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We could read your words from anywhere
but you felt like the only soul sitting
in your swivel chair listening to your parents
dream-breathing down the hall while you typed
to boys from Kelowna and Trinidad about
your boredom and body. You blogged
about the three-legged moose you saw
on the highway to Terrace...
Stranger, who can measure the distance between us?
Distance is the rumor of a never-before-seen sea.
Distance the width of a layer of dust.
Maybe we need only strike a match
for my world to flicker in your sky,
Visible finally, and eye-to-eye.
Breachable, finally, the border between us.
What if we touched? What then?
In every which way, I am living
for potential. I’ve mined cadmium
enough to roulette with Death
and Mars, bloodshot brute,
is swollen in my honour.
My function is action —
to pummel through concrete
and machete hedges,
to shear the irresolute
with only wit and lichen-rich
perfume. Allow yourself...
My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears
My grandmother puts her feet in the sink
of the bathroom at Sears
to wash them in the ritual washing for prayer,
because she has to pray in the store or miss
the mandatory prayer time for Muslims
She does it with great poise, balancing
herself with one plump matronly arm
My father threw his language overboard,
a bag of kittens, waterlogged mewling:
small hard bodies.
My mother hung on to hers —
Wove the words like lace, an open web
over the window, light caught on the edges.
My daughter is starting to pick at language,
names at dawn – dog, star, mumma –...
Mariah according to my yt mama
when I try to talk to my mom about what it was like
to grow up surrounded by yt people in the prairies
in the 80s though it seemed like the 50s
she tells me in a so-there tone
that Mariah is a mixee and that people love her
I tell my mom that Mariah has talked publicly
about feeling some type of way about
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride...
i thought it was ok - i could understand the reasons
they said there might be young children or a nervous man seeing
this small piece of flesh that they weren’t quite expecting
so i whispered and tiptoed with nervous discretion
but after six months of her life spent sitting on lids
Not the Music
Not the music.
It is this other thing
I keep from all of them
that matters, inviolable.
I scratch in my journals,
a mouse rummaging through cupboards,
nibbling on a crust of bread, apple skins,
chewing the edges of photographs, the small
details of a life. I hoard and save,
place one thing inside...
Editing the Prairie
Well, it’s too long for one thing
and very repetitive.
Remove half the fields.
Then there are far too many fences
interrupting the narrative flow.
Get some cattlemen to cut down those fences.
There’s not enough incident either,
the story is very flat.
Can’t you write in a mountain
or at least a decent-sized hill...
The other people quit their stone fields to come here.
They slip in from nights that even the snow abandons.
They leave ashes in their glasses
and stains on the table.
The house is littered with bits of their hair and skin.
Bones clatter through the holes in their pockets.
All night long their hands scythe the air....
We Twitter, Tinder, Tumblr through eternity. Loquacious
text messages flit from fingertips, waves of data spill
through our skulls. Every cm2 of oxygen overflowing
with bank PINS, girls in yoga pants, the frequencies
of whale cries. Digital clouds brim with selfies and rain
videos on how to cook coconut shrimp. Sepia-filtered
Passing into Storm
Know him for a white man.
He walks sideways into wind
allowing the left of him
to forget what the right
knows as cold. His ears
turn into death what
his eyes can’t see. All day
he walks away from the sun
passing into storm. Do not
mistake him for the howl you hear
The First Day
When I was five I was put on a bus
and sent to Catholic school
not unlike my mother who was five
when she was put on a train
and sent to residential school,
both feeling that gut feeling
that this was not going to be
a place we would like.
My parents told
my older sister
to watch over me...
from Quit Dying to Die
When the doctors burrowed into my body, they unearthed a slew of tumours. Growths speckled across lungs and kidneys. (Later, they would find the duo nestled into my cortex.) A Starry Night, the ultrasound technician titled my organs. He said they looked calcified as an alcoholic’s liver. Before the calcification was recognized as tumours, before those tumours were known...
The Fatigue is just fatigue. It
sprays my body like
a numbing agent. Say the
way I sleep might not be
working, say the way I eat
might not be working.
Hope to god the meds
start working. The other day
she said you need firmer
this looks like an earlier
bedtime. Fuel your...
