Author Archives: Janet Barkhouse

About Janet Barkhouse

Janet Barkhouse attended the National Theatre School of Canada as a teen, and acted professionally (ACTRA, CAEA) for more than a decade before moving to Nova Scotia's South Shore where she lives and writes. Her debut book of poems, Salt Fires (Pottersfield, 2018), follows on publications in journals and anthologies, two chapbooks, and several children's books. She may be reached through Photo credit: Nicola Davison

Recurring Dream

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Recurring Dream

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.

Words Fail Me

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Autumn by Phyllis Koppel


Words Fail Me

Snow is falling in my brain, gentle,
relentless. It starts with a small silence,

a gap
in the easy rhythm of talk. A familiar word fails

to arrive.
Bewildered by the changing landscape,

beginning to be frightened, I push on,
awkwardly: hard to keep up

appearances. Listeners glance away, pretend
not to notice, or supply quick replacements, share

their own stories of missing nouns. Cold comfort
to think this a preparation for death,

a gradual letting go of words, mind,
their interplay, once so full of colour,

like                      those trees in fall, leaves
red, red-gold — what are they called? —

I used to know the Latin name —
now smothered in blank white.

Surely I am not so far from home, have known
these woods since childhood, found

gifts of chanterelles, black trumpets — ah!
I think I recognize a known thing, plunge

grateful hands into                      a drift.


“Words Fail Me” read by Janet Barkhouse