Tuesday, October 31, 2023



We spend the first half of our life gathering
and striving: each move into larger and larger homes,
filling them with things we spend
the last half of our life giving away.

Each move, in our later years, is into
smaller and smaller spaces. We down-size,
until we are down to our very last treasures:
the memorabilia of our lives.

Will these small rooms full of my wolves
and books and comforts be my last, or
will there be one more move into
a nursing home? One never knows.

But while I am here, still somewhat mobile,
I know enough to be grateful, every day,
for the good fortune, many blessings,
and the many small homes
that have come my way.

for Susan's prompt this Wednesday at What"s Going On? Moving Homes.

Sunday, October 29, 2023



Totems at Ninstints
BBC photo

They have been many: an ethereal woman appearing
to my mother on an upper floor, questions in her eyes;
wings signalling a death that followed my mother 
down the hall on waking; the sound of galloping hooves
along a country lane at full-moon midnight,
echoes of a fatal buggy ride a hundred years ago.

A woman attuned to the other world heard
wailing and keening of long-dead villagers
at Ninstints, a village wiped out by smallpox
when the settlers came, their grief never-ending.

And now the voices of dead children are calling us
to their unmarked graves across Canada,
and the generational trauma of residential school
can no longer be silenced. "They found us,"
they whisper to each other. "Soon we will be
going home."

What are the spirits of Israel and Palestine
telling us? Are we listening? To the grief,
the horror, the suffering, the endless
spilling of blood, after which no spirit
can ever truly rest. 

There are spirits among us, they say,
trying to get our attention, the waft
of a cool breeze in a hallway, items
moved from place to place,
a cold  shock  down my spine,
knowing that her ghost was right behind me;
a photo of a loved one that jumped off a bureau 
as we were speaking of him. Galway Bay tinkling
through my brain, from left to right: my Grandma
saying goodbye. The weight of a snout
on the side of my bed, a whuff,
his fierce resistance to leaving,
as his body went into the flames.

There be spirits here, when the veil
between the worlds grows thin -
and other times as well, if we
are listening: the dead telling us
that once they walked like us,
sleepwalking, unawakened
to the world
that's coming next.

for Desperate Poets : Night of the Desperate Dead

Saturday, October 28, 2023



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Because even the word obstacle is an obstacle,
try to love everything that gets in your way.

Use line-ups and waiting rooms as moments
in which to meditate and feel peace, when
just waiting is what is happening.

Strive to be accepting, resigned
to all we can’t fix or heal.
It took 50 years of struggling
to help, to make everything better
for others, to learn how to
let go and just
Be the Observer.

Serenity comes when we learn how
to bow in service to a larger story……
the way of all beings.

The larger story right now
is one of great suffering,
hard to carry in one’s mind and heart,
and yet, even now, our love for
our fellow humans, who are
experiencing such pain and desperation,
can unite our voices to plead for
their safety and survival.
It does not feel like enough,
but it is all that I’ve got
to get me through this world
that injustice has made.

Inspired by “Even the Word Obstacle is an Obstacle” by Alison Luterman of Wild Writing. The italicized lines are hers.

Friday, October 27, 2023

When All Else Fails


Rainbow over First Street Dock
by Marla Williams

When all else fails, I go to the shore,
step onto the sand as if it is a new country,
different every time I visit,
 yet always the same.
The sussuration of the waves
lulls my spirit, lisping:
all will be well
all will be well
all will be exceedingly well.

When all else fails,
I go to the harbour,
watch the play of clouds and mist 
over Wah-nah-juss,
perhaps admire a rainbow
arching across the sky,
as if painted by a Master Artist,
the answer to our "why?"

When all else fails,
I remember that this world
has seen it all before,
yet learned so little:
bombs and suffering,
displaced human and non-human refugees,
devastation that can never 
be considered "winning."

When all else fails,
my words fail me, too.
So many poems about peace,
the climate crisis,
injustice, war,
and here we are,
doing it all again.

When all else fails,
only the earth itself, and dogs,
with their true hearts,
can comfort me.

