Friday, September 30, 2022

The One Who Speaks of Pictures In the Sky


John Woods/Canadian Press photo

The One Who Speaks of Pictures in the Sky
can see the faces of the lost ones, the ones
who never made it home. Tears are sorrowing
for the children, whose pain, whose cries,
were not heard then, but are
still being felt and heard today.
He hears the voices of the ancestors,
grandfathers and grandmothers, on the wind,
crooning "Stand strong. Stand tall." 

With her papoose on her back, she sings
a soft lullaby for all the children
pulled from their mothers' arms,
taken to cruel, dark hallways far from home.
The small child on her back
waves a tiny hand. I think of
all the small hands and hearts
those years ago, and the black robes as cold
as ice who caused so much pain.

He speaks his pain with power and strength:
addressing the Monster that swallowed his youth
and tried to erase his culture. When he
returned, all grown, and stared at the school,
he did the impossible. "Monster,
I forgive you," he said. "This is where
I earned my diploma of survival."

I listen in awe at the stories of
a beautiful people, who have suffered
and overcome so much
and who still love to laugh.
I hear you. I see you. 
Your beauty, your courage, shines.
Your drum is the heartbeat
of Mother Earth. Your song is Truth.
May we mamalthni hear you well.

Today was the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.

The Honourable Murray Sinclair, speaking at the event, was introduced as the One Who Speaks of Pictures In the Sky. He was chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation commission.

The Monster refers to the powerful poem "Monster", about residential school, by survivor Dennis Saddleman.

Mamalthni is the Nuu-chah-nulth word for white people.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Somewhere You Took a Turning


Beached pilot whales

you took a wrong turning
and others followed.
You lie growling and clicking
on the sand,
at the mercy of the same species
who are trying to help
as destroyed the world
you once swam through
with ease.

A bucket of water
for momentary relief
will never be enough
to make reparation
for our fouling of
the seas.

we took a wrong turning
and others followed,
and now we can't seem 
to find a way
back to the garden
of that better

230 pilot whales beached themselves in the second 
mass stranding event this past week in the
Australian state of Tasmania.

Scientists say noise pollution, overfishing and warming seas - all human-caused factors - contribute to the many strandings seen along beaches in recent years. Half of the beached whales above are still alive and rescue efforts are being made, but the scope of suffering for the whales is devastating.

Shared with earthweal where we are doing an ekphrasis challenge as Brendan prepares for a major hurricane bearing down on the state of Florida. 

Friday, September 23, 2022

When the World Was Young


In the lifetime before the lifetime before this one,
and again in the lifetime before that,
I danced under the blue sky in the sundance,
when I and the world were young.

The beat of the drum sang in my blood,
and my feet moved in joy,
and I danced
and I danced
as if it would last forever,
when I and the world were young.

The Old Ones smiled on me
with kind eyes, but with sadness too,
for their dreams foresaw suffering
for the people.

Over in the meadow, grey wolves flitted
in and out among the Standing People,
paws prancing high,
and the backs of the buffalo
carpeted the earth
in the days
when I and the world were young.

And now I live again
in an alien skin,
in a world grown cold.
The buffalo are gone and all that moves
is made of metal.
And I am an Old One
with kind, sad eyes,
watching the young dance
in a world gone mad,
and the ancient spirits are crying still,
remembering the days of
dancing under the sun
when they and I
and the world were young.

From 2015, shared with earthweal's open link. I wrote it after attending a Christmas concert at a First Nations school. The young lad above was one of many students, dancing for the animals in a circular dance called Everything Is One. So beautiful.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022



Ninstints, Guardians of Haida Gwaii
BBC photo

Weathered and leaning,
the guardians stand,
testament to the first people
of the land.

There are spirits here.
One can feel the energy
of times long gone,
and, when the wind is blowing,
one can sometimes hear
the wailing
of an ancient people, 
all that happened

They lived here
when the earth was young,
laughing, happy
under the sun.

Their totems tell
their story.
When you step onto the sand,
walk with reverence,
and listen
to the voices
of the land.

Ninstints is a small island off the coast of Haida Gwaii. The ancient totems are guardians of the land, now uninhabited by humans, and protected. In 1981, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A friend visited there and when I said "you must have felt the energy there" she replied "I could hear it, too." She said she could hear wailing, the spirits mourning - the entire village was wiped out by smallpox after the white man passed through.

For Brendan's prompt at earthweal : A Map of History's Mysteries

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Flying Free


Marriage was anesthesia to my soul,
an overdose of entrapment. I was a caged brainiac
living on Third Avenue in a marital straitjacket
while, only one block up, on Fourth, blissful hippies
in tie-dye, smelling of patchouli and some
strange weed, wandered up and down,
as born to freedom as any bird. And I
wondered, how did they ever learn
to be that free?

