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.
Rising by Sara Harley
All the Words for Blue
One astronaut returned
the moon and the unknown wanting
one small safe place in space
Earth perfect oceans
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
our only home.
all the words for 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
all my weight slight close to earth
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
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.
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.
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.
we have bitten the lips of the divine by Su Rogers
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.
Pack Ice by Jane Whitten. Crocheted fishing line and blister packs.
Let me tell you this bright and
twisting thing. The natural world dictates
letters for its secretary
to transcribe, just as the squirrel
with the white ears takes pains to
pivot on its upstage leg, and a robin
turns sideways to imitate Alfred
Hitchcock in a cameo: I Confess.
Auteur theory is for the birds and as
curved and worn as driftwood.
Transcendence is as big as life and
twice as unnatural, if you’ll pardon
my saying, my gelid eye.
Backlash your I before you eyelash
your back. Once more with feeling:
your transcendence is none of my
beeswax. Uncertainty’s a gateway
drug; soon you’re mainlining
anodyne. If you doubt realness, try this.
Shimmy up a tree. Now fall out.
Concrete is the great leveller;
there’s no placebo like it. Tell me
what you ate for breakfast because eggs
are the central metaphors I can’t make
work, though I’ll concede
with the best birdwatchers
that boredom is the most
important meal of the day.
Arbutus Reaching by Ann-Marie Brown
to the tiny ones
Caribbean Monk Seal Nasal Mite
and the nameless ones
a frog from Sri Lanka
to the sleek-skinned water dwellers
Yangtze River Dolphin
and the dog-faced winged ones
soaring in the dusk
Small Samoan Flying Fox
to the feathered-toed snow-walkers
and the bushy-tailed nest-makers
high up in the hollow eucalyptus
to the horrible ones
Alvord Cutthroat Trout
and the homely ones
with long nostrils
Santa Cruz Tube-nosed Fruit-bat
and teeth askew
to the travellers
Ukrainian Migratory Lamprey
Cascade Funnelweb Spider
the sticky-tongued ant-eaters
to the fantastical
Ilin Island Cloudrunner
and the magical
Florida Fairy Shrimp
to the pouched ones
muzzles gaping wide with their last mournful cries
for all the ones lost
and all the ones to follow
Desolation by Sara Harley
After Elizabeth Bishop
There are too many palm trees.
The sky, overcrowded with clouds,
towers with thunderheads
every monsoon afternoon. Too much beach.
At dusk the tide slides in,
rubs its rippling silver skin on the rocks,
licks its tongue along the sand.
The sun, broken, spills its yolk
onto too many mountains, distant islands.
Night lights a candle—
the gas flare of an oil rig
out at sea.
Should we have stayed on the couch,
David Attenborough’s voice
guiding us through the jungle
to a solitary orangutan
savouring wild fruit in a tree?
Our usual waiter, Rajis, sleeps
under a beach palm
on his rare day off.
Am I in a Graham Greene novel?
Locals watch us watch them.
They wave as we walk along the beach.
They seem to love us for the Ringits
we spend. Their smiles are so friendly.
We scan the sky for Imperial Green pigeons
winging to a hidden roost.
We yearn for Elysium
no footprints but our own.
“What a silly wish!” We agree
over G & Ts at the Sunset Bar.
It would have been a shame
not to drive the mountain road at dawn
watch the highest peak tear off the mist.
And not a shame. Ah, Sunrise. An Oriole,
tail on fire, feasting on yellow berries.
Is it wrong to feel the alpine forest throb,
hear it sing at 6am?
I crumple my guilt like the package
of taro chips, greasy with palm oil.
Toss it into the bin at the park gate.
Yes, a shame
not to see the Bird’s Nest fern huddled
in the crotch of a muscular fig tree.
A shame at the end of another day
to fill the jeep’s tank with cheap local petrol.
A shame to burn the brakes in the rain
all the way down the mountain
past the rubber plantations
as our species burns the jungle.
A shame not to watch the fading sky
drape the sea with its sarong.
