One frigid midwinter afternoon, early
for the symphony, I look out on the frozen lake.
Unseasonable cold, I worry. Climate change.
That moment a huge bird glides by, slow
motion, long neck outstretched, black bill,
wings extended, body a downy white.
I’ve never seen a trumpeter swan, mythical
creature, surely dreamed to life.
Inside the concert hall beautiful music
swirls, like the thrill of the swan, elevating
me, a wild reminder I’m part of the living
world, an animal too.
Trumpeter swans were nearly extinct.
We think we protected them.
But they protect us, from the impoverishment
of a world without trumpeter swans.
The music ends and I rush out, hoping
to glimpse the swan, what it offers us --
a rare, precious encounter with what
is real, the given world.
Kirsteen MacLeod’s poetry and prose has appeared in many literary journals, and she was a finalist for Arc Poetry’s Poem of the Year in 2020. Her nonfiction book, In Praise of Retreat, is forthcoming in March 2021 from ECW Press. Her debut collection of short fiction, The Animal Game, was published in 2016.
NOTES TOWARDS AN ANTHROPOCENE FABLE AT A RUSSIAN SAUNA IN MISSISSAUGA
Rumpelstiltskin’s first wife, I enter and exit
the steam room in a eucalyptus cloud.
My rumpled robe scratches. Silt rises
to skin surface. I scrub my pores with sea salt.
I pull a rusted chain and a wooden bucket
tips cool torrent on my head.
No one in these microclimates has a name
big enough for forests, for air.
I am trying to outrun my recurring
daymare, the one with the turret.
This olive string bikini, once sinuous,
is now only fit for sweating myself alive.
I beg a sauna man in a wool cap
to wave his parched birch wand.
My inner bitch wakes up, whining.
I haven’t fed her in too long.
My cells realign themselves, spread
around. I eavesdrop on the heat,
practice different pronunciations. He ate,
she ate, we ate all the sun’s treats,
licked black seeds from slit vanilla beans,
plucked gold croaks from toad throats.
I am trying to escape the king’s wealth,
the kind that slashes and slinks through holes.
I get to stay here longer than all the white rhinos,
the bees. Will I hand a firstborn to the burn?
Infused with cedar scent, buzzing, I lower
myself into a barrel of glacial water.
I imagine a cryogenic prince charming
carrying me, limp, into the next ice age.
Soothed, I shower. Calmer and slower, I sit
in the tea room afterward, drinking
vodka and kombucha, replenishing
my salt sea with pickle brine.
A television screens our ever after, a nature
documentary about bleached coral reefs,
all those fabulous bows and rainbows
frozen white in the sunshine.
Originally published in PRISM International (Issue 57.4: Spring 2019)
Catriona Wright is the author of the poetry collection Table Manners (Véhicule Press, 2017) and the short story collection Difficult People (Nightwood Editions, 2018). Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, The Walrus, Fiddlehead, and Lemon Hound, and they have been anthologized in The Next Wave: An Anthology of 21st Century Canadian Poetry and in The Best Canadian Poetry 2015 & 2018.
THESE ELEPHANTS IN CANADA
a trauma dream
a Zoroastrian declaiming upon
a dead star weeping on
a palimpsest of
all that remains land written upon
by rising seas
overwhelmed by rising
I spill my coffee
onto the once fecund table
as it pools disorder
into the shape
of an elephant’s ear
I gaze into the lifeless dream
to hear a scattering of
the hot ocean
of this elephant’s sneeze
a disorder of all senses
drip out into the void
of human space
Gregory Betts is the author of Sweet Forme (2020), a collection of visual renderings of the sound patterns in Shakespeare’s sonnets (published by Australia’s Apothecary Archive, available here: https://bit.ly/383XaTl). He is the digital curator of bpNichol.ca and a poet-professor at Brock University. His next book is Finding Nothing: Vancouver Avant-Garde Literature, 1959-1975, due out in February 2021 with University of Toronto Press.
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