Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Haunting of Selma Park General Store




The store, almost 100 years old, on the ocean in Sechelt, had stood empty for a few years. We got it for a song. When we moved in, locals told us it was haunted by the ghost of an old woman who had died in the store. She hadn’t liked people when she was alive; she did not welcome us. After the store closed at 11 p.m., sitting downstairs, we could hear footsteps crossing the floor above. When we went up to check, no one was there. But once I felt a cold chill go up my spine and knew she was standing right behind me.

She would move things around on the shelves. I would go downstairs and find our unlucky “Wandering Jew” plant swinging in its alcove for no reason – no windows or doors open. One night, all of its branches pointed at the doorway, the message clear: get out! I decided to throw the plant away one windy night. It wrapped its tentacles around me and I had to fling it off me and down the bank.

Things got worse. We opened an arcade; things were too noisy for the fretful ghost. A huge crack! was heard one morning; the supporting beam showed a split all the way up. Talk was, the store might slide right down the hill. The footsteps at midnight continued. I would not give up. I could live with the ghost more easily than the man I was with at the time.

It did not end well. The store burned down under mysterious, suspicious circumstances while we were away in Vancouver. The insurance company didn’t pay. I was left with nothing. The four kids and I began a new life in Kelowna, my dream store on the ocean gone; my faith in humanity tested. But my belief in the existence of ghosts was alive and well.


313 words for Magaly’s Pantry of Prose prompt: Gothic. True story. There was much more to this story, but I only had 313 words. I wrote a bit longer version here.

On Diminished Capacity


Well, I know for certain I gave him the keys
in his hand, because I don't have them any more,
So he has them.
Do you suppose he is getting copies made?
Do you suppose he has designs on me?
Because I have no thought of anything with him,
his wife can rest easy.

I keep calling and asking "do you have the keys?"
"No keys," he says, "I gave them back to you."
But I don't have them, so he has lost them.
The man is in another world, the poor bugger.

I left a big pile of papers on my desk.
(Don't worry, Sweet heart, whenever you have time,
don't exhaust yourself.)
Remember I switched from Shaw to Telus
because the TV wasn't working?
Well, Telus is an Idiot,
and I am switching back to Shaw,
but Telus says I signed a plan,
and i did not sign a plan.
So I am filing a complaint.
Thank you, God, for giving me a brain
to keep the papers from all the years.
Can you find the paper, don't exhaust yourself,
but the man is calling in half an hour,
I love you, God bless you,
the world is full of Idiots
making us tired.

And from the sale I got half the price for my chairs.
Two chairs they got for the price of one,
People, they don't want to pay.
They have hardly been sat in for 15 years,
and there they go, walking out the door,
God bless the people who sit in them,
and this poor widow,
left here to cry alone.

For Bjorn's prompt at Real Toads: the Unreliable narrator. This was an elderly lady with dementia who was still trying to function on her own, for whom I provided home support. Her situation became increasingly difficult.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Hong Kong


Roman Pilpey, EPA/EFE


Human hands
join in protest,
resisting oppression.
Human hearts 
in search of freedom
express the glory
and nobility
of the human spirit,
when it rises
like an awakened dragon
to oppose 
tyranny.



Vincent Yu, AP


for Sumana's prompt at Midweek Motif: Glory. I am always moved when the human spirit rises, shining the light of truth on all that is dark. I am wondering at the apathy in North America these days. The passivity is alarming.


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Windigo



“In the beginning of all things, wisdom and knowledge were with the animals; for Tuawa, the One Above, did not speak directly to man. He sent Animals to tell man that he showed himself through the beasts, and that from them, and from the stars and the sun and the moon, man should learn . .. for all things speak of Tuawa." -Chief Letakos-Lesa of the Pawnees Tribe to Natalie Curtis, circa 1904

Ted Andrews, Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small


Through the mist, I see a shaman,
on a fencepost, point the way;
into the forest, I go, listening,
for all it has to say.