Tiger from Memory by Anna Bald
i shake my fists at the imaginary monster living in the sky and i hurl a list of insults and complaints into his beady eyes i tell myself it’s his fault that the world is getting hotter and species are going extinct and there’s plastic in the ocean i write a letter and mark it urgent outlining every reason why he has ruined our chances of survival he rolls over on his side and i can see his scaly back and he is content to ignore my righteous manifesto and i tell myself it’s not my fault i don’t have blood on my hands and really this whole situation is beyond my control and the monster gets up he seems almost amused and i wait for him to reveal his grand schemy plan but his pad of paper is just filled with scribbles and i ask him why he has to be so cruel and he points to my bold circular lines and begs please get me out of this game
The Plant in the Disability Office
The plant that was sitting on the desk beside the woman who was sitting in the chair was starting to fall over. I entered the disability support office to hand in the piece of paper that says I have not worked in the last thirty days. The light in the office is like a giant refrigerator humming with claws. I ask the worker to make a copy of the sheet of paper and I stare at the plant which is falling over. Someone must have thought a little green would do the office good but the plant wasn’t so sure. There was no sunlight in the office and there was no rain. I wanted to ask the plant what it was like growing towards one side inside of a government building. But the plant and I—we pretended we did not know each other. And I stared at the faces of people who needed money just like me and wondered if they also noticed that the plant was dying. The woman behind the counter passed me my copies and I smiled at the plant. We nodded in agreement that this is what happens to life around here. I wanted to return the plant to an imaginary garden planted outside the government building but there was no garden. Only cement and steel. I wanted to say I am on the side of the plants. But this building was built to feed me. And I have concrete in my throat. And as I walked out of the building I felt my head tilt to one side and my eyes start to droop. But I’d been given food to eat. So I do not eat the plant.
the end of the world
when the end of the world comes and all of existence explodes into a ball of heat what will happen to me? i sense fear crawl up my spine and i wonder when the end of the world comes who will be the next elite? i try to be optimistic realistic and discount the language of experts call science the new religion but i’m still wondering when the end of the world comes what will happen to people like me who live on disability and depend on the system to function so that we can get our basic $1200 a month? i try not to be selfish because it breaks my heart the planet is dying and i often prefer trees to humans but i can’t help but wonder when the mountains collapse and the icicles rise to the sky and the forests become a giant circle of fire what will happen to me? i don’t need much just a little apartment with my cat and my computer but what will i have to offer if the world goes to war from scarcity and i can barely make it down the block without being torn apart? i try not to think of the end of the world try to be realistic optimistic tell myself i have family and try to focus on the present breathe in breathe out but the truth is i feel so small in the face of impending catastrophe i don’t want to be selfish as i rise to the microphone with my one final question for people in power but i have to ask if the end of the world comes what will happen to people like me?
Les Chaises by Marjolein Dallinga (felted wearable art)
Stick this time – as in, half-formed century – with a pin
into the butterfly thorax, into embolism:
there is not a word in every language for
but sometimes there are a few words for burning
neiamgla'tijig, they appear burning
nu'gwa'l'g, I set it
gaqoqtegl, they are
a cathedral into skeleton
irritation into sensation
ozone into nothing
and it’s not just forests – nipugtl – that burn, that fall
and it’s not just the prisoners whose hands
hold this water
hold this this water they hold
for no money, for nothing –
Mu' nugu' pugweltnug nipugt esgwiaq ula gm'tginug.
There isn't much forest left here in our territory
but there are ashes, remnants,
golf courses smoking in cinders
more beautiful than barbed wire
on any clear-skied day, by far –
what is more beautiful than
every golf course burning
and re-wilding with the
things that grow
under those conditions
mushrooms and moss and all of it –
blooming like seizing)
after the fire was gone after hands
held water and mansions
was found jaws open and
hissing having bitten
as it burned
Offerings by Tracey Metallic
the same burning arrow
through the heart's gills
the same stone weight
of what to do
of a place
that doesn't ache
the way the living room,
the bedroom and the kitchen
we are accomplices
to our own undoing
everytime we flip
each cup of tea
a word burning in the air
will we ever heal again?
our fly-covered hopes,
we stole from others, our dreams —
are kindling for the Great Disaster
we scratch at chimneys
the smoke that bleeds
from them, our blood.
words can't heal this
they never could.
but if we turn, as one —
or a school of herring
We might staunch the wound
And quench the burning
the things that
creature bodies know
(we need each other)
the things that words,
they cannot heal us
but they can turn us —
one mind in many bodies,
a wise mindlessness
or mindful bodyness
toward the cool
Broken Harmony by Ildiko Nova
Author’s Note: This poem is quite personal to me, as it highlights many of my experiences in musical theatre as a teen. In fact, I chose to reference specific musicals I was in (e.g., I played the witch in a production of Into the Woods). As a young adult trying desperately to find a sense of identity and build self-confidence, theatre helped me immensely by allowing me to take on roles larger than life. The more comfortable I got on stage, the more comfortable I became with myself. In this poem, I tried to capture all the feelings of being a young actor, from the anticipation to the nerves to the joy of performing.
