Article Category Archives: Poetry

Pretty Corners Catch the Eye

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there was no way to tell
before
just how
hard a floor could be
                     no reason to know
the hours one could zoom
through days
dazed, cross legged
seated posing

laptops on laps
tablets on tummies
work life balance

charging souls
previewing self
on mute
(unmute)
finding all the pretty corners

wanderlust in dusty corners

trying to seduce
nature onto shiny
plastic trees

                     editing myself
                     for myself

curating tiny boxes
for tiny boxes
moveable backstories involving art
or if they don’t they will

a teak lamp
an old typewriter
anything whimsical, whiskery
(Oh, the cats)
dressing to catch the eye and say

                     i’m happy here
                     i’m just fine
                     my minutiae tells you so

painting by Teri Donovan showing woman holding cellphone and decorative background

Circa 2008 by Teri Donovan

Two Poems

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The Modeling Religion Project

What could go wrong? Sure, go for it,
commission the services of some software
to sail the edgeless expanse of algorithms
on a mission to discover why humans believe.

Douglas Adams was right: the only meaning of life
we are capable of finding equals 101010.
It is such a surprise, isn’t it?, when a child of Deep Thought
calculates that people can be manipulated.

Tweak a social factor there, a political one there,
and you have the power to move people between
religion and atheism. All Things Bright and Beautiful
are rendered great or small. The map approaches

the size of the Empire. Next step? A better UX
so a layperson can change the variables —
the funding proposals could call it METPHR.
So turn your keys to power, step right up

enter your vectors, calculate your result,
and don’t forget to save and print,
tear off the sprocket edges, tuck it into the pocket
of your expensive suit and away you go.

(Author’s note: In Douglas Adams’ sci-fi magnum opus The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the supercomputer named Deep Thought calculates the answer to “the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” as “42” (or 101010 in binary). More information on the Modeling Religion Project can be found here.)

painting by Su Rogers showing 1920s flapper, technology, and religious symbols

An Ecumenical Embrace by Su Rogers (Art Bank of NS)

A Warrior Queen in the Age of Vogon Poetry

Boudica tree
kite, witch-tree
Bird trailer, cast onward
english, southward.

— Vogon Poetry Bot
April 8, 2020, 7 a.m.

Out of evil evil flourishes, out of tyranny tyranny buds.
— Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Boadicea”
1864, time unknown

Ah, how to explain to you, Warrior Queen,
your name has just been invoked by a bot
generating poetry by fictional expansionist aliens?

Welcome to our millennium, Mother of Forsaken Queens.
Here, you’ll need more than a dart and a lioness-like stare
to pry out some truth from beneath the strata of ironies.

In our defense, oh Razer of Imperialist Ambitions,
the Victorians were, like, totally way worse than us —
we are too self-deprecating to do any real damage.

But the Victorians cast a statue of you guarding London.
Remember that place? That hive of imperialist scum
you burnt to the ground? Yeah, that’s the one.

So what, oh Lover of Liberty, if our laughter
echoes over us in eternal loops of self-referentialism?
The feedback only hurts a little. And, besides,

out of evil absurdity flourishes. Out of tyranny irony buds.

Author’s note: In Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the poetry composed by Vogons is the third worst in the universe and used as a form of torture. In 2016, 38 years after the original Hitchhiker’s radio play aired, the Vogon Poetry Bot began generating computer-written poetry on Twitter. In 2020, almost 2000 years after her death, Queen Boudica of the Celts was dubiously honoured as the subject of one of the Vogon Bot’s “poems.”

