Fresh Voices 21

Welcome to the twenty-first edition of Fresh Voices, 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.

Accommodations By Nan Williamson I love red leaves that curl, hand-painted, round three sherry glasses on my window sill, the tiny oriental sage carved in heirloom ivory – his copper coloured robe, his flowing beard, the yellow cushion on the rocking chair, the insistent chords of Einstein on the Beach, art books piled on Persian rug, and most of all my twenty windows trimmed with Georgian molding, twenty frames for maple trees and sky and the stars at midnight. You love the small green pond, yellow water lilies open to the sun on heart-shaped leaves: damselflies flutter, dazzle blue and green, swarms of midges hover, in dense mats of slender weeds rising from a soft mud bed, drowned wood, and pencil reeds. I might grow to love your rough-hewn cabin on the bay, where green waves slap steely granite on the shore and a thin cold spume snaps at the scudding sky, where jack pines clutch at crevices and jagged branches lean one way. But never mind, I’m still partial to those violets pushing through your lawn, amber cat crouched in the peonies, and I admit, you have me whole, with candles lit at seven, flames dancing to the cello, Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach. Bio Nan Williamson is a teacher, artist and author in Peterborough Ontario. She is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers, Toronto, 2013. Her chapbook, leave the door open for the moon, was published by Jackson Creek Press in 2015. Nan is inspired by beauty – natural or created – in art, music, poetry, and by language and the challenge of painting with brushes or words. Always interested in the verbal-visual connection, she plays with shapes, colours, and texture to wed form and content in paint and poetry. She is the illustrator for Delicate Impact, a Canadian anthology of poetry, A Beret Days Book, The Ontario Poetry Society, 2018. Her poems have been published in many juried literary journals and anthologies in Canada and the UK.Nightmare By Melanie Flores Under an eggplant sky a shard of moonlight ricochets off an ancient chest. My hand hesitates on the lid - every muscle tenses. The hoot of an owl pierces the lethargy of the night. What treasure lies within? Precious jewels and gold? A bounty of wishes? Ancient scrolls scribed with the secrets of life? I tug at the weathered carapace the chest cracks open. A waft of vinegar escapes unleashing the horrors of the world. Cancer, mass shootings, ignorance, racism, pandemics and loneliness. I drop the lid and scream myself awake. I realize that my nightmare is real. Bio: Toronto-born Melanie Flores works as an editor/writer and audiobook narrator. Melanie has been a contest winner in national poetry competitions and her poetry has appeared in national and international anthologies. An Associate Member of the League of Canadian Poets since 2017, Melanie published her first chapbook, “The She: An Exposé”, in July 2019. No Where is Dry By Michelle Hillyard i. My father pounds the lawn, patchy grass staccato on a dirt caked drum. I strain to grasp a rhythm. The shovel continues like rainfall Again. Again. AgainAgain. Again. Againagainagain. Again. ii. The store at the bottom of the hill, a crowded junk drawer of convenience, sells worms. Pepsi fridge shelves lined with translucent plastic jars, dirt and writhing under fluorescent. A cardboard square taped to its door reads; 10 pour 3,50 $ 20 pour 6,00 $ 50 pour 14,00 $ My father asks for ten. His English drops, clunky, thudding the faded linoleum. He accepts the folded brown paper bag, says mare-see. The cashier slides his change across the counter in silence. iii. There is a wrong way to touch a worm. Slide with the grain as you caress. It will lubricate its panic. Don't mind the mucus. The muscle will relax. Elongate. Longer. More. More. More- Good worms aren't cheap. The worm will settle. It will still. It will twist, rubber band-snap under the knife, a frantic frying pan dance of blood, earth smearing on sun-aged wood. Save whatever you don't spear. It will live. Close the lid so none escape. So they survive. v. The dip in the asphalt-path hoards water, its goose-bumped surface bearing witness to the sparse drizzle. Curls of leaf sail the collapsed terrarium of mud and earthworm bloat. I crouch close, the rain crescendoing against my umbrella, a muted spatter of applause. One by one I pluck each worm from water; a wriggle wets my palm. The rain grows. The puddle shorelines my boots. I step back, cradle my collection to my chest.   