Monday, December 11, 2017

The Emotional Lives of Animals: Upsetting to Animal Lovers

Grieving horse lays his head on the coffin of his
person, emitting cries of distress.

In Chernobyl, right after the meltdown, men with guns were sent into the abandoned villages to shoot all the animals. The horses were crying. They met the eyes of the shooters. One man reported that the message in the horses' eyes was clear: We want to live. He disconnected himself from his brain and emotions, and pulled the trigger.

Everything alive just wants to live.

I can't understand why, with so much evidence clearly present, there are still some unaware humans who think animals can't feel. They feel it all, just as we do: love, joy, devotion, sadness, loneliness, hunger, fear, pain, danger. Heartbreak. Betrayal. Grief. They love their humans, hoping only for their love and care to be returned. It breaks my heart how often their loyalty is returned with cruelty, indifference, even, far too often, abuse.

The whales in the warming seas, the lions in the canned hunting compounds, the wolves and bears stalked by helicopters and men with guns, the starving polar bears on the melting ice, they feel every bit of their fear and struggle to stay alive; they feel the pain of the bullets, as they relinquish their lives. The dogs shivering in the sub-zero cold as they are chained to fences in the biting wind and snow, it feels ridiculous to observe that they feel it and deserve shelter and protection.

The starving polar bear struggling to totter across the ice-free ground in its desperate search for food as he was dying, whose image broke our hearts this week, does not leave my mind. One day, we humans will be staggering across a barren landscape in search of food, ourselves, and then maybe we will understand exactly what we have done to this planet that struggles so hard to stay alive under the assault of human and corporate demands.

58% of the world's animals are gone. A fact too huge to absorb. What we are doing to them now, we are also doing to ourselves. 

We are cutting down the trees that give us the air we breathe. We are either a suicidal species, or one completely disconnected from nature. We do not understand our interdependance.

My heart breaks and breaks. Echoing in my mind, the simple fact: everything alive just wants to live. How is it we have gotten it so wrong?

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Distressing to Animal Lovers: the Death March of a Starving Polar Bear

I bear witness
to your suffering.
I do not turn away,
though your dying
breaks my heart.

You are living
what humankind 
has wrought,
and we are not acting
fast enough
to make things right.

So I accompany you
on your slow death march.
I bear witness
to your suffering.
I do not turn away,
though your dying
breaks my heart.

The film crew said they filmed with tears rolling down their faces. There was nothing they could do to intervene. But they filmed in order to bear witness to the catastrophic effects of climate change on wild creatures. It is painful, uncomfortable. We wish we had not seen it. What we can do: 

*bear witness
*raise awareness
*reduce, re-use, recycle
*lower own own emissions
* contact our local, regional and 
national officials insisting  that laws 
need to be enacted NOW to 
address climate change.

It is the least we can do.


photographer Paul Nicklen, National Geographic

Friday, December 8, 2017

Christmas Cheer

The stockings aren't hung.
It should be no surprise.
In today's economy,
Santa has to down-size.

The Walmart shoppers
have slowed to a trickle.
If you're not done by now,
you're in a real pickle.

Jeff slams in and out

to the front porch to smoke.
Jon groans: "Trying to sleep
in this house is a joke!"

In the living room, Steph and Gord,

tucked in their beds,
watch their dreams of a night's sleep
die in their heads.

Jeff's back! reaching for

the doorknob with glee.
Five dogs raise their heads:
"Oh, it's time to go pee!"

Walking dogs in the dark,

I fall in the ditch.
Sometimes this Christmas gig
can be a real b*tch!

Mother Hubbard arrives
to prepare the big feast.
How’ll she ever turn 
lentils and beans
to Roast Beast?

Old Dog thinks he’s died
and gone straight to Dog Hell,
and his owner suspects
she has gone there as well,

For sixteen humans 
are coming for dinner
and bringing eight dogs.
Someone’s a real winner!

I’m the old woman 
who lives in a shoe.
We’ll have to hang ‘em on pegs
or else go somewhere new.

Two hundred inches 
of rain falling down:
Here’s hoping Santa 
and his reindeer don’t drown.

I can make it 'til Christmas 
is over, I think,
especially if you pour me 
one more little drink ;)

LOL. This is a tongue-in-cheek look at coping with the holidays. 

It is based on an actual Christmas our family had some years back, when there were half as many dogs as people, and I still lived in my sweet little trailer in the country. It was the best Christmas ever!

I don't actually advocate alcohol as a coping mechanism. But one little glass to soften the edges can definitely help. Smiles.

