;
my heart hurts all walk long.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

considering their pale faces

fact: the manageable size of the baby paradise rose, with pinkish-lavender 1 - 1 1/2" blooms, offers 
a small garden big potential

experiential: we planted a few along the border of the garden we created with the edge of a shovel
outside the kitchen window, when we bought the family home

fact: even miniature roses are susceptible to the same plagues as their larger cousins

experiential: while you children toddled about, slipping happily in leaf rot, then swung on the tire
swing, or later, hammered in the tree fort, i leaned toward the tiny leaves and scraped fat rose slugs
into a tin can, or sometimes brazenly squashed them with a thumb nail

fact: for years the paradise rose struggled and eventually, i left your father

Monday, February 23, 2015

rites of spring

through each spring that has passed and each one that comes, my parents
unfold their short utility ladder with the safety splash, climb two 
or three feet to shelves (taking turns) to unclasp from dust rings and take down 
framed photographs, their extensive collection of tea cups, all kinds
of other chintz or knickknacks, and wash their shelves, bathe their little
do-dads in the sink, lovingly stroke their walls, going so far as to even
cleanse the drywall screws usually hidden behind family photographs.
then they climb the ladder again, again taking turns, and return
everything to their exact heretofore places, so that one might never be aware 
of this tradition, but for the few varied complaints of sore joints earned,
knees aching.

myself, now mid-forties, having narrowly survived the many sullying young years
of dumb joy, having been blessedly purified of unerring optimism, 
i begin to understand the fundamental need of hope's renewal, even if only born in
a sink full of grey bubbles.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

waking in Reisterdam and reaching for the cup

i awaken again rife with fear, lost under the streets and crisscrosses of back alleys (the engineers of Reisterdam at it again, building, laying, boring, all night long while the lights were out), nearly witless, beads of sweat forming on my forehead and streaming down, salt saturated rivulets bleeding into the corners of my mouth, grasping through the air to that, that elusive thing, that thing that i don't know but sense, the thing which can save me, like a mother/a father/a parent, a cup floating in thin air, the thing to cleave to, the empty thing, the pure thing, the thing which might be filled, the thing of devotion, of absolution, the lesser thing and thereby the only more that's ever possible.

i open my eyes.

but instead i see Reisterdam.

Friday, February 20, 2015


it's ok to feel joy
like mary oliver,
for even mary oliver,
when the curtains are closed
and the moon is left 
outside, to hone all alone,
huddles, sometimes, 
on her couch
like an orphaned pup,
as behind the couch
in his parent's attic,
carruth did.


from a short essay in The Sewanee Review, 1999, carruth describes his state of mind:

Agoraphobia is when a stranger enters the house and you go to the attic and lie down with your face pressed into the darkest corner, under the slanting slats of the roof. It’s the scream lurking in your gorge, so ready to burst that the least noise above a cat’s purr makes you tremble: when the marching band from the high school practices in the street outside you sit in the back of the closet, when the March wind lashes the treetops at night you crawl behind the sofa. Agoraphobia is when every night at 2:00 a.m. for five years—that’s 1,825 nights—you go out loaded with Thorazine to walk in the street beneath the dark, blank windows of the houses on either side, and you never get more than a hundred yards from your door. ... Agoraphobia is when you breathe and eat the dust of oblivion.

an excellent article on carruth by richard mertens can be read here at The University of Chicago Magazine, april 2005, volume 97, issue 4.)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

grocery cart blues

it is a rare day when the daughter accompanies the mother to the grocery store.
she has decided today's foot-stomping chorus will be, you don't even know me! 
they fill the cart. super full. so much so that things fall to the floor in a clatter
playing ironic to their boom-cha! disjointed chortled rhythms,
things that some of them like, sometimes - but what? or who?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

the husband's hair

the husband has cut his hair and trimmed his beard. 
there are parts of his neck that you have never noticed before.
the shape of his head seems slightly different to you now.
when you hold his face, your hands are flooded differently 
and new points on your skin emerge and open like small mouths 
hungry for the source of light.
your husband and you have been married for some years now,
but there are many things about his past (exciting and otherwise) 
you'll never know. they've gone and gotten themselves forgotten.
the rest of your lives loom before you.
perhaps you will never touch another human being again
in the intimate ways between two people.
there are tufts of hair he has missed, thorny and scamped, over his ears.
he has blindly hacked small ledges from the back where he'll never see.
you hold his head. there is an infinity of learning to be done. 
there is a limitless plane of newness, of love.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

forecast, february

like wolves bent with appetence
the news channels report what's coming

(what's always coming)

the crowds grow anxious like atoms in the face of oblivion

but my spirit face pushes toward the coming snow
like a white blossom eager for its springtime


a message to young folks from middle age:

walking in winter is a form of cutting
(cutting, as you know, a way of being here)

but patience is cutting too
breathing is


but there is a too far to go
a walking too close to the brink of extinction

it can sometimes be called by its common name: february

last year was 3 breaths long
january, two
february, so far this year, eight long slow inhalations


finishing the loop back into town
the native man with the ancient face
(we, the only two on the streets) asks:

none, i say aloud
(except the ones in our heads)