Bio: Michelle Hillyard (she/her) is an award-winning poet whose work focuses on neurodiversity, mental health and body positivity. She's the workshop co-ordinator for the Mississauga Writers Group and co-founder of the MAC sponsored poetry series Verses Out Loud (with Paul Edward Costa). Her work has been published in Freelit Magazine, Alt-minds magazine and in "Brickyard", an online spoken word collection by Brick Books. You can find her online via thegreatwritenorth.comUnforeseen Midlife Task “Catch a wave and you’re sittin’ on top of the world.” —The Beach Boys Powerful tugboats carve the river, creating an unstoppable wave that spreads V-shape behind them, like migrating geese, to both shores. Life’s an invisible, advancing wave. Balanced like surfers we ride atop love and work, money and creativity, giving and receiving among friends. Then, like surfers might do, we lose our wave, wipe out . . . And now, amidst chaos and darkness, fascinated by a tug’s wake I stand on a riverbank, staring, recalling a crest I once rode— moving, always forward-moving —and knowing I must awaken and this time more consciously ride the unseen swell. Bio Neall Calvert has twenty-five years’ experience as a journalist, book editor and writer. He began creating essays and poetry at midlife after immersing himself in the lives of German-speaking poets Friedrich Hölderlin and Rainer Maria Rilke. His essays on these two writers can be found at and in his Kindle book Hölderlin & Rilke: What I Learned from Two Great German Poets. Neall has been published in The Men’s Journal, Borrowed Solace, a Douglas & McIntyre anthology, the book Vistas of the West, and online and in print at Recovering The Self. no-one in my family has died a simple death By Josephine LoRe my father’s grandfather was a wick, the oil in his headlamp igniting when a vein opened in the sulphur mine. four men carried his char home to die my mother’s mother was the breath after blowing out a candle. thick black hair in a high bun but weak of lungs. no medicine to cure her my mother’s father was a mystery. is there a gravesite, a church record, his name on a ship’s manifest? fair skin belies his ancestry: freckles, eyes of blue or green like the sea my father’s father was a glass of water crashing to the floor. he died once but was buried twice. once in the ground at Mt Pleasant, then later in a drawer in a concrete wall in the old Sicilian style my father’s mother was a plume of smoke. she faded in stages, stroke taking away her ability to walk, to eat, to recognize. by the time her heart stopped, I had grieved her a thousand times my father is a cat on life six or seven. heart attack, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, coalmine lungs. airport collapse … cardiac ablation. they cauterized tissue round his heart (scar not conveying the impulse to live). now ischemia constricts the vessels in his brain. how are you? and the kids? and the weather? and the kids? my mother is a wristwatch with broken hands. she tricks death by believing herself invincible. tosses an enchantment of salt onto black ice. we watch her decline, gears and springs seized and stuck, losing her piece by piece they say you die twice. according to Bansky, once when you stop breathing; the second, the last time someone says your name myself. Josephine Lia LoRe. How will I go? Will I fight death or will I walk headlong into that slow-moving river, willow branch above me swaying in the wind?   Bio: a pearl in this diamond world … Josephine LoRe has published two collections, Unity and The Cowichan Series, a Calgary Herald Bestseller. Her words have been read on stage and on screen, put to music, danced, interpreted into visual art and expressed through American Sign Language. Her work appears in FreeFall Literary Magazine and in journals and collections in ten countries including England, Ireland, France, the US, Japan, India, Wales, and most recently Italy. Her poem “the tea set” was shortlisted for the 2019 Room Poetry Prize. She created a haiku concertina this summer which is on display in a Calgary gallery until mid-December, and a number of her pieces appear in pandemic anthologies. She is working on a collection based on her Sicilian heritage. Josephine has an MA in Comparative Literature from l’Université de Rouen Raspberry Hands By Moni Brar My mother doesn’t flinch, doesn’t blink with each jab, each prick as I use her sewing needle to tease transparent thorns from her stained hands. She tells me that I need to take better care of my skin, that my hands feel like calico, not like a sleek calico kitty, but the rough calico cloth made of unbleached, raw cotton. I let her words glide over me as smoothly as the thorns glide out of her skin. I don’t tell her that the word calico comes from Calicut, one of the many places that doesn’t exist in her India, that place she manipulates and contorts like a trapeze artist swinging from one image to another, sometimes a lost paradise, sometimes a place to loathe, but always a place throbbing with want.   