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.
WATERY HIGHWAYS HOME
Roll down the car window –
of the winter wren.
The world’s sorrow
is fathoms deep,
is undertow –
it shapes the darkness
that contains us.
What kind of broken are we?
releases into light
above the trees.
Is it wind
What is sound
air guns detonating
shock waves of noise –
a babbling calf
trailing its mother’s
code, the audio glue
of pods on the move,
on watery highways
home. A wonder
can hear another.
Where are you?
Where are you?
Cornelia Hoogland’s forthcoming chapbook, titled Dressed in Only a Cardigan, She Picks Up Her Tracks in the Snow, is forthcoming with Baseline Press (2021). Her latest book is Cosmic Bowling (Guernica, 2020), a collaboration with the visual artist Ted Goodden. Trailer Park Elegy and Woods Wolf Girl were finalists for national awards. Hoogland was the 2019 writer-in-residence for the Al Purdy A-Frame and the Whistler Festival. http://www.corneliahoogland.com/
Samantha Jones lives and writes in Calgary, Alberta on Treaty 7 territory, and is mixed Black Canadian and white settler. Her poetry appears in Blanket Sea, CV2, Grain, MixedMag, New Forum, Room, and elsewhere. She is currently a PhD candidate in Geography at the University of Calgary where she studies carbon dioxide cycling in rivers and the coastal Arctic Ocean. Find her on Twitter: @jones_yyc.
A DISCUSSION WITH OLD MAN WHO LIVES IN THE FOREST
Old Javanese: urang [person] utan [forest], or “person of the forest”
In the treetops, I once saw my grandfather wrap a cigarette filled
with cloves and cardamom. Watched him take a pull and felt
the marrow thin inside my bones. The aroma, a reminder of
places I intended to go, though they had receded into a room called
extinction. It was odd to see him there. His beaded eyes a reminder
that culture and the wild-man were not incongruent like
the translations may say. Arms languid and longer than recalling.
There is no need to split apart my body to search for
the similarities. His flapping cheeks
are shaped in apocalyptic medallions like my brothers. Ache
unfurls at the vision of smiling red hairs, while I remain at
the precipice of the street below. He starts a puff,
did you ever stop to consider that Enkidu represents
the start of the Anthropocene?
“I no longer have the four arms essential to semi-terrestrial living.
If we spent eighty percent of our lives in trees, we’d ache less.”
He sees irony, a corn of transcendental hypocrisy,
to this fir-framed house liver, but it’s his blood. In the middle
of the night, she wears solitude in the plenty of her veins and
he sews the bones. Clotted with wars and grafts,
cultivations serving a new purpose: pushing nutrition further into
fissures too deep that only plantations exist there. Impenetrable
flat cacophony incurs scarcity and violence upon
the next generation of everything. She wants to fix forever, but the paws
and fungi that used to cross paths for tea have already been replaced.
He watches her quivering aftereffects of stitching,
don’t let the palms take root like the Asphodel Fields,
they make you forget of the habitats that once were.
It’s an odd sight, to see him on a mechanical contraption,
peddles elucidating the enormity of his legs. Large V’s
jutting out like wings of a collapsing aircraft, a spectacle
not meant to be observed. A saffron-cloak and rollup in his jaw
frees his arms for travel. This time, he has come to visit her. Axles and
wheels a vortex to further phenomenological
discussions. She wants to dream of a good place, barren from
complications, but the body is hectic with museums trips and forecasts.
He enters her cerebrum the way one enters a show,
popcorn and candies in stuffed purses. She’s read up on Heidegger
and Euripides, but the discourse isn’t enough to stop a cynical
critic of a family member. In low coos he throws the mantle,
every person in your time is Melinoë birthed from inherited madness,
birthed from a river in the underworld. so swim through it in victory.
