A warning, a movement, a collection borne of protest.
In Watch Your Head, poems, stories, essays, and artwork sound the alarm on the present and future consequences of the climate emergency. Ice caps are melting, wildfires are raging, and species extinction is accelerating. Dire predictions about the climate emergency from scientists, Indigenous land and water defenders, and striking school children have mostly been ignored by the very institutions – government, education, industry, and media – with the power to do something about it.
Writers and artists confront colonization, racism, and the social inequalities that are endemic to the climate crisis. Here the imagination amplifies and humanizes the science. These works are impassioned, desperate, hopeful, healing, transformative, and radical.
This is a call to climate-justice action.
This anthology is not to be missed. The pandemic may have defined our year, but the climate crisis defines our time in geological history. See how this roster of talented writers and artists advance the conversation, put the crisis in context and call for climate justice.
IF TINY CRYSTALS FORM CLOSE TO THE EARTH’S SURFACE THEY FORM DIAMOND DUST
My antler heart grows hooves.
I follow the lead from the pack.
Find shelter in a drunken forest--
what species isn’t at risk.
Insulating properties of snow
keep me warm--
trapped air between each flake.
With body heat and earth-transfer heat
my home becomes a snowbank.
It’s not the hare’s scream
it’s the antecedent silence.
we fill ourselves up
with slow-banked health
push off the not needed
with the growth behind it
we tick silent rings
inside our own xylem clocks
each wound is sealed
with home-spun adhesive
we synthesize sunshine to a flameless fire
we shed to survive to burn spring green
All parts have a line
with never end.
a shatter zone.
Cries by a gate can’t
slip out, they hover.
Hold blue in your hands.
Go on, cup sky. This isn’t illusion.
The sound of absence is your boat
coming in. The work is in the meadow.
It’s hard to put past in a safe place.
Some eyes see, if not birds.
“If Tiny Crystals Form Close to The Earth’s Surface They Form Diamond Dust” first published in the UK literary journal Stag Hill Literary Journal
“The Trees” first published in the LCP anthology: Heartwood: a League of Canadian Poets Anthology
“Intersections” published in the online UK journal/website Burning House Press
Catherine Graham is an award-winning Toronto-based writer. Her sixth poetry collection, The Celery Forest, was named a CBC Best Book of the Year, appears on the CBC Books Ultimate Canadian Poetry List and was a finalist for the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry. Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insect was a finalist for the Raymond Souster Poetry Award and the CAA Poetry Award. Her debut novel Quarry won an Independent Publisher Book Awards gold medal for fiction, “The Very Best!” Book Awards for Best Fiction and was a finalist for the Sarton Women’s Book Award for Contemporary Fiction and the Fred Kerner Book Award. She teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto where she won an Excellence in Teaching Award and is a previous winner of the Toronto International Festival of Authors’ Poetry NOW competition. Æther: an out-of-body lyric will appear in 2020 with Wolsak and Wynn. Visit her at www.catherinegraham.com Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @catgrahampoet
OCTOPO AND TEUTHIET
Two octopoteuthis deletron squid collided in the Pacific depths at sunset in July. Each
one mirrored the other, with a shimmering, voluptuous, sperm-plastered mantle, and
engorged arms bursting with come-hither barbs. The squid fell deeply in love. But soon
they found themselves unable to feed. Both deletrons were inevitably drawn to hunting
the other, now possessing the only flesh each craved in all the ocean. They pledged a vow
of starvation, lest they risk consuming each other. With every passing wave, their bodies
grew less sumptuous; their love more incandescent.
And one November morning, both flesh and love were gone.
reflects no octopus;
its sand-blessed face now blasted
to the harvest, swarm on
the bars of a vintage metal
an octopus would shun
the primitive lenses; covet
recreate your branchial arcs
li’l miss mermaid!
this octopus has one
dinglehopper your museum
to the white king.
a tentacular caress.
untrained suckers, swords are
more direct and less efficient
half-submerged in white sand,
could an octopus measure a
seashells in a
frame an abalone portrait
BREEDING GROUNDS: EMPTY CALORIES
so much depends
the Greenland shark
its toxic jaws
Rasiqra Revulva is a queer femme writer, multi-media artist, editor, musician, performer, SciComm advocate, and one half of the glitch-art and experimental electronic duo The Databats. If You Forget the Whipped Cream, You're No Good As A Woman (Gap Riot Press, 2018) is her second chapbook. She is currently adapting her first chapbook Cephalopography (words(on)pages press, 2016) into her debut collection, to be published by Wolsak & Wynn in spring 2020. Learn more at: @rasiqra_revulva and @thedatabats.
