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.
WHAT ABOUT THE WEATHER?
July 2, 2012, Vancouver,
just after 7 pm. In 32
out of 49 United States
temperatures are higher than ever recorded,
a hundred and five, a hundred and seven,
a hundred and nine or more....
In some TV places the air is un-
conditioned, no longer homes there,
where fires have demolished neighbour-
hoods in Colorado Springs.
Everything here is lush, soaked,
just a little out of season.
I can sleep — if I’ve walked, worked
at my desk, felt loved by someone,
but these days even love won’t
assuage anxiety. It’s not just
a globe that’s warming, it’s
something else –
a rise in obfuscation,
a lilt of lies? Oil
oozing over the map
will be no surprise and
even the rain won’t stop
it now, (such small hands and all
that talk is over) — citizens
gloved and scared.
The summer of 2015, Vancouver,
the rain did stop,
at least for too long,
April to October there
was never enough.
The shock of turning
off the tap, just brush
with a cup, do not wash
your car, your bike, the
shoes you wear, stand
with the hose and let
a little dribble quench
the roses, that old hellebore
still blooming, let moss
die on stones, my steps
stay dirty, neighbourhood
vigilantes take their
high road turns.
The day of my party,
a turning point in life,
in weather, rain flooded
the patio, the pool,
the fancied guests.
But we were only midway
and our thirst was bigger
than the rain—a modest
spatter, enough for a rainbow,
not enough to turn
the clock back
to that glory life,
the one we thought
we had forever.
After starting out as a poet, short story writer, journalist (The Fiddlehead, Best Canadian Stories, The Observer Magazine (UK), CBC, NFB), and co-author of several non-fiction books, Judith Penner spent a long time preoccupied with family, travel, teaching yoga and related workshops throughout India and North America, and her work as an editor. In recent years her poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in catalogues (readymades, Smith Foundation), anthologies (Sustenance, Anvil Press), The Poetry Foundation, and in literary magazines, including Geist, Prism International, The Capilano Review online, and SubTerrain. Nomados published A Bed of Half Full: a landscape in 2018. She lives in Vancouver.
FLAGPOLES AT THE OLD EXPO GROUNDS
jogger shoes flap flap flap
bike chains jingle
skateboards rush push
on and on words
surge to phone
faces to laces
no, I know, but it’s something
I’ve really noticed
a language I can’t understand
the bolt of weeds through planks
the mark of orange plastic cones
a couple on yellow steps
watch a play on a rotting stage
its clatter of empty flagpoles
its loom of concrete stadium
once the water’s edge
now Edgewater Casino
spinning Highway ’86
yachts, trucks, ATVs
giant Swiss-watch McBarge
world in motion
world in touch
press on, carry on, keep on
odds on asphalt
odds on helicopter
odds on geodesic
I don’t think the psychiatrist warned them
they thought they heard the deer
they felt they were similar
just look at the criteria
look at the architecture
the water’s push against land
they wanted to, they wanted very much
they rallied, they studied, they held summits
yet they knew they weren’t for plants
they weren’t for wildlife videos
they were for the stage
they were on track
for the house edge
Meredith Quartermain’s Vancouver Walking won a BC Book Award for Poetry, Nightmarker was a finalist for a Vancouver Book Award, and Recipes from the Red Planet was a finalist for a BC Book Award for fiction. You can also find her work in Best Canadian Poetry 2009 and 2018. Her fourth book of poetry, Lullabies in the Real World, was published in 2020 by NeWest Press. From 2014 to 2016, she was the Poetry Mentor at Simon Fraser University’s Writer’s Studio Program.
LE TEMPS DES CERISES
Massacre in my kitchen, the counter
spatter incarnadine, my hands bloodied
with the juice of cherries splayed, gutted,
for dessert at a friend’s; my fingers dyed a red
that keeps in the fine creases, under the nails,
through the next day’s breakfast, lunch. I tremble
to sacrifice none of this, even though the cherries, local,
organic, spoke to me, insisting on their innocence, the plump,
burgundy wholeness of them. I didn’t think
to spare them, never do; not them, nor the shrimp
I clean for my son’s home-coming dinner,
each shrimp life given up, given over
to our celebration. Deeper into that same night
I hear, through my open window, close,
someone else’s baby cry – such grief,
and nothing will ease it, not the breast
or rest or warmth or darkness or light;
nothing will ease it forever and ever
or for the long moment till all is well
and silent. We can’t help ourselves: who wouldn’t trade
their own child’s comfort for another’s harm,
another child’s harm? We can’t help ourselves, knowing
it’s wrong, knowing there would be a remedy
if we wanted it. Now someone has written a book
I won’t be reading, about how the Earth would do without us,
rewriting not the past (airbrushing Trotsky
out of the Stalin snaps), but the future; a projection
sans project-er. It’s getting hotter,
we’re starting to agree we’ve fucked it up.