As a Canadian, Maryam Gowralli draws inspiration from her Trinidadian-Indian and Indonesian heritage. She is an MA student in English Literature at the University of Calgary and is the Creative Nonfiction Editor for filling Station magazine. Her debut poetry collection, Citizenship in Water is forthcoming with That Painted Horse Press in 2021. You can find her works at PRISM International, The Carribean Journal and untethered magazine among others.
the morning sky behind my office building
was a fading orange:
an old painting before restoration,
it was the type of orange
I could almost taste:
the cloudy memory of my Nonna’s knotted knuckles
in the golden hour glow of
the type of orange
I could almost hear:
the distant creak of my Nonna’s
I walked through the
into the office,
where there were no orange tastes or orange sounds
too white to hold
anything at all
when I left,
the sun was long set,
its morning colour, already a memory
THE OTHER SIDE
we fell in love
out of tree branches
whispering wonderings about the ancient history of its bark,
about the long-lit office building windows on the
of the river
that carried ducks and swans and geese
and tissues and
plastic bags and
empty vodka bottles and
fast food trash
our first date
we snuck onto the city
one side overlooking the
sunlight-adorned stream, the
autumn leaves falling like slow tears the
a parking lot
we walked through
a forest with no path
with our discovery
chattering about how more people should
fall in love
we came upon
eyes wild with panic,
limbs entangled in
plastic Halloween decorations
Cassandra is a Strategist at a marketing agency in Toronto, having graduated with an Honors Specialization in Creative Writing and a Master of Media from the University of Western Ontario. She has been published with eMpower Magazine, The Feminine Collective, Beautiful Losers Magazine, Pip Magazine, The Impressment Gang and Synaerisis Press. While studying at Western, she published a literary and arts zine to raise money to support the International Planned Parenthood Federation. She currently serves on the editorial board for Room Magazine and is always looking for new ways to connect with and serve her community through the arts. Twitter and Instagram: @cassandracervi
I saw the icons of my generation trashed, pounded, run over.
Sunlight, Madge, we were soaking in it. That box that held our Kisses
was flat. Lifestyle came undone so that life was hanging on by the grate
and style underfoot. What happened is everywhere.
"The future is in plastics," said the man in The Graduate, and it is.
One night last century, I dreamt I sat on a high wall, an open book
on the ground and the sea rose. Be careful the book! I called.
The water came anyway. What is precious and who cares and how much?
To each her own footwear in the apocalypse. It’s not just the litter, it’s the latter.
But some people notice. Someone took these pictures.
In Australia, fire eats the houses.
In Venice, someone's couch was swept into high water.
Tourists looted the Vuitton store and swam away with the goods.
Since Tom Waits isn't dead I call out. What am I seeing?
Misery’s the river of the soul, he says. Everybody row.
The young are out mopping, because there's no school when
there's no school. And the old, well, it doesn’t matter how tired and dazed you are
when you’re up to your knees. All you can do is wait. The tide will turn.
Sunlight. The real thing. Until the next siren. Fire and water and fire and so on.
Sisyphus that old trooper. Sisyphus is us.
I SAID TO THE SUN,
"Good morning, I love you. But please can you also go to Venice?"
They are drowned from exhaustion, mopping up.
'We are down on our knees', their mayor said. And as if too much
feeling added 'but only when praying.'
The sun was not political. She said, "I’ve been here
since the beginning but I’m not alone.
The sky is my company and the ocean is riled
and there is unholy steam from the ground.
I should stop my breathing in California,
Australia, across the Amazon they don’t want me.
The earth is my mirror. Cracked and dark. Or soaked.
Wherever I go, I am too much, and not enough."
And the sun shone weakly. Which was not enough.
Didn’t know if she was coming or going
and she was both.
A voice said, "remember, when your Republic really gets into trouble
there is only one way out: SAY YOU'RE SORRY
THEN BUILD A SPECTACULAR CHURCH, GRAND
ENOUGH TO CATCH THE EYE OF THE MADONNA! It works!"
I looked at the watercolor of Salute Cathedral built by plague survivors
in 1631. That floor I'd stood on with its mesmeric tiles.