Inspired by the title of "When All Else Fails" by Lana Hechtman Ayers.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Nothing Left to Say


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It feels like there is nothing left to say
when once again, we stand at the brink of war,
when civilians are being held hostage in tunnels
underground, when other civilians are starving,
without food, water, or a safe place to hide
from the bombs.

Wild ones, tell us how to live like you do.
For certain your lives are harsh - made
more so because of us - but there is simplicity 
and justice in taking only what you need,
respecting the other creatures you share
the earth with, trying to raise your young,
avoid being killed, staying in your territory.

Owl, oracle, wisdom-keeper,
you have seen all this before.
So have I, and I am weary
that we do not learn that in war
no one wins, everyone suffers.

Brother Wolf, you know the ways of man
are dangerous. It is why you hide from us,
deep in the forest. You know we are
the fiercest predators on earth.
Do you wonder that we destroy, not just 
your habitat, but our own? That we
borrow from future generations
so we can have more now? Your clan
always makes sure the cubs and elders
are fed first. Teach us your ways.
I can hear you say: we earth creatures
have been speaking our pain to you
for decades, but you don't listen.
The ways of man are deadly
to all other living beings.

Sister Tree, breath of life, do you
wonder at how we cut you down,
the lungs of the planet, then do not 
understand why we are choking?

Mother Earth cries out in storm and fire
and flood, in all her animal voices,
in whalesong and dying salmon.
Is it that we are too afraid that we
ignore her piercing cries?

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

E is for Existential Crisis


E is for Existential Crisis.

E is for Extremely Discouraged.

E is for Ecological and Environmental Devastation,
and for Endangered Species: including us.

Meanwhile, the world turns and burns,
wages war against each other instead of
uniting to save all of our lives.

E is for emissions, increasing every year
because of addiction to oil and obscene wealth.

Which brings me back to where I started out:
E is for Existential Crisis.

for Rajani's climate crisis series. 

O is for Ordinary


O is for ordinary: a look out the window
at my street, smiling as small children
from the daycare walk past, waving;
the warmth of a cup of English Breakfast 
tea in my Dog Lover mug with the black dog
on it; sunshine and morning, and no bombs
falling, geranium leaves turning orange
as fall tiptoes towards the coming winter.

Could anything be sweeter
than a West Coast morning?

Walking at the shore, life is everywhere:
mussels clicking along the rocks, starfish
clinging to the sloping sides, anemones
that curl their arms up if you touch them
gently. Yet what amazing creatures they are.
When you really see them, they are
magical: each a small being, living
its life in spite of battering waves,
drought, heat, too-many
humans; each a small life trying
to survive the whims of fate,
and not ordinary at all.

for Sumana's prompt at What's Going On?  Ode to the Mundane, now open until Sunday evening - the beautiful ordinary, otherwise known as peace and well being, and not much going on, which we know enough to be grateful for, the while our hearts are breaking for all those who are suffering and dying across the planet. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

Dear Creature


Nocturnal Visitations
by Forest Woodward

When the veil grows thin
between this world and the next,
I watch for you,
and listen for your howl.

You followed the path
where the Disappeared go,
and I could not follow.

The morning after you died,
just as they were
feeding you into the flames,
I felt your snout
on the edge of my bed.
You whuffed to wake me,
as you had every morning
of our life together.

And then you were gone,
into the ether,
to find your own way
along forest trails
in the sky.

You always went before me
on the path.
Wait for me.
I am not far
behind you.

for Desperate Poets where we are supposed to be Creature Seeking. But there has always only been one special creature for me, and I miss him still.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Children of the Earth


We're all dreamers. We don't know who we are.
In a world at war, our hearts freeze; we hide
ourselves away from pain too great to bear.
We dream. We don't remember
that we come from the earth, from sky
and moss and water,
each of us with a dream of life and love
on this beautiful planet of blue and green.
We have forgotten who we are,
how we are meant to live: in this wondrous place,
with care, with inclusion, with concern for others,
even seven generations hence.