The New School
Do you remember, Nancy,
when we sat in the Creole restaurant
and glanced up at the television to see students running
with their hands in the air and photographs
of two young men?
Their angular faces. Trench coats.
We didn’t understand what was happening,
our brains felt like mush, it wasn’t the wine,
it was like being...
My sister cries the sea
My sister is crying and crying
her tears grow to salt stormy showers
to rain and to rapids and rivers
they run to the sea to the sea.
My sister sobs softly she knows
she listens at shells and the shoals
she hears from fish sleeping at nightfall
she gathers from mushrooms and moulds.
Ideas of Home
Winter has landed; my boot bucks on a stone
surrounded by snow; I swear, I murmur
Oracabessa. “The rock” is what I call home,
all islanders do, and I’m in blessed Ann Arbour,
mainland, where I found safe harbour under
green sea of trees now becalmed, frosted.
Ideas of Oracabessa propel me forward...
Let's Not Get It Together
The world has become corrupted
from our hearts
to the way our gods love us
as if they know they’re already dying
and they’re determined to drag us down with them
and just like a flagpole in winter
demanding our affection
we’ve stuck our tongues to their ancient religions
leaving us dumbstruck and blinded...
From One and Half of You
Price depends on how the cheongsam
was made, the fabric used.
Gasp. Lift breasts with one hand.
Stuff your body inside.
If you wear this print of peonies
people may call them cabbages.
Hand-sewn, it’s vulnerable to tears.
A machine can fix that.
Needles pinned will...
Nouf is proof God does not want me to die a horse-girl with horse-hair who loves even the flies will not swat them carries them outside with a glass-and-paper trap she brims with glee high praise for bicycle lanes pie steeples the colour of sea foam seedless tangerines she collects fallen leaves celebrates precipitation by running outside because raised in a...
diaspora babies, we
are born of pregnant pauses/spilled
from unwanted wombs/squalling invisible-ink poems/written in the margins
of a map of a place
called No Homeland
old gong gong honoured uncle is the man i won't become/
BBQ pork-scented sorrow and red
bean paste buns he sold on street corners in Chinatown/...
After Betty Goodwin's The Memory of the Body (1993)
As Whitman sang the body electric
Goodwin sings the body forested:
dense stand of dark-trunked saplings
illumined by a blood-streaked sky,
ominous forest where
abandoned children wander
vulnerable to the spell of wolves,
stepmothers and jealous queens—
omnivorous forest, perilous to enter.
I mean the...
April 30, 2014
Weeds are flattened beneath last year’s tire tracks
others lay burden by the winter’s heavy snow.
The crocuses labor through this thick blanket.
I am sun drained from the bleakness
of the weeks before. Now a tick
I've carried in my hair runs up my neck,
festers on my chin.
I show it no mercy.
The lake-ice is...
Rejected Text for a Tourist Brochure
“I saw my land in the morning
and O but she was fair”
- M.G. Smith, “Jamaica” (1938)
Come see my land
Come see my land
before the particles of busy fires ascend;
before the rivers descend underground;
before coffee plantations
grind the mountains into...
There, the bolting black kale,
taller than it has any right to be
and not the twitter troll who asked
if you were on your period.
In the corner, a pile of dead
zucchini leaves, spotted with rot
and not the neighbour who yelled
at you about a parking stall.
Lining the sidewalk, invasive
Catastrophe That Nearly Brought Down a Plane
After late-night Li Bo,
on a plane to Houston, out of sheer intumescence
I begin unravelling a sickness bag—
starting with the wired throat,
then the pleated sides, then bottom.
My finger trapezing through the waxed paper
feels like a tall-masted skiff – almost Odysseus
slicing Lake Ontario: placid like an eye
On the night we dug up your father’s body
(for reasons I can no longer remember)
we took turns with the shovel
as we passed a bottle of Whyte & Mackay
back and forth.
You didn't say anything
until we opened his casket:
looking at his corpse you said,
“He’s smaller than I remembered”...
An Online Friend Dies Somewhere Outside the Internet
Freezes, goes blue screen, shuts down. Dead pixel, dark.
Ghost echoes, lossy in the source code. Time zones away,
people who have actually shaken hands with my online friend
stand around a box of his remains. I'm left to click through data,
two-dimensional and without decay, in multiple windows.
Close all until I'm left by the one that...
You sit in the forgotten bone-dry hills
surrounded by sand and sagebrush
above Buffalo Pound Lake.
A day and a night, and then
three more days and nights.
Do not mark the hours. Just sit
until the prickly pear raises its bloom.
A pale thing, translucent moon, sea anemone,
the first thin veil of a...
School for the Deaf
You gasp, awakened by
a bucket of cold water.
A gauzy autumn morning. A drained sunrise.
You shiver, strain to see the house
parent’s fingers whipping & flicking in
the fibrous grey light—wordless yet
You wipe your face with
your sheet, bite back a sob.
memories of my youth
we learned to stand on one leg
clasping bundles of hope between our teeth
not because we wanted
to resemble flocks of black flamingos
one foot in the smelly pile was better than two
the sky beckoned
its blue hues a promise
we carried in those little bundles
My dad taught me to never give out my real name, age,
address, or photos. This seemed obvious to me. My fake
birthday entry was always my crush's birthday plus a
random year from the early 1900s. I spent hours making
my avatars look like everything, anything but myself. It
didn’t matter how people (mis)pronounced my name, how
young I was...
C Wing 1
Your mother is missing,
the nurse hovers at the door .
Your mother is missing, a bit louder this time.
As if this was natural, a daily game of let's find the Italian,
the one who doesn't speak English anymore.
In the C wing,
there are 24 rooms, a narrow hallway,
a kitchen, a solarium and a locked entrance....
Departing from Kingston, Jamaica, the British ship Empire Windrush
brought one of the first large groups of postwar Caribbean immigrants to
London in 1948
Dem did sey she pregnance
Cum a sea full a mi
Weighing har down eena har shoe dem
Dresses, coco, mangoes an baggy an arl
this job hates me
this job wouldn’t make me feel so shitty if it didn’t
i’m nothing but nice to this job
but when this job is done with me it always sneaks out while
i’m still sleeping
wears too much cologne and i reek of it when i come home
and my girlfnend makes me shower before I can get...
Dear Diaspora Child
it's okay if you only learned about your culture from Google
it's okay if you only read your language at the public library
it's okay if you need books to know your ancestral recipes
it's okay if you've never even set foot on the soil of your people
it's okay if your...
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet,
has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness;
and the hands keep on moving,
smoothing the holy surfaces.
‘In Praise of Ironing’, Pablo Neruda
It has to be loved the way a laundress loves her linens,
the way she moves her hands...
Those tweets I sent about Duke Ellington
While my mom was being evicted again
According to what ethics under the sun
Can I possibly have been speaking? A
Kind of private feeling I can’t even place here
Like a rock on a tomb or the thank-you
Gift of a guest whose plane leaves long
I feel the little...
sam says you can’t name your book good boys without a dog
but sam doesn’t know that i am the dog
i am the ultimate mutt and i am telling him this story
at the bar called college hill tavern which looks like a front
for some operation where all the bar stools appear as if
they were staged in under ten minutes and
the girl with the...
One fish, Two fish, Plastics, Dead fish
recycling Dr. Seuss
Some fish are sold for sashimi,
some are sold to canneries,
and some are caught by hungry slaves
to feed what wealthy tourists crave!
Farmed fish, Fish sticks, Frankenfish, Collapse
From the Pacific to the Atlantic,
from the Indian to the Arctic,
from here to...
The Ayes Have It
When I think of Trayvon Martin, I think of Emmett Till,
when I think of Emmett Till, I think of young, black men in the South,
then I think of young, white men in the South.
I think of my husband, who is white, born and raised in Franklin, TN.
I think of how when he tries to hold my hand,...
I saw a perfect tree today
I saw a perfect tree today
From my cabin bed on a Via Rail train
Through the North of Ontario
I saw a perfect tree today
It was tall and thin and scraggly and prim
Then I saw another just as perfect
Short and sturdy with branches and brambles
And then another with a rugged fat trunk
Older than the rest, but just as...
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