Today, locals stream in for Festa della Madonna,
If I were down to my last pennies of hope, would I fling one into a flood
and make a wish? Throw a coin and see which side faces up? Look there?
My eyes are open and on the sky. What we love cannot save us.
The sun is down now and searing the other side.
And I am writing from the present to say,
"Goodnight, dear friend. I hope you find some
peace tonight, though you turn and turn."
THE NIGHT THE RHINOS CAME
The night the rhinos came we had nowhere else to look.
They were not accusatory, but trotted towards us like big dogs.
One turned her face left to show us her profile,
batted one eye at ours and fluttered there. To watch
a three-thousand-pound animal flutter makes a great gape of awe.
The children shrieked: He's looking at me!
For size is often male,
and scares or flatters us with its attention.
But she has nothing to do with that.
And trots away.
If this were a dance, a dream meeting,
we might bow and leave her.
But someone among us here is dreaming
power, will buy a rifle,
run out and begin the killing,
is already having nightmares, planning
an illustrious future.
It's still possible to love
how small we are
in the face of her face
and our fragility.
"The Future” was published in “The Litter I See Project” in February 2020.
The voice quoted in stanza 5 of “I Said to the Sun” is Cat Bauer’s from her blog "Venetian Cat, The Venice Blog: Venice, The Veneto and Beyond”
November 23, 2013
“The Night the Rhinos Came” was commissioned for the symposium “Rhinoceros: Luxury’s Fragile Frontier” which was held in Venice, Italy in 2018 and published in the exhibition catalogue. It was also published in Canthius in 2019. In 2021, it will be included in a special issue of Luxury: History, Culture, and Consumption focused on the Venice symposium and edited by Catherine Kovesi.
Ronna Bloom is a teacher, writing coach, and the author of six books of poetry. Her most recent book, The More, was published by Pedlar Press in 2017 and long listed for the City of Toronto Book Award. Her poems have been recorded by the CNIB and translated into Spanish, Bangla, and Chinese. She is currently Poet in Community at the University of Toronto and developed the first poet in residence program at Sinai Health which ran from 2012-2019. Ronna runs workshops and gives talks on poetry, spontaneity, and awareness through writing.
Pollok Free State, 1995 (i.m. Colin Macleod)
New car smell rammed into the roadbed until it stinks
of the earth’s gut: muddy leaves, wet dog, plum-cake.
Lichen-rust tectonic under bonnets, engines furred.
Headlight bulbs are goldfish bowls, tenantless. Doors pucker
with each slam and the boot flaps like a gull-wing.
Twin-exhausts are organ pipes, emptying. Everything natural,
every thing resourced: we make the things that make us,
moulded or vulcanised. Blacked tyres made up with stibnite.
When we fire them, rubber drips from the wheel-arches like hot sugar,
sweet petroarticles of faith on the tongue. We circle
each instant monument, generous heretics, knowing
these are ugly gods – bitter in the stomach, black in the lung.
ANIMAL TRIALS: STATEMENT FROM THE TRIAL OF THE WEEVILS OF SAINT JULIEN
In the spring of 1587…some weevils were arraigned before the ecclesiastical court
in St Jean-de-Maurienne for despoiling the vineyards of St Julien.
John Harwood, ‘Deliver Us from Weevils’, Literary Review, August 2013
If I may speak
on behalf of my sisters
who, of late, have sprung
bright from the soil and turned
these vineyards into frail
stock and failed wines;
at no time did we act
contrary to our creation;
and, indeed, as you will know
Reverend Father, your wormy
books spell out in calfskin
and ink, that we precede
your own ape-like standing
in the Great Chain of Being.
God created animals first,
– each creeping thing –
and gave us every green herb for food.
If I may be so bold: the holy vine-leaf
sweetens in our grubbing mouths;
the grape swells for us, juicy globes
without sin. You might damn
us to desist but you would do well
to remember this: this trial
will not bring the control you crave.