Wolf Spirit, Windigo, you sorrow
at the extinction of your clan,
the destruction of your habitat
by the tribe of man.

Once we lived and spoke together.
Once upon a time we knew
that everything was connected.
You were me, and I was you.

The animals are speaking.
If only we could hear
their cries of distress and hunger,
so heartbreaking, so near.

The forest is deep and dark
and there be spirits here.
When we listen to the creatures,
their message is so clear.

Their peril and ours is connected,
they most want us to know.
Owl, Oracle, Guardian,
protect me as I go.


For Play It Again, Toads. I chose Hannah Gosselin's Transforming Nature's Wonders, one of my very favourite prompts, back in the day!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Untitled

Our little house on Ethel Street


Remember me as a time of day:
daybreak, with songbirds,
when I rose singing
a morning song,
turning the tap for the swhish-swhish-swhish
of the sprinkler in the garden,
gazing at the blue friendly hills,
breathing in lake-scent and weeping willow
- and summer.
Back then, it was always summer.

I grew green things, those days,
and a family of leggy, hungry children.
They remember waking to my singing,
or to the furious tapping of my old Underwood
as I wrote my latest poem.

Those days,
we rode through town
in a line four bicycles long,
like a mother duck and her ducklings.
People stopped at the intersections
smiled at our wobbly passage
as we sailed through.

Think of me older, if you will,
as being always in the forest,
or  walking by the sea,
or writing a poem
in which I remember you
and you can remember
me.


for Kenia's prompt at Real Toads: to use a song title in a poem. I chose Remember Me as a Time of Day. Cool prompt.


My Inner Inukshuk



Towards the rising sun, I turn 
my morning face, ever hopeful.
Vision obscured, I peer through cloudy glass,
towards the brighter sky.
Beyond the meadow, I can see 
the ghostly shapes of ancient horses,
shape-shifting among the trees.

The shaman sits on a fencepost,
smiling, wise and kind,
with an owl perched on his shoulder.
He will not point the way,
for I must find it for myself.
But he gives me a blessing
for the journey,
as the road is steep,
rock-strewn,
and he knows there will be storms.

To the south lies treasure, precious stone,
inukshuks to point the way
for lonely travelers.
Their arms point west, always west,
where my spirit flies, up over the mountains,
along the familiar highway
that leads me forever home.
A row of prisms cast rainbows, for beauty,
refract the light, for brightness
and clear-seeing.

Towards sunset lies the illumined path,
following footsteps I trod before,
called ever forward 
by the unceasing song of the sea,
siren, lover, clarion call,
to fly my spirit home.
I heft my kit bag full of memories,
tuck in a soupcon of wonder,
and a song to merry me along,
towards my nest at the edge of the world.

North is an inner compass, a knowing that,
whatever direction I am headed, 
however long or short the journey,
I am my own
True North. 


This poem arrived in 2015, when I lived at the farm. It was created thanks to an exercise by Elizabeth, to turn in all the directions, make notes on what I saw and turn it into a poem. Thanks, Elizabeth!

Sharing it with the Poetry Pantry at Poets United this Sunday.

The News Is On and It Isn't Pretty



I press Mute when the orange man talks.
His grinning thumbs-up is outrage enough.
No need to hear him speak.

The television,
my companion, these solitary years,
has seen a lot of changes
through the years.
From civil rights to assassinations,
unjust wars and civil protest,
from John Lennon singing peace
to an African American President,
it showed me moments of tears and hope -
a belief that we would overcome,
that the best in humanity would win out,
and anything was possible.

And then the pendulum swung.
I clicked off the tv one dark night in 2016,
knowing we were in for hard times.

I press Mute when the
grinning orange man speaks.
It is harder now
To keep hope and dreams alive.
I watch the scenes of ice caps melting,
the planet burning, children crying in cages,
while wealthy men grin
and shake congratulatory hands.

