Article Category Archives: Poetry

The Mess

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The Mess


My house is always a mess.
How can one person
have so many words strewn about?
I wake up, a whole story is jumbled
next to my pillow,
the’s and it’s
sticking to the sheets.

I once got to brush my teeth
squeezing toothpaste with
pulpous and semisolid mushed in.
I washed my hair with
moistened, slippery and mango-scented.

illustration by Skylar Cheung showing a cereal box spilling out letters in League Spartan font

League Spartan Crackers by Skylar Cheung

I’m tired.
Tired of the words
crunching underfoot, cheerios
smushed into the carpet, never
devolving to earth.
Of climbing over
boxes of disconnected words
belonging once to poems, essays,
fiction and non,
in the kitchen, in my chest
of drawers, everywhere.

An old friend came over today,
Ann’s words are
stacked neatly in one corner
of her work or
in a cupboard or
tied up with string and cord
to hold them
to preserve them
for future use.

She stepped through
vestibule, narthex and portal,
sloshed through the word waves
to the couch
which included antechamber.
“Hoarding words, gold coins in your eyes,
useless unless you use them,”
Ann admonished me
as she stirred her tea
with spork.

I confessed my secret
These are the words left
from vain attempts,
from unpublished stories,
from plays with no actors,
from essays with no voice
to fight for them.
How can I treat them as garbage
even if others did?

“You use to write poems
you use to write verse
you use to write rhyme
sonnets and ballads,
why not this time?”
(Ann is not a poet and she
knows it).

We swept the kitchen for
rune and song
odes and lyrics.
The basement. Oh.
The piles of sagging tropes and titles
even found a farce long dead
I wrote in 1999.
We laughed so hard reading
our guffaws re-attaching
the narratives.

Merriment glues
and chortles bring back
what stories once were.
After hours of hard work
dirty graphite hands,
we had at least one poem
ready for removal.

And so,
here in your hands then
is my attempt
to clean out my house.


Listen to Tereasa Maille read “The Mess.”


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Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.

—Pablo Neruda, “Your Laughter”

My mother always covers her mouth when she laughs. Once I showed her
what I thought was a great photo, and she said, “Oh, my teeth.”

Scientists document our rhythmic breaths and vocalizations.
It isn’t always a joke: ask Tanganyika villagers about the epidemic of ’62.

My father’s gleeful, booming laugh—I haven’t heard that sound in years.
My pre-teen daughter, her self-conscious age—I wonder if she remembers.

Did you know researchers have tickled rats? Did you know rats titter,
at frequencies too high for humans to hear? Thank goodness for science.

My husband’s laughter, so rare: “I made Daddy laugh! That never happens!”
A baby’s easy, instinctive smile, when seeing another human face.

An exuberance of preschoolers, a giggle of girls; a hoot of old ladies, a guffaw
of old men. Shall we define ourselves by the ways in which we laugh?

Art by Letitia Fraser showing two women laughing (oil on quilt)

Carrying On by Letitia Fraser (oil on quilt)


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dangling icicles glitter in the sun
droplets swell, cling, quiver and finally free fall
splattering, disappearing into wet pavement

letting go – I take myself less seriously now
cracking up always feels better
origin of humor being fluids of the body

flexible and adaptable in the liquid state
fitting into any container of experience
life throws my way unexpectedly

rigid and stubborn in the solid state
easily bent out of shape when push comes to shove
the very source of such suffering

grace always here in the vapor state – hidden
presence can be felt like the stars in the sky
looking so solid these hot balls of gas

shining, shimmering           heavenly bodies
pointing to the children we once were and the elders
we are becoming, encouraging us

to see how we are one and the same
whether frozen like a rock or going with the flow
the more solid the set up the greater the joke

as we play the game of being human
not a guarded giggle but an uncontrollable roar
cracking the edges of our personalities

Photo by Sara Harley showing a woman reaching toward a sky of colourful spots of light.

Colour My World by Sara Harley

Listen to Fazila Nurani read “Melt.”

Grandparenting in Covid-19

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Grandparenting in Covid-19

Precious days lost
Will I miss her first steps?
Daily photos and videos help
But I can’t touch her soft skin
Pat her round belly
Inhale her baby scent

FaceTime becomes “Story Time with Grandma”
She reaches out to touch my face
Opens and shuts the iPad for Peek-a-boo
And giggles as I feign surprise
I read her favourite books
Make animal noises,
Delight her with pop-ups

When she fusses I sing “Skinnamarink”
Her face relaxes, tears dry
I sign off and she searches the room
No fears, dear Josie
Grandma will be back.

(Original link with readers’ comments here.)


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the capsized cling to laptops
bottom lines sink

will you fast with me?
eat freedom

grasp-less embodiment
grief release my child

birthed spirit
walk decades undead

here I remain, expanded
midwife ush-plush-usher

in beyond normalcy
forced dimensional bridge

bear down, collected

dilation span

yet here we be
awed ask of creation