The review says the author has visited fresh
ruins, a city abandoned only decades, and it’s easy
to foretell: bougainvillea purpling rooftops,
the small fingers of roots diligently rubbing out
difference. No inside; no out. To some
perhaps it’s comforting to think of the Earth
scratching at its ear (good dog!) and us no more
than fleas in its coat: a good scrub,
a sprinkling of powder and all
is well again. None mourning our self-
massacre, not the cherries gone wild,
the gleeful shrimp gaining, all
we consumed. He imagines furthermore
humpbacks releasing their arias without contest,
butterflies sculpting air. I don’t want to. Useless
though my own life has seemed to me
at times (despite cherries, despite friends), I want
this curious project to continue, our certain hunger,
our subtleties, our complicated contradictions. The arias
less necessary to me than the way a mouth is held,
the look in an eye, that engenders them. Though
my own evaluation of the human
is that, as the song goes, you can’t
have one without the other.
Previously published in All Souls’ Véhicule Press, 2012
Rhea Tregebov’s seventh collection of poetry, All Souls’, was published in 2012. Her poetry has received the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, The Malahat Review’s Long Poem Prize, Honorable Mention for the National Magazine Awards, and the Readers’ Choice Award for Poetry from Prairie Schooner. Tregebov is also the author of two novels, Rue des Rosiers and The Knife-Sharpener’s Bell, as well as five children’s picture books. Having retired from her position in the Creative Writing Program at University of British Columbia teaching in June 2017, she is now an Associate Professor Emerita.
LAWSON ROY’S PINION ON SYN-THETIC POLYMERS
Pity the bottom feeders! Lobster might look mighty
but their numbers’ll drop faster than lead cod jigs.
The clams n mussels lap up that nasty plastic crap
drifts cross bottom. Nothin lobster likes more
than a big feed of clams n mussels.
I don’t differ—’d rather clams than lobster
any day of the week. Was just up the Dairy Treat
laid into a fine mess all fried up with French fries.
Tasted the finest kind, if bites were a tad rubbery.
Looked out cross the lot, saw a feathered ruckus
floatin on the garbage barrel’s overflow
—stupid gull, plastic fork stuck bent in its beak
an onion ring ringin its neck.
I would’ve pulled that fork outta there
so ol greedy-guts crazy-head could enjoy its fried treat
but you think that damned bird would sit still?
* * *
A damn sin, the trash the tide heaps on the beach.
Out walkin, you come cross banged-up buoys or bits
mangled traps, trap tags n bands, cartons n tainers
pop cans n enough bottles for every last blasted soul
chunks of Sty-ro-foam, Zip-loc bags, what we call penny whistles.
Birthday balloons lookin like run-over jellyfish. In all colours!
Bait bags, shell casins, their rubber gloves. All colours!
When I was fishin Millie always made me my mitts.
Weren’t nothin syn-theticful—nothin but sheep’s wool.
They’d tighten from dunkin em in the salt ocean each trip.
Waterproofin. Some warm. With the finger in em for firin
the .22 on board in case we run up on any seals.
* * *
You ever seen that bit on the television? They’re out in the boat
and the young fella’s wonderin what to do with his chip bag
or gum wrapper or somethin or other, and the old fella
he says to just toss er overboard. But where does it go, Dad?
Away, son; away. Well, well now. Where the heck’s away to?
Some hazy Atlantic nowhere? That fog’s comin in fast though.
Can feel it fillin my chest, layin on a few extra oil-based coats.
Water molly-cules and an-ti-thetic syn-thetics fillin my cavities
sure as I’m breathin tumbled round, broke-down poly-sty-rene.
Nothin much you buy lasts anymore, credibly quick to break.
Then it’s broke it lasts and lasts and lasts and won’t ever rot!
Oh, you know people—don’t they love that ol beach glass.
Started makin necklaces outta the stuff, like it’s pearls!
That busted glass is a bunch of trash—way I see it, the start
of a terrible habit. Pieces can be pretty, sure—so! No need.
Pretty as a Coke can. Go get yourself wed with a lobster band.
Har-huh-hargh! They tell me it’s all the tobacco I smoked
but I know it’s this fake plastic fog the ocean’s pushin.
Dig up my lungs 50 years from now, you’ll find a pair
of bags fit for carryin your poisoned groceries home in.
Cory Lavender is a white privileged poet of Black Loyalist descent living in Nova Scotia, which is in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. His work has appeared in journals such as Riddle Fence, The New Quarterly, and The Dalhousie Review. His chapbook Lawson Roy’s Revelation came out with Gaspereau Press in 2018. A second chapbook, Ballad of Bernie “Bear” Roy, is forthcoming with knife | fork | book.
Sarah Mangle's work is peopled with beautifully flawed characters. Her work is concerned with growth, feelings, shaky lines and truth-telling. Sarah is white and queer and grew up in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada. Sarah Mangle’s bookworks, postcards and zines are sold internationally. Her large format felt works have been exhibited locally in Montreal, where she has resided on and off since 2000. Sarah Mangle's work has been featured in the Globe and Mail, Hello Giggles, Shameless Magazine, Art/iculations, The Montreal Review of Books, Nat Brut and Broken Pencil. Sarah Mangle is currently working on a comic about the lesbian-owned import export store in her small hometown and her teenage attempt to be hired there. It is set to be published in an anthology with Conundrum Press in 2020. She curates a comic and zine distro at Depanneur Le Pick Up and makes ongoing comic work about the benign cyst in her brain.
Social Media Things:
Instagram + Facebook: @sarahmangle
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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