Saturday, February 14, 2015


the mind instructs its vehicle, the spirit, to rise and race toward the nonnegotiable goodness of the world through nature (and it does) thereby relinquishing the need to negotiate the ineluctable pain of dying.

the spirit instructs the mind that which it witnesses is real (and it is), the spirit and the mind whirring off together, passing the body which is left standing dumbly on the street corner.


                 by philippe jaccottet from Seedtime

“Someone will place in your hand a seed
so that even after your hand’s destruction
nothing will have been taken from you or broken.”

Words spoken for ignorance of the sequel,
for walking in doubt and in affliction,
confided by folly to the unknown.

Words imprecise, however, or false,
when there can be no question of a gift or a seed
nor of destruction, nor of anything breaking,

When it is a question of defying the grave,
of breaking reason and human semblance
as a prison too narrow and too precise.

Word ventured so as to be more brave
so as to give oneself a bearing more grave
and to clear the air for such a seed.


my life has been three events long

in the summer a net of gnats gathered
over black luminous water like vapour

in the fall a fox gathered into its red coat
and then exited the field like woodsmoke

and the geese which gathered into the north one springtime
gather again this winter far from here in southern ponds
waiting to return

Friday, February 13, 2015

the map of 44 years of want

here we are in the world
i want what i want (it's becoming more and more obvious)
i want you to want what i want (yet you don't)
you want what you want and want me to want what you want

here we are in canada
i want what i want (it's becoming more and more obvious)
i want you to want what i want (yet you don't)
you want what you want and want me to want what you want

here we are in these bodies
i want what i want (it's becoming more and more obvious)
i want you to want what i want (yet you don't)
you want what you want and want me to want what you want

here are bloodroot, snow lotus and chickweed
wanting for them is immaterial
yet all things suffer because of wanting
me, i suffer you
and you, you suffer me


maps are medicinal and aromatic plants

some things that save us which we don't save:
bloodroot - north america
snow lotus - tibet
chickweed - germany

*a six year old paper on the effects of climate change on medicinal and aromatic plants, and the clock ticks faster

Thursday, February 12, 2015

driving across february

driving across the island in winter, sweaters, the heater groaning a possible pocket for us, seat belts, ice, a blustering horizon going outward, my husband keeps in his shirt pocket beneath layers, his wallet. the hand i usually reach across him over his belly to his chest (left breast) is filled with this distance. i do not want it. i do not want one thing to come between us. i do not want separation of any kind. the winter day seems cruel in its opulence.

in response to

six moths lie on their backs beneath a light in a foil pie plate
each body a small white hammer enshrouded in, first and only run, toile
time has run its course
obscurity is fine

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

some things are easy

the timbre of this poem is as easy as 
the woman walks down the street
with medium blunt edged heels
common sense ones
no one need worry, it's 1982
or even now, or a few years earlier
on a street in an undeveloped village
quaint still, maybe without crime
before the true broach of international hazards
(although thanks to persians all heels cross borders)
but well enough before dial-up's shrill elongated 
discombobulating whine
it does not sit near the disastrous edge of high heels 
spiked atop prurient desires, status or passion 
mysterious repertoire of small hammers pounding
upon some distant precipice, enduring, recurring
nor beneath the dull brow flat-footed footslogging 
trudging dregs and dreck 
churning debris 
to frisked whisked clouds of
quick turning groundbound airlusting dervishes
instead - the woman walks down the street
it's sunny enough, shade offered in awnings
we plainly hear her advancing or retreating, resounding
medium density (sounds to trust) striking 
off local homes, makeshift businesses, proceeding evenly 
unimpaired through tangible distances
depending on our in relation to/perspective
we can locate (even the future) everything 
she has an empty bag slung over her shoulder
the woman will - buy fruit.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


it happens first in the mouth 
but that's not true
that's only how we label things
numbering holes 
like on a golf course
second molar (bicuspid)
[subterranean name eroding]

Monday, February 9, 2015

clues like:

starlight cleaving darkness
the steel knife's pinprick
oceans coming aground at shore
this body and how it responds wanting more
(can i trust it?)

life - what are you?
what do you want from me?

