Poem in Your Pocket Day is April 29, 2021!
The selected poets of 2021 are: Dagne Forrest, Natalie Lim, Pamela Porter, Laurie Koensgen, Catherine Graham, Marion Lougheed, Stephen Bett, Eleonore Schönmaier, Laboni Islam, Margo Wheaton, Louisa Howerow, Moni Brar, Kim Fahner, Rae Crossman and Andrea Thompson
Listen to the 2021 poems
Read the 2021 Poems
Rushing into our early morning bedroom
Sometimes poetry is like that:
all tooth fairy
it’s wolf canines
and snap of bone.
Winner of the League of Canadian Poets’ 2021 Very Small Verse Contest
At the centre of the hive, a bright sun
with planets that orbit it, this bee that
gathers others to her, this little winged thing,
the one that hums, shakes,
throbs, and dances.
Lean in, hinge from your hips,
let your heart lead:
in Latin, heart is cor
and agere is to lead.
They dance diagonal
with one another, end up
writing letters home in cursive,
write ‘cross my heart and hope to die,’
whispering ardent promises, but then
forget to lick and seal the envelope.
Lean in, beekeeper.
They say, if you close your eyes
and breathe in deeply—if you lead
with your heart—you will take in
the scent of lemongrass.
This is the essence of the queen,
the one that hums, shakes,
throbs, and dances.
Lean in, beekeeper. Hinge from your hips.
Lead with your heart.
Courage, my love.
Winner of the League of Canadian Poets’ 2021 National Broadsheet Contest
Phyllis Webb: The Spit
give me water for spit.
Then give me
— Phyllis Webb, “Solitary Confinement”
give me water for spit.
Gloss this mal du
doute … never
was spat out
Then give me
ash in time
The Typescript, September 2020
What You Want Doesn’t Matter
When you ask me
. where are you from?
do you want me to say
. a crushed clove
the husk of a coconut
. coriander dust
the swell of the water buffalo’s belly
. the ocean’s lust for the moon?
When you ask me again
. I won’t answer
instead, I’ll say
. a peacock in my pocket
tucked among old stories
. nesting in lint
feeding on crumbs and little lies
. I gently push down its throat.
PRISM International, Issue 58.4
At dusk the woods shift closer,
shadows melt across
Here, the nose puckering scent
of rotten apples
Unseen roosting birds decry
my presence. Flustered,
ward—dark wings undone,
one by one.
Prime Number Magazine 163, Oct-Dec 2019
If Tiny Crystals Form Close to the Earth’s Surface They Form Diamond Dust
My antler heart grows hooves.
I follow the lead from the pack.
Find shelter in a drunken forest—
what species isn’t at risk.
Insulating properties of snow
keep me warm—
trapped air between each flake.
With body heat and earth-transfer heat
my home becomes a snowbank.
It’s not the hare’s scream
it’s the antecedent silence.
Stag Hill Literary Journal
and Watch Your Head
The Why of It
You know before you start you won’t succeed
in creating the ideal pain français, not the crackly kind
you’d buy from a village boulangerie, not even if
you follow Julia Child’s instructions and advice,
accompanied by drawings. Twenty pages worth.
You don’t have the right flour with its precise
gluten strength. You don’t have a baker’s oven
with a fire-brick floor. You still haven’t mastered
how to form the dough into the shape you want,
but you will go at it again and again, because
you want your muscles doing, keeping busy,
taking you away for seven hours, plus
three for cooling down. You like the elastic feel
of the dough, its smoothness. The kneading,
the scraping, the lifting and the slapping down.
Repeat, repeat. Yes! Moving fast, creating
a rhythm. No matter how the table shakes,
you work that dough, until you’re spent. If
there was a river, you could beat your wash
on rocks, or a carpet to bang out on a fence,
but you don’t have river or a carpet or fence.
All you have are muscles making good,
doing something they’re learning to do,
believing they can keep death at bay.
Fresh Voices 20
Laboni Islam’s meditative poem “Spider” is uniquely formatted in a way that a plain-text website version can’t accommodate — download the postcard to read the full poem!
Praise your eight-legged patience.
. Can you teach me to be still?
To welcome what disturbs the web
& what to do with it?
When we were fast planets
orbiting the schoolyard
the fringes of our scarves
encircled us like moons
and sometimes we collided.
Lava erupted in angry scabs
on our scorched knees.
Our mouths were gaping seas
learning what tides mean.