They go down to the expressways, baskets
In hand, they go down with rakes, shovels
And watering cans, they go down to pick
Beans and trim tomato plants, they go down
In wide-brimmed hats and boots, passing
By the glass-pickers, the Geiger counters, those
Guarding the toxic wastes. They go down
Remembering the glide of automobiles, the
Swelter of children in back seats, pinching, twitching,
Sand in their bathing suits, two-fours of Molson’s
In the trunk of the car. They go down, past
The sifters, the tunnellers, those who transport
Soil from deep in the earth, and are content
To have the day before them, are content to imagine
Futures they will inhabit, beautiful futures
Filled with unimagined species, new varieties of
Plant life, sustainable abundance,
An idea of sufficient that is global. Or,
Because cars now move on rails underground,
The elevated roads are covered in earth,
Vines drape around belts of green, snake
Through cities, overgrown and teeming
With grackles and rats’ nests, a wall
Of our own devising, and the night
Watchmen with their machine guns
Keeping humans, the intoxicated,
Out. I am sorry for this vision, offer
You coffee, hot while there is still
Coffee this far north, while there is still news
To wake up to, and seasons
Vaguely reminiscent of seasons.
Web-toed she walks into the land, fins
Carving out river bottoms, each hesitation
A lakebed, each mid-afternoon nap, a plateau,
Quaint, at least that is my dream of her,
Big shouldered, out there daydreaming
The world into existence, pleasuring herself
With lines and pauses. How else? What is a lake
But a pause? People circling it with structures, dipping
In their poles? Once she thought she could pass by
Harmless. Scraping wet shale, her knees down in it, she
Tries to remember earth, that ground cover. She tries
To reattach things, but why? What if the world
Is all action? What if thought isn’t glue, but tearing?
She sits at the lake edge where the water never meets
Earth, never touches, not really, is always pulling
Itself on to the next.
Now she sits by her memory of meadow, forlorn, shoeless.
She could scoop PCBs from the Hudson, she is
Always picking up after someone. But what? What
Is the primary trope of this romp? Where her uterus
Was the smell of buckshot and tar, an old man chasing
Her with a shotgun across his range. Cow pies and
Hornets’ nests, gangly boys shooting cats with BB guns,
Boys summering from Calgary, trees hollowed out,
Hiding all manner of contraband goods. When she peers
In the knotted oak, classic movies run on
The hour, Scout on the dark bark, Mildred
Pierce with a squirrel tale wrap. Nature is over,
She concludes. Nature is what is caught, cellular,
Celluloid. She sticks a thumb in another tree, a
Brownstone, a small girl—her heart a thing locked.
It’s been so long since she felt hopeful. (Perhaps nature
Is childhood.) The morning after Chernobyl
Out there with tiny umbrellas. All those internal
Combustions. This is a country that has accepted death
As an industry, it is not news. She has been warned.
Her ratings sag. She scans her least apocalyptic
Self and sees mariners floating, Ben
Franklin penning daily axioms, glasses lifting
From the river bank, planked skirts on Front,
China-like through the industrious, thinking, traffic
Clogged city, its brick heavy with desire for good.
Memory of meadow, Dickinson an ice pick scratching
Wings in her brain: if you see her standing, if you move
Too quickly, if you locate the centre, if you have other
Opportunities, by all means if you have other opportunities.
Abondoned mine shafts on either side, those
Tight curves between Kaslo and New Denver,
Hairpin at glacial creek, splash of red
Bellies muscling, streaming up, we see them
From the open window. Or once did. Even here?
Salmon stocks diminish, mammals dying off.
No, he said, not in your lifetime. Vertical;
Traces where the charge went off,
Ruggedness is your only defence, he
Said, be difficult to cultivate, navigate. Offer
No hint of paradise, no whiff of
Golf course. Uninhabitability your only
Recourse. Lashed, that moment, prolonged
Leaving, her father on the roadside
Dreaming his world fitting in some place,
Without being reigned in, her father’s fathers
Throwing rocks down on Hannibal,
Straddling the last large elm in the valley,
Knowing where and how to lay the charge, or
Sucking shrapnel from an open wound,
The lambs all around, bleating.
