Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Earth Grief

I will speak for Mother Earth,
whose innards are  being fracked,
explosions underground
sparking earthquakes and unease.

I will speak for the oilsands,
earth turned into death zones,
and for the rivers
along the pipelines' routes,
the black death seeping in,
killing all in its path.

I will speak for the birds
covered in oil,
who have lost their song.
I will speak for the wolves
and lions and tigers
who are dying out
as they're trying to live.
I will speak for the whales
swimming in an ocean
of plastic,
a warming Toxic Soup,
and for the coral and plankton
that is already all but dead.

I will speak for the salmon
trying to survive and procreate
in polluted waters.
I will speak for the polar bear
ever in search of ice
and food.

I will speak for the forests
that are burning up.
I will speak for the topsoil
that is blowing away on the wind,
and for the pesticide gardens
bringing disease to the people.

I will speak for the animals
caged in pens too small
for moving,
as they eat and grow,
and wait to be brutally killed
and then eaten.
I will speak for the bawling calf
ripped from its bellowing mother,
taken away so humans
can have the cream.

I will speak for dogs chained
for ten years
outdoors in the cold,
their misery plain in their eyes.
I will speak for the voiceless,
the captive, the dominated, the abused,
who cannot speak for themselves,
to express their despair,
who are at the mercy
of merciless folks
who think animals don't have feelings,
because they never dare to
look into their eyes
and see emotion shining
so plainly there.

I have no power,
but I have a pen and a voice
to write out my
heart full of pain
at what humans inflict on Mother Earth
and all of her creatures
for monetary gain.

Though it eases
not one small creature's burden,
and Mother Earth is suffering
at hands more powerful than mine,
it is all I can do,
bearing witness,
giving voice to our shared
creaturely and planetary pain,
to our Earth Grief -
our soul's understanding that,
if we continue as we are,
not much of earth
will remain.

posted for Elizabeth Crawford's Creativity Challenge at 1sojournal : Voice - to speak for those who have no voice. Note: today is Remembrance Day for Extinct Species. Latest statistics:
the number of wild animals living on earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020. Source

Standing Alone

photo by Lisa Barnes

He was crying in his hospital bed.
"Can I help you?" I asked.
"I'm cold. I have AIDS,
and the nurse won't come into my room."
"I'll get you a blanket,"
I said gently.
I brought him two and tucked him in.
Later, I was pleased to see the other nurse,
sitting by his bed, holding his hand,
laughing with him,
restoring my faith in human nature.


She left her marriage
because she was being abused,
but she was not believed.
Her church community went silent,
withdrew their support.
Pale and distraught,
she walked through her days alone,
being stalked and tormented,
and shunned by her community
at the same time.


She brought sexual assault charges
to protect other women
from what she had gone through.
But it was she
who went on trial.
It was she whose past was shredded,
whose integrity was attacked.
whose testimony was questioned.
In the end, he walked free.


Well, one doesn't have to look far when it comes to incidents of social stigma. Posted for Susan's prompt at Midweek Motif: Social Stigma.

Monday, November 28, 2016

I Will Stand For the Wildlands

What will I defend,
in this topsy-turvy world,
setting off in a direction
we never expected?
I will stand for the wildlands
and its creatures, who are 
fast disappearing.
I will stand for their habitat,
being laid waste for dollars,
and for the dying whales
in the warming sea.
I will speak for the polar bears, 
swimming ten miles for a meal 
where the ice used to be.

I will wield my pen till my last breath
saying: "Please! Stop!
Take measure of what we are doing
to Mother Earth,
who is patient,
but who can't withstand, forever,
all the good we are taking from her,
all the bad we are dumping into her waters,
and expelling into her air."

I will defend the indigenous peoples' right
to exist, free from oppression, 
and corporate takeovers
of their sacred lands,
for they love and understand the land,
and we should be listening to them.

I will defend Mother Wolf
and her babies from harm,
as the helicopters hover,
and the men raise their guns.

I will stand for the wildlands,
the trees and the birds.
I will stand for the last of the last
wild creatures,
lion and elephant,
tiger and bear. 
As they pace their slow way
into history, I will sadly
and tearfully
wave them goodbye.

for Elizabeth Crawford's Creativity Challenge at 1sojournal: Defend: what will you defend in this current political climate?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

I Oppose

You say build a wall,
and I oppose.

You say women
belong in the kitchen
and I oppose.

You say entire races of people
are bad and to be banished.
I oppose.

You say global warming
is a myth
and I most strenuously oppose.
(Do you know the first few floors
of trump towers
will be underwater
when the ocean rises?
The gold-plated ceilings
won't help you then.)

You say lies are truth
and some believe,
but I oppose.

You said the votes were rigged,
and I say maybe you
are the one who rigged them.

You say drain the swamp,
then you set loose the alligators.
Don't think I don't see them,
slithering through
the halls of power.
Don't think I am so ignorant
I don't understand it is
corporations and big money
that are running the world
into the ditch
for their own obscene wealth.
I recognize that now the system
will be even more heavily skewed
to benefit the rich,
especially you.

The working class wanted change
then elected a billionaire
who pays no taxes.
The people of Standing Rock
have little chance
when the president-elect owns interests
in the pipeline.
(Sorry, you will never earn
a capital P
from me.)