i don't want to fear you

notes on the ordinary

i have a fear of the ordinary. not the sublime ordinary but the constructed one, man's dominion. i have one searing memory which represents it, as though all evidence were filtered into that one morning. (have i written this before? probably.) a late morning in taiwan. i had gotten onto a train and off at a wrong stop. not the morning i did it on purpose and rode for hours past the stop which would see me through to my teaching job, but another day. (i can't remember if on this day it was design or accident that found me lost.) i found myself in the middle of a town i was unfamiliar with. the sun was yet at an angle, almost mid-point high, advancing. the buildings were concrete, grey. many enough. not a city, but maybe more than a town. but the town seemed, oddly enough, uninhabited. everyone working, i supposed. slaves. or gears in the machine. the sun clicked upward another increment. i had a moment of vertigo. the world was suddenly and completely bereft of meaning. i blinked. i should have been working. but i couldn't bring myself to. i couldn't bring myself to anything. but here. and what was here? nothing. nothing. and as the day turned brighter, the nothingness seemed to be swallowing me whole.

that day lurks for me inside and around the corners of the ecstatic. i don't care to look in its direction. i keep it low. at bay. neutralize its potential in this way. raise my eyes. look to see the other, which is, at least, just as real, just as powerful.


as happens so often, i turn back to the world of poetry and come across this poem by rachel zucker to juxtapose, tighten, and then explode the whole situation outward into the complexity of being human, "two kinds of suffering," which can be read here at vqr.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

the funny pain

my daughter had to write a poem for school. she searched the years.
recognized her place. opened tumbler. took down the knife
which was shiny. split the poem from the page. poem was popular.
everyone leaned hard to hear her (the invisible girl), hear themselves. 
great grade, she got. joke is, she says, i'm happy.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

february 6, 2015, notes, a run backwards

i ran a familiar route backwards yesterday, through town in reverse.  i ran past each beat which usually passes last as passing first, the crows that would usually crow at me upon completion, crowed at me as i began moving and limbered out into a jog, out past my children's primary school, through the open distance, snow blasting my face, past the bushes which held bears late last summer, toward the trees where we once heard a moose, over the distant railroad tracks and toward the densely packed trees which usually house my easing into running, fox and wolf prints crossing in front of and following alongside my own.

simply by reversing this loop it was as though the teeth and grooves of memory were activated. i came upon a memory from seven years ago. not long ago for me, but long enough ago as it was a memory of my son who is now almost 13. that would make him 6. me pulling up to school in the afternoon to pick he and my daughter up. he emerging through the doors in his navy blue snow pants and jacket, full hat with ear shields and chin buckle, scarf and mittens. he ripe with trajectory and playfulness, a barrel of a body. he would make a line for me, smiling wide, and then swing himself on the other course (the one we both quickly learned) to the top of the snow ploughed hill at the edge of the car lot (which was just ploughed grass). there he'd launch himself with full momentum into the air which would carry him impressively far to the ditch below. utter trust. faith and thrill.

i love this town. or - i like to look at it not so critically, or myself while inside it. i'm more sure i love this way of living. close to things which for me are important. which means close to the little, further away from the a lot of the many. i'll leave it soon. and i've not been thinking of it much, for this immigration process has been so much longer than i'd ever anticipated. but brushing up against leaving has caused me to be a little anxious.

as i ran, beginning with the instigation of this surprise school-latched memory, and rounding my way back into town, i was confronted with, upon reentry, the school buses sprawling out from the two local schools, depositing their youngest bounty at their doors. the kindergarten children are transported (the 4 and 5 year olds) and the older ones are picked up, or when old enough as my boy is now, walk home on their own. the bus driver waved at me and i waved at her, a woman i knew in that other generation, when my own children were that young. now there are new young ones, ones i don't know, bound up in their snow garb, tottling to their doors, their parents holding the doors wide open, the winter air wavering out with the small blasts of heat pouring from their homes. i was running past the bus then and i tried to see the small boy, as familiar as my own boy in his dark blue snowsuit, but he was inside before i could really see him. a small black puppy was tied to his porch. his soft ears shone in the winter sun and his excited legs carried him up and down in lively bursts. we had a black dog once when the children were little. now divorced, the dog lives with my ex-husband. surely the dog must be nearing his death soon.

and then i knew through ordinary evidence what should have been obvious. what i've known before. there's no going back to anything. there's not even any staying. what was once in front of us, beside us, gets used up. expended. there must be tomorrow. that's where we must launch ourselves to with faith, even daring the thrill.

it's late saturday morning while i write this. i've just woken my son. now he's downstairs behind me on the couch still drowsing. he's wrapped in his navy blue blanket which is as old as the memory of him snow jumping, his man feet hanging out toward the heater. i turn and stroke his head. note the dark hair gathering like a shadow over his lips.