Am sharing this with the Poetry Pantry at Poets United on Sunday. Do come and join us.

Me, Too

Noor Fadel with Jake Taylor,
who intervened in a Skytrain attack in Vancouver

He said,
"Go home to your country",
but this is my country.
He yelled, threatened me,
struck me,
tried to shove my head
in his crotch.
He tried to remove my hijab.
The other passengers
sat in silence.
No one helped
except one young man,
who stood between me 
and the attacker
and told him to leave.
My protector."

"What does it mean 
to be a Canadian?
It's not just by
how you look."

On December 6, on a Skytrain in Vancouver, B.C., an eighteen year old girl was threatened, struck and sexually assaulted by a 46 year old man, while a car full of passengers sat in silence. Only one young man came to stand between her and the assailant, after she was struck, telling him to "get the f off". Thankfully, Noor was able to take photos with her phone and the man was apprehended, arrested and charged. As appalling to me as the assault is the car full of people sitting in silence. "It is a dangerous world for a girl child in a world of men," says Alice Walker in The Color Purple. I am proud of the young man who intervened. Good for him.

for my prompt at Real Toads: Me, too, the Silence Breakers. So many stories. So much darkness. But thankfully, also a lot of light.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Message to a Young Warrior Woman

I know the journey
you are making, 
my young friend,
for I, too, have walked
pain's pathway.
Know this: the route
will make you strong.
As you grow, 
your warrior woman
will arise.
(She is waking now.)
Your inner fire 
has been dampened,
but not extinguished,
by those unable to see
who you are.
One day, little bird,
you will fly.

Right now you are at 
the end of the branch,
contemplating the sky,
wondering what soaring 
might feel like.

Gather the air 
under your wings, 
little bird,
and, when you feel ready, 
lift off,
trusting the sky
to carry you.

But always remember:
the longest journey that
we ever make
is the one between
our heads
and our hearts.

***   ***   ***

"Me, too," I wrote on facebook,
recalling a cold and painful past.
"Me, too," wrote both my daughters,
able to speak of it at last.
"Me, too,"  added my granddaughter,
girl of fire and storm.
"Me, too," is now a sisterhood,
a planet to transform.

***   ***   ***

A wise medicine man once said to me: "Your greatest pain is your strongest medicine". And he was right. For my prompt at Real Toads: to write about women, in response to the "Me, too" movement.

In the Land of Delusion, the Narcissist is King

The narcissus turn brown
and fall off their stalks
when he enters the room,
for he takes up all the air.
His pronouncements waft forth
with no reasoning, affecting nations.
He doesn't bother his head
with the fallout.

He would scrape the faces 
off monuments,
replacing them with his own.
There is no soul in his eyes,
only Self,
and delusion.

How much longer must 
a country bear
a demented emperor?

Where is the child
- or legislator,
or Congressman -
who will say:
He has no clothes?
no substance?
no heart?

Ha. Didnt have to look far for a narcissist, sadly. For Susan's prompt at Midweek Motif: Narcissus / Narcissism. Gah!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Sunsets of December

All summer I bemoaned not getting to sunsets because I went to bed earlier than the sun did. Now that it is conveniently setting at 4:30, I managed to get there last night, and this is the result........we are having a week of sun, so there will be one every night this week. I wont get to all of them, but definitely will see one or two. Yippee!

Saturday, December 2, 2017


Expansive Mother Sky,
in all your greys and blues,
your hazy autumn hues,
you hold my heart
the way the rugged maple
holds the twiggy nest
in which sits a wee brown bird,
serene, and softly singing.


Small bird,
with your sweetness
you are
the bodhisattva
of my morning.
you awaken me
to the plight of all beings.


who own only feathers,
are far happier 
than we.
Teach us your song.


One from 2015, to be shared with the Poetry Pantry at  Poets  United,  where you will find fine reading every Sunday morning.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Bittersweet Goodbyes

a pair of cooing birds
on my birthday,
his dark beauty
as he gifted me
with doves.

the small finch
to his hand,
his dark eyes
smiling at me
across the room.

the day
I told him
that I had to go,
his hand opening the door
of the dove's cage
and setting her free.

Bittersweet moments,
the rest of my life,
every time I hear
the call of doves
from the trees.

for Susan's prompt at Midweek Motif: Bittersweet. Of which life has an ample supply of moments. Smiles. And for  Kerry's prompt at Real Toads: Goodbye.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

That Farther Shore

When the angel of death
arrives at my bedside,
like the ferryman
coming around the bend
of the river,
plying his oar
with determination,
pulling alongside
and beckoning me in,

When I gaze at him,
my bed the shore,
wondering how to make
my earth-bound body
traverse the space between us
without falling,

I think I will trust
that the air will support me,
entering that bright darkness
interested in discovering
what comes next.