I try not to despair,
yet  feel we're screwed.
But with every fibre of my being,
every beat of my heart,
with everything in my soul:
I oppose.

For Elizabeth Crawford's creativity challenge: Opposition, a word I can definitely wrap my pen around.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

This Poem

This poem is a soft thought in a hard week.
This poem is love for a struggling planet 
and all its beings.
This poem is a breathing space, 
to inspire our best hopes,
our deepest  dreams and aspirations.

This poem looks at the news and its heart hurts,
its stomach knots.
This poem knows this turning is going 
the wrong way.
This poem stands with 
the people of Standing Rock
whose voices will not be heard, 
will not be heard,
will not be heard.
This poem knows that none of our voices
are being heard.

This poem sees a magical planet
of beauty and abundance
being willfully destroyed by greedy corporations
who do not care.
This poem sees icebergs melting,
and whole species becoming extinct.
The ocean is dying, sending up last gasps,
in hope we humans might hear its distress in time.
This poem knows it may already be too late.
Yet, still, we must try.
For this poem loves every wave, every ancient tree, 
every bird and beast too much to give up.
This poem's heart hurts for every suffering being
struggling to survive on Mother Earth.

This poem takes a deep breath for it has a job to do.
Against all odds, it needs to inspire hope,
add something positive, something peaceful,
not add more distress to a heartbreaking mess.
So it closes with hope for humankind,
whose consciousness is awakening,
whose spirit is arising,
who is beginning to stand
against corporate greed,
against ignorant governance,
who is saying "This is wrong,
and I am standing for what is right and just."

This poem is a soft thought.
It is love.
It is hope
for a suffering world.

An adapted Boomerang Form, one of my favourite forms, created by Hannah Gosselin at Metaphors and Smiles. Posted for Elizabeth Crawford's Creative Challenge:   Inspiration, to write something that brings some light to these troubled times. Which I have always tried to do, but it is getting much harder these days. It is hard to be hopeful when species and oceans are dying, when the ice is melting, when time is running out,  and a racist narcissist who doesn't believe in global warming and species extinction is taking power. Sigh.


This poem is a conclave of elves
This poem is a fairy tale,
told to a small child by her grandmother
This poem is a cup of my Grandma's tea

This poem is chock full of elves
clustered under a speckled toadstool in the forest.
They are hiding from a small girl-child,
peeping out from under the toadstool's rim
with eyes that winkle and shine.
This poem is a conclave of elves.

This poem is a small girl sitting in front of the fire
listening to stories, on long, quiet 
winter afternoons.
"Watch the blue fairies, dancing in the flames,"
her grandma says, and she looks,
and sees the fairies.
This story has no beginning, and no end.

This poem is a song sung by druids
in the springs and groves of a woodland dell,
as violet shadows lengthen at close of day.
This poem has standing stones in it, and ghosts,
myth and blarney from County Cork,
laced with a spoon of golden honey
in a shamrock teacup of amber verbena,
a cup of my grandmother's tea.

This poem is a conclave of elves,
winkling and shining in stories of long ago.
This poem is a fairy tale told to a small child
by a Grandmother who knew
small children need mothering.
This poem is a cup of my Grandma's tea,
in a time whose memory shines more brightly 
than today

* Celtic and Welsh meanings for the word druid are seers, and sorcerers. Poets may be numbered among this group. Smiles. They played an important part in ancient pagan Celtic society according to Wikipedia.

This poem from 2015 is (mostly) patterned after Hannah Gosselin's wonderful Boomerang Poem form, whose instructions can be found on Hannah's site at this link. Shared with the Poetry Pantry at 

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Hearts of Its Women

"A nation is not defeated 
until the hearts of its women 
are on the ground."
Cheyenne proverb

My heart is with the women of Standing Rock these days, as the people make their stand against a billion dollar corporation, that places no value on human rights, sacred burial sites, or the drinking water of millions of people. All it sees is oil and dollar signs. The ancestors prophesied this Black Snake would come, and here it is, threatening the survival of every living thing in its path.

The heavily militarized police are defending the corporate criminals, who have not complied with the law requiring a complete environmental study, (because they know the project would not pass the criteria). And, once the oil is flowing, it will be shipped to China, benefiting not one North American, at the possible cost of the water which now serves millions. It boggles the mind. But it will fatten the purses of a few billionaires. The police are backing the wrong group.

The women - mothers, grandmothers, daughters - are rising, saying "Enough is enough." The fight between money/greed and those who wish the planet to survive has reached the point of no return. There is no giving up or giving in, when it comes to the survival of Mother Earth in a livable state. And so they brave the cold, the water attacks, the tear gas, the rubber bullets. They are not standing only for themselves. They are standing for us all. They know that water is life, that oil brings death, that we are connected, on this planet, with every other living thing, and what happens to one happens to us all.

They are standing for us all at Standing Rock, true hearts that know money is not the only thing that matters, at any cost. And my heart is standing with them.

I have been unable to upload this short video about the women of Standing Rock, but this is the link, and it is so worth watching.