Friday, February 6, 2015

the refrain

standing at the kitchen island bored and in just one tick of the clock regretting it
your daughter asks if you liked school and you look backwards
something opening up there and you see as a surprise to yourself
not that you liked it exactly but that you didn't like being at home more
it was always a little like the philip larkin poem but a little unlike it too
as it must be for everyone even your daughter standing beside you
in her black jeans black toque (beanie she corrects you) army boots
gobbling back coffee because that's the thing to do the thing to move you
from a to b and what is adolescence if not the elevated surge of momentum
screaming hard shaking the shot yearning with an angst bound face to be put
and didn't you want to go hard hard away from your mother's house
which was full of food comfort thick cushions and deafening blows
of bills coffee smokes and a whole bunch of quickly going nowhere
the television popped open as a  kind of sink hole pulling on but not in
gathering everything together in a static halo of a twenty year long holding in
stale breath pork chops car repairs and vegetables for dinner
that would sooner or later all get flushed with no aplomb down the shitter

and now you what do you do do? what do you have to offer
your daughter the complex scratch of vascularized cross-hatchings
pen-knife scribed notches on the hood of the rolling stars of coffin
you you sit on your couch and read poetry then walk (enlightened) in forests
feeling not so much elevated for not having the tv as a backdrop
but rather that you've narrowly escaped the clutches of that thing
that thing which lurked behind 1980 or '90 mediocrity's distracting drone 
and now looms hashtag selfie tumbler crotch grab beneath social media's hipster pillow
only to my god get excited about what exactly but oh how you are excited!
turkeys trotting down snow covered roads leaving their footbound scribbles
foxes winding literally and metaphorically through vetch
the way amy clampitt incurvates and veers through the haystack of words
to outfinden (1300 middle english) discover something valuable by scrutiny
the confident yet plebeian exegesis through of all arousing things - grass
the inarguable answer - (the only kind possible) craftless and homely - to existential existence
she throws back her black coffee as splash it barely touching her lips rolls eyes puffs bangs
black hair (from a box) rolls shoulder to book bag and confidently with grand yet casual chagrin 
kicks closed the door on you behind her to go to school which she hates leaving you ditto
to find her way by way of vascular flow fucker! to the vastly more higher still 
titillating finally (no longer blandly wrong) right! raucous crashing important life.


This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.   
    They may not mean to, but they do.   
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,   
Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

Grasses by Amy Clampitt
Undulant across the slopes
a gloss of purple
day by day arrives to dim
the green, as grasses

I never learned the names of–
numberless, prophetic,
transient–put on a flowering
so multiform, one

scarcely notices: the oats grow tall,
their pendent helmetfuls
of mica–drift, examined stem
by stem, disclose

alloys so various, enamelings
of a vermeil so
craftless, I all but despair of
ever reining in a

metaphor for: even the plebeian
dooryard plantain's
every homely cone–tip earns a
halo, a seraphic

hatband of guarantee that
dying, for
the unstudied, multitudinously,
truly lowly,

has no meaning, is nothing
if not flowering's
swarming reassurances of one
more resurrection.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

lesson in shoes

toddling children, two sizes too big, clown's feet
shy sister, sheltering thin soles, embarrassed
my mother inheriting her brother's shoes 
(9 boys with well worn leather, lax laces)
mrs. wikiruk's father buying goodwill shoes to shod, filling with tissue
my son, enthusiastic to his teacher, my mother's just like your dad!

beautiful world of resources
will the night run out of stars?
will the poets run out of breath?
is hope a finite resource?
where do shoes come from?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

fred cut the stone

and what had been the stone 
floated away
and became a cherry orb 
in the sky
flowers shunted from a hole 
like blood
and mountains inverted like bowls 
to hold them
the unholy happenings poured forth
fred cried
there was no reassembling 
the stone
and no matter how much blood he drank
the bowl 
would not empty.

Monday, February 2, 2015

a hand closing and then opening, closing and then opening

it was 1996
i never thought that could be long ago
a thailand twilight

2015 morning on the couch at home
dishwater sun, things flat, grey
no meaning

to sift through those memories
16 floors or more of treasures
what stays with me still

four hundred blackbirds clouded, then clotted
descending in hordes to the power lines
over town, early evening

all the bodies carrying on below
rib raw dogs, rickshaws
lychees exchanged for tokens

the light turning rose to orange, tightening
behind them on a wire
until click! -

then the light's wingless scattering.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

for one, the cat did not die peacefully

i should keep a journal 
of all the lies i've told
but i leave it up to time
to erase 
all gerrymandering,
all footprints,
all fingers;
time or indifference,
or excessive thoughtlessness.
or strength.
she tells me
other parents' lies
testing the planks we walk on.
i don't look up to meet her eyes.
i don't look down either.