A ghost of my inner self began to stir
and bang upon its cage.
The stack of Ms magazines grew
wise and tall
and, woe to the status quo, I began
to understand it all.
Helen Reddy and I sang Hit the Road, Jack,
with gusto while my husband scowled.

"We did okay 'til you started thinking
you were a person," he said, and,
in that moment I emerged
from the wasteland of my marriage,
on a leafy sidewalk in the West End of the city,
and flew free.

for Shay's awesome word list - check it out! I used the word axe, too, but reconsidered in the interests of political correctness. LOL.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Celebration of Life for Ice


Blue ice,
your other-worldly beauty
sparked our dreams, 
drew explorers to you -
the romantic Far North -
frozen-solid tundra,
sled dogs joyously yip-yip-yipping
across the miles,
sled riders wrapped in layers of fur
against the glacial cold.

People of the reindeer, the Sami,
lived a hard life, yet a happy one,
the only life they knew;
the snow, crystalline beauty,
the hard-packed, treacherous ice,
icebergs standing tall against the sky,
their blue mysterious caverns
glowing under the moon.
Blue, mysterious caverns,
and crevasses where one false step
could end your life.

The majesty of the frozen north,
known best by those who
made their lives upon your snowy breast:
polar bears, caribou, seals,
the Arctic fox, and wolves,
a sad procession, now, of endangered
almost-ghosts, hungering
and dying, because we are too many,
and our appetites more fierce.

In only 50 years,
our carbon-tainted fingers
found you:
warming seas gobbling your icy shores,
habitations crumbling,
spongy taiga, melting tundra,
turning soggy underfoot,
revealing skeletons buried for
a thousand years.

And your blue ice,
is now crumbling into the sea
and melting underfoot,
sleds replaced by skidoos
roaring fast to outrun the melt,
and boat tours urge Come see the ice
before it's
going going gone.
Making money from devastation
is what our economy thrives upon.
(Those of us with hearts
will never buy the con.)

Polar bear,
I see you on the edge
of your small floe,
spying your dinner too far
across the way,
and yet the hunger is still there,
as the pounds melt away,
so you stagger weakly into town,
confused, wondering where
the life you knew
has vanished to.

The seas warm year by year;
the oceans rise.
We sorrow at being the cause
of your demise.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

The Song of My Life

Moonrise over the Broken Group Islands
photo by Jon Merk

The song of my life is the summer breeze
dancing within the rustling trees
it's the murmuring shore, the waves' ebb and flow
it's the beauty of nature wherever I go
it's the call of the mountains, the tumbling falls,
it's the riverbed green, and the canyon walls,
it's sunrise and sunset, the golden glow
of a fall afternoon as the sun sinks low
it's the smell of smoke on the evening air
it's the howl of the wolf, the growl of bear
it's the cackling hen and the warbling wren
the fox's leap over the cattle pen
it's the translucent light on the sandy shore
glorious beauty spread all before
it's the moon that crosses the midnight sky
 the beauty that forever draws my eye
it is, most especially, the song of the sea,
ever drawing away, then returning to me.

for earthweal's open link, I clicked on September 10, 2014, and found this. I forget most of my poems after I write them, as I write so many.

For This Poem, There Needs to Be a Fox


For this poem, there needs to be
a fox, somewhere out in the country,
and my grandmother's garden:
sweet pea and peony, lilac and pinks
scenting the air
on sweet summer evenings. There
needs to be a girl in a soft blue cotton dress,
reading love letters, under the weeping willow,
a shiver of mixed
fear and delight at
whatever comes next.

For this poem, the girl is now a grandmother
herself, her letters all tucked in a box
under her bed, never read any more.
What came next deserved every shiver
until she moved on.
In this poem, a fox creeps out of the bush
from deep in the forest. It looks at her,
smiling, that young girl grown old,
then pounces back into
the radiant green,
and is gone.

For Shay's Word list, and the inspiration of The Garden by Moonlight by Amy Lowell. Shared with earthweal's open link.

Things to Say Instead of 'I'm fine'


On the street, passing villagers ask
"how are you?" and the expected response
is 'Fine, thanks,' even if one is hobbling,
and the other already walking away
before I can ask them the same.
For how is there time, as we're
rushing off to our various errands, to say,
(though sometimes I try): "It is so beautiful
today, it makes my heart sing" or "when
I saw the eagle fly across the harbour,
my heart flew along with him, for just
a little way."

We generally have an unspoken agreement
not to mention trump, covid, or the climate crisis,
the intense heat, the horrifying floods,
the wildfires, the climate refugees already
on the move, though leaders stay tight-lipped
about the state of things, as if the world
were not crumbling and sliding into the sea.