We find pockets of peace among the mossy trees.
We wander the shore like lonely exiles
from a place we never knew. We have forgotten
that we are children of the earth, born in
an earthly garden, under a heaven strewn with stars.

Bombs fall, families die in the rubble.
Who will "win" in this medieval torture chamber?
For certain, thousands will lose, have lost, are losing.
What must the land feel  as alien rockets pound
into the earth?

When the rockets grow still and we emerge,
blinking, to see what is left, we'll start again
the endless restoration of our wanton, profligate
destruction. Brick upon brick, we will build more walls,
make more guns, wage more assaults
upon each other and all the other beings who are also
trying to live in a world we humans are destroying
faster every day.

We're all dreamers. But we have forgotten who we are.

The italicized lines are from the Poem "Mother and Child" by Louise Gluck.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Heartbreak Hotel

Wadea, six years old, stabbed to death
in Illinois, USA, 26 times for being Muslim, 
by his landlord, by hatred, by racism,
by a world that has lost its way.

I've booked myself into a room
in the Hotel of Despond.
I don't need a rose or some chocolates
on the pillow.
I just need some time to replenish
my stores of hope.

My heart needs a nap for about 100 years,
can't take the war, man's inhumanity
to man, to children, to the impoverished
and dispossessed, and to other non-human beings
with whom we so grudgingly share this planet.

I require a time-out from the pain
of weeping parents
of murdered or abducted Israelis
on my tv screen,
of terrified Palestinian civilians,
fleeing with rag bundles,
trying to escape what Hamas has wrought,
with the borders closed and the UN saying
"There is no safe place."

A small girl looks into the camera,
sobbing, "How are we supposed to live? 
There is no one to protect us."
And then there is Wadea,
six years old, wearing his birthday hat,
murdered by his crazed-with-hatred landlord
for being a Muslim little boy.

Cancel my reservation
at the Hotel of Despond.
I've booked a room
at the Heartbreak Hotel,
and I won't be coming out
any time soon.

Valarie Kaur, the wonderful speaker and author of See No Stranger,  wrote about Wadea, and asks us "what would love have you do?" At this point, when babies and children and old people, innocent civilians all, are being abducted, terrorized and murdered, or are fleeing bombs, running towards closed borders, love has me weeping. How many wars will it take to prove no one ever really wins a war? 

for Mary's prompt at What's Going On? Hotel, which posts at 11 a.m. eastern on Wednesday.



This photo of a bear at a smoking landfill was taken
by Canadian photographer Troy Moth, who said it is
the most heartbreaking photo he has ever taken.

D is for displaced: bears and wolves
flushed out of clearcut forests, skirting
the edge of town, their lives in peril;

elephants whose habitats have been
encroached upon, numbers of their herds
killed for their tusks; the snow leopard,
once the most elusive of the wild,
now so many humans high in the mountains
that his survival is at risk.

D is for Devastation: the animals of climate change,
but the humans too, all climate refugees
on the move in search of a safe place to be
they cannot find. Climate refugees might reach
1.2 billion by 2050.* What animals will survive
by then, we cannot know.

The mountain gorilla, the polar bear, the green
sea turtle, all are struggling as their numbers
are decreasing. D is for Destruction of their habitat.

D is for death, and downfall, 
caused by corporate greed and human need.
It is also for Destiny: can we envision
a world where we all
are freed?

I'm afraid I have a Dismal answer  to that question. For Rajani's climate change series.

* source: https://reliefweb.int/report/world/climate-migrants-might-reach-one-billion-2050

Monday, October 16, 2023

Desperate Crossings

MarieClaire U.K.
Image credit AFP Via Getty Images

Imagine this:
you wake up one morning and you're at war.
You are told you have hours to flee
before the bombs come. You grab your baby, your toddler,
a cloth bag of what's at hand.
It will never be enough to meet the need.
The toddler is too young to toddle far
and you can only carry one.
What to do?

They tell you to head south.
You follow the others but word comes back:
the border is closed.
Terror. Despair.
You long to wake from this nightmare.
It is too much.
You cannot possibly cope.