Which liftetime? Beyond what brawn? Who
Knew where the road would take us?
Neat, neat, the rows of apple trees
There in the valley, red summers, the heat
Of Quebecois pickers, VWs in a circle,
Firepit and strum. Men from Thetford
Mines dreaming peaches, dreaming
Clean soil. Hour upon hour the self
Becomes less aware of the self.
Beautiful, beautiful, the centre line, the road,
This power station and control tower, these
Weigh scales, these curves, that mountain
Goat, those cut lines, these rail lines, that
Canyon, the Fraser, the Thompson,
The old highways hyphenating
Sagebrush, dead-ending on chain
Link, old cars collecting like bugs
On the roadside, overturned, curled, astute,
Memory of the Overlanders,
Optimism, headlong into
Hell’s Gate. Churn of now,
The sound barriers, the steering
Wheel, the gas pedal, the gearshift,
The dice dangling, fuzzy,
Teal, dual ashtrays, AM radio
Tuned to CBC, no draft, six cylinders,
The gas tank, the gearshift, easing
Into the sweet spot behind
The semi, flying through Roger’s
Pass; the snowplow, the Park
Pass, sun on mud flap, the rest stop
Rock slides, glint of snow, the runaway
Lanes, the grades steep as skyscrapers,
The road cutting through cities,
Slicing towns, dividing parks,
The road over lakes, under rivers,
The road right through a redwood,
Driving on top of cities, all eyes
On the DVD screen,
All minds on the cellphone,
The safari not around, but inside
Us: that which fuels.
No matter, the slither of pavement is endless,
Today the rain, a gold standard, all the
Earmarks of, never mind, all is well, all
Is well, and who doesn’t want to hear that?
She gets on her scooter and roars, she gets
On her skateboard and feels the air under
Foot, she shakes out her hair, thinking of California,
Thinking of allergies, thinking of the wreck
Of place: who ever promised more? The iris
With its feigned restraint, the daring tuba,
The horn of shoe, utilitarian, delicate. Such
Useful domesticity, such hopeful electronics.
Once she disappeared by turning sideways.
Now she finds it difficult to reappear. She lifts
The sediment of time to her palm, feels it sift
Between her fingers: bone, bits of event. Aren’t
We all a bit fluish this century? Nothing bearing any
Mark of otherwise. No prescript, nothing a bit of hope
Won’t cure. Such a churn of optimism:
That which consecrates will not kill. Maybe New York?
She fits herself on an easterly course: been done,
Been done, but what better than the well-trodden
Path? Beautiful, beautiful, the seams
Of the rich, their folded linens,
Their soft bags of money. If it ain’t broke
Don’t fix, if it ain’t resistant, don’t
Wince, if it fits like a boot, then boot it.
And so she does.
Sina Queyras, “Endless Inter-States” from Expressway. Copyright © 2009 by Sina Queyras. Reprinted by permission of Coach House Books.
Source: Expressway (Coach House Press, 2009)
It was 1989 when our music television station went green to join a cause that had become
the topic du jour: the environment, Greenpeace, and rock n roll.
Earth day videos of toxic waste dumps, co2 emissions, and hair spray that held crowns up
had to be put down. "Look at what we're doing, Jane," they said as images of sad polar bears, dying seal pups (appropriated), streamed by as we anxiously scribbled protest signs, planted trees at school, and felt for the first time that we could make something happen beyond cynicism and Ferris Bueller.
U2, World Party, Peter Gabriel, Sting,The Boss, Sinead "O'Fucking Yes" O'Connor, Chrissie Hynde, in concert. Watch it live and donate now to the Earth! "We gotta do something now, John," we said, and somehow the corps made us believe we were not pretending to care because it was a real cool party and we were just dancing politics.
That was it. A day every year we try to recreate the moment, and all this time we had been clogging up our oceans with their plastic, still
our air with their acid fumes, still,
spilling their, our, whatever, oil, still
in lakes and directly on endangered birds as if we didn't learn anything and somehow a lot of us forgot how to use our legs.
complacent and complicit we are
and the new kids, scream blame and hope,
all at once, so empowered
through inherited black smoke
Now we're finally listening?
