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