A palpable suspension of disbelief
audience of skeptics enthralled beyond conscience
façade in foundation, shade: too light.
beauty mark drawn high on a supple cheek
A trill of a piccolo and—
This is what I live for.
Left wing. Downstage. Head high. Smile bright.
Stand. Deliver. Pace with purpose.
A punchline landed a thousand times in rehearsal,
punctuated with rich laughter for the first time;
a flickering triumph as I listen
This is what I live for.
A fly comes down—it’s the roaring 20s
Underground speakeasy upstage of bar stools
I am the bee’s knees, the cat’s meow
Giggle juice in hand, fringe dress a-flutter
A glistening sheen of sweat as I Charleston
This is what I live for.
The fog whirls in—it’s a Sondheim fairy-tale
Enchanted forest of burlap plagued with tragedy
I am the bringer of evil, conjurer of curses
Hunched in all black, deceptively frail
A menacing scowl as I beguile
This is what I live for.
The curtains drape. It’s over.
Local theatre dimly lit, upholstered in red velvet
I am your daughter, your friend, your demure student
Swelling with emotion a stage cannot contain
An unfaltering smile as I bow
This is what I live for.
I’m in the wings, downstage right,
opening night. Old proscenium stage,
heavy dark curtains. Invisible
on the other side a full house, expectant,
sound waves like surf on a pebble beach
swelling, ebbing, swelling. Dust,
House lights fade to black.
Someone comes up behind me. Who?
I can’t see. Sudden adrenalin — every hackle
shivers alert. Oh, Christ. What’s my first line?
Who am I? Fumbling for costume cues, my hands
sweep my body, meet naked flesh.
What show is this?
Dark curtains open on a growl.
Behind me, urgent, someone hisses
Go! Go! pushes me on stage. Lights up.
Je sais que tu es là,
Ma voix ne sait pas,
Il joue une clé de sol sur un alto;
“Je t’aime,” ne signifie rien.
Mon esprit est avec vous.
Mes mots ne sont pas.
L’espace entre nous est l’air,
Perdue dans la traduction.
Mon cœur se bat,
Ma mère hurlant jusqu’à ce qu’elle pleure.
Le vôtre cœur et le voix ne peuvent pas pleurer.
Un petit viola joue des chansons brillantes.
Tes sons bouillonnants sont une symphonie du joi.
Mes mots ne sont pas le vôtre.
L’espace entre nous est l’aire que le bruit ne passera pas.
les petit mains,
Il y a pas d’espace entre nous:
Une clef de sole et une clef de base.
“Je t’aime,” est quand ma petit cousine me prend dans ses bras.
C’est toi qui m’a bâtie et soigneusement réparée.
C’est toi qui m’a aimée, nettoyée, remplie avec ta famille.
Ici vous avez passé toute votre vie ensemble.
Tu as rempli le poêle à bois
Fabriqué six chaises, une table et le bureau blanc dans la chambre de Marie-Hélène
Caréné le châssis du suête
Joué le violon
Mangé et bu ton saoul.
Tu as lavé le plancher avec une brosse
Boulangé, six jours par semaine
Broché des bas et des mitaines.
Tu as chanté, en travaillant
Récité le chapelet, le soir après souper.
Tu as berçé tes neuf enfants.
Ici, vous vous êtes aimés.
Vous avez grandi, en riant, en pleurant,
Avec vos enfants.
Vous avez vieilli
Vous êtes morts maintenant
Mais votre maison demeure encore
Et elle parle de vous.
Fifty Shades of Grey by Robyn Martelly
To Dye or Not to Dye
To dye or not to dye, that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler to let the grey hairs win
And reveal the age she truly is,
Or to take arms against the march of time
And hit the Clairol aisle at Shoppers. To dye—to streak,
Or more; and by dyeing to hide
The roots and faded follicles
That dot the ageing scalp: ‘tis a temptation
Difficult to resist. To dye—to streak;
To streak, perchance with foils—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that choice to dye what costs may come,
When she must colour every month or so,
Must give her pause—there’s the price
That makes expense of so long life.
Yet who would bear the tyranny of age,
The dismissive glance, the cheery “Dear”
The assumed discount on Seniors Days
The insolence of youth and the scorn
Of techie geeks
When she herself might fix it all
With a single flask of dye?
She ponders highlights, hues, and tones,
Till a nagging question wracks her brain.
“Why not be who I truly am?
To hell with turning back the clock!”
And thus the needless plans to dye,
Are cast off with a single thought:
“I’m free of this, let the grey begin
I shall embrace my silver locks.”
— With apologies to William Shakespeare