Spectrum by Lisa Alletson

Poem title: Spectrum Poet: Lisa Alletson Poem: My daughter wears my DNA like a casualty, drifts through conversations with melodic logic. When she speaks in the language of my ancestors I know she’s caught something with her mind - a dinosaur or the swamp root of a poem. Her centre is her own. Sometimes she huddles on the beach like driftwood, golden gaps of sunshine in her silhouette as if her body has bullet holes and I can see the brightness of her soul. Blue-skinned, she seems, breathing slow and low, drawing narwhals in the air or covering her ears. She tells me in a voice of dusk pebbles, Mom, you are a maiasaura. A good mother lizard. We schedule a hug. Her shadow catches in my throat. She grows deep, a creature of thrum and ashes, knows she is different from others. When she’s clumsy she giggles, like any kid, but the clay of her mind can be bloodish, a nerve ball tender to touch, a constantly knitted refrain. The school day comes violently, spinning too bright, the forcing of norms does not fit the build of her mind. She closes her eyes and rocks, tick tock, to find a kind face, a good space. Returns home bent with hurt. In the evening she wraps herself tight in an old breeze, wanders the playground to feast on leftover laughter, blown kisses fallen to the ground. In the half-light she looks grey, an abandoned painting. I find her shivering under a tree her courage discarded on a rock. I drink her tears, wrap her under my skin. Life after life, she sobs. Too much. I nod and we walk away. But my daughter can hear the sun. We dance to the sound of unfurling leaves sing to the shift of birch skin. Her soul lives in the blood of rivers moans through the forest. She hears everything. Alone, we bathe in the suds of the sun watch the orange dawn of a butterfly, speak of mammals and robin song and why the Congo changed its name. For on the days she can inhabit the wholeness of her verse she soars melodic over earth dancing with the universe. I don’t label myself an autism warrior. That gives me credit. I carry guilt made of covert creatures, wet wings stuck to their bodies. At dawn I let them out, they unfurl their wings and flee. At night they return, watch me, cold planets in my throat. But I will sing to my daughter as long as I live: My love, You don’t have to smile for me You can rock your body to peace You don’t have to leave to cry You can flap your hands when you need You don’t need to say hi to respond to do anything but be. You are the world where I live. End of Poem. Credits: Copyright © Lisa Alletson Appears in the League of Canadian Poets’ Fresh Voices 21, edited by Joan Conway and Blaine Marchand Lisa Alletson’s poetry is influenced by her upbringing in three continents, which exposed her to a variety of literary influences including the classics, local non-English poetry, and modernism. The unique natural, historical and cultural experiences of each continent are reflected in both her imagist and narrative poetic styles today. Born in the Cape province during apartheid, Alletson’s work often features water and darkness in her imagery. Her poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction have been published in the Globe and Mail and a number of print and online literary journals including Dreamers, Blank Spaces, Dodging the Rain, Ginosko Literary Journal, Flash Fiction Magazine and several anthologies. Her poem ‘A Passing Oryx’ was selected for Poetry Pause in October, 2020.


This poem first appeared in Fresh Voices 21, a project from and for the League’s associate members, edited by Joan Conway (Check out her personal blog!) and Blaine Marchand. The League’s associate members are talented poets who are writing and publishing poetry on their way to becoming established professional poets in the Canadian literary community. We are excited to be taking this opportunity to showcase the work of our associate members in this series!

Fresh Voices 21 includes poetry by: Lisa Alletson, Moni Brar, Neall Calvert, Melanie Flores, Michelle Hillyard, Frank Klaassen, Joseph LaBine, Josephine LoRe, John Oross and Nan Williamson.

Check out Fresh Voices 21