Yet somehow you put one foot in front
of the other.
You long to live, and for your children
to live, even in a world so cruel,
where half of the dead and dying
are children,
where a little girl weeps into the camera:
how are we supposed to live?

You keep moving, even though
the U.N. says
there is no safe place.

I can't imagine a more desperate crossing
than the ones facing those fleeing
this latest war.

for Brendan at Desperate Poets where we are contemplating Desperate Crossings. 




I don't know how to write about war,
bombs dropping out of the sky on both sides
of a political divide, deaths and injuries in the thousands,
humanitarian aid, power, water, food, cut off
from the desperate,
hostages held in tunnels
deep below the earth, 

but I do know how to make a comforting pot
of potato-leek soup on a cloudy October morning,
stirring and stirring as the potatoes soften,
wondering when human hearts will soften
enough to recognize human beings instead of
enemies: simply people wanting 
to live simply.

I don't know how to write about war,
desperate people fleeing desperately
to they know not where, carrying their small
cloth bundles, nothing to sustain them
but their desire to live and keep their children safe,

me thinking of the shiny, happy faces
of my great-grandchildren, a world away,
and how do we keep
all children safe in a world at war,

but I do know how to bear witness to the traumas
of this world, that we humans inflict upon
the innocent, both human and non-human beings,
a species skilled at causing devastation and despair,
and calling it power.

I don't know how to write about war,
except if we can wage it, surely we can stop it,
and what is it about us that we don't?
We come to this world gentle-hearted,
without a trigger warning for what we will endure.
What happens that causes some
to grow into someone
who can kill an innocent, then utter
a prayer as if he is a messenger of the divine?

I will never know how to write about war.

From Laurie Wagner's prose poem: "I Don't Know How to Write about War", the italicized line I have repeated in my poem. To me any war equates to suffering on all sides, too much suffering to bear.

Shared at dVerse where the topic is Why War? Why indeed.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

The Dimming of the Light

Chris Pietsch photo/USA Today Network

The moon eclipses the sun on Planet Earth,
dimming its luminous light for a time.
Light is dimmed in Gaza, too, all power off,
civilians suffering for a war 
they didn't want, terror by Hamas
- unthinkable brutality -
human suffering on both sides
of a great divide.

They say Gaza is an open prison, 
refugees crammed into camps,
helpless and hopeless, half
the population under eighteen years old.

The trauma of the Israeli victims and
those who survived is felt deeply.
A normal mind cannot conceive
of such brutality, in the name of Allah.
"Allah akbar" they said as they beheaded
a human being: "God is great."
A loving God must be outraged
at such acts committed in His name.

Each month - each week - brings
darker times. War can never build
the bridge that only peace can sing.

We watch the daily news struck numb
- never an end
to the human and non-human toll
of all our suffering.

The terrorist attack in Israel last week was horrible beyond belief. Hamas is a force that needs to be destroyed, disarmed, ousted. But I think of the suffering of the Palestinian people, too - who have already suffered for decades - and who did not cause and do not want this war. They and Israeli civilians are the ones who will suffer. And another generation of traumatized children will grow up to keep the anger simmering. It is beyond discouraging. On November 4th I will peace blog along with Mimi Lenox with others across the globe. We will fly our globes for peace. But I don't know if I believe any more that humanity will ever find the way to peace. Certainly not in time to head off what promises to be untold human suffering on an epic scale.

Friday, October 13, 2023

When the Words Won't Come


When things are so terrible
that the words won't come,
feelings sit, unexpressed,
in one's chest. Thoughts circle,
trying to absorb the horror, 
the heartbreak, the suffering 
of civilians, of children, of babies -
unimaginable pain that so many
are living through.

It feels wrong to write
about anything else, and yet,
what words can ever be the right ones
to express this much pain?

The world turns, the words circle.
Will humans ever finally learn
how to live in peace again?

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

C is for Coyote


Skinny, hungry,
displaced from your habitat
by development, by floods and fires,
- by us -
you wandered too close to humans.
Some of them thought it cute
to feed you,
thereby signing your death warrant.

