Most of What Was Said Instead by Bill Howell

The dead aren’t in any hurry. Their messages
take time to arrive. All of this is brought to you
by the brilliant stage magician, Abra Cadabra,
and his lovely executive assistant, Barb.

After that, long forgotten apple varieties
assume their natural places in the Orchard Mall.
And if we call this a narrative instead of a story,
we can probably claim it on our tax forms.

After all, reverberation removes immediacy.
It articulates space & distance, not just size.
An absence of presence drawing attention to itself
even as it leaves you. A wind holding its breath.

Over & over, the ocean says nothing. Dulse sizzles
in the sun; a blue heron completes the cove. Tide
pool creatures whisper without voices.
If only we could be this politically polite.

Nothing says they can live here much longer
without us. Nothing anybody says bears repeating,
and nobody turns out to be as you imagine them.
Everybody has another chance at a new day.

Yes & yet the word nobody uses anymore: lovely.


Copyright © Bill Howell. Originally published in Prairie Fire (39.1, Spring 2018).


Bill Howell has five collections, with recent work in The Antigonish Review, Canadian Literature, Event, Grain, Juniper, Naugatuck River Review, Prairie Fire and Vallum. Colloquial, anecdotal, and grounded in a shared world, his poems do well with people who refuse to become museums of themselves. Originally from Halifax, Bill was a network producer-director at CBC Radio Drama for three decades. Further information:

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Prairie Fire is an award-winning Canadian journal of innovative writing that is published quarterly by Prairie Fire Press, Inc. Each issue is a fresh, vibrant mix of fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction by our most celebrated writers and the hottest new voices of our emerging writers. It consistently features solid writing that will engage your mind and delight your spirit – and has been doing so for over 40 years!

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