Insects are on the side of the angels
and we shall turn you out, even unto the grave.
"Carhenge" first published in The Scores, then Sacrifice Zones (Red Squirrel, 2020)
"Containerization" first published in Gutter, then Stitch (Tapsalteerie, 2018)
"Animal Trials: Statement from the Trial of the Weevils of Saint Julien" published in Sacrifice Zones (Red Squirrel, 2020)
Samuel Tongue's first collection is Sacrifice Zones (Red Squirrel, 2020) and he has published two pamphlets: Stitch (Tapsalteerie, 2018) and Hauling-Out (Eyewear, 2016). Poems have appeared in Magma, The Compass, Finished Creatures, Gutter, The Interpreter's House, Envoi and elsewhere. Samuel is Project Coordinator at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh and he lives in Glasgow. www.samueltongue.com; Twitter: @SamuelTongue
IF SATURDAY, AN EMPTY PARKING LOT
If the horse fence was split-rail
and I had an apple in my hand.
If mom and pop grocery stores still had
their ‘and.’ If I could lift out of biography
into sand and compost, hand-mixed
and laid in low spots in the yard.
If the knock at the door was a parcel
instead of a politician, if we built each day
the way a spider shuttles a web,
warp of anchor threads,
weft of hours to hammock in.
If woodstoves, whiskey, and new friends.
If barefooted, weeding garden beds.
If cold frames greened fall plates.
If boards that shudder in gale winds
held another eighty years, if Canada
warms at twice the rate of other countries.
If we stopped taking airplanes
we’d never see our families again.
If we could ride air currents with crows
fingers feathered, if the small stones
of deer tracks foretold the future.
If we weren’t afraid.
If babies were born healthy.
If this body was a bubble wand
held open to wind.
Bren Simmers’ first book of non-fiction, Pivot Point (Gaspereau Press, 2019), is a lyrical account of a nine-day wilderness canoe journey. She is also the author of three books of poetry: If, When (Gaspereau Press, 2021), Hastings-Sunrise (Nightwood Editions, 2015), which was a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award, and Night Gears (Wolsak & Wynn, 2010). A lifelong west coaster, she now lives on PEI.
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.
Stephen Barrett is a writer, teacher, dad and husband. He composes poetry, writes songs and loves playing his guitar and blues harp. Winters are spent scouring used bookstores in Toronto for old volumes of poetry and summers walking the shores of Lake Huron looking for unique stones and detritus on the beach.
FAREWELL, MY SEA
— poem for the Salish Sea
The morning the quake hit the city
I swore I’d ride full gallop into that sea
never look back. I listened to Jay-Z, shoved
tiny nectarines into my satchel,
and fled West past the Prime Minister
who stood at the corner of 4th and Trutch
disguised as a Dutch milkmaid with rosy cheeks.
Kits beach was furious.
But I found my pony di Esperia
standing in my dory and so put myself
upon her and we rowed –
At Howe Sound a gang of dinghies
shepherded by muscular oilers slicked up around us.
In their faces the coast was a Shrinky Dink.
Dogs and cats galore were chucked and dunked
into the floatsam. The masked activists who had lain
their bodies down beneath bulldozers at Burnaby Mountain
flung themselves straight as arrows off the Sea-to-Sky cliffs.
Pony and I, in those first days, small in our boat,
shared our raisins and stale Triscuits with pirates
from Fort McMurray who stabbed each other up for their last rails.
All of the city’s private property was now public, but useless,
floating as it was, in shit. None of it, not the iPhones or Jaguars,
the Hunter boots or toy giraffes imported
from France, now bobbing maniacally in the water,
mattered. We shared stories and whatever raisins were left.
Alanis Obomsawin, sitting around our campfire beside Pauline Johnson,
asked what colour the sky was. St. Kateri Tekakwitha,
Ike and Tina, Joan of Arc, Marco Polo, Snuffaluffagus— they all came
galumphing back. Buffy St. Marie. Neil Young. Louis Riel.