I am posting this for Elizabeth  Crawford's challenge at 1sojournal: Meaning. There is so much meaning in the stand the people of Standing Rock are taking. If I had health and money for gas, I would be right there standing with them, for they know the meaning of life, and how to live on Mother Earth with respect. All My Relations.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Friend of Crows and Ravens

Julie Draper at the blockades

She was sister of crows and ravens.
Their black bodies, her love of earth,
their wings, her love of flight.

On her birthday, she entered
her darkened cabin, lit with candles.
In the glow, were all her friends,
on their knees, dressed as crows.
In the soft glow of dripping wax
they gathered around her,
her flock, cawing upwards.
into her radiant, laughing face.

She was a light, a lover of life,
who put her body on the line
for the trees, for Mother Earth.
She loved animals,
and her love suffused the art she made
of bear and wolf, raven and eagle.

She was a sister of crows and ravens,
who flew away too soon.

for Julie Draper, who recently left us much too soon, and who will be forever remembered, forever missed.

posted for Artistic Interpretations with Margaret at Real Toads, inspired by the art piece "Crows Alone", by Carol Law Conklin.


what to be grateful for,
when the world is in such a state?
when racism and fascism
raise their ugly heads,
when mosques are desecrated and
swastikas are scrawled 
on Jewish temples,
when a woman is attacked 
for wearing the burka of her beliefs?

what to be grateful for
when hateful words and acts
are flung,
when justice is not served,
when corporate power and 
capitalism run amok,
ravaging the planet?

it gets pretty basic:
eyesight, mobility (of sorts),
poetry, friends,
the fact that there are still
good-hearted people
all over the world 
who will always stand up 
for what is right.

I am grateful for  
the natural world,
and animals,
and their true hearts.

I am grateful for
child of joy.

Today, I am grateful for the wind,
making the trees dance 
outside my window,
and for the fresh wintery smell outdoors -
the first dusting of snow
on the mountains.
It is Enough.
It is more than
enough -
the gift of Life.

And I am grateful for you, my friends. This community of poets is what keeps me going. I am thinking very much of the events at Standing Rock these days, of the first Thanksgiving, and of how First Nations have suffered ever since. On facebook I have watched some beautiful videos, especially of the women of Standing Rock, who are protecting the water, in prayer, opposing the might of a billion dollar corporation and militarized police, so that life can be better for their grandchildren.

for Elizabeth Crawford's challenge at 1sojournal : What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


mr. t's gold-plated penthouse -
what does he know about the 98%?

He came out, face flushed,
full of swagger,
and laid it on thick:
and outright untruths.
Not enough people
fact-checked the "facts".
They believed,
because they were angry
and disgruntled
and they wanted to believe.

He slid the minds
salivating over the word "change"
into the hyperbolic chamber*
and gave it a spin,
the conman's spin,
gilded with a lavish patina
of narcissism,
and they bought it.

If the 98% is tired of struggle
at the hands of corporate control
of government and finance,
why hire a corporate billionaire
already familiar with 
how to work the system
to his own ends?
Fox in the henhouse.

The changes that are coming
will not be good ones.
The hens are already
warbling their distress.

I may accept (be resigned to)
the fact that we are going to
live through a colossal mistake
(if we survive it).
But I will never accept injustice,
racism, extremism, prejudice
or ugly behaviour. 

The struggle of Darkness and Light
has intensified.
Buckle up, my friends.
And hold those candles high.

*I borrowed the word hyperbaric and changed it up to suit my purposes, LOL. This poem is what happens after I scroll through facebook for a while, reading the latest outrages. Sumana's prompt at Midweek Motif is Hyperbole, and Elizabeth Crawford's word for Day 3 of her Writing the Light challenge at 1sojournal is Acceptance. How much are we willing to accept and where do we draw the line? 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Let's have a
Kindness Revolution,
teach, encourage and learn from
children's compassion
for babies and animals,
for the disabled and vulnerable,
for other children,
and for themselves.

Let's hold workshops in every school
where kids share who they are
and the pain they carry,
so all may see
that each of us has 
our challenges, our fears,
our own burdens and heartaches.
Let's teach them to look each other in the eye,
human to human,
to reach across the divide 
of perceived differences,
to honor the samenesses 
of being human
in this world.
Let's teach them to say, 
"I see you, friend,
and I'm here for you."

Let's take our Revolution to the streets,
march, singing, holding placards that say
"Occupy Kindness",
through the main street of town, 
drums beating, smiling, singing,
inviting the homeless, the elderly,
the abandoned and unwanted animals
to join our parade.

Let's make a place at our table,
in our worlds,
in our hearts,
for Hope, and then
serve it up in heaping spoonfuls
to every child who needs a hug,
every oldster who needs a smile,
every homeless dog who needs a friend.

If we hold a Kindness Revolution,
and everybody comes,
the bullies will all be transformed
into children in pain,
who have lost their way,
to whom we'll hold out our hands,
say, "This way, Friend.
This way to the party
of Love."

