Sunday, March 30, 2014

Colin Morton

from A Collective Noun


We have seen from space how small our home,
how like a bubble of almost nothing,
and some have said it made them lonely
to see our little spot from far,
but then there’s this: how together we are down here.

In time’s flight it doesn’t matter where you sit,
as once when I flew home from the coast
and a thunderstorm hid Macdonald-Cartier.
The pilot brought us below the clouds
but finding no runway pulled up and circled,
announced he would try once more to land
and failing that fly on to Dorval
and leave us a bus ride home after midnight.

No one spoke of the danger while the pilot
held our lives in the balance between reflex and fatigue,
and two hundred believers drew breath together,
thoughts mingling in the stale air over our heads.

We would be a collective noun forever
if the plane went down, our body parts
so intermingled we would have a common grave.
Our families would meet at memorials,
trade e-mail addresses and therapists’ names,
hold reunions where friendships would form,
eventually marriages, conspiracies, startups
that one day might change the world.

Then a bump of tires on pavement threw us
back into real life, safe on the ground
in the midst of the most spontaneous ovation
any of us ever was part of (although
the Fasten Seatbelt sign kept us from standing)
and I knew the moment was already passing
as we wrestled our luggage down the aisle to the threshold
and into our waiting families’ arms.

from Dance, Misery


Ask anyone ever saved by a prayer
or truce or pardon or charter or bond,
ask those who leave endowment funds,
whose names are found on buildings or mountains
why in the beginning they picked themselves up
from the waves and heaved skyward.
Was it for a name they spent themselves in the dark
rather than bask in the waves, singing daylong
minimalist odes to joy with the whales?

No, they’ll say, I did it all
to feed my family. That and to be known
where decisions are made, able to do favours
and call in favours when they’re due.

They would rather the building be named for their mother.
It is her death they fear even more than their own
(for that, they have provided well).
You don’t want to see her go under the ground
of a smallish planet near a smallish star,
some far-flung cinder in a cosmic roman candle
- for she listened to your bedtime prayers
and too much of yourself would go under with her.
You would place your faith in anything, would even
drink blood to be free of a fear like that.

And who says the bull whale who grazes
lazily through a sea of krill
is wasting his gigantic brain
on thoughts too deep for words?

The perfect solitude inside the battle of the bands
when you know there’s only you and the music
and nothing else exists.

         The “loner”
scheming in front of his TV
how to make them all disappear,
those satisfied faces in the crowd.

The dictator bored by the common deaths
and sufferings of his people
who finds his pleasure devising new.

The flown-in movie star, properly moved
by the plight of orphans and amputees,
totally off the wall about
a broken air conditioner.

The candidate become a straight man for a thousand votes.

     Free Koolaid.

The internet flamer just before hitting Send.

That feeling of après moi behind the wheel
historians call, in Hitler, madness
and the living recognize, momentarily,
sometimes just before sleep.

Colin Morton is an Ottawa poet who has twice received the Archibald Lampman Award. He has published ten books of poetry, most recently The Local Cluster (Pecan Grove Press, 2008), The Hundred Cuts: Sitting Bull and the Major (BuschekBooks, 2009), and Winds and Strings (BuschekBooks, 2013). He has collaborated with poets, musicians and artists in the performance poetry group First Draft, and with filmmaker Ed Ackerman in the animated film PrimitiToo Taa. He is a co-director of the Tree Reading Series and maintains the Poetry Views blog of reviews by members of the League of Canadian Poets. The excerpts above are from his book Dance, Misery (Seraphim, 2003).

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mary Lee Bragg

Carol’s Thoughts

She thought she could try it out
that once wouldn’t hurt.
She thought she could quit any time.
that all you need is will power.

She thought he was really a good person inside
that it was going to work out this time.
She thought she could trust her instincts.

She thought she had put all that behind her.
She thought it would never happen again.

She thought a change of scenery would help.

Carol’s Words

She quizzes me on musical terms –
mimes Sl –enn-n-taaann-do,
takes a giant step
her hand tracing the high arc and fall --

A word never used in music
where ritard and diminuendo
say it all.