You bit someone
who had no food for you.
You bit another.
Look how skinny you are.
Look how beautiful you were.

At five a.m.
your life was over,
killed for the crime
of being homeless and hungry
in a world you never made.

In September, a skinny coyote came too close to people. Some of them fed him. He bit a few others on the leg, likely demanding food. He was killed of course. It is always the animals who suffer from their encounters with our species. We are far more deadly than the wild ones. 

Monday, October 9, 2023

On Gratitude and Wonder


If you knew this was your last day,
or week, or month,
how would you spend it?
What would you tell people?
Would you pick up the phone more often,
speak words of love and appreciation?

Would you sit at the shore for hours,
watching the forever waves
endlessly advancing and retreating,
until, behind your eyelids,
they became engraved forever
on your heart?

Here’s how it is:
we have this moment, now.
No more are promised.
The ferryman will come.
We knew this
when we bought the ticket.
He will glide beside the dock,
and nod: we will step in.
It will be too late then
to change
what might have been.

Here’s what I really want you to know:
I carry it all in my heart: summer days
under my grandma’s weeping willow,
teardrops and song under a teenage moon,
young motherhood, with all the struggle,
and the laughter, all those leggy children
laughing in the sun; I carry it all,
the coming home to myself,
my great leap to the sea,
the big black wolf who taught me
all that love could be.

I carry it all with me: the gifts,
the gratitude, the sorrow,
(for the recipe, my friends,
has always included sorrow.)
It has been more than I ever dreamed,
if not all that it could be.
My heart is full to the brim
with gratitude and wonder,
should I depart Tomorrow.

for my prompt at What's Going On? Gratitude, which posts at 11 a.m. eastern time on Wednesday. Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends. We count our blessings, one, two, three, four. I wrote this poem before the latest bombs started falling. I struggle to find words for the state of humanity at the moment, so will let this poem stand , for the sake of the things I am always grateful for. But hard to wax poetic on gratitude this particular week. I will write a more relevant poem soon, if I can muster the words.

Happy Hour in Suburbia


It's happy hour in suburbia,
ice cubes tinkling in the glass,
a festive feeling until the third drink,
when voices grow loud and discontent
is everywhere.
The children, big-eyed and silent,
move from in front of the television
to the farthest bedroom.
All of the ways
wives and husbands exhibit despair
are on display in slurred speech,
which escalates.

I got off that bus to nowhere in 1972.

When I turned forty, I changed my life.
My job was deadening my dreams;
 my spirit and all hope was dying.
It was then or never, so, to save my life,
I gave up the management job,
the first decent paycheque I had ever earned,
gathered all the trust I could muster,
and took a  leap over the mountains
to a wilder shore. Holes in my sneakers,
three jobs at a time, the struggle was real,
but so was the exhilaration - joy 
on a daily basis for ten long years.

Now, at the end of the road, at the edge of the world,
my happy hours are full of cackling crones,
with ungovernable hair and interesting attire,
looking back at adventures we never could have
imagined, back in those lives the 50's
programmed us for: those little houses all in a row,
a car in every driveway, and enough drinks
at happy hour to make it through.

For Brendan at Desperate Poets: Desperate in Suburbia. I've got the t-shirt for that one, but thankfully it didnt last long.

Rainy Reflections

Not everything is a poem, 
yet the words come, not from my mind,
but from the way the mist-hidden trees peer through 
the first real autumn rain, after a too-hot summer.
They come from the young mom rushing her child
to school, both in their shiny rain slickers,
hauled out from the closet under the stairs
this very morning, the frantic scramble for
rubber boots, and the way
the last blooms of summer are falling now,
their leaves crinkling up and turning orange.

Not everything is a poem,
but this morning the man from the rescue
will come to pick up my donation,
which will help the dog I love there, 
who has been living in the shelter
for more than a year,
waiting for his forever home to find him.

Not everything is a poem,
but what is this sadness rising inside me,
though life is peaceful and good
and I have everything I need?
Maybe it is just from living in a world
of people, with their anger, their lashing out,
their bombs that bring no peace,
who do not understand that we are all
meant to be equal in this world, and that
we need to come together if we are ever going to
save this planet, the other beings we share it with,
and each other. Maybe that is the poem.
For certain, it is the sadness.
Earth grief, that we
haven't got it right.