Black Bough Poetry: lux aeterna, July 2019
headlonging (Floodlight Editions, 2021)
Elegy for Opportunity
after Matthew Rohrer’s “There is Absolutely Nothing Lonelier”
my sister cried when she heard.
on a planet far away,
all reddish rock and dust storm,
Opportunity lies still –
this robot who just turned fifteen,
who never knew what a birthday was,
who will never understand
that there are people on earth
grieving her cold metal frame.
there is something so cruel,
so human, about mourning
a being we programmed
and exiled to space
with no means of returning.
we knew she would die one day,
alone in a sea of rust,
but we are tender even
in our cruelty, so we
grieve. we write poems in her name.
our last message to her was a song,
did you know that?
. a song.
there is nothing lonelier
than the little Mars rover,
no longer chirping back to base
about earth and rocks and maybe-life,
nothing lonelier than us,
creating things we know
we will sing to sleep one day, nothing lonelier
than thinking of that robot,
sitting still and silent now,
being worn slowly away
by the winds of a planet
we promised she could call home.
PRISM international, Issue 57.4
Pavane for a Dead Letter
every thought is a wartime letter
struck through with black
words and news that can’t be shared
in the depths a torpedo
hits its mark
a cargo of letters
to the ocean floor
Emily and I
Together in her drafty attic
we write our letters to the world.
Her lamp sputters, the light poor.
In the frame of her window the sun’s last
spreads over Amherst’s houses.
She let me in when I bragged I was nobody
and now sends me downstairs
to scrounge more paper –
envelopes, she insists – envelopes.
I creep down the creaky stairs.
Try to silence the swinging kitchen door.
Everyone’s out but her pipe-smoking father
who won’t spend a penny on paper.
He doesn’t see my hand lift the wooden box
where he tosses the trash.
I sift out all the envelopes.
Take them up to Emily
and our fevered unfolding begins.
How she cringes when I make the tiniest tear.
This part takes time – the careful unhinging,
She hands me a pen, an ink pot.
We go to work.
What I’ll remember most
is her shadow on the wall –
her hand, and the pen large, swift,
and her hair — not pulled tight,
but down, free — almost, I would say,
Likely Stories (Ronsdale Press, 2019)
a man’s frosted exhalation
in the pitch interior
of a car’s trunk
is white against black
like chalk on the board
easily erased, but
not easily forgotten
the sound of tires on snow
heard from inside
the trunk of a cop car
Dust Blown Side of the Journey (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017)
Wound Turned to Light*
The light of witnessing existence
makes everything beautiful again –
brings rebirth to those disowned parts of self
those shattered fragments the world has deemed
unworthy – those darkened days and tired nights
of soul-deep weariness become refreshed
through the act of simply
recording what is
what it is to be ourselves, unabashed and
naked, living on this crushed ball of stardust
what it is to be us – hurtling through the universe
bouncing up against each other like ideological pinballs
at a time when the polarity of this planet has sent us all off –
on our own diametrical trajectory away from the core
when the weight of interpersonal animosity has become
crippling, when the term “respectfully disagree”
is about to become extinct. In this moment I bow down
and thank God for bestowing us with the gift of creativity
for endowing all of us humans a life-giving method of release
to the pressures of simply existing, a way to translate pain
into beauty, a way to open up the valve on it all
and begin to let off steam –
what a gift it is to be given this
moment, to be invited to express
all the colours of this jagged emotional palette
without judgment, to simply say yes.
Yes to the raw red of rage, yes
to the yellow of hope, yes
to the bruised-hearted blues, yes
to unfathomable purple, yes
yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes
yes and amen to it all.
* “Art is a wound, turned to light.” Quote by 20th century French artist, George Braque.
Andrea Thompson is the winner of the 2021 Leon E. and Ann M. Pavlick Poetry Prize
(For my father)
After the worst of it, after the days of the black nets
that entangled you, that wrapped
themselves around your will as you lay
in the starched anonymity
of the new bed in the seniors home,
I see you at the end of the hall,
just reaching it—the white vinyl—
plastic window that gazed directly into the woods,
filling with wild green light.
You were bent and curved like a fish’s
mouth, down-turned, ferning into
yourself as you gripped the sides of the hated walker,
hanging like an empty shirt.
I know you won’t succeed in this, but there’s
something in the measured gait,
the shuck forward, as if you could
escape the swelling sky of circumstance
if you just kept walking.
Like a man who’s overdosed
and mustn’t sleep, you swim your
ruined body forward, each glittering
step a sand-shoal
holding back the sea.
The Fiddlehead, 75th Anniversary Issue