A poem from 2013, in response to Elizabeth Crawford's challenge at 1sojournal : Love: to write a poem that sheds some light on the dark days we are living through, when it takes determination to hold onto hope. It is a huge stretch to envision certain dark hearts being transformed right now. But we can look to the younger generation - they have a good grasp of what's needed and are on the front lines, now, in many places, trying to effect change against an obdurate system that refuses to mend its ways.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fear Into Light

When one's world-view is over-turned,
all decency is stood on its head,
and the swamp creatures are infiltrating
the halls of power,
with their cold, gimlet eyes,
and hard calculating hearts,
when one sees the darkness descending,
when the vulnerable are living in fear,

I lift up,
visualizing the earth as a whole,
its calm imperturbable waves
rolling out, rolling in.
I see daybreak, rosy hues
fingering the clouds,
the air fresh with new beginnings.

I remember,
whichever small men may rule
- or think they rule -
they cannot change our hearts.
The planet spins.
Year will follow year.
We breathe out. We breathe in.
We do what we can.

We will clean up the mess,
one day, one mishap,
one outrage at a time.
We will smile at those we meet,
especially those who
need our friendship most,
hold out a helping hand,
say "I am standing with you
against all wrong-doing.
Beside me, you are safe."

for Elizabeth Crawford's challenge at 1sojournal : to write about fear, and try to find some light for these dark times. My best hope for the next four years is that the planet will survive mr. t. If it does, eventually we will be okay again, having learned some hard lessons about who we truly are as  a society. I have to believe there is more love than hate, more light than darkness. We are being called, on a global scale, to choose light.

Friday, November 18, 2016


Stamp Falls

Water comes first, then we follow,
gasp in a big breath of air, and then we cry.
Thus we are introduced to the world
as it always was and always will be.
Water: essential, blessed,
part of our beings from our very first day.

Through the Sacred Medicine Wheel 
I journeyed,
dipped my toes in a magical sea,
soul thrumming with the song of the waves.
My sign, my element, my spirit's home:
Mother Ocean.

Above, the sky, the air, the vast expanse,
curving over all
the great blue bowl of ether,
underfoot, the earth, brown and humble
and mothering.

I bow to you, Sky, I sing with you, Wind,
I dance in the rain, laughing
at the great clap of thunder,
feel the rushing whoosh of wind on my face,
raindrops falling on my spirit,
cleansing me anew,
healing the riven places, washing
all negative energy away.

When I am clean, 
when the Great Bowl Above grows dark,
I creep homeward, 
settle beside a crackling fire,
remember the winking stars, 
the great wheeling seabirds,
wonder at the beauty gracing this span of time 
that is still mine.

To the earth I bow, in gratitude, 
in homecoming. 
It waits to receive me
when that final moment comes,
when I will become one
with All That Is.

First, there was water,
at the end
only earth and sky.

One from winter, 2015, shared with the Poetry Pantry at Poets United. Join us for some good reading on Sunday morning.


photo by Lisa Melanie

grey sky
soft as a dove's wing,
river pock-marked with raindrops,
ripples swaying with 
the gentle current,
traveling to where
the water meets the sea

bare twiggy brush along the shore,
heron lifting heavy wings, 
skimming the surface

misty West Coast morning
grey clouds hanging low, 
heavy with tomorrow's rain

I take a mental snapshot
to remember
This Moment,
being so perfectly

one from 2014, shared with the Poetry Pantry at Poets United, where there is always good reading on a Sunday morning.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Invisible to the outer world,
they live tucked away in a house
on a quiet street:
one bed-bound, with no eyes,
one whose body is a trunk, with curled limbs,
one who suffers countless seizures a day.
They are non-verbal, but with thoughts
and feelings and senses of humour
(like the one who cracked up laughing
at the staff's conversation one day.
"What do you think they're thinking?"
"They're thinking we sound like
freaking idiots!")

48 years one has lived
trapped inside his body,
having to be cared for,
the same routine
day after endless day,
cared for like a body,
with very little attempt to connect,
to draw forth a response,
to recognize there is a being,
living as best it can,
like a tree, un-watered,

Until she came,
laughing and golden,
insisting his life could be
more than this.

Until the night,
when she looked into his eyes
and told him something
he had never heard:
"I see you. I see you.
And you are beautiful,"
and watched a single tear roll
down his face.

My daughter, of whom I am very proud, works in a home that cares for half a dozen severely handicapped individuals, largely invisible and unknown to the outer world, whom she loves with compassion, warmth and empathy. She is the golden one in the poem. She is also the one who made the funny comment.

for Susan's prompt at Midweek Motif: Invisibility

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Mother Sky / Small Bird

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, my friends. Trying to focus on the positives at the moment which, for me, is always found in nature. For the Tuesday Platform at Real Toads.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Still Points


In the frozen heart of winter,
stark, straight, tall, enduring,
bare branches reach in supplication
towards the sky.
The Standing People
are showing us
how to pray.


Heron by Tofino artist


hunch-shouldered in the mist,
picky-toeing among the pebbles
at the water's edge,
you search the shore with lidded eyes,
your every curving line
teaching me:



For  Brendan's prompt at Real Toads: Still Points. I chose two such moments of stillness from 2014.

Friday, November 11, 2016


My grandmother saved my life when I was a child. My parents were alcoholic and there was violence. The front room was forbidden territory, for Big People only, where voices started out happy and excited, and escalated to shouts and bumps and crashes in the night.

