A SONG CALLED EVENING
Enduring a life not lived she tried to sing a song one evening, but what came out
broke her heart and turned her into water. Loneliness filled her body. It so happens
that the more she moved into it the more she began to leak. Gasping for a remedy
she hugged her sleeping babies, but it didn’t work and in the gloom she become
a river, then a rapid, turning into a torrent. She could not contain himself, it was
past eleven, and there she was past the place of returning.
Coming our way the size of a mountain.
The polar caps are melting the water is here
Poor man and rich will taste their fear.
It was a simple song, maybe a country song, or a rock song, or a song for a drum.
What she did know is that it filled the core of her being. A song spilling out of her
heart, her eyes, her mouth, her ears. Swept away she flowed with such force that
to her astonishment she found herself knocking down things – finally! she thought
as she collided with churches and schools, apartment buildings and grocery stories,
corner stores and offices, malls and police stations, you name it.
The bible people gathered to pray
While others danced and sang, and they all had one thing to say
the end of the world is here, the end of the world is here.
Oh my babies, she thought, stretching out her arms in front of her as she had been
taught when she was a little girl. Oh my. But that old feeling of emptiness,
disempowerment, shame, was fleeting because in the moment she felt for
the first time who she was, and she liked it. Why hadn’t she been taught this?
She knew. She flowed with power, and she was going to use it. Hell yes.
Water is power. Water brings beginning. That much she knew.
I’ve seen it it’s true there is no denying.
From each single wave they’ll be no hiding.
It will strike with all the force of creation.
If only she could remember more of the words, but it was getting late and it was time
to return home to snuggle her babies, tidy the place, maybe watch some tv. It was time
to pull the curtains aside. Time to clean things up. Time to make her own way. Nobody
was going to do it for her. It felt good to stretch her entire being. She could do it,
she could make things sing as she plowed through them. This was living. This is what
would get her through another day. Oh, how she loved her two babies. She would
give them the world.
We turn on the tap
without a thought
and with a weary sigh
we greet the day
with things (to do)
while the water runs out
and we stare
like robots (as we fill our coffeepot).
of this and that
but never all the ways
we turn on the tap
without a thought.
Is it because
we think everything
can be sold
as a reward
for our hard work
with our hard-earned pay?
Content to fill
with things (to have)
while the water runs dry.
I can attest
it is true
I have seen the yachts.
The lakes go foul
while the speedboats play
And we continue
to turn on the tap
without a thought.
there comes a time
to connect the dots
because the power
presses to sway
with things (desired).
They make us dream
we’ve hit the jackpot
a continual onslaught
but those who see
know it is time
to take a stand
for we cannot continue
to turn on the tap
without a thought
And submit to a life
of things that are
Between land and water so glassy
not a ripple to disturb what you see,
a plume of green tendril sweeps
across your legs like an invitation,
an invocation that awakens your body,
numb swimmer of absolute beginnings and endings.
Into this morning you go naked
and clear to bedrock
propelled by a shard of beauty,
of what little is left after such a long drought. What is it
that cuts through you through the exhausted surface
to a fourth dimension where fish,
turtle, loon, serpent
mingle below a necklace of cottages,
and – lo and behold – sprout from your limbs,
your trepidation, disbelief, wonderment,
nothing less than a terrestrial gulp
the size of a lake as you continue
harder than ever
to swim on.
"Sentient" from Treaty #, Wolsak & Wynn, 2019.
Armand Garnet Ruffo was born and raised in northern Canada and is a member of the Chapleau Fox Lake Cree First Nation. He is recognized as a major contributor to both contemporary Indigenous literature an Indigenous literary scholarship in Canada. As an educator, he is currently the Queen’s National Scholar in Indigenous Literature at Queen’s University in Kingston, On. As a poet, he was honoured in 2016 with a “Lifetime Membership Award” from the National Council of The League of Canadian Poets.
He is the author of numerous books including Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird, a finalist for a 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award, and Treaty #, a finalist for a 2019 Governor General’s Award. His latest film is a collaboration called “On The Day the World Begins Again,” a short video poem about Indigenous peoples’ incarceration, which premiered at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival in 2019. It can be accessed at https://vimeo.com/336947329. He most recently co-edited An Anthology of Indigenous Literature in Canada (Oxford U Press, 2020).