Boys and Girls Build Software

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Boy and girls were given the task to build software from scratch,
Their very own.
The boys got to it immediately, building it up from bones.
Began to hatch,
A plan, a strategy to wind it up, put in the least amount of work.
The boys, they were expected to excel.
No back-ups, they knew they wouldn’t fail.
The girls they paused, racked their minds,
Immediately thought it wasn’t plausible.
Immersed in self-doubt,
They took the longer route, they put thought,
Into how things became, how they were, how they can be.
But the weight of doubt wore them down.
The girls donned shaky confidence.
The girls consulted their class notes, insulating the plan, lest they fail.
The boys of the class began to goad,
Offered their ideas.
As if the girls had any shortage.
The boys had gone past level one,
Of trial and examination,
With fun and play.
The software was good enough, plus
The boys felt content and complete
With so little, there were more opportunities to accommodate.
Ever so focused on one end goal
Tackling every obstacle that tried to stall
Their destination.
The girls labored on the state,
Of this one project,
Faltering, thinking, crying, laughing, rejoicing.
Succeeding.
A hundred journeys morphed into one.
The girls devised the roadmap, every hindrance, minute detail.
All that planning, double the effort.
The challenges of time, the burden of smug advice,
From their male counterparts stood
Heavy on their backs.
They had a point to prove.
They’ve never had it without a fight.
A path, half-imagined, half-existing, laden with difficulties
Fully in sight.
The next time you teach your son
The easier ways of life,
Make sure your daughter hears them, too.

graphic image/poster showing woman holding electronic technology

Retro Future by Ildiko Nova

Salad Spinner

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My mother is mystified by the salad spinner,
mesmerized by its whir and endless spin,
suspicious that it could do a better job
than her hands that know vegetables so well,
hands that know how to wash the silt from greens
– fenugreek, mustard, amaranth, bathua, choliay –
hands that know how to blot the wet from vein and blade,
how to fan the leaves on faded shawls in the sun.
Now these hands learn to assemble
and disassemble this new thing, these plastic parts.
She watches the merry-go-round
cull moisture from thin air, from tender growth,
marvels at the pool of water in its base,
excess and unwanted.
She fans the leaves on faded shawls in the sun
and boxes this thing that has replaced ritual.
She tells me, this salad spinner can only do so much.

Self Portrait by Nadia So

 

Milky Light of a Clinica’s Infinite Gaze

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21 and I’m dispensing eight months of rent
to feel some weighted kind of fleshy titillation

trans girls from YouTube said it would be painful
having silicone bags shoved into the bust –
but then again, all the lips : hands : teeth : tongues
that I know from the meat market are no comfort

it started in May of 2014 when
I posted an ad like the ones on Craigslist
from curious anons and visiting beauty queens
whose wishes broke open with fishy trade

paid lover labyrinths have paid for this endeavour
to cultivate an augmented outlook on my being

this is what it means to hack the body in transition:

two years of hormones are barely enough
for kilogram implants and my little A-cup
to hold one another as if they can handle
the afterward waiting in a stranger’s embrace

never forget the surgeon’s misgendering

deep blue sleep in the milky light
of a clinica’s infinite gaze

hours later when the drugs wear away
I land like a needle on the full moon jellies
infixed below the surface of my tender chest
and cry for the first time this slow world to come

Manner of Speech

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I wrote a computer program to write haiku. This was in 1994 or thereabouts. I wrote it in PASCAL. Here is its best work:

The taller teacher
enlightens slowly, but this
ignorance consumes.

Or rather not its best work. It had no best work, because I hadn’t written into the program any sort of function for besting. It only had functions for working. The above work is the only work it made that I remember 25 years later.

The other day I was walking down 3rd Avenue and I heard a man say, “It’s about yay big,” which is a thing my father says. “Yay” or “yea”? Or “yae”? I thought of my father but it didn’t occur to me to call him. I actually need to call him for practical purposes to do with a kid and a car but I’ve been putting it off. I don’t like talking on the telephone.

Suppose that I had written a computer program for having telephone conversations. It wouldn’t have to have good ones. It would just have to have ones that followed the rules.

“Hello.”
“Hello.”
“Do you know who this is?”
“No.”
“Me neither.”

art by Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier showing a woman's face and computer keyboard

Interfacing by Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier

The Oriole

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Beyond lit panes, a flimsy fragile feathered thing
wavers on the highest bough, her scant weight teetering

above a paisley floor stippled with shadow and trembling
light. The bird trills as though her heart will fly

through gilded ribs of a gold chest, shatter
like a wave on a stony shore: wide open.