Wouldn't they be shocked
if I stopped right there
on the sidewalk, and said: All my life
I've loved people who never felt loved enough.
I gave all that I had, though it seems to be
forgotten, suffered many losses,
yet stayed grateful for the beauty
all around me, and the gifts that I've
been given. From where I was to
where I am now was an amazing journey,
for which I'm thankful, and I'm tired now,
my quiet heart at peace.

But "Fine, thanks," I say, smiling,
which is likely a relief
to those who ask.

Inspired by List of Things to Say Instead of I'm Fine by Marlin M. Jenkins.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Standing In a Happy Place


A person wants to stand in a happy place in a poem*.
Confined to bed and wheelchair, age fifty,
felled by stroke, he says it is inconceivable
to have such happiness as was in the poem I shared,
and yet I do – because of sky and trees and birds
and the endless waves, with their forever in and out.

And because my legs, while painful, still hold me up.
His situation lends perspective to minor complaints.
I tell him how I admire that he has kept
his sense of humour, and the adaptation he has made
to such a hard situation. He says the nurses laugh
a lot, and are kind.

A person wants to stand in a happy place in a poem*,
the poet said, filling her poems with trees and birds
and her ability to see the small wonders, the same
ones that keep me, I explain, in a state of awe
and gratitude as I make my bumbling way
through this world.


*Italicized lines by Mary Oliver in her poem Singapore.

Monday, September 5, 2022

When the Heavens Burst


(Zahid Hussain/AP Photo)

The heavens burst, roaring down upon us
a river of rain, too much for the land to absorb.
We stood in the window and watched
the water rise, cover the street, creep
up the sides of cars. They kept driving,
in denial that they were now on a river,
no longer a road. Their red taillights
gleamed, then flashed. Car doors opened
and people climbed onto their roofs.

The heavens burst, and huge trees
started floating down laneways,
or falling onto cars, their roots
coming out of the ground,
sticking up, looking like the
wisdom teeth of the planet
had been pulled, without novocaine,
no mercy for those who don't hear
when the planet is speaking. It rained
like the apocalypse, like Noah's flood,
but nobody had built any arks.

The heavens burst, and 30 million new
climate refugees began to wade across Pakistan,
small bundles of all they had left lifted high
above water. Under the surface, how many bodies,
furry and not, lay lifeless? How far
will they walk to find a dry place to stop?
How long before the world sends them tents
so their new life, even worse than the old,
can begin?

The heavens burst with a biblical roar
that felt like the world was ending.
When it stops, everything will be different,
including our hearts.

for Brendan at earthweal: An Atmospheric River Roars At Us

Friday, September 2, 2022



In the silence of the heart
grows the tender white lotus blossom
that is your life.
Water it gently with your tears.
Bathe it in the sunlight of your hopes
and the soft moonlight of your dreams.

Listen! for the trees are sighing,
holding out their arms as you approach,
hoping you will truly see them
at least one time
before you die,
will let them hold you gently
as you cry.

Behind your sleeping eyes
lies the Watcher In the Woods,
the one who nudges you this way and that,
who sighs wearily, when you do not
heed her call,
this One who knows you best of all,
who has picked you up after every fall.

As we draw closer to the end of things,
our spirit slows, our voices gentle,
we are not nearly as certain as we once
so vociferously were.
It is time for softness now,
and reflection,
for looking back and for remembering.

We need much silence now,
a silence of the heart
weary from making its own way.
We speak more softly, and less often,
the young won't listen anyway.
They have to find
their own befuddled way,
their own steep price
in pain to pay.

Our song now is a murmuring brook
trickling over some knotted roots;
we are content to meander whimsically
through this golden autumn-before-winter,
letting go like the last withered leaf
on the gnarled old maple,
twirling dreamily down
to the mossy bank,
where we sit for a spell,
lulled by the water's flow.
So soft, its voice, as soft
as the somnolent song of our lives
the last notes sounding,
holding death at bay,
before they gently, softly, finally
fade away.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Things To Do on a Grey Damp Morning in September


Give thanks for a cancelled appointment, so you can stay in cozily all day. Make a leisurely cup of coffee and try the new coffee creamer which is unexpectedly delicious. 

Admire the sunflowers, a note of cheer against grey sky, a heart-lift every time you see them. Sunflowers turn their faces to the sun. Turn the vase to face the window, so they don't hurt their necks.

Write a poem, because nothing much else will be accomplished today. 

If you have the ingredients, make a pot of soup. If you don't, put vegetables on the shopping list and try again tomorrow. 

Call someone who is lonely, who has been waiting for your call. Hang up, grateful you still have your mobility, no matter how limited. In houses all across the world are stories of people struggling, loving, grieving, suffering, surviving. Consider yourself lucky to have the life you have. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude for it all.

Watch two movies, back to back. The day is all yours.