"There is no invitation to this show, people,"
we should all be there.
Jacqueline Valencia is a Toronto-based writer, editor, and critic. She is the author of Lilith (Desert Pets Press, 2018) and There Is No Escape Out Of Time (Insomniac Press, 2016). Current projects include: Writer's residency at Poetry InPrint (poetry and printmaking), Fuck This Place (novel-in-progress) and planning the second Poetry Talks: Racism and Sexism in the craft (pending 2020). Jacqueline is a full-time maid, and the mother to two wonderful teenagers. jacquelinevalencia.wordpress.com
Mostly I look quickly at the latest reports, through the cracks between my fingers, out the
corner of my eye, look away quickly, calculate years to collapse.
A—grass dies; B—human beings die; C—human beings are grass.
It’s years right? Rolling fields of us, all relative, the wind bending the blades back before the
dawn, all in the same direction, rippling, wave and particle, dying in drought, coming back green
in the spring, the colours—we forget—the colours of the grasses, their flowers, led purple
pewter scarlet—like a fever, so small yet so very many—the detail is lost in the collective sheen.
Intercalary meristem. Spiralate movement. We’re all relative. Relatives. That was then. This is
now. The plough is in the sky. The earth is tilled by no one.
A—all civilizations collapse; B—you call this a civilization?
What will have been the case in the future I read will depend upon possible pasts that will also
have been the case at least one of them that is.
Do you have any possible pasts I could trade for some uncertain futures at the going rate? / I
found them by the dumpster out back beside a thrown away planet a bit flat or even concave
like a crushed and stained mattress / I want change I want not this pathway but that presently
unknown one we know too much and too little I am convinced or can infer?
The possible is simply what either is or will be true. If it will be that p will never be the case,
then p—right now—will never be the case.
I am skeptical. Wander through truisms like trees making potential sounds if they are
potentially cut then they are housing. Birds bugs and the precariat. I have no time for this. Then
there will be no time for this at some point in the future.
Stephen Collis is the author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, including The Commons (Talon Books 2008), Once in Blockadia (Talon Books 2016) and Almost Islands: Phyllis Webb and the Pursuit of the Unwritten (Talon Books 2018). Current research on the climate emergency and human and other displacements is involved in two in-process projects: Future Imperfect (poetry) and A Sestina for Max Sebald (prose). He lives near Vancouver, on unceded Coast Salish Territory, and teaches poetry and poetics at Simon Fraser University.
WHETHER THE HEAVENS BREAK
WHETHER THE HEAVENS BREAK
WHETHER THE BROKEN CLOUDS ACCUMULATE ENOUGH
AUDIENCE TO DEBUT AT TIFF
WHETHER CURIOUS CUMULI INCUBATE OUR ATTENTION
WHETHER THE WEATHER BURSTS FORTH
LIKE HEAVEN'S GATES
LOCKING DOWN ALL THE LATCHES
WHETHER WATER AND ETHER COMBINED
MAKE A BEAUTIFUL SUNSET
WHETHER DUSK IS UPON US SOONER
RATHER THAN LATER
WHETHER YOU PREFER HURRICANES OVER HEAT WAVES
MONSOONS OVER ICE MELTS
WHETHER YOU HARVEST FRUIT FROM THE FOREST FLOOR OR
WITHERED ON WIZENED VINES
WHETHER YOU PINE FOR YOUR MUSKOKA CHILDHOOD
WHETHER PILEATED WOODPECKERS DELIGHT YOU
EITHER THE CONTINUOUS PRESENT OR THE LOOMING FUTURE
EITHER SOME OF THEM
OR ALL OF US
WHETHER TRUTH WAVERS BEFORE SIX-DOLLAR LATTES
AND MAUVE MACARONS
WHETHER IT WAS A TOTAL BLOCKBUSTER
WHETHER YOU'VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT
WHETHER THE SKY GETS DARKER THAN "BREAKING BAD"
WHETHER REALITY IS A MALEVOLENT COLOSSUS
COMING ON LIKE AN ADORABLE BABY LION
WHETHER SUPERWINDSTORMS MAKE THE RATINGS RISE
WHETHER THE DEADLINE PREMIERE