YOUNG BLACK MALE
Young black male, in panic in view of red and blue
On top of the roof, a dangerous crew, violent group
Gas lighting you, all lives matter, blue lives matter
My weary blues muted by America's white chatter
Institutional lies, now we're institutionalized
Thirteenth amendment, blacks used by the whites
Still locked up for grams, dope runners with no bodies
Thoughts that jog in my head is that I might be Arbery
How swift would cops make Maya Breonna Taylor?
Well suited for destruction, who's Uncle Sam's tailor?
Haunted by thoughts of dad lost, his poor boy
Might go George Foremen on killers of George Floyd
Say race don't matter? you made race matter
Once you started spilling African plasma
American heroes? NO, just protected villains sir
Making a killing, making all these killings occur
My name is Mandela Massina. I am a Canadian student of Congolese descent at Western University, in London, Ontario Canada where I study English Literature and Creative Writing. In response to the unjust murder of George Floyd, I wrote this poem as an attempt to express my thoughts. It is the most honest I have been in a piece of writing.
The hermit crab lives alone in its own small shell.
I, too, live in my own small shell.
Its walls are dark and cozy like a cave.
I scuttle about from tide pool to tide pool and I am happy.
But lately my shell/cave paintings trouble me.
Images of dark seagulls and undulating creatures live on my walls.
I fear my shell/cave has grown too heavy.
I fear I no longer know where
the shell/cave ends and where I begin.
I am shell/
I am dark cave.
DEATH IS A MAN WHO FEELS SCARED
Bains Corner, New Brunswick
Trudging over fickle ice crystals,
moss brittle, trees broken,
collecting slight sheets
of birch bark for scribbling,
we hear something cry out
deep in the brush.
What was it?
A deer, perhaps.
A song of sadness,
I am compelled to sing back
but what could I possibly say?
"Shell/Cave" originally appears in Poets for Living Waters. August 5, 2010
“Death is a Man Who Feels Scared” will appear in Ghost Face (DC Books).
Greg Santos is the author of Blackbirds (2018), Rabbit Punch! (2014), and The Emperor’s Sofa (2010). His third full-length poetry collection with DC Books, Ghost Face, is coming soon. Santos is the Editor in Chief of the Quebec Writers’ Federation’s online magazine, carte blanche. He lives in tio’tia:ke/Montréal with his family. As part of the National Arts Centre’s Canada Performs initiative, Santos read excerpts from his forthcoming book on May 2, 2020 on Facebook Live. View the performance in its entirety here.
"Shifting Baseline Syndrome" originally appeared in Vallum 13.2
Aaron Kreuter is the author of the poetry collection Arguments for Lawn Chairs (Guernica Editions, 2016) and the short story collection You and Me, Belonging (Tightrope Books, 2018), which won the Miramichi Reader's 2019 'The Very Best!' Short Fiction Award and was shortlisted for a Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature. Aaron is an assistant fiction editor at Pithead Chapel. He lives in Toronto, Canada, where he is currently writing a novel that takes place at Jewish sleepover camp. Follow him on Twitter @aaronkreuter.
Ryanne Kap is a Chinese-Canadian writer from Strathroy, Ontario. Her work has been featured in Grain Magazine, Scarborough Fair, Ricepaper Magazine, Feelszine, and The Unpublished City Volume II. Following her BA in English and creative writing at the University of Toronto Scarborough, she will be pursuing an MA in English at Western University.
First they told me
the future would solve
Then they told me
would solve the future.
The present is the world
I’m not allowed there.
They know this.
I begin a string
of letters, picketing
in the babies’ cups
are full of Roundup.
one girl chirps.
"Circles" previously appeared in Conjunctions 73.
Rae Armantrout's book Wobble (Wesleyan, 2018) was a finalist for the National Book Award. A new collection, Conjure, is forthcoming from Wesleyan in Sept. 2020. She was recently interviewed in The Paris Review's "Art of Poetry" series.