I remember when I was about four, standing outside my grandparents’ back door as dusk was falling, looking in at them sitting in the comfort and warmth and light within. I couldn’t open the door into that warmth and safety – it had to be opened to me, and I had to be invited in, out of the falling dark. I lioved in a different world, one I already knew had to be kept hidden, and I didn’t belong there either.

My Grandma’s house was so silent you could hear the metal clock ticking and tocking on the kitchen windowsill. A little yellow cottage on Christleton Avenue, surrounded by flowers and blooming bushes, it had a picket fence with a white trellis covered with pink roses arched over the gate. I would stand and swing back and forth on that gate, gazing out at a world stupefied with summertime heat. Bees scarcely had the energy to buzz; the only excitement was the tinkle of the ice cream truck coming down the street, followed by chattering children clutching shiny dimes.

I woke to the slap of the hose hitting the side of the house in the mornings, as Grandma wet everything down against the coming heat, then pulled the awnings down like sleepy eyelids over the front windows.

We could smell the freshness of the lake two blocks away, the scent of bulrushes and tall grasses in the fields behind Grandma’s house. Everywhere in Kelowna where there are condominiums today, there were orchards in those days. Almost every yard sprouted a profusion of flowers; the air was scented with lilac, sweet pea, snapdragon, peonies and pinks. It was a small town then, postcard pretty, sleepy and provincial in its ways. It was another era, the 50’s, and though my life with my parents felt like one long bad dream, life itself held an innocence and goodness as fresh as the special way the air smelled before the summer thunderstorms Grandma and I listened to in her back porch. The sky turned dark and the reverberations shook our little cottage, sounding as if the heavens were splitting in two. And then the sizzle of rain came, the fresh scent wafting through the screened-in porch where we sat for so many hours of my childhood.

My Grandma looked after me when I was a child, and when I got older I spent summers with her, and this is how she saved my life, by showing me existence could be other than it was in my house. She is the one who baked me cookies, told me stories, pointed out fairy folk dancing in the blue flames of her small gas fireplace. She took me to church and gave me standards to live by. Grandma developed conscience in me; I was more afraid of her than of God. She never raised her voice to me, but her quiet words of caution and her sorrowful disappointment when I behaved badly felt like hot lava pouring over my head.

“I have magic glasses,” she would tell me, “and I can see you even when you’re far away.” So I knew when I went back to Vancouver to my parents, she was still watching over me, which scared and reassured me at the same time.

When all her adult children were visiting in the front parlour, she would retreat to the back porch and I would join her there. I knew what was wrong. The tinkle of ice in tall tumblers of amber liquid was a sound we both hated.

My grandparents lived simply. My grandfather made a modest living selling herbal remedies in his little shop, Health Products, on Ellis Street. The shop had an exotic smell, from the shelf upon shelf of round cardboard tubs of herbs three decades before we began hearing about them in the media. Sometimes I was given the job of counting out the pills, filling the bottles and sticking the labels on.

My Grandpa was thin, silent and gruff, but he had a twinkle in his eyes and a soft heart for children. In years when men didn’t cry, as he got older, he would often be silently overcome with emotion; small things touched him deeply. “It’s the French in him,” the women of the family whispered to each other. The aunts and uncles adored Grandpa, and were in agreement that “Mother runs him ragged.” They thought it unfair that he had to go into the pantry to snort back  “a little nip”. He did it out of deference to Grandma, but they thought he should be able to sit in his own parlour and braveky down glasses of amber like they did. They encouraged him to, when they visited. But when company was not present, he’d retreat into the pantry for little sips she pretended not to notice. It was their arrangement. I remember wandering into the pantry and finding him there, bottle in hand, looking like a thief startled at his work. We both pretended the bottle was invisible.

An often-told tale was how Grandma gave away Grandpa’s best suit to a hobo during the Depression. They said the house must have had a mark on it, so many hobos came knocking. Grandma could never turn away anyone who was hungry, even though feeding her own five children in those years was a challenge. One man needed clothing and Grandma figured Grandpa didn’t need the suit, since he didn’t wear it very often. Turns out, it was his best suit, the only other suit he owned being the one he wore every day. Another time Grandma found a roll of bills in the dresser drawer and merrily spent it, thinking it was extra money. It was the rent money.

In her seventies, my mother would tell us about the time she trudged home in the cold of a Prairie winter, after a long day on her feet as a hairdresser, looking forward to the pork chop she knew was waiting for her at home. She remembered with some outrage coming in the door to find a hobo sitting at the table sopping up the last bite dripping with gravy of her pork chop.

Grandpa got his family through the Depression by doing accounting for folks in exchange for whatever they could give him: a sack of coal, a bag of flour, potatoes, trudging from house to house and business to business for the bits and pieces that would keep his family fed. Grandma washed the family laundry – dresses and pinafores and sheets for five children – by hand in the bathtub for years. Sje walked miles to the railroad tracks to buy bruised bananas to make dessert for her children. My mom often said her best Christmas was the year each child received one orange and a small toy car hand made by Grandpa, and how they played with the cars all Christmas Day.

Through my childhood, when I was in Vancouver with my parents, he would often enclose a small envelope in letters to my mother. In it would be a shiny dime for me. In those days, a dime would buy a popsicle, some penny candy and some Dubble Bubble, with a penny or two left over.

