Article Category Archives: Poetry

What Counts / Dirt Medicine

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What Counts

Some days
life crumples you
folds you
in on yourself
pulls you
inside out
leaves you raw

Some days
the puddles
seep through
your boots
the coffee burns
the bad news
comes in torrents

Some days
you are foggy
with grief
dazed and confused
thoroughly fallible

On such days
there is only
one question:
How many ways
can you
sing your praises?

And if
you can
stay with
that question,
follow it with
how many ways
can you
count to ten?
And how many ways
can you count on community
to pull (you) through?
How many ways
can you count
your blessings?

Blessing by Brona Wingell

Dirt Medicine

We, the fossil fuel-addicted,
gather:

AA circles of the present
include true confessions of grief
for lost land and
wayward soil,
disconnection from earth
and mourning
the changing ecology
cars, cars, cars,
and where did all
those trees go?

Sunshine resting
on the backs
of armchairs
encircling such
sadness shared

Let them eat
the future
Wendell Berry writes

But with
no memory of community
among the 20-somethings,
is the future here
now?

Moving
into guilt
limits
language
reclamation, revolution
and my mind
hearing the offered answer
less, less, less,
shouts back
more, more more!
of the pluriverse
diversity
multiplicity
complexity

I am
holding tenderly
my friends
the milpa farmers
the mud-bathed paddy planters
the sukuma wiki sorceresses
in shanty towns and slums
and high rises and huts
in countrysides and downtowns,
heart steadfastly beating
in solidarity with
peasants, taxi drivers,
CEOs, agrarian royalty,
indigenous, immigrant,
settled, unsettled, resettling,
creatures, lives, people
worlds away,
across the street,
underfoot.

If I were
to relinquish,
focusing even less
on the practice
and letting go of the theory,
the world would
continue
to breathe me,
at least until that time
my body passes
back through the land—
the phase of rest and change
these molecules know best.

Until then, the land
continues passing through
my body, while I:

monitor the stripmining
of its sources of nourishment,
knowing intimately the effects of
bread more obscene
than our movies

learn the call
and answer
slogans of the struggle
for liberty, community,
land and life

sit in circles
with new friends
reveal myself in earnest
hope and
loving curiosity
somehow still believing
—a magical secret
scorching through my pocket—
that the answers
are not
as valuable
as the questions

walk in mindfulness and quiet
contemplation
swelling full to
teary-eyed brimfuls
with the scent of pine
cooked by sun

fall to my knees
catching the sight
over my own shoulder
of dried wind-dancing
flower spines embroidering
the rolling field

let myself be
fully embraced
in the lap
mother earth provides

drink in
late April brilliance
of awakening life—
squabbling crows in counterpoint
to windchime birdsong—
supported by rich
dark soils, sharp
green cedar sparkling
on my tongue,
sky so blue
it cracks the
winter exoskeleton
clean off,
welcoming me back,
here,
home, home, home.

Four

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Crow’s shadow slides
Down icy perch
Calling no one
Howls and hisses
Screaming, spitting
Echoes over
Empty morning
Of bitter air
And spiteful frost
Reverberates
Over concrete
And inside me

Mother’s Solstice and Her Sacred Bundle: The Child by LA Harris

Duty: Three Poems

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Playing Nancy

The city sleuth, I was bestowed the role of Nancy.
My cousins, farm girls, were George and Bess.
We dug through Grandma’s attic for clues in old letters,
the stone pile for startling treasures,
the hay mow for hidden bones,
though mostly we made tunnels from bales
and became human moles.

Retired now, and back in bare feet, I walk the beach,
watching for sand dollars and garbage bags full of cash
or hash or other illicit goods thrown overboard
to avoid approaching Coast Guard vessels.
All I spot is a rubber glove, cuff buried.
I approach tentatively. It could hold a hand.
But no, only sand.

Each wearing a silver cross, the young widow and
her three children stepped away from the casket.
I took my place.
His uniform was fresh, bearing only the one medal
marking his tour in Afghanistan.
Shrapnel scars were disguised with putty and makeup.
I touched my fingers to his sleeve.

Filled with sand.

I know a man who had been an ambulance driver in Palestine.
He had been responsible to scrape up all the particles
of bombing victims.