Yes, I think I will trust.

My life has been a voyage
of wonder and amazement.
I have made this journey,
head tipped back,
and grinning at the sky.
Trees have danced for me,
dogs and babies smiled,
my heart brimming with
the dazzle
of this beautiful world,
who performed her best
sunrises and sunsets for me,
draping the mountains 
with breathtaking mist,
always whispering
"watch this!" and then,
watch this!"

I have long loved
the stories of people
who rose - and rise -
from their heartbreaking situations
with hearts courageous as lions,
roaring their love of life
even as the hunter
raises his rifle,
not cowering,
walking into the darkness
with full hearts,
with dignity, with pride.
No surrender.

Yet when that dark angel 
comes for me,
I think I will surrender.
I will ride that bed-boat
out into the cosmos,
transfixed by all the stars,
wrapped in clouds of transformation,
soaring through the heavens,
breath held in awe.

The river of amazement
will carry me,
as it carried me
through this life,
to my next destination,
where I hope I will find loveliness
to equal or surpass
that of this world,
where I will meet
lost loved ones,
and furry tails
will thump in welcome.

At the end,
I will say
that, all of my life,
I have loved most
this earth and its beauty.
In trust, I will step into
the ferryman's boat,
ready to see what lies
on that farther shore.

Ha. I may not be that brave at all. Philosophizing after a hospice workshop. I may be a total wimp. Though in such a circumstance, there is little point in fighting. LOL. For certain, I will miss the beauty of this world. Which I hope to enjoy for many years yet.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Music of My Years

The amber notes
of my dad's alto sax
waft down the hall.
The night is young,
hearts rising
just to fall.

When the band 
finds its groove,
the floor and walls 
all vibrate with
the jazzman’s beat,
up and down,
side to side,
with all those 
dancing feet.

“Someone turn on
the bubble machine!”
my father cries.
He is the hero of
the golden horn
- he glows -
its notes the background music
of everything 
I know.

“Stardust,” “As Time Goes By,
and "I'll Get By",
- my parents' theme -
I grew up marinated 
in their love songs,
the music that taught me
how to dream.

In counterpoint,
his alto clarinet,
the mellow notes
of summer afternoons,
mellifluously serenading
those tender years,
his beautiful music 
way too soon.

for Jazz Poetry with Amaya at dVerse. And I will share it with the Poetry Pantry at Poets United, where there is great reading every Sunday morning.


Another Winter

The Christmas
after he died,
my sister gave me
a faux fur throw,
the colour of a wolf.
I held it to me,
rocking back and forth,
my big, black noisy boy,
my grief
making my daughter 

It is another winter.
I sit in my cozy chair,
watching the rain,
the dancing trees,
and the small birds 
that come to feed
on my front porch.

is our way 
of honouring
the ones we have loved 
so well.
I hold it to me,
rocking back and forth.
Like the wolf fur throw,
it offers a strange comfort -
the joy and pain
of remembering -
at once.

for Rommy's prompt at Real Toads: Creature Comforts, to choose an object that comforts us.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cedar Rose

Nimble fingers, 
focused eyes,
she fashions cedar
into the shape
of a beautiful

Her grandmother looks on
with kind, smiling eyes,
as she learns the art
of her ancestry,
carefully weaving
strands of bark
gathered prayerfully
from Grandfather Cedar.

She, herself,
child of dreams,
is a beautiful
cedar rose.

for Sumana's Midweek Motif at Poets United : Flower - Rose. Here on the West Coast, the Nuu chah nulth people remove a patch of bark and some of the living tissue underneath from the huge cedar trees. They weave the strands into cedar roses, as shown. This does not harm the tree. Trees with such evidence of bark removed are termed culturally modified trees, and may not be "harvested."

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Today I opened the door
onto grief,
that I have not put into spoken words
shared some tears and a peek
at the losses
hiding under
the brave smile
I have worn
for so long.
And it turns out
it is all right
to cry.

for Brendan's prompt at Real Toads: Doors. Today I attended a grief workshop. I have always been a strong, stoic person. As a single mom of four, I had to keep on going through many losses, with no time to grieve. And then my dog died, and released my tears.  When they are long suppressed, they will eventually come out, as they have been doing for some time now. And that is okay.

Friday, November 17, 2017


When all of life is threatened,
and barbarians are strutting through
the halls of power,
when our future survival
hangs by a thread,
it is said that is when
the Shambhala warriors 
will arrive.