IS A NO-HOLDS-BARRED DOCUMENTARY ON SUBLIME
DO WE HAVE OUR TICKET IN ADVANCE
DO WE HAVE OUR SEAT RESERVED
DO WE HAVE A COVETED SPOT BESIDE THE RED CARPET
WHETHER WE LIKE COMEDIES
WHETHER THE FILMMAKER WAS FUNDED
BY A FRACKING CONGLOMERATE
OR A BRAZILIAN MINING CONSORTIUM
WHETHER THE CLIMAX IS A MASS SHOOTING EVENT
THAT SOUNDED LIKE A RUNAWAY TRAIN
THAT BARRELLED INTO CANADIAN TIRE
LIKE A BLOOD AVALANCHE AT NIAGARA
WE'VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT EVER BEFORE
STEP RIGHT THIS WAY
STEP INTO THE HARSH GLARE
OF THE BIGGEST SHOW ON EARTH
WHETHER WHATEVER WE DREAM
IS JUST LIKE A MOVIE
WHETHER IT IS ALL JUST LIKE CUTTING-EDGE CINEMA
WHETHER WE'RE ON 24/7 CANDID CAMERA
ALONG WITH FACIAL RECOGNITION
HOW ABOUT GLACIAL RECOGNITION
OR WILL THAT SPOIL THE PLOTLINE FOR US
WHETHER IT IS ALL SO ORIGINAL
WHETHER IT IS CRAZY GENIUS AT HAND
WHEN THE HEAVENS HEAVE AND THREATEN
YES THE SKY MIGHT BREAK OPEN
YES THE SKY IS MADE OF GOSSAMER ETHER
YES THE ETHER IS MADE OF TRANSHUMAN MEMORY
YES THE MEMORY DRINKS IN RAIN
YES THE AUDIENCE IS AN OCEAN
WE WANT THE C.G.A. WEATHER TO LOOK
MORE WILD THAN WILDERNESS ALONE
WE WANT THE ENDING TO SHOCK US
WE WANT TO BE AWAKE
SO WAKE UP
CAN WE WAKE UP
LET'S WAKE UP
Margaret Christakos creates poetry, teaches, and thinks about forms of direct and indirect social address as part of her thirty-year artistic practice. She hails from Sudbury, Ontario, and lives in Toronto. Recent books include Multitudes and Her Paraphernalia: On Motherlines, Sex/Blood/Loss & Selfies. In Spring 2020 her new book charger is forthcoming.
WE WILL TELL THEM OF OUR DOMINION
First, we will tell them of our dominion
We will tell them of the web peeling back
in the heavens, the sun's maw radiating
We will tell them we can see the air
We will tell them green turned brown and grey
We will tell them green covered the earth
We will tell them of plastic islands
We will tell them of sands too hot to inhabit,
We will tell them of where people
cannot hold their breath forever
We will tell them of undulating obituaries
We will tell them of backroom deals, of slow-moving cogs
We will tell them of childhood depression
We will tell them of corporate footprints,
handprints, fingers in pies, stained red
We will tell them of mass delusion
We will tell them of moral misbehavior
We will tell them of fears for marble over feather and fur
We will tell them about the non-identity problem
We will tell them of the powerful two-faced
We will tell them why the scientists cried
We will tell them why the philosophers cried
We will tell them why the parents cried
We will tell them of carbon dioxide
shouts, of splintered protests
We will tell them of tear gas, of turned heads
We will tell them of laws broken
We will tell them of backs broken
We will tell them of turning, turning
Later, we will tell them the oil barons are dead
We will tell them guardians fought back
We will tell them a panacea was birthed from the Amazon ash
We will tell them blood is not translucent, but still pumping
We will tell them the ocean is still loud
We will tell them we relocated the sacred
We will tell them we refined our brains
We will tell them the sun is everything
We will tell them we were sorry
We will tell them we know why the sky is blue.
Terese Mason Pierre is a writer, editor, and organizer. Her work has appeared in The Hart House Review, The Temz Review, and others. She is the poetry editor of Augur Magazine and volunteers with Shab-e She'r poetry reading series. She lives and works in Toronto.
Watch Your Head is an online journal of creative works devoted to the climate crisis and climate justice.
New work is published monthly!
Check out our latest project: a print anthology published by Coach House Books!
Watch Your Head: Writers & Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis
Coach House Books
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