We all sat around roasting raisins –
all of us intermittently
marooned on an unidentifiable Arctic island at Great Bear Lake. The sky?
We hadn’t looked at it.
Babies cried. Laura Secord handed out milkshakes.
Georgia O’Keefe stood as still as a petroglyph, entranced
by the horizon. We’d come too seldom
to the ocean. We were too busy with the 21st century.
But eternal return isn’t infinite. Not everyone comes back,
nothing lasts. My pony refused to do the dirty work
and her brackish eyes were glassy. On her way to the slaughterhouse,
years ago, standing in a dark box car, despondent, she felt the sudden
hospitality of a man’s arms around her neck.
Turns out those arms were Nietzsche’s, crash-test dummy,
beloved by thousands of boy students of philosophy
the world over, lover of blood and birds and horses. When, after more
Arctic transit, we moved from ice cap to ice cap and watched off
the coast of Greenland the final outburst of the tide
flower up and die, we stopped
so that Pony could peer into the oily face of the sea.
*This poem was published at New Poetry (ed. George Murray) in 2018.
Previously published at New Poetry (ed. George Murray) in 2018.
Gillian Jerome is the author of a book of poems, Red Nest, which was nominated for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and won the ReLit Award. She co-edited an oral history project, Hope in Shadows: Stories and Photographs from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, which won the 2008 City of Vancouver Book Award. Her poems have recently appeared in GEIST, Hunger Mountain and New Poetry. She teaches literatures and writing at the University of British Columbia where she has taught full-time since 2004. She serves a teacher-mentor in the Poetry in Voice program and teaches sexual health to teenagers. Born in Ottawa and raised in Orléans, Ontario, she lives in Vancouver with her daughters, Rory and Micah Sophia, and their silver-eyed unicorn Geneviève Hugo.
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.
She hopes no one sees her superstition
built on years of evidence.
Two fingers to her lips, a kiss
blown in quiet embarrassment,
Inherited from buck,
long gone buck,
bye bye buck.
The rivers break and the banks crumble,
Marney Isaac is a Professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of Toronto. Her research program investigates plant-soil interactions and ecological principles that govern the structure and function of diversified agroecosystems. Dr. Isaac serves on the editorial board of applied ecology and agronomy journals and has published widely in the field of environmental science. She has also contributed to numerous non-scientific writing projects, including the uTOpia series GreenTOpia: Towards a Sustainable Toronto (Coach House Books).
LOVELETTERS TO THE DEEP
My eyes & conscience are clear.
I filled my backpack with rocks
& loveletters to the deep & swung
it into the lake. I grew up with hardened
shoreline instead of sand between my toes.
Myths become less plausible every day. Mermaids
pulling twist ties from their gills & kraken choking
on plastic bags mistaken for squid, limbs shredded
Oil slicked wings hold no air, no matter
the skies they fold into themselves.
Rivers choked with plastic like my father’s arteries,
dredged from the bones of sleeping giants, cling wraps
the voice to my throat
for a species that worships gods of convenience.
I sunk a knife into a tree trunk &
it bled. I tore open my calf on a
rusted nail & tried to stop the
sap leaking through my fingers.
I raised a rifle to my shoulder,
shot the expectant moon & felt the
spray on my cheek. Felt the
I set fire to the sea & built
palaces of salt.
Our futures have gone from picket fences
to picket lines. Youth is its own burden.
I explain to an old white man why having
children would feel immoral, & he suggests
I trust that they will fix this, as if that was not
what his generation already did. Blind faith in
false gods, hope an offering left at their shrines.
Myths become less plausible every day.
My eyes & conscience are clear.