This poem was inspired by the poem "Not Everything Is a Poem" by Maggie Smith. The italicized lines are hers.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Portrait of the Poet, Eight Years Old


My hair, anathema,
no bangs, no style, limp, stringy,
rarely curled and never tamed,
setting me up for a lifetime
of ungovernable hair;
my eyes, round, blue, questioning,
looking away, like a deer's, when observed,
trying not to take up too much space.
Children should be seen and not heard.
My smile, hesitant, waiting
for the other shoe to drop.

I remember that dress; it was scratchy
on the backs of my legs, and it
was cut down from an adult dress to fit me,
since there was no money for store bought things.

What my father didn't know was
I feared the bumps and crashes in the night,
feared for my mother.
He never remembered, the next day,
what happened when he drank
to blackout.

What my mother didn't know was
I never felt safe,
and wanted her
to take me away.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

B is for Bear


B is for Arctic Bear
whose landscape is melting,
too far to swim for food,
starving, wandering into villages,
or growing so thin that, when he
finally, mercifully dies, all that is left
is skin and bones.
B is for West Coast Bear, hungry
for lack of salmon, due to fish farms,
warming, polluted seas, and us.

B is for Bee - pollinator extraordinaire,
now in decline due to changing climate
which means crops may not be ready
at the right time for the bees
to do their work.

B is for bats and pangolins, who belong
in nature, but not in wet markets,
among 40,000 species kept
in horrible conditions teeming with disease,
markets closed during covid, then re-opened
as soon as possible after.

B is for Before money became the human God:
a flourishing earth, a population living
more closely with the land, a sweeter time
before Need got replaced with Greed.

B is for But: "leaders" who say
we must lower emissions BUT
we still need a thriving economy
and must build more pipelines.

B is for Belong: we, a species
who does not understand
that we are only one among
all the others whom we 
must Befriend before
we all are gone.

On the news last weekend,  150 bears have been put down in British Columbia this year - because of development encroaching deep into their territory to make room for more and more of us. This loss of habitat and food flushes them into areas where humans live, which is often all it takes for them to lose their lives. Too bad humans believe we are meant to be the dominant species. Everything went wrong from that skewed viewpoint.

If Hope Is a Hill


Hope is an intuitive sense that some other way of being
might be possible,
that different futures might exist.

~Suzanne Miller at Wayfaring

I spent half my life climbing the hill of hope,
dreaming dreams I insisted would come true.
I didn't give up until they did,
for I believed.

That hill of hope is steeper now, more forbidding,
and time is short to make it to the top.
I have to stop to rest
every few feet.

It is hard to hope when whole forests are burning,
when the wild ones are dying, when seaside towns
are swept into the sea.

I seem to have traded my former
high-hearted optimism
for all that remains: gratitude for the beauty
of Mother Earth,
who keeps giving, like every good mother,
no matter how badly we have treated her.

If hope is a hill, and I am so weary, 
so tired of climbing, let me sit on this bench
halfway up. Climb for me, and send word back.
Write me a poem full of hope
that I can believe in.
Tell me the view from the top.
What do you see?

for Susan's prompt at What's Going On? on Wednesday: The Hill of Hope.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Desperate Beauty

Starry Night Over the Rhone
Van Gogh

In the old growth forest,
listen well.
Can you feel
the desperate beauty
of trees being all that they are
as the chainsaws and grapple-yarders
come ever closer?

Wolves and bears,
amble through the woods
and out onto the commons
- coats glossy, eyes bright
with the desperate hope
of tomorrows that
may never come -
because we took their habitat
and they have stumbled into
what was never

Everywhere I look
seems beautiful and doomed.
Everything appears to be 
pulsating with
the fear of being gone.

It feels, to me,
some days,
like everything
is saying one last long

for Brendan at Desperate Poets where we contemplate Van Gogh, and desperate beauty.