When I was young, what was televised
was monitored. Broadcasts had to meet criteria,
to not corrupt the young. But now the corrupt
run the networks, the news, and the country.
How can young people believe,
in a world gone mad?

I resist.
I always press Mute when
the orange man speaks.


I wrote this for Sumana's prompt at Midweek Motif: televised, but linked a second poem instead. Between the glaciers melting and the Amazon and Siberia burning, along with Canada's boreal forest, discouragement and our human responsibility have laid their heavy mantle on my shoulders.


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Memory Museum

Keystone-france/getty image


I once saw John Lennon's yellow Rolls
in the Victoria Museum.
It was like touching my younger years,
those songs that were the soundtrack
of my life, through all the smiles and tears.

These days, I wander through the halls
of my memory museum,
plucking out random moments:
the coffeehouse on Saturday night,
Stephanie, age three, running like 
a tipsy teakettle across the park at sunset,
the movie Jonathan,
which made my soul take flight.

Down all those years, I gathered memories
like plums, stored them away
until today: when I can pluck them,
one by one, and, for just a moment,
make them stay.

For Susan's Midweek Motif: Museums

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Everything is Alive, and Listening.......


Hole in the Wall, Port Alberni, B.C.
photo by Ronald Mani, B.C. Magazine


The stone in your hand, warm from the sun,
is alive, having traveled such a long journey
to fit into your palm.

Everything under the sun 
is as happy to be alive as we,
dolphins, leaping with joy in the silver sea,
whose squeals turn to pain and terror
when the death boats come hunting,
and the seas turn red.

Trees talk to each other, hold rooted hands
under the soil, all across the forest floor.
They whisper to those of us Two-Leggeds
who listen.
The mighty beings quake
at the screech of the saws,
roots parting reluctantly from the soil
as their majestic bodies topple.

Everything in the world is alive,
and listening.

Water, too, is alive,
its molecular structure changing
in response to the love,
hatred, peace or discord
we beam at it.

If a drop of water changes structure
from dark to light,
in response to love,
should not the dark hearts of men
respond in kind?

The wild creatures feel all that we feel,
joy at being alive,
building their nests,
raising their young, but they also
feel fear and pain, the struggle to survive,
grief when they lose their kin,
gratitude when, tummies full, night falling,
they have survived another day.

That rock in your hand, warm from the sun,
having made its long journey
to this resting place:
place it back on earth, in testimony
to all that passes, all that will remain.


From 2018,  shared with the Tuesday Open Link at Real Toads.



Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Shaman Says

Lion Afternoon by Jacek Yerka


On the savannah,
through the golden grass,
my alter ego stalks:
an amber lion,
all falls quiet
as she wanders past.

In a parallel life,
I walk the Kalahari
with my kin.
It is a wild world.
We don't let
just anybody in.

Yet the trophy hunters come
with guns and jeeps and toothy grin.
The shots ring out.
Soon it will be
as if we'd never been.

The shaman says
when the last lion dies,
the sun will disappear.
We'll be doomed, he says,
and I believe,
for he is old and wise.

She wanders for me,
in her last days,
as I wander in mine.
Our hearts have been
together twinned,
through all the years 
of time.


for Shay's prompt at The Sunday Muse: Lion Afternoon

The shaman Credo Mutwa  speaks of the white lions, known as star lions, who have blue eyes,  whose fate is intertwined with ours, and has been from the beginning of time. There are few left. Linda Tucker of the Global Lion Project is trying desperately to save them in a world gone mad with killing. Her book The Mystery of the White Lions is one of the most amazing books I have ever read.


Friday, August 16, 2019

Using Our Words



I was fourteen when poems started pouring through me. An English teacher encouraged me, and submitted some work for me. The one critical comment that came back was "I hope you arent going to be the kind of poet who glories in being obscure." I never forgot it.

That comment may be why I have so rarely bothered submitting my work. I think sometimes critics think they must always be critical. I get far more gratification from sharing my work online and am grateful for those who take the time to read it.