In here, the news stories flip by, tired cards thumbed
on an old Rolodex file. So quick, so awful I can hardly bear

view or listen. Now I’m watching the grizzled
trees in northern BC, scarecrow effigies ignited. Flames

scissor and smoke cuts a warning cloud in the tarnished
muslin sky. I imagine the elk frantic, the rabbits frenzied

and turn it off before the next reel can take hold. Through
the open window the ethereal lilting chords pour hymn

notes, rising to dusk’s flannel rafters. Don’t ask me why
I picture the listing Titanic: the brave orchestra playing, focused

and dogged. I see icy water breaching the deck, black
all-seeing portholes sobbing into a frozen sea. I watch it curling

back in a raging wave swollen with the last lost melodies. All that
remains is the waiting, the burst of flotsam on a distant dissolving shore.

Photograph by Sara Harley showing a building submerged in water and one bird flying overhead.

Rising by Sara Harley

All the Words for Blue and At the Tree Zoo

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All the Words for Blue

                                                                   One astronaut returned
   held
the moon   and   the unknown                                        wanting
      one small safe place in space
         Earth        perfect                                       oceans
                     conditions 
                   for human living

Earth will survive, the astronauts say. 
                                                                   to tell us
It’s us. We are
flimsy, fragile, perhaps too soon
                           gone                                   every word
                       from this                                 for
                                                                beauty         
                    our only home.
                                                             all  the    words   for   blue.
Textile art by Rachel Ryan showing trees surrounded by blue.

Morning Moon by Rachel Ryan (fabric collage)

At the Tree Zoo, Mesachie Lake, British Columbia

Big numbers                spray painted             eye level blue
                       across their horned bark
tall trees

I lean
all my weight        slight        close to earth
into

a vast living wall          long drips fall slow
                              in      my mouth        open      raised

green cloud of needle and branch

Grow feathers        spread wings           be eagle
             see mountains        snow in high reaches
                      these giant firs        numbered
                                   tree zoo 

It is late, I am tired, the motel bed will do. Under car wheels,
the road whines slick, nearly frozen. The radio, CBC.
“Can you use different words?” asks the host. Snow slides in clots
down the windshield, car fan on defrost set high, wiper blades
can’t do enough. 

The guest is a lawyer,  a woman,  Indigenous
                  even-voiced, firm, implacable         

in my ears, in the storm, she repeats

Apocalypse           Water              Hypoxia               Trees.

Leatherback Endangered

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Leatherback                                                                                       Endangered

Crack up and out, shake
fragments of egg off the face.
use the largest shells as backbone,
as home. creep across dank, damp sands
to undulating ebb of rip current and flow along
swift Atlantic gulf stream. reptile devouring sea
urchins and jellyfish, swim expertly, gain strength.
witness an unquenchable ocean swallowing endless
blood-orange days. after lost years at sea, answer
compulsion to procreate. propel swiftly, migrate
to natal shores. emerge a neophyte, scraping
flippers across sand. excavate holes. lay
mounds billiard-sized eggs, precious
hatchlings, a banquet of beginnings
or predator’s feast. assemble
survivors, rinse off death
splatter and repeat.

Poachers,
black market
collector of eggs
for aphrodisiac or
poached for musky
aftertaste. fisheries by-
catch, tangled in gear
and ropes. captured
by floating debris.
eat plastic bags.
lose habitat.

Painting by Su Rogers showing many fish, two cows, a bee and the ocean.

we have bitten the lips of the divine by Su Rogers

Polar Bear in the Grocery Store

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One night, at the height of winter,
a polar bear swam the widening ocean that
drowned her mother. She paddled, heavy with
grief and her wet white coat.
Overhead, the snowless sky was dark
and the air was hot.

When she found land,
she was still without bearings,
carrying hunger inside her
like an empty vessel. The ground
stretched south before her,
an alien green expanse.
Bugs buzzed and tugged at her skin
as she walked past the strewn flesh of
silver foxes, the scattered carcasses of
caribou, and the bedraggled nameless bones.

She arrived, at last, at the nest of scavengers and
hung in the shadows, watching two-legged animals
guarding a stolen hoard. They stared, and they ate,
and made pitiless noise.
The bear lurked by the building
where they kept their food, the place where
light became heat and wood was the only
memory of trees. She waited for them to sleep.

In darkness, she broke in,
and crept through aisles seeking answers.
It took her only minutes
to cross to the far side of the store,
where she found the missing fish
and all of the ice.

Artwork by Jane Whitten. "Pack Ice" shows plastic blister packs crocheted together with fishing line

Pack Ice by Jane Whitten. Crocheted fishing line and blister packs.