I lived with my grandparents during the final months of high school, and I remember Grandpa, who wore a suit and tie every day of his adult life, skinny and vulnerable in his longjohns, stealthily padding from the bathroom to his bedroom in the morning. He was so much the head of the house, so respected, that it felt strange to see him frail and powerless in his underwear. Our eyes would meet; he’d smile and shake his head, with his customary twinkle, and we would both studiously ignore his state of undress.

Grandpa obligingly went along most of the time with Grandma’s plans. Her children jokingly called her The Brigadier. She was generous in offering his assistance to her widowed or single women friends, if they needed to be driven or picked up somewhere. He silently chauffeured everyone on endless drives in the country on long dusty Sunday afternoons.

His one small rebellion was at mealtime. He never sat down at the table without “playing checkers” with the salt and pepper shakers and the condiments. He always moved them a few inches to the left orright. They were never just right where they were. If he was feeling extra put-upon, he would thump them down more loudly. Thump! Thump! Thump! And the salt and pepper would go three inches to the left and the sugar bowl two inches forward. Sometimes the women would try to set everything just exactly perfect, to see what he would do. And then fall into fits of giggles when he sat down, surveyed them, and moved one item one inch, just on general principles.

My Grandma was Irish and proud of it. Her favouite song was Galway Bay which she played over and over. When she got older and began to think of death, another favourite was Beyond the Reef. She told me many stories, of relatives who had had supernatural things happen to them, of ghosts and fairies, and a perfect little girl called Vivian, who had impeccable manners and was set as a model of deportment for we grandchildren. “Vivian would never do that!” she would say, with smug conviction. We all hated Vivian!

Grandma would have tea parties in the afternoons, with trays of dainties, and fancy flowered cups and saucers. Ladies wore housedresses and aprons to do their housework then. For tea parties, they took off their aprons, and donned nicer dresses, and often wore  impeccably white gloves to the wrist. And hats! Going to Church on Sunday was an occasion for finery, and on Easter Sunday everyone sported new spring dresses and hats and shiny black patent shoes.

Grandma tried to teach me manners. I remember her amusement when, at one afternoon tea, I got mixed up and responded to a question I hadn’t heard with a bemused, “Huh, Miss Hicks?” How she teased me on the way home! “HAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH, Miss Hicks?” she chortled, fairly chomping with amusement. (She and her friends called each other “Mrs. Marr” and “Mrs. Goodfriend” even after fifteen years of friendship. And when speaking of her spouse to her friends, she always referred to him as “Mr. Marr.”)

Grandma had a wild and zany sense of humour all of her descendants have inherited. She loved to play practical jokes, especially on her poor cat, a big fluffy Persian called Big Boy, who had a distinctive kink at the end of his tail.  He got the kink from getting his tail caught in the screen door, with some assistance from my Grandma. When he wanted to go out, he was a torturous mass of conflicted desire. Grandma would stand, arms akimbo, holding the door open invitingly. Big Boy would assess the situation: the open door, the inviting scent of the outdoors, the needs of his bladder. Finally, no options left, he’d streak for the open door. Grandma, timing honed to perfection, would let it slam in time to connect with his tail. An enraged howl, my Grandma’s cackle, then Grandma serenely returned to her housework, while the cat sulked under the house. Grandma kept him supremely confused because, most times, she would let him out without incident. But each time, looking through the door, you could see him calculating: would this be the time the door let fly? Eventually Big Boy would come back inside, till bladder needs put him in the same predicament again.

Grandma cleaned the house in the mornings. Sometimes while she was busy in the kitchen, I would be allowed to listen to radio programs, while I rocked back and forth in the rocking chair. This was very special, especially my favourite show, “Maggie Muggins”, which always ended with the line, “And we don’t know what will happen tomorrow!” which about summed up the story of my life (and the cat’s!)

In the long, silent afternoons, everything tidy, wash on the line and the sweet peas watered, Grandma rested, to the peaceful and comforting ticking of the clock. I remember her climbing into the bunk beside me, when I was little, settling me for my nap, her soft womanly grandmother’s body providing me a safety and comfort I never knew anywhere else. It was with my grandparents that I went for drives, had regular meals, went visiting, saw life as normal people lived it. Home was a battleground, strewn with corpses that got up the next morning to fight again, where I retreated into silence and watched, with frightened eyes.

I got to pay Grandma back for those early years when she was old and in a nursing home. I saw with her through many hours and paid her back with time and love for the time and love she so generously gave to me when I was small.

Her life as she had known it ended when my Grandpa died, but she lived fifteen more years without him. Her spirit utterly rejected the nursing home. “There are so many old people in here!” she, in her eighties, declared. She was unable to adjust to where life had landed her. Grandma felt trapped for too long in a life she no longer wanted.

She would walk down Ethel Street to my little cottage full of children, and sit out under the grape arbor and chat with me while I weeded the garden. Then I would walk her home, her cane tap tap tapping, tears rolling down her cheeks, back to her room at the Lloyd Jones.

“I’m still here,” she’d say disgustedly, when I popped my head through the door, the next day or the next.  “Just too damned healthy!”

But sometimes she would talk about the Old Days, the stories of her time, when life was vital and whole around her. One day she music on the record player, and started dancing lightly, a few steps, smiling, and I saw straight inside her, to the light, bright shining self inside the body that was failing; the self that she had been as a young girl so full of dreams was still there inside her.