I was taught that feedback should always be respectful and constructive. Words have the power to uplift, or drag someone down. I keep in mind that a person is putting his heart out there, along with his words. I can almost always find something positive to say. If i read something that disturbs me, i simply scroll away without comment.

I keep in mind that someone who uses words harshly is likely coming from a place of inner pain. If  directed at me, i try using kindness in that instance, and find a point i can empathize with in what they say. I like living in a world that is kind. It pains me that there is so much unhappy rhetoric going on these days in the media. It drags our spirits down. Out in the big world, toxic rhetoric is having its hey-day.

In our community, i value that comments are usually supportive and affirmative. We have own little world in here. We can keep it a kind one.

For Magaly's interactive Moonlight Musings.


At the End, Only Earth and Sky



We are born in a whoosh of water;
gasp in our first breath, then we cry:
water, essential, 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 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,
the rush of raindrops on my face
cleansing my spirit,
washing all negative energy away.

When I am clean,
when the Great Bowl Above grows dark,
I creep homeward,
settle beside the fire,
remember the winking stars,
the wheeling seabirds,
the many rivers and beaches
I have loved,
all the beauty gracing 
this span of time
that is still mine.

In memory, 
my grandmother's long, white finger
points at the glass of water
on her bedside table
as she lay dying.
"The dying always ask for water,"
she had told me, and it is true.
Water: a single tear rolling down her cheek
as we said goodbye.

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

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


I re-worked a poem from 2015 for my prompt at Real Toads: Messages From Water.

And sharing with the Poetry Pantry at Poets United, fine reading every Sunday morning.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Dream Makers

Book Wall - La Catrina

Dream makers, dream breakers,
It is almost a revolution.
In this city of bones,
there is a darkness more than night.
Wild horses  race the wind; angels take flight.
It is rough country for the dark child.

But I dream after the darkness,
along the edge of America,
silent honor will finally
raise its head.
We will reclaim the country
that used to be us.

Fighting back against the
dark wind of hateful rhetoric,
we will rise and shine. Our kindness
will transform the landscape
as we take
the long road home
to the centre of
our collective consciousness,
(consciences?),
and become the society
we are meant to be.

For Margaret's cool prompt at Real Toads: using ten book titles in a poem.

It is amazing that one person's hate speech has unleashed so much darkness. It has crossed the border into Canada; racist and violent incidents are occurring that never did before in such numbers. I pray for change in 2020. Someone strong enough to turn this tide of inhumanity and intolerance around.

Wow. Now I am watching Joni Mitchell in Both Sides Now. She is singing:

We are stardust.
We are golden
And we've got to
Find our way
Back to the garden."

Yes. We do. We want to. So we can.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Does Anyone Remember Uncle Chichimus?



"Where's the stick?" my sister asks her pup
in a high, squeaky voice,
and I am transported back in time
to when she was six years old,
with long, blonde ringlets,
and we watched Hollyhock
(of the high-pitched voice)
and Uncle Chichimus
on tv after school.

It was a gentler time.
There weren't many channels.
There were no remotes.
There were regulations
to make sure tv shows
didn't offend peoples' sensibilities,
or corrupt the children.

I picture my grandmother's horrified face
if she watched television now.
Now the nightly news offends,
and the leaders of the world
are corrupt and mad.

Zoey brings the stick
up from the river.
"Good girl," says Hollyhock.

We go home.
We don't turn on
the news.

For Sumana's Midweek Motif: televised.

I remember the family watching Father Knows Best on Sunday nights, followed by Ed Sullivan. Sigh. I wonder how today's children hang onto hope, with all they are bombarded with in the media. I hope they do. There is still so much beauty around. But Hollyhock and Uncle Chichimus wouldnt get the ratings any more.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Last Star of the Morning




Traveler walks like a moving tree,
like a wind-whisper, singing,
like the breath of dawn.

Traveler is a part 
of the landscape;
she carries with her
a corner of the sky.

Traveler rises with the morning sun.
She is always walking towards
the next sunset.

