À la Claire fontaine


À la Claire fontaine
edited by: rob mclennan | January 2014
design by: tanya sprowl-martelock
addiction and recovery................................... 3
All I think of now............................................ 12
Dylan at the gallery........................................ 22
Dispersed........................................................ 33
Time’s Gag....................................................... 45
January, 1992.................................................. 59
attempts at martyrdom................................... 4
Cave................................................................. 12
Ode on the important work of
Defragmenting................................................ 33
Bonus Levels................................................... 46
A Civic Poem................................................... 59
for those who live in unrequited times.......... 5
Apple............................................................... 13
Saving.............................................................. 6
Fairfield dreams.............................................. 13
finance ministers.......................................... 22
Glass house..................................................... 34
September, 2000............................................. 59
Brief Commentaries........................................ 34
Gust................................................................. 14
First Meeting................................................... 35
Archaeology Scar............................................ 47
How to make parents crazy............................ 14
Hiding Under Kindling..................................... 23
Moments of Weather...................................... 36
Wolfhill............................................................ 47
March.............................................................. 7
Statement of Poetics...................................... 14
Daylight Savings............................................. 7
Aigosthena is for Lovers................................. 48
Scale............................................................... 7
They Do Not Come Back................................. 24
Rabbit sheds................................................... 37
Perspective...................................................... 7
Sleeping with the Window Open................... 15
Meetings......................................................... 25
Lifting fish ...................................................... 37
Parabola.......................................................... 8
The Answers................................................... 26
Cumulative...................................................... 8
Morning........................................................... 8
The good razor................................................ 16
Field................................................................. 8
Surgery on a Spring Morning......................... 16
LITTLE TOUCHES............................................. 27
Undercover...................................................... 17
A NEAR ANTIPODES....................................... 9
DROWNING SAILOR....................................... 9
Tension............................................................ 28
A Joni Mitchell in Pieces ............................... 62
from The Thunderbird Poems.......................... 50
Silverfish......................................................... 17
Night of Your Visit to the Oracle..................... 48
Rêve peuplé d’animaux ................................. 63
a portrait......................................................... 53
Le grand ménage............................................ 63
hunt club, or a case of suburban sprawl........ 53
Helen .............................................................. 64
12 Erasure Poems Carved from Email
the sinking of the BX...................................... 53
Crossing the Field............................................ 64
Berea............................................................... 38
Sent by the Ottawa Public Library............... 39
Dislocation....................................................... 64
Still.................................................................. 65
Witness of Madame Thérèse de Couagne..... 18
with hands....................................................... 54
When the Maple Fell ..................................... 65
À Marie-Josèphe Angélique........................... 19
junk food: for me, after the boy
Everybody Into The Pool, With Grace............. 42
cement............................................................ 54
There............................................................... 66
À LA CLAIRE FONTAINE.................................. 10
Jean-Jacques Dessalines Vs.
PAINTPOTS...................................................... 10
Jean-Jacques Rousseau............................... 20
SENSITIVE PLANT........................................... 11
i liked in high school.................................... 29
lansdowne park after dark.............................. 29
Exchanges with a Weasel............................... 29
The End of Fashion......................................... 21
Light, Light...................................................... 42
Country Music ................................................ 66
If a Door Opened............................................. 67
The Sanitarium Garden................................... 55
ottawater 10: Artist statement........................ 67
Ceremony........................................................ 43
Ten Lines......................................................... 31
Survivor........................................................... 56
Ten More Lines............................................... 31
Luncheon......................................................... 44
Cosmic Idol...................................................... 56
Temptation Island............................................ 57
Live At the Anchor Bar.................................... 57
The Amazing Race........................................... 58
addiction and recovery
below, in the valley, is anything new?
if she, how she, why.
I would never put a foot in my mouth again
even if poor growth saw it coming.
you burst every train of hot
blood and you goaled it immensely.
remarkable, every time.
name your poison the guide says
sake mimicking cough syrup
throats opening, thirsty
umbrellas or,
the other way around,
a