Their entire bodies would be buried
together. As though whole.
For religious purposes.

No cheating with sand.
No buried treasures.

 

She Still Flinches at Fireworks and She’s Only Been to KAF

Fuck, she only faced
a couple of rockets and
a guy deaf to ‘No.’

(KAF: Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan)

 

Duty

Cat whiskers waken me early enough to listen to poetry on PBS,
reheat yesterday’s oatmeal, eat it set with walnuts and banana and
(thank you) chocolate chips.

Before I go I kiss your whiskered, bed-warm cheek—see you at supper?
Maybe tomorrow after work.
Walk my prayer, rush through cardinal calls.

Two requests already for prayers pre-surgery. Two sets of twins coming,
but, well, but. Too early, too early.
Births and deaths come crowding when my weather finger moans.

The three-month-old in Peds misses his mother who hasn’t been seen all week.
Nurses fight over who wants most to take him home.
A woman, sixty-three, misses her mother. Orphaned now.

I miss lazing with my husband in bed. Instead, I am bedside with the husband,
of the woman stripped near-naked, red-painted toenails incongruous with
quivering, heavy flesh as doctors take turn riding her chest in search of a beat.

Reflections by Justine MacDonald

(dis)service

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bent head and borrowed bearing
eyes averted and authored by
outward lens
in this factory mass-producing
man’s concept of woman

my seat in the line
was gifted by my mother
        from her mother
                and her mother
                        and her mother
scripted and unalienable
the whispered audit proclaiming
this is woman’s work—to serve

this is how it has always been

my fingers deconstruct tangled lineage
wrenching free from the line
each length of twining fibre
each strand amassed
from years of keeping everything together
this is not my role
outraged silence or disapproval
urge me to fix what I’ve laid bare

I have never believed in the product

I am
dispersing the collective

Captain Americana by Justine MacDonald

she came home

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you don’t know who they are sometimes
when they come home

the military doesn’t want her
neither do the hospitals or safe houses

I pick her up off of the street
drive her as far from Edmonton
and the military prison as we can get

Club Ed she says soldiers call it

for a month I listen to her cry
while I wean her off
the dumpster diet she is addicted to
clean the vomit and blood make
her use a toothbrush wash
between her toes try my best with
the mouth on her
buy her decent clothes
which she will not wear

insists fatigues
boots without laces
and greatcoat are
the uniform she needs
the prison she carries with her

she volunteered
to die if need be
trained for a
mental commitment to win
did her best
to be a good soldier
did it like the guys did
she says
she knows what’s right
I see it

You need to see a doctor
she says no, terrified…

last month she ate nothing
but Joe Louis and slept…
now, suddenly she’s awake
hassling me when I smoke
ruining my sleep and furniture

training myself not to breathe
without considering her feelings
in her confusion
I’ve been punched, block-tackled
one night she drove my SUV
through the plate glass window
at the bus station
couldn’t get away from my love fast enough
trying to buy a ticket
waving imaginary money
hands splattering blood on the ticket lady

she says I’ve been good to her
can’t bring herself to tell me
bad things she did
she’s made mistakes
I look at her in wonder
she’s one of the country’s finest
what can she mean, what has she done?

I sit with her, pick the maggots
from her abdomen with tweezers
pretend to put them in a box
hum to her in spite of my terror
make her sip a little tea
she heaves dryly, fiercely
slams her head into mine
I hum and rock
ignoring the searing pain around my eyes

why are you doing this, she says
you’re saving me, why?

I don’t know if I’m a man
or an animal who’d kill
to protect his territory
I believe in justice
this country, its military
love, trust, literature, hope, beauty
the civilizing solace of Mozart and
a good glass of wine
now I think
if I get to a sunrise
without her blood on her clothes
or mine
one way or another
tell myself that’s a good night

when she calls herself
garbage la poubelle
in the other official language
I say you’re busted, dented, bruised,
damaged like the rest of us…
your valves have rusted shut
would I do all this
if I believed you were la poubelle

she left my home eleven years ago
shiny braids tucked underneath her hat
thankful for an endless supply of
military issue elastics, she joked

one of the country’s finest
doesn’t know who I am…
this time when she comes home

Where Do You Find Loss?? by Julia Rose Sutherland