There is the last star of morning
on her shoulder.
She wears the first star
of evening in her hair.

The moon is her mistress,
a songbird flies from branch
to branch beside her,
and a wolf-shadow
companions
her every step.



An old one from 2011, re-posted for the Poetry Pantry at Poets United, where you will find many beautiful offerings every Sunday morning! Come join us!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Begin Again


My great-grandson a dozen years ago,
with my sister's love-bug, Lukey


This poem
woke up this morning
to a new day.

It looked around
and saw much
to foster despair.
But we are alive
at this moment in time,
so this poem decided
to live today
the best it knows how,
while there is a today
in which to live.

This poem
is grateful
that we get another chance
every morning
to begin
again.


Thursday, August 8, 2019

Shine




When you shine,
you light up
the space around you
the way a sunflower,
turning its face to the sun,
makes us happy
as we pass by.

There are dark clouds.
There is turmoil.
There is pain enough
for three planets
on this beautiful
blue-green orb.

But your smile
and your good heart -
your hand reaching out 
to help spread kindness
all around -
makes a difference; it
brightens up your little corner
of the world.

If you shine,
everybody's going to shine.


for Marian's prompt at Real Toads: Queen Lizzo's song "If I'm shining everybody gonna shine."


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Safety


The news is distressing.
Wildlife is dying,
the poles are melting,
bears are being shot as they flee,
refugees find no welcome
at their last resort,
mass shootings are reported as
"the latest one",
and there is no safety
anywhere.

The safest place I ever knew
was my grandma's little cottage
on Christleton Avenue,
where peace was so profound
I could hear the clock
on the kitchen windowsill
ticking and tocking
in every corner of the house.

I learned peace
at my grandmother's knee
and created it for myself
and my children
in every home I ever lived in.

I feel it now
when I walk down
the apartment hallway
and turn the key in the lock:
my small rooms, my sanctuary,
place of peace and safety
in this mad, mad world.


for Susan's prompt at Midweek Motif: Safety




Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Going, going, gone



Where is safety
when the Arctic is melting
and Siberia is burning,
when the Pacific Island nations are under water,
and governments are deaf to mounting crises?

Starving polar bears and displaced black bears
wander into villages and are killed.
Whales grow thinner and die; 
they lose their young.

And humans driven from their homes
by things they cannot help
are met with no welcome anywhere.

For now, safety lives in 
our hearts and our homes,
but when will the waters rise for us?
When will the food run out?
Will we care then,
when our homes are washed away,
and crisis comes to our own village?

We are sadly lacking world leaders
strong enough to put planet before profit.
Women, guardians of life, 
would make the tough choices,
if we we were given the chance.

Patriarchy and capitalism have 
plundered the earth.
The poles are wavering under 
the burden of their melted ice.
Where is safety when Siberia is burning
and the polar ice caps are melting?

Gone, with the old ways of 
caretaking the earth, and each other........
gone like the hot lick of wind off burning tundra,
gone like the whales,
the bears and all the dispossessed,

           going, 
               going, 
                   gone.

**********************

Sorry, kids.

I have always been stubbornly optimistic and hopeful. I used to be irritatingly so. But I have a strong sense of justice and,  truly, as I am watching all that is happening - and all that is NOT happening - I am very discouraged. My words and my hope are drying up. I am grateful for the beauty surrounding me; we must appreciate what we have while we have it. But I am very nervous about what is happening up north. 

The Arctic is melting at an unprecedented rate, which will be hastened by the burning forests of Siberia. Those in power now are not equipped to handle a response to all this, especially once worse crisis hits. They aren't even faintly interested; it's business as usual (substitute "greed and corrupt power").

My last faint bit of hope is for the 2020 election. But it is faint. The 2016 election was manipulated; of course the next one will be too. He can apparently get away with anything. 

Well. This is depressing. But it is what poured out with the word "safety". None to be had anywhere - especially for hungry bears and displaced South Americans. 