Qurat Dar (she/they) is a spoken word performer, poet, multi-genre writer, and environmental engineering student. She has had work in Augur Magazine, The Temz Review, and Anathema Magazine, among others. Qurat was a 2019 recipient of the Ron Lenyk Inspiring Youth Arts Award and is a Best of the Net finalist. She was also recently crowned the 2020 Canadian Individual Poetry Slam (CIPS) National Champion. Their debut poetry chapbook is forthcoming with Coven Editions.
Find them on Instagram: @itsnotquart and Twitter: @itsnotquart
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.
cars pass through the tainted streetlights of suburbia
while racoons ravage through yesterday’s trash
and crickets talk to the trees
“where did all those bees go?”
and leaves lazily linger on branches
and sparrows speak of
when the racoons retire from trashcan diving
and the crickets cry
and the trees try
to bring back the bees
because cars passed through
and homes were built brick after brick
on top of nests and nestles
one after the other
until one day
home was as hollow as a bird bone
Lauren Lee is a graduate from Western University with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. She writes creative non-fiction and poetry; her work has been published in Iconoclast (2020) Occasus Literary Journal (2018).
SURVIVING THE CATASTROPHE 1
The rough beasts crash and lumber,
scales flashing, brilliant in the falling
sun. When they swing their great heads,
this way, and that,
scanning for danger,
we still ourselves.
We are but notions
beavering into shadows,
too small to merit
even their disdain.
They rise up fiercely tall and stupid,
then slouch off toward Washington,
Jerusalem, Beijing, Berlin, Moscow,
claiming for themselves,
this devastated paradise,
raging at the meteoric gods.
We flee from the Jurassic
chaos into tunnels
of anticipated spring.
their rotting leaves–
we sip our wine,
and craft a plan:
first we take New Mexico.
Then we take our time.
 The poem is based on the life of Kimbetopsalis simmonsae, a small, herbivorous, beaver-like mammal that survived the event that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Its fossil was found in what is today New Mexico.
A veterinary epidemiologist, David Waltner-Toews has published more than 20 books of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. His most recent book (nonfiction) is On Pandemics: Deadly Diseases from Bubonic Plague to Coronavirus (Greystone, 2020). His poetry books have been published by McClelland and Stewart, Brick Books, and Turnstone Press. More information can be found on his website: https://davidwaltnertoews.wordpress.com/
PLACES TO INTERVENE IN A SYSTEM
No one kept watch, except
all of us.
We made human chains we
wrote operas we
conducted interviews and
released the data and started
smoking again, bought up everything
we could just to stop it, it didn’t
we found hope anyway
then lost the case, we
lay on our backs and
just floated. We saw 150 species a day
go extinct we
did not want to be people
we were tired of talking we
started singing we said maybe it’s
over, we delivered a formal apology to the salmon
did a controversial pregnant photoshoot
in front of a nuclear reactor, all those nice curves
we made page 15 of the New York Times, ok
and delighted in the letters to the editor that said
I was ‘going to give my baby cancer’ well exactly
then got scared and moved but it was everywhere
we went like my unstable worth rolling
oblongly on pink shadows of information
glamping among the facts. Friends came
and were astronomies. Self-deploying
flora volunteered. This morning the sun
of god shone on the chasmogamous violets
and the world continues in great detail.
What shall I do with my information
I’m an animal in an animal in an animal
I’m a poem of objects that live by magic*
I’m every idea I ever had, I’ll just stay here
as a person. I have a photographic mouth
* Anna Mendelssohn
Thinking is my fighting,
said Virginia Woolf, in the middle
Are we in the middle of war
A war with the sea
A war with the air
Who will wear what
the world wore
Lucid and wetly speaking
There’s no war you idiots
learn the language
hot pink sex
you don’t need money
Erin Robinsong is a poet and interdisciplinary artist working with ecological imagination. Her debut collection of poetry, Rag Cosmology (Book*hug), won the 2017 A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry, and her work has been published in Lemon Hound, Vallum, The Capilano Review, Regreen: New Canadian Ecological Poetry, among others. Collaborative performance works with Hanna Sybille Müller and Andréa de Keijzer include This ritual is not an accident; Facing away from that which is coming; revolutions; and Polymorphic Microbe Bodies (forthcoming spring 2020, at Tangente). Originally from Cortes Island, Erin lives in Montréal.
