Elsewhere

Photo by Joseph Greve on Unsplash

You drink the cool clean water
and smack your lips, refreshed.

Elsewhere, in this same country,
the water is not clean,
must be boiled, then drunk.

Elsewhere, you might be dying
to drink it as is,
and damned if you do.

Elsewhere, water means business.
It thickens wallets.
You will pay for it.

You could ask whose future is being spent
down to the last hovering drop.

You could ask about thirst—who thirsts
for a better life and who for just a life
to grow all the way up in.

But you don’t. You drain the glass
and turn on the tap for more.
There’s never not been more.

This poem, written 20 years ago and finally published in The American Journal of Poetry in 2019 (with deep thanks to editor Robert Nazarene) unfortunately addresses a continuing and current situation (I’m thinking of Texas). It was inspired by watching my thirsty ten year old son gulp down a glass of water and imagining this conversation. He must have heard me – he continues to ask all the right questions about this world that he and all our kids and grandkids will inherit.

Power Outage

Photo by Janice Gill on Unsplash

Thoreau would have loved this dark lining
to a stormy December day, the even darker,
almost liquid, pooling of night. He’d have loved
me preparing meals, doing dishes, my son his
homework, all by candlelight, the household
machines, loud-mouthed TV standing lifeless.

I find myself spare in the silence, sharpened.
My steps count, movement is rationed,
the thrust and parry of the world I know—
a thunderous dream from which I have at last
awakened.  In the chill air I light a fire
and worlds long gone lick the edges of today,                      
speak of a mind that roamed free, mapping
its maker. No outage there.

Here’s a poem published 14 years ago in North Shore Magazine – it seemed appropriate, given the current power outages in Canada and the USA! Here’s hoping all of you affected keep warm, have water to drink, food to eat and oh, get your internet service back, computers and cellphones charged up.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

My mother and I are like the hands of a clock—
she, the seconds that move my minute
and I, the minutes that move her hour.

I was born on her twenty-first birthday.

We are always walking hand in hand
between the astonished faces 
of what’s to come and what has been.

A birthday poem for my mom and me, first posted here in 2019. Looking back and ahead, I’m still astonished – and hope our journey together continues for many more years.

Paradox

Photo by Emma Bauso from Pexels

She toddles down the street    alone  
all of fifteen months    how odd

I park, pick her up
walk a half-block back
to where she might live

a boy in the driveway    maybe five    thwack
of a hockey stick

a face in the kitchen window
when I ring the bell

a mother’s eyes welling          fear
sudden, real

pint-sized princess pulled from my arms

Thanks    flounders in her throat,
shark fins of horror and shame
silencing her tongue, can’t look at me now

thwack of a hand on the boy’s butt
him hauled inside
door slammed shut

No way around it—
to save the day
I had to ruin it.

This poem first appeared in The American Journal of Poetry in 2019. Many thanks to editor Robert Nazarene for accepting it!

Mechanic

Not your standard guy—put a shift kit
in the automatic transmission of his
Boyd Red 1990 Ford Mustang LX 5.0
coupe, changed the seats from black
vinyl to cloth: made it turn-on-a-dime
crazy ‘round a corner, full-out perfect
snort of heaven off a light and down
highway 99. No one could catch me,
he grins, unless I wanted them to.

Nothing mechanical in the way he bends
over the lifted hood of my car or lays back
on a creeper and slides beneath the
undercarriage, one foot sneaking out.
Maintenance is key, he says, and starts
the engine, pulling a rag from his pocket
to wipe down the dipstick and check
the level and colour of fluid.

His hands are stained and scarred,
look like they would labour all their life
to love a woman the way they love
the complicated innards of a car:
with brains in his fingers, and ears
that can translate rattle and whine,
deep knock knock knock under a hood,
reversing the strange or troublesome
into something familiar, worth repair.

Many thanks to The Writers’ Cache for including this love poem for my husband in the just-released anthology “Joyride” (Pg. 40), available from Amazon (US) and Amazon (Canada)!

In The Cathedral

In the cathedral of this forest
while birds sing unseen
from the vaulted shadows,
I sit in the hand-carved pew
of a sawed-off cedar trunk
and think about last night’s

argument, a congregation  
of notes falling, rising,
coins of light clinking
into the basket: the dappled
adagio that ministers
a tight staccato heart.                                               

Century-old trees stand 
like mossed-over crosses
unbroken in their silence,
upholding the climb of secrets:
the whispers about living
on what’s left over from

the cacophonous demands of a day,
the scraping of those plates
to give again what is left over, love
quietly shrinking from the beginning
to the end of a word, pursed lips praying
but little abiding as prayer.

Yet here, in a green profusion
the curling ferns, the pungent earth
and the soaring branches cannot hold
all the love that grew them, nor can
the birds so tirelessly singing, nor my
dog chasing a squirrel chasing a squirrel.

The math is simple.
There is no subtraction.
Love’s pulse is steady
and it loads the woodland table,
as it must, even now, heap
a forgotten room in us.

Another poem that first appeared in the Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art in 2017. My thanks again to editors Veronica Golos and Catherine Strisik for including it.

Always, In Returning

pexels-pixabay-207247

Always, in returning to the house of my farm-grown summers
I come home to the wild oat, the whole grain of me.  Riding bareback
again through the fields of a long-ago self, who I was rises golden
and green in a warm wind:
                                                      Bud hasn’t gone crazy yet.  Audrey
and Rose still live.  The hayloft babies are hiding in the rafters
of first love, waiting to be born.  The lake’s so deep you can swim
one step out from the bouldered shore.
                                                                          Blind Grandpa keeps
his pockets full of change.  Cackling, he leans on his cane, throwing
every quarter-nickel-dime onto the ground.  He listens as we fall
upon them like scrabbling crows.  Gran scolds but he never stops
making us rich.
                                 Dad shows Bob and I at 5:00 a.m. how to hook
a worm (I’ve been saving them from a dry street death ever since).
Later Gran, with a shake and quiver of strong, baggy arms, scales
and cleans eight small bass in the kitchen sink.
                                                                                       Uncle Jim drives
his tractor in a pressed white shirt.  I slip out the door, running past
rabbit-friendly trees to hide among sky-driven stalks.  Lying down,
I press my body into sweet conversation with the earth.  Here, no
machinations of the soul, just secrets told, flitting like fireflies
through branches of maple, alder, birch. 
                                                                           Who I became is the land
that grew them—a defiant wave of long grass beside a paved road,
a wealth of open sky, water deep enough for a man to drown in,
the flickering light that might save him. 

This poem first appeared in the Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art in July, 2017. Deep thanks to then-editors Veronica Golos and Catherine Strisik for selecting it.

An Open Air Reading

I recently had the good fortune to be filmed reading a selection of poems from my chapbook “Irresistible”. It was my brilliant son Stewart’s idea and I really enjoyed the experience! Please do check it out, if you have 20 minutes to spare: 

We did this in the Carcross Desert in the Yukon. The wind was howling and though we found a fairly protected spot, you can hear it gusting here and there in the video (as well as the odd ATV gunning it over the dunes). Many thanks to Stewart for his expertise! Here he is at Bennett Beach in Carcross:

20200705_205904314_iOS

Eagle

sam-bark-XFkkYwKiC_U-unsplash

IMG_2182 (2)

Happy to say this little poem has just been published in the 2020 print edition of “Crosswinds Poetry Journal” along with other finalists and winners of its annual contest. The poem was inspired by an eagle seen flying at sunset the last day of September and the boating memory of another eagle which was carrying a 3 foot long snake home for dinner.