Once she told me, “I wanted to raise you, especially after your father died, but your mom wouldn’t allow it. She thought people would think she was a bad mother if she let you go. But I wish I could have – you never had a chance.”

When she was moved to the extended care unit and could no longer leave her chair, she retreated increasingly into silent rekection of her outer world. Her friend was the talking clock she held in her hands and tapped every few minutes, to hear the mechanical voice tell her the time. On the hour, it crowed, a fact that at first we didn’t understand, so we were confused when she kept insisting “There’s a rooster in here.” This rooster was her constant companion, her final friend. Often in those last years, we would simply sit, after our initial conversation. I bicycled across town after work, before going home to the kids. I was tired, exhausted. But I could never set aside the thought, the many times I would have rather gone straight home, of her sitting in her chair, lonely and forlorn, her only bearable moments those when family members were present. I would wearily hop on my bike and pedal across town, our eyes would meet, we’d smile and then just sit, being together as the colours of the day faded away. One night we watched through the window as the sky turned purple and the sun went down behind the hills. Perhaps it is the last sunset she ever saw.

She didn’t want anything but to be gone from her body in those last years, but sometimes I would talk her into coming outside under the trees with me. I’d wheel her to where green branches arched overhead and we’d sit and listen, to the wind rustling through the branches, the birds chirping overhead.

It was under those trees that I told her I was moving away to the west coast, the move that had been my dream for twenty years. It was hard to tell her that her most frequent visitor and supporter was going away. I was full of inner tears, but also knew that I must go. I knew if I did not leave now, perhaps I never would. With characteristic generosity, Grandma gave me her blessing. “It’s your dream, and you have had a hard time. You deserve some happiness.”

We sat in silence some more. I watched her turning her ring around and around on her finger. Her engagement ring and wedding band were welded together, symbolizing the love she and my Grandpa had shared for the sixty odd years they were together. She was deep in thought, turning and turning the ring. The air grew electric and still.

Suddenly she pulled it off and handed it to me. I demurred, shook my head, but “No,” Grandma said, “I want to be sure that you have this. It has never been off my finger, but I want to be sure that it goes to you.”

I knew when I left that I would carry her with me, that she was so much a part of me that I could never really lose her. I went back for a visit later and found her much changed, not as aware of who I was or that I was there. She had retreated as far inside herself as possible, was more in the next world than this one. But when I spoke of the ocean and the eagles and the beauty of where I lived, she smiled.

I went back to help her make the transition from this world to the next, and spent a week at her bedside, listening to her laboured breathing, wetting her lips with moist Q-tops, when she lifted her hand and pointed at the glass of water with her long boney finger. In a moment when she was still aware, I leaned close beside her ear and told her “thanks for all the love” and watched a single tear slide down her cheek. I knew she wanted nothing more than to be released from her body and that hospital bed, to be with my grandfather, and her oldest son once more, so I supported her with love in her dying, as she had supported me with love in times when living had seemed too hard for me.

My mother broke down at the end of the funeral, when the strains of Galway Bay wafted through the church. And on the bus, heading home through the pass toward the beaches and wilderness I love, I was looking out the window, remembering that the real parting had been when I moved away, but how I knew then that I would carry Grandma with me inside my heart forever. She was a part of me like the air and the sky and the trees and the wind, and so we would never really be apart. Suddenly the strains of Galway Bay tinkled through my mind. I was not thinking of the music; it was playing, in my mind. Instantly, I thought “Hi, Grandma, I love you,” and the music drifted out the other side and away. And I knew that it was Grandma, passing through.

Being a Tree

When the earth buckles and heaves
under my feet,
when I feel everything go topsy-turvy
and slipping away,
I settle my roots in
for the long haul
and practice
Being A Tree.

When all around me are losing their centres,
needing some strength to lean on,
I reach out a limb,
however tired and weakened by age
and dimmed by thwarted hope,
breathe in, breathe out,
Breathing Peace,
though the maelstrom roars
ever closer.

If the waters close over my head,
so be it.
I have done my best.
I can do no more.
One day at a time,
holding steady,
breathing peace, 
hanging on,
settling in
for the long haul -
Being A Tree.

For Shay's prompt at Real Toads: I Feel the Earth Move. In this dark week when the impossible has happened to the Big Picture, I also have  ones close by walking through their own wastelands. Trees do get tired as they age. But we endure.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

"We must be the wind."

Gloria Steinem, at The Guardian

"The President can only hold a finger to the wind.
We must be the wind......
Real change, like a tree,
grows from the bottom up, not the top down."

Gloria Steinem, in The Guardian, after the election.
Words of strength and hope.

     *****     *****     *****

My response:

We must be the wind,
insisting upon the switch to wind and solar energy,
harnessing the clean sources of power
that will return our planet to health.

We must be the fire:
the fire of activism in hearts
that burn for freedom,
for justice, for racial equality.
We must burn down those walls of division and hatred,
reach out a hand and say: Welcome. You are Home.

We must be the voices
of the disenfranchised, the working poor,
the discouraged, those upon whose backs
the fat grow rich.
We, the people, can march, can raise our voices high,
to say corporate rule is killing us all,
and there is a better way.