I wanted to write a poem about a deer
but by the time I got around to it,
I think it was probably already dead.
I guess that makes this an elegy.
I watched it through the chain-link fence
with my fingers clawed around the diamond-outline of its metal-
etched body, darting through the crooks of electrical towers.
No, he was a stag, big, with antlers, and with ink-
deep eyes that I could look into and I would feel them
like he was looking into me and not bleating with his eyes shut.
He kept reeling around on his two back legs and his soft browns looked grey
like the grass and the pile of concrete cylinders to the right. His nose kept
spraying out these puffs of hot sleet and there was all this steam
coming off his back. I could see the meat
pulsing around his bones. I wanted to call someone to catch
him, help him, or—I wanted to grab someone’s
arms hard and tell them he needed help. I wanted to
press my palms flat on his wet, shaking body.
I wanted to help him. Instead, I watched him smack
his hooves off a path of broken asphalt slabs
and disappear down the drooping rows
of thick black cables.
Previously published in The Rusty Toque, Nov. 2013
Jessica Bebenek is a writer, bookmaker, & interdisciplinary artist living in Tiohtià:ke (Montreal), unceded land of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation. Her creative work can be found in PRISM, Prairie Fire, CV2, Arc, and Grain, among other places. Her third poetry chapbook, Fourth Walk, was published by Desert Pets Press in 2017, and her collection of knitting patterns for poems, k2tog, was released by Berlin’s Broken Dimanche Press in 2019. She works as a writer, teacher, and bookmaker, and is currently completing a full-length poetry collection, No One Knows Us There.
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.
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.
FOXES IN MICHIGAN
hundreds of pelts
drip off a flatbed truck
spilling faces and paws
within our reach
flap in the backdraft
to the mouth of the mighty Route 66
their innards still pastel pink
like Johnson’s baby oil bottles
sticky from slaughter
dried musk-laden riverbeds
lead us to distant edges
splendid piles of matted fur
splayed voyageurs just
foraged in the woods
below hawks’ nests
not knowing their future
hides tanned, skins cured
suspended in a forever-sleep
of glass-bead eyes
dashed hopes and highway lines
Archana Sridhar is a poet and university administrator living in Toronto. Archana focuses on themes of meditation, race, motherhood, and diaspora in her poetry and flash writing. Her work has been featured in The Puritan, Barren Magazine, The /tƐmz/ Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbook "Renderings" is available through 845 Press, and her writing can be found at www.archanasridhar.com.
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.
in the water before the eye
barbed wire tree mine of bone
who flashed bland sea for bargain
can’t return a banished house or tiny mineral father
couldn’t lose a follow brother singing another wind tune
grows out of trench a trailing sea pried open grey city
smells like orphan and sweat a small muscle world
a kind of thick pouring chaining hush of voices circling up sky
"Jailed Tree" first published in R2: the Rice Review.
BREATH FOR GUAN YIN
1. brought to pond 10,000 steps a hum
each cascade of yellow tile supported by sturdy red
one metal figure waiting on water to quiet mind’s battle
metallic rain horde means fill your bathtub cook all food no water in grocery store gas
station line to empty crush of leftover white cardboard boxes floorlength we unpack lift
no bathing no showering do we have an axe? a tight set of drawers in lungs
slow a breath for ritual smoke
open late door and friend a shoe on busy rack
enter already-breathing room one hundred golden figures sitting in perch
each sewn seat in neat place
considering attic a man walks in front of watching window no shoes we could second
each foot slowly again again
floor it a message says to knock on airbnb door
2. man or woman? man or woman? no other options at check-in ladies or jocks?