They are bodhisattvas,
beings of peace.
You may not recognize them -
(or you might: 
check out Joe Kennedy III
and Barak Obama) -
as they will look like everyone else.
(Look for eyes that shine
with spirit and compassion).
The Shambhala Warriors 
will walk the corridors of power
armed with two weapons
  - compassion and insight.
With courage and integrity,
they will dismantle 
the ways of death,
and lead us on a new path,
for the time has come
for a great Turning.

When you feel this earth grief 
we carry
is too much to bear, 
take heart.
It is because you care
that you are alive 
at just this moment,
to assist the transformation
from the patriarchal 
to the divine feminine.
Women are rising up everywhere.
They are planting trees and gardens,
cleaning streams and beaches,
standing guard to protect 
the sacred waters.
They are protecting life,
gathering together
to oppose the ways of war.

Women are wise in the ways
of growing things: 
food, animals, children.
They reject the ways of death.
Women understand that all things 
are connected.
Everything depends on everything else.
We are each a strand in
the web of life.

Mother Earth is speaking to us, now,
with all of her voices. 
Let us hear her,
add our voices to hers, 
and heal this world
back together again.

I wrote this in a more hopeful moment, to share with the Poetry Pantry at Poets United on Sunday.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


She was  humble, shy, eyes downcast.
In our group of mostly white people,
she deferred, listened,
as we talked, talked, talked.
We had so much to say.

She was easy to overlook.
We were so full of ourselves.

Then they called her name.
She stepped to the middle of the room,
brown dress, moccasins,
feathers in her long black hair, 
in the middle of her life
of many losses.
Suddenly, arching herself, 
one arm up, one down,
like wings,
she wailed a powerful, keening cry
that rattled the rafters,
and circled, singing.
All eyes were on her. 
We were holding our breath
in the face of such pure power,
such unmistakable grief.

I saw her, suddenly,
as a dragonfly,
symbol of metamorphosis.
She was beauty, change, light,
a shape-shifter,
who rearranged 
the cells in my body
with her cry,
leaving me

for Susie's prompt at Real Toads: Dragonfly

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The White Lions of Timbavati

The white lions of Timbavati
came here from the stars.
The shaman says the lions' fate
is intertwined with ours.
Long ago, they shared our caves.
When earth was bathed in ice,
one looked into a human's eyes,
offered himself in sacrifice.
They offered themselves to us to eat,
so humankind could survive.
In return, we have hunted them
to extinction -
just thirteen wild ones
left alive.

The legend of the white lions, many of whom have blue eyes,  is that they came to earth from a star that is aligned with Timbavati, in Africa, where they originated. The people of those lands believe white lions are messengers of the gods.  The shaman, Credo Mutwa, explains their fate is intertwined with ours and when the last white lion leaves the earth, humankind will disappear.

They have been hunted to the edge of extinction. There are now only hundreds, in captivity, mostly in canned hunting compounds, where they are being raised to be shot. There are thirteen wild ones left alive.

The Global  White Lion Protection Trust, founded by Linda Tucker, is devoted to keeping three prides of white lions alive in a 4400 acre refuge in the bushveld in Africa. Linda has written books about the white lions and her heartbreaking efforts to keep safe those few who are left. It was to Linda that Credo Mutwa told the legend of the white lions, and their link with humankind. Her book, above, is one of the best I have ever read.

for Susan's prompt at Midweek Motif: Meteor showers. I imagine a meteor  shower depositing some star lions many eons ago, in the heartlands of Africa. These lions wander through my dreams..........

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Belated Transformation

I sat beside my mother's bed as she lay dying. Our eyes met: all the words we could not say. All the missed connections, missed perceptions: in our lifetime, it had always been that way. I released the ways we never got it right; forgave, no need to hold the anger tight. Just "I love you", and her spirit flew away, out of the room, into the starry night.

Weeks later, I was driving towards her home when, in slow motion, across my windshield flew a grey owl,  feathered being, infinitely wise, as she passed me, looking deep into my eyes. Time was suspended, on this point of traveling. Somehow I felt a message had been received and, somewhere in my spirit sore, unraveling, I knew all was understood, and I believed. "Owl, swooping sideways into the forest green, bird between two worlds, all that we know and the unseen, wise watcher in the night, friend of the moon, fly after she who left my world too soon."

Fly, messenger of
my tardy transformation
into winter's sky.

Adapted from a very old poem for Victoria's prompt at dVerse : to write a nonfiction haibun that includes an owl.