We must speak for the animals,
who are  being abused and killed,
to fatten our waistlines.
We must speak for the oppressed,
that they may be freed,
vote with our pocketbooks,
shop local, and not fatten the coffers
of corporate power.

When will the rich
pay their fair share?
When will corporations clean up their mess,
and pay a carbon tax to offset their pollution?

If the President or Prime Minister holds up a finger
to gauge the direction of the wind,
let the wind of our many voices show him
the way we want to go.
And let us go there together for,
left or right,
we are more alike than we are different
and, left or right,
we all just want to live
as best we can.

It has been astonishing to me witnessing the hatred, racism, and virulence of this election. US people have asked me why I dare express my opinion. It's because what happens in the US directly impacts us in Canada and, in fact, countries around the world. If the US goes down, Canada goes down. (The same person considers Canada a Communist country, and asks if we want Sharia law; perhaps just a tad misinformed.)

I thought we lived in a democracy, where people are allowed to express an opinion and, while I may hold opposing views, out of respect I have remained fairly silent, other than to those I knew agreed with me.  There is little point engaging those whose ideology is so ingrained and fiercely held, they are unable to tolerate a differing view. I posted a PHOTOGRAPH of the Obamas, which incensed someone so intensely, she severed relations with our family. I observe. She has the right to her views, though she is misinformed on many counts, and accuses the Left of the exact same things we fear in the Right.

These words by Gloria Steinem offered a ray of hope today, and a way forward. What we are working for, so many of us, is far bigger than the Left or the Right - it is the survival of the Planet and all beings who live upon it. We must persevere, along with the brave people of Standing Rock, opposing that which does harm to the planet, opposing corporate interests which are responsible for so much of its wanton destruction and suffering.

Keep the faith, fellow pilgrims, as we soldier on.

Become the Wind

"The President can only hold a finger to the wind.
We must become the wind."

Gloria Steinem

source: a cool article in The Guardian after the election.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


When the outer path
leads to devastation, division,
and a blow to hope
for one's fellow man,
when the way forward
branches into
a myriad of possibilities,
smokey and undefined,
when the waystations are named
Unacceptable and Deplorable,
when all the questions have no good answers,                                      
I pull back into myself
like a turtle into its shell.
Resignation settles like dust in my soul;
we hunker down.
Life wisdom reminds me that,
in the fullness of time,
the great wheel turns and turns;
justice will ultimately prevail
and all will be revealed.
I tuck hope away for safekeeping,
and just plod on,
vowing to do the best I can
in the place where I am.
Accustomed to thinking Big Picture,
it is time, now,
to scale down to Small Picture,
in order not
to lose my mind.

When the path is unclear,
and leads in directions
we do not want to go,
yet must go,
all one can do is
take the next step.

for Sumana's prompt at Midweek Motif: Path

Monday, November 7, 2016


source: Native American Indian

Wood nymph, sylvan, she slips
through the trees,
fog rising around her ankles
from the forest floor.

Behind a fat cedar, she peeks
at those gathered in Circle.

Draped in antelope hide,
white feathers in his long dark hair,
Wise Shaman speaks with
Bear and Wolf and Deer,
truth warriors,
consulting together
about the sadness
of the trees.

One from October 2013, my friends. Corporate rule is killing the planet and it is much on my mind these days. There are solutions, but we the people need to force the political will to make the changes.

Sharing this with the Poetry Pantry at Poets United, my friends, where there is always good reading on Sunday morning.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

It's a Beautiful World

It's a beautiful world

blue-white glaciers melting into the sea

it's a beautiful world

smokestacks pumping carbon into the air

it's a beautiful world

sea levels rising, washing away small islands and shorelines

it's a beautiful world

whales and birds washing up on shore with stomachs full of plastic

it's a beautiful world

freeways full of cars guzzling oil, oil, oil
methane from cows produced to fill our plates

it's a beautiful world

green forests burning, wildlife going extinct

it's a beautiful world

the ocean dying, corporate greed strangling the oxygen out of the air,
and fracking the lifeblood out of the earth


it's a beautiful world

countries turning to wind and solar energy
(100 clean energy complexes would be enough to provide energy to the entire planet*)

human hearts that long for peace and social justice

the hope in a baby's eyes

the beauty of the landscape and the wild creatures that live here

the over-arching sky

We cannot stop believing in and striving for
our beautiful world.

* I watched di Caprio's Before the Flood and its images kept me awake half the night. The beauty of this planet, the folly of corporations being allowed to profit at the expense of every living being and system. But there is hope, too. Scientists explain we have clean energy technology that could power the entire planet. Also a switch to clean energy of all types would provide millions of jobs worldwide.

Corporations, of course, will not willingly surrender profit and they seem to be running everything. But they should pay for clean-up and pay a carbon tax that is proportionate to their profit. Their outsourcing of jobs is what is creating job loss.

The message: the peoples' voices must rise in sufficient numbers world-wide. And we must vote for leaders who believe climate change exists. We can also vote with our pocketbooks by changing our lifestyles in terms of consumption,  and by not buying from the worst offending corporations.

You can watch the film for free this weekend before it goes into the theatres and it is a must-see. Time is urgent.