no time for questions 11 size sneakers pair of grey shorts woman’s blouse children’s
shoes what size? line of eagers at distribution line all-day Rice University students writing
fill big blue bags sort through assembly walkers toothbrushes pillows blankets
a hot commodity special line form to right
‘don’t you Mister me!’ I see who wanted ladies’ shoes repeating request ‘I’m not a
Mister! I’m not a Mister!’ & no response before turning away from line toward a line of beds
volunteer supervisor no time for questions
I write on post-it note please no assumptions please respect please
no time for questions
3. friend said ‘all the aunties chanting’ brought me green
one sound four meanings I enter inflection meaning mother not horse
meaning guide sits sings lesson from diverging
chemical cloud ping pings a hot, rushing air all bodies in yard humming in mind
thick infection in head
can’t say I broke much trying not to ingest 10,000 hurricane microbes
let go spider tendrils
4. at the lost and found eyeglasses a credit card note left at desk because no cell
woman in wheelchair checks in again about no cell phone cold
white-haired unshaven’s waded through waters wants help calling FEMA
from Louisiana to Katrina lost bags maybe at last shelter lost daugher or son back in LA
we roll through shelter names and phone number I inhale smoke dial disembodied numbers to
how to attach sister in empty seat
how to cling worthy ache how to bring down rain
why chant dead grandmothers into room animal set loose in chest only one a
believer and other a cook preparing food for hungry repentants
5. when street drains is there pressure in street
all notes escaping injure to try not
exhume breath from body
walk away from dead night throw arms to air
hoping for birds to land
"Breath for Guan Yin" first published in Spiral.
Ching-In Chen is author of The Heart's Traffic (Arktoi/Red Hen Press, 2009) and recombinant (Kelsey Street Press, 2017; winner of the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry) as well as the chapbooks how to make black paper sing (speCt! Books, 2019) and Kundiman for Kin :: Information Retrieval for Monsters (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2020 and a Finalist for the Leslie Scalapino Award). Chen is also the co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (South End Press, 2011; AK Press 2016) and Here Is a Pen: an Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets (Achiote Press, 2009). They have received fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda, Watering Hole, Can Serrat and Imagining America and are a part of Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. A community organizer, they have worked in Asian American communities in San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside, Boston, Milwaukee and Houston. www.chinginchen.com
SEED CATALOGUE FOR THE END DAYS
Orange Sun Peppers – Drought tolerant.
Bitter Gourd – Heavily warted
green skin; excellent adaptation to
Eden White Corn – Requires isolation
from other corn. Good for home
garden or barter.
Serengeti Bush Bean – Resistant
to Bacterial Brown Spot, Common
Bean Mosaic Virus, Anthracnose,
Bulls Blood Beet – Holds up well
under long-term storage.
Atomic Red Carrot – Grows in ash.
First published in Grain Summer 2019.
Susan Haldane is a writer and editor in Northeastern Ontario. She and her husband run a grass-based livestock farm, and their farmhouse front porch looks south to Algonquin Park. Her poetry has been published in a number of Canadian journals, and her chapbook Picking Stones is with Gaspereau Press.
Tuesday: Rediscovering a mangled
manuscript, a first draft of who
we wanted to be. You skimmed
it like you remembered;
We have time now I wanted to say
We read what we could, slanted patterns of youthful
cursive: shopping malls swelling into seed libraries
bullet trains with bright red seats
workdays like hibernating hummingbirds
fucking for more than three minutes without falling asleep
When you spoke of home,
it was sliced whispers from an orca
who sang you to sleep
Who are we again? you asked, a drumfire
revolted twenty kilometres away
Remembering Spanish protesters imitating
our hearts, I want to be forgotten we read
You lay down and I did too
I read you every word until you
recognized us, Untitled melted dry on the first page
And the world spun into the unprecedented
as we constituted our antidote to the rising
Salma Saadi is a social worker and a writer. She has been published in Untethered Magazine, Sewer Lid, and Plenitude Magazine. In 2019, she participated in Writer’s Studio, a writing residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity.
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