Bio: Moni Brar is an uninvited settler who lives, writes and learns on unceded, unsurrendered territories of the Treaty 7 region and the land of the Syilx of the Okanagan Nation. She is a Punjabi, Sikh Canadian writer exploring diaspora guilt, identity, cultural oppression, and intergenerational trauma. She believes in the possibility of healing through literature. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in PRISM international, Hart House Review, Existere, Hobart, untethered, and various anthologies. Spectrum By Lisa Alletson 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.   Bio: 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. Jim’s Camp for the Antoines At Mountainview Camsell Bend sun peaks behind knocked down walls bear-barriers cut Jack pine current, jetfast, pulls the boat from its rope Commotion Fire cracks chopping toncs water plipps labrador tea boils over mint, rat root dry sacks by stove Night Sunrise beats morning hides behind Jim’s canvas tent lights up moutains darks cellphone pictures of the board covering the hole where the bear tore through Leave Paddle past trees tossed down by a mudslide Jim hides moose antlers there Later In a bushplane over Simpson Laird out to Nahʔą Dehé then Little Doctor Lake Pay the land, air, river, falls with tobacco   Bio: Joseph LaBine’s writing has appeared in White Wall, Half A Grapefruit Magazine, Red River Review, Anti-Heroin Chic and others. In 2016, Flat Singles Press published his chapbook, Vancal. He lives in Yellowknife.My Raven By Frank Klaassen Somehow you left coffee grounds on our lace curtains ¬¬and then peered bitterly out of the stains into the kitchen. So I tore them down. (I never liked the fussy things). But when I saw the glycerin capsule on the counter, pecked flat in a pool of water, and the shriveled purple flowers, it was your dark eyes that drove me to wipe and throw the things away. If only you were brave enough to go into the fire, my raven, brave enough to burn up all your anger. Your fear has spidered up my ribs and hangs upon my jaw and watches me with my water, exorcisms, brooms, and scissors, hammers, prayers, and razors, conjuring the drawers and closets to make more space for you. After the police took you away, three dark hairs left their half-told story, coiled on stark white porcelain. And when I had my shower they began the dance again: the heroine and her two enemies spun and twisted round each other, and you looked up at me, unblinking, just as you were swept into the darkness.   Bio Frank Klaassen teaches History at the University of Saskatchewan. His poetry has appeared in numerous international venues including The Malahat Review, Stand, Oxford Poetry, The Dalhousie Review, and Canadian Literature. His other publications include The Transformations of Magic and Making Magic in Elizabethan England. BLUE…DEEP LOVE FILLED EYES… By John Oross Blue… deep love filled eyes… Keep on staring deep into mine. Blue… deep love filled eyes… Can’t hide what you feel inside. Please… place trust in me… Your reward of loves return shall set us free. Years… many have flown by… Your love endures by my side. Time… Has indeed flown by… Our love we share fills us both with pride. Although… we’ve weathered many storms… Nothing’s changed between you and me. Soon… we will go our separate ways… Sadly, we don’t live life forever. In the end… we have no say… Let us enjoy these moments filled with love. Should I have to leave today… I will wait for you… come whatever that may. Blue… deep love filled eyes… My true emotions I just can’t hide. Blue… deep love filled eyes… Oh, how I missed you by my side. Please… come away with me… Our reward of love’s return shall set us free.Bio: I'm a local member of both Masonry (blue lodge and Scottish Rite) and a Shrine Noble through Khartum. I have had the privilege of working in entertainment for 23 years through a company catering to worthy charities, Xentel DM Inc. I am now working for a wonderful firm of caring individuals. Leede Jones Gable Inc. Winnipeg is a terrific place to work. I let my art speak for itself. John Oross is a local member of both Masonry (blue lodge and Scottish Rite) and a Shrine Noble through Khartum. He has had the privilege of working in entertainment for 23 years through a company catering to worthy charities, Xentel DM Inc. John is now working for a wonderful firm of caring individuals. Leede Jones Gable Inc. Winnipeg is a terrific place to work. He lets his art speak for itself.