A mama bear and her two malnourished cubs were unable to access their usual forest route, as humans had blocked it off. They wandered into a neighbourhood in Coquitlam last week. They were not acting aggressively. They were FLEEING wildlife people, trying to find their forest, when they were shot dead. Wildlife officials said the bears were "not cooperating" - should they have stood still for their execution?

Locals who were yelling "Don't shoot the bears!" were ARRESTED and their video of the shooting confiscated. (Bravo to them for speaking up.) EIGHT bears have been killed in Coquitlam in July. 

I have such a big problem with the killing of displaced wildlife. It is not their fault they have no habitat. We are too many.


for Susan's Midweek Motif at Poets United: Safety. With my apologies for all that has gone so wrong on this beautiful, suffering planet. Not sure who I am apologizing too? God? Mother Earth? Wildlife? Immigrants seeking safe harbour? All of the above.




SONG OF RIVERS


Sandy McRuer photo 


Sing to me with Raven's gobble-cry,
with krak! of heron, hoot of sleepy owl.
Sing with the current slipping fast away,
the traveler's path, high heart  and wolfish howl.

Bear walks into the river, palms a salmon,
sits in the water, eats from his mighty paw.
Eagle, fierce of eye, in topmost tree,
waits for the leavings, as I watch in awe.

Such is nature as she's meant to be:
a cyclical return: salmon through bear
and back to nurture earth.
Sing me misty riverbank, and green,
a wealth of beauty ours 'tween death and birth.

Sing me a song of rivers flowing to the sea,
wolf howls at midnight under the full moon.
Sing its song of homecoming to me,
for, like the river, I'll be returning soon.



I found this in drafts, written in 2016. I can read it two ways: in 2016, I was still waiting to return to Tofino. Checked that one off my bucket list! Also, at my age, there is the natural returning of bodies to the earth to contemplate. The photo is of the foot of the river at Stamp Falls, where bears often come, as it is on the salmon migratory route. I went there often when I lived in Port Alberni, and sometimes saw bears and eagles there.

Sharing with the Tuesday Platform at Real Toads.


Friday, August 2, 2019

Stitches Made by Fairy Fingers



When I walk into the forest, the big old tree trunks lean their ears towards me, listening. I am singing the Forest Song……song of cedar, draped with Old Man’s Beard, so fine and soft-spun, it looks like small wing├ęd fairy folk may have stitched it onto the trees.



Perhaps they are peeping out at us, now, from under some mushrooms.





Who decorated the rock with green lace? Who planted the seeds that grew the flaming flowers sprouting on the rock-face?




Moss and seagrass are soft and sweet. Brother eagle, once he has woven his nest of twigs, will gather some to line his nest, so his chicks will have soft beds.




Magical beings live in the forest. Some we see; some hide themselves away. When all Two-Leggeds have gone home at the end of day, and the forest is returned to them, the creatures all come out. Wolf and bear pad softly along the forest trails.

This is the time of fairy-folk, who tiptoe about stitching moss and old man’s beard onto tall branches. Perhaps it is they who lay soft green along the rocks, on which to spread their fine china for fairy repasts under the light of the moon.

Brother Eagle was busy all day building his nest. He is tired now. But Sister Owl keeps watch from a fat, wide branch, her yellow eyes like lamps through the darkness, ready to alert the forest folk should unwelcome guests arrive.

When I visit, next day, the fairy dishes have long since been cleared away, and all of the creatures have hidden themselves, except for Brother Eagle, still working tirelessly at his nest. Strong and wide, it will last for generations of young eagles, who will take that mighty leap from its edge, springtime after springtime, as long as there is earth and water,  sky and tree.

************

313 words for Magaly's Telling Tales Pantry of Prose prompt at 
Poets United:  Stitches. 

I didn't have a photo of old man's beard handy, but it looks JUST like an old man's beard, thin and scraggly, draped among the branches throughout the forest, like angel hair on a Christmas tree.