HALFLING BEAR (ECLIPSE)
the trophy hunter has it
the scientists & the media
celebrate, debate, discuss
photos of the corpse fly
all around the world
& linger for years
the miracle of courtship
alignment sought & found
the passing of a honeymoon
the wonder of apparent difference
transcended with pleasure
the private rendezvous of
polar bear & grizzly, followed
by months of solitary gestation
of nurturing, nursing
teaching the young
all the years of a young bear’s life
discoveries, missteps, accomplishments
the cultural patterning inhabited, as
taught by the mother
& the world met, step by step
into bloodlust & big money
dna proofs & a too small sample
the death of a halfling bear reveals
the minds of scientific observers
& all forms of prejudice: miscegenation
still, so scandalous
this is not a freakshow
but evidence of life unfolding
& showing its shape as it goes
the elders say, usually they fight
but not this time
"halfling bear(eclipse)" originally published in Halfling Spring: an internet romance (Kegedonce Press 2013)
Joanne Arnott is a Métis/mixed-blood writer and arts activist, originally from Manitoba, at home on the west coast. She received the Gerald Lampert Award (LCP 1992) and the Vancouver Mayor’s Art Award for Literary Arts (2017). She published six poetry books, a collection of short nonfiction and a children’s illustrated. Recent publications include her third poetry chapbook, Pensive & beyond (Nomados Press 2019) and the co-edited volume, Honouring the Strength of Indian Women: Plays, Stories and Poetry by Vera Manuel (U of Manitoba Press 2019). She is Poetry Mentor for The Writers Studio, SFU, and Poetry Editor for EVENT Magazine.
READING THE MURMURATIONS
In the end times, they say,
the birds might silence themselves,
drop feathers as hints, molt at odd times,
and mate with their fiercest rivals.
But the days will arrive
no bells rung with symbolism,
no trumpet voluntary flourish,
no drums rolling attendant.
They will have already arrived,
these muted and too quiet days,
dressed in common clothing
and pretending to fit in–
silencing mothers and lovers
as they come, trailing catastrophe
in their muddied wake.
Kim Fahner was the fourth poet laureate for the City of Greater Sudbury (2016-18), and was the first woman appointed to the role. Her latest book of poems is These Wings (Pedlar Press, 2019). She is a member of the League of Canadian Poets, the Writers’ Union of Canada, and a supporting member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. Kim blogs fairly regularly at kimfahner.wordpress.com and can be reached via her author website at www.kimfahner.com
it’s all unseasonal rains
winter in the Great Lakes these days
in niibin the boreal is ablaze
the amazon and outback aflame
increasing tsunamis and earthquakes
and all we can do is yell CLIMATE CHANGE
what else do we say?
while the US keeps taking brown babies away
numbered like the West Bank
Japanese internment camps
the Indian act
our migration routes are older than your borders
we have cultural items older than your legal orders
this is natural law renaissance
embodying ancestors’ excellence
bringing land back
on ready when RCMP attack
resistance is a way of living
Sâkihitowin Awâsis is a Michif Anishinaabe two-spirit water protector, geographer, and spoken word artist from the pine marten clan. She has contributed poetry to Forever Loved: Exposing the Hidden Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada, Red Rising Magazine, kimiwan ‘zine, and Introducing Atrocities Against Indigenous Canadians for Dummies. She is continually inspired by acts of decolonization, Indigenous resurgence, and community resistance. Follow @awan.ikwe.
SCREAMING INTO A PIANO
… The pictures captured a mood of as much astonishment as joy; it was as if the delegates could not quite believe they had succeeded in reaching an agreement of such significance.
- Amitav Ghosh
Recalling decision 1 / CP.17 on the establishment of a room
wide enough to hold your imagining. Like the moon
fallen onto the field, new
& mistaken by my aunt for a spaceship. Also recalling
relevant decisions to respond to everything by screaming.
Rain lines. Parts per million diluted
light. Each acre along this river
& if there are still children blowing tufts int o
iv e n
the adoption of planned repairs for the south
entrance north alley west gate. Recognizing that
even in crossing towards it I would stubbornly
remain a parallel incident. Reimagining no one
there. Back bicycle wheel spinning
hillside. Throwing the moon.
Acknowledging that agreeing to uphold & promote
revisions ought to be enough
this time. Singing.
"Screaming into a Piano" previously appeared in a chapbook Night Leaves Nothing New (Baseline Press Oct 2019)
Emily Lu earned her B.Sc. at the University of Toronto and her M.D. at Queen’s University. Currently completing her postgraduate training in psychiatry, she lives in London, Ontario. Night Leaves Nothing New (Baseline Press) is her first chapbook.
Watch Your Head is an online anthology of creative works devoted to the climate crisis and climate justice.
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