She calls me Braggovitch or Braggadocio,
Garb or Garbo – not for my famous silence –
but because we both like words
backwards and forward.

She writes to me that it all
a word I’ve never seen anywhere
except in her life.

She says Chalk it up to experience,
as if those moments
will run in the rain
like human outlines on a sidewalk,
as if we’re the ones doing the marking.

We don’t chalk experience.
It tattoos us
with designs we
don’t get to choose –
barbed wire around an arm
teardrops under each eye
someone else’s initials.

Carol’s Actions

She moved away.
She moved around.
She moved in with.
She moved out on.

She moved back.
She moved in.
She moved on.
She moved out.

He moved in.

They moved around.
They moved away.

She moved out.
She moved back.

She moved out.
She moved back.

She moved out

She is still.

Mary Lee Bragg is a member of the Ruby Tuesday writing group.  Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies in Canada and the US, including Ascent, Grain, Bywords Quarterly, Pith and Wry and Symbiosis II.  Her novel, ShootingAngels, was published in 2004, and her poetry chapbook How Women Work in 2010.  The three poems here were first published in her chapbook, Winter Music, winner of the 2013 Tree Reading Series Chapbook Prize (video)..

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rhonda Douglas

Kimono Exhibit at the Museum of Civilization

 All the ways I have loved you:

i.              Shunyo: Cherry blossom
                beckoning at the waterside,
                opening day of spring.

ii.             Kyoko: Spellbound anticipation.

iii.            Gea: Illusion.

iv.           Ohn: Consummation, shrouds of mist.

v.            Kou:  Change. 
                Mount Fiji meditating on gold.
                Cold and tender dawn.

vi.           Hiwacha: The uncertain hour --
                turning over between fall and winter

vii.          Ai: Obliteration.

viii.         Sei: Blue trace of hope
                in sudden snow.

Simple Instructions

Welcome home. When we meet
tonight, please have eaten.

Let’s not waste time on salad,
cheese or the spaces between words.

I’ll have patience only to watch you eat
olives, brush tongues to know what the tart earth tastes like.

Wash. Prepare the body as for a night
out spent in. Put the passport with

its middle name mystery in a drawer, remember
who you are when not away.

Wayfarer, is there some place you have not been?
Hafiz says there is a great expanse of territory

where all rivers flow into the forested valley of your forever
longing, lit by fairy lights. Lay down irony now, take me to your bed.

Set your fears at the door as shoes on the stairs of a mosque.
Have some faith they will be there when you return. 

Short Treatise on the Nature of Drafts (Version 8)

You intended to go to Paris, or the Costa del Sol: tickets, check; passport, check. At 1 in the morning it seems all the varied and fascinating details of your life will culminate in this one trip. But waking – late, befuddled – you find that despite your best efforts with a compass and a map, here you are in the middle of goddamned downtown Milwaukee. You can’t figure a way out. You may be lost for days, or the trip may be abandoned.

You’re Michelangelo working in Fimo clay.

You meant to work harder on it, or longer, or wake up earlier, or just toss it off between the dentist’s visit and your own self-care, but not having had the time you’re happy still to claim it as yours because who could blame you for that crucial missing bit in the middle, that part right at the pivotal turn which now careens in disorder but one day soon will be a silver Porsche 911 licking the Italian coastline. 

Never let the draft drive.

Your draft is a toddler with a lisp and a club foot and will be just fine, thank you, if only you can manage to let it grow into itself. Don’t rush – a precocious draft is anathema; the trick is to grow up with all virtues intact.

You must approach a draft with trepidation, the tentative toes of a young ballerina in her first pointe shoes – the shiny pale pink of all the tender things untried. Have you noticed how a woman’s nipples darken after she’s had her first child? True also of drafts. Meaning every sexy thing takes its own sweet time.

If you would love a draft, take a nap with it and stroke its temple tenderly while it sinks into its happy place.  Don’t offer directions, the draft must find this place on its own.

Like everything else you’ve ever loved, the draft expects your attention even in the moments you are half-asleep, even when you’d rather be doing something – anything – else, even when you’re trying to forget it, even when you would lie and say you have forgotten it, it was just a fling, you barely remember its name. 

The draft loves your lying self the way a footballer loves the ref.

And they shall know a draft by its myriad complications. 
The draft has a maze only the gardener can love.

Don’t say you should have known better. 
Admit defeat only if useful, only if it will feed the hungry draft.

Rhonda Douglas is the author of Some Days I Think I Know Things: The Cassandra Poems (Signature Editions, 2008 and the forthcoming short fiction collection Welcome to the Circus (Freehand Books, 2015 She is currently finishing her second poetry collection “For” and a selection of those poems were featured in The New Quarterly’s Spring 2013 issue ( You can find her on Twitter: @shallicompare.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Blaine Marchand

Truck Art Glimpsed On the Grand Trunk Road


So phantasmal: concoction
of colours and calligraphy
transforms these brute trucks
that lumber, belching fumes,
heave and hobble,
inch by inch,
up inclines, down declines,
freight bulging over the sides,
swaying, restrained
by stained canvas
belted and puckered
like a fat man’s shirt.


Black metal, the trucks’
centre of gravity, illuminated
in primary and secondary colours
and the interplay of light,
the concurrence of the Lion of God,
mystical ships and the royal regalia,
a geometric droplet,
a teardrop,
a mango seed.


Across one panel,
calligraphy flows,
its continuum
a sacred geometry,
a leitmotif of arabesques
curved and underlined,
spoken or read --
on the tongue, a ghazal sung,
poetry of the Beloved
exaltation of the Divine.


A scorch of wind swirls,
embroiders the air, dust
stitched with flower blossoms
shredded from trees, vines
through which the trucks
blur, a reverie of colour –
the quiver of silk
when a dancer pivots –
silver chains wrapping their wheel rims –
delicate bracelets and bells,
that jingle exquisitely
across ankles and feet.

Inching Forward

This confusion of cars,
a cubist painting –
four-wheel vehicles
navigating an intersection,
land rover chrome,
lemon yellow fenders of taxis,
tie-dyed trucks, tassels and bits of metal
swaying this way and that.
All inch forward,
mind over matter as brave drivers
with steel-eyed precision
coordinate turns of steering wheel
with feet on the gas pedal
all the while at the ready to brake.
The air aggressive,
basso profundo of horns,
fists and voices pierced by anger. 
In the middle, lost and struggling,
a lone policeman,
whom nobody minds;
his signals and whistles
a whisper in the din and the revving.
Survival of the fittest;
only the dominant inch forward.

Yet amid this cacophony
men move so freely on bikes,
dart in to any opening,
seize the moment, advance consistently ahead.
They straddle their seats, upright and proud,
above and then beyond
this toil and labour of trafficking.
One boy, the tails of his white shirt
waving behind him in defiance
of the snarl, glides with ease
around the corner and down the street
of shattered homes and makeshift enterprise.
His bike, festooned,
a rainbow woven intricately
through the spikes that radiate
from the aluminum hub
of the wheels. Round and round,
the colours, unflagging,
blend in continuity.

Blaine Marchand

The author of eight books, six of which are poetry, Blaine’s most recent books are Aperature (poems, prose and photos of Afghanistan, 2008), and The Craving of Knives (2009), both of which were short-listed for the Archibald Lampman Award for Poetry. A young adult novel, African Adventure (translated as Aventure africaine) was published in 1990. His work has been published in Canadian and American literary journals. He was co-founder of Sparks, Anthos, Ottawa Independent Writers and the Ottawa Valley Book Festival. He was President of the League of Canadian Poets, 1992-94. He is working on a new manuscript of poetry, a collection of short stories, titled Nomads, and on two poetry manuscripts, one tentatively titled Home, and one drawing upon his experiences while traveling and living in Pakistan (2005-2010).

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Claudia Coutu Radmore


i used to nurse a teabag sit for hours without shame
what does it mean to pay attention to silence

what tree is this that  i  have come across
keeping my eye on the edges of things

the rate at which a body is allowed to change
positions with respect to another

the silence can be filled with dark knives
scroll fragments, scorched

solar particle trapped in the earth’s magnetic field

each word of the telling takes away
what little life that still survives

inside the heart
stands as a mere breath


closed systems
unusual string dipole-dipole attractions


potato-shaped mars moons

it’s a gas, gas, gas 
jumping jack flash                  

balaclava raglan cardigans
colandered pastafarians

frowning nights
life sentences wrapped in dustballs

      tilly her tea
                        why should i not

a dunnamany brothers and sisters


to conifer responsibility
no windows in the lower level


the kind of model brat-in-law
who comes flat-packed

no matter how minor the minor members
as if eve were away
doing charity work
while adam ate apple

happy happy happy happy talk



now, this is what he calls adventure
(cloud of ironic despair)

how those horrid conservatives will jeer at him!
(what are we to do?)

what to wear: panic
(still want to see her naked in the garden)

a sudden salience on the surface of the psyche
sprinkles cryptic proverbs on the nurture of the moon

(her ming tiffany twisted/ she got the mercedes bends)
way to go eagles will miss you

well, zing! darling, where are your fibulae
a slip of the tongue on new year’s eve

no more thirty more years of this o dawn of ashes
detroit diesel owl city pretty (virtual embrace)


has forgotten Virgil’s latinate
curvo saturni 

lets the cat clean the kitchen
on the roomba

often says
forgive me but

i must milk my camel
and no longer talks of parcels of rogues

bought and sold for english gold
likes to say

backatcha backatcha
her past shadowy establishments

of conspiracy
adrift in that peaceful easy feelin’

shouts of a saturday
give’em a hail mary pass 

and considers not  the true
number of her days

chants parish of rooks
clamour of rooks  unkindness

of ravens storytelling of crows
and word for word:

i will take you by a dear
dirty back way, miss honeychurch



the true number of skies
and the true number of nine

there was a cloak and dagger
there was a caramel brown

anaesthetic yes, i’m the devil
oh, and I don’t care none

there was that steak
you’d rather have than me

there was miss modelo 1959
naked batista’s hand

on her thigh there was
the wind speaking

there was
the extended meditation

on the polished
polish furniture

after the dove
dove into the mistletoe

thicket and there were
crimp-haired angels


i am not among them
headstones back from the dead

if you think your sense of direction is trued
p j harvey’s words that maketh murder

pinball madness ping buzz
demented insects

ringer wrangler
stronger strangler jetranger

has been given a large brain by mistake

when i say every day
i have to forget you

snuffles and bellows and squawks
whisper on the wind

do exactly what you would do
if you felt secure says meister eckhart

the window of the floor
leaks two dark feathers

heart-felt ido not believe

you do not have the proper permission
for this research


A member of Ruby Tuesdays writing group, Claudia Coutu Radmore’s Accidentals, Apt. 9 Press, Ottawa, won the 2011 bpNichol Chapbook Award.  Her submission where language forms was selected by Christian Bök as runner up in the 2010 Banff Centre Bliss Carman Awards, and her poem all saints was shortlisted for the 2012 Malahat’s Open Season Awards. 

Her poems have been published in Prairie Fire, Grain, Arc, The Antigonish Review, CV2, The Bywords Quarterly Journal, Sugarmule, Pith & Wry; Canadian Poetry; Rogue Stimulus: The Stephen Harper Holiday Anthology for a Prorogued Parliament, and Lighting the Global Lantern, The League of Canadian Poets Poetry Month Blog, 2010, 2011,  among other journals and anthologies. Ruth Roach Pearson has accepted a poem in her forthcoming anthology I Found It At the Movies: an anthology of poems about film, Guernica, 2014. In 2008 Claudia won the National Capital Region Canadian Authors’ Poetry Award.

Trade poetry books are Your Hands Discover Me/ Tes mains me découvrent, 2010, Éditions du tanka francophone, Montreal, and a minute or two/ without remembering, 2010, Two Currents Press, Sudbury, listed as a Special Mention in the 2010 Pat Lowther Awards. 

 ‘if you think your sense of direction is trued’ from A Room with a View, E.M. Forster.
i will take you by … from Room with a View
curvo saturni: Saturn’s knife
parcel of rogues, from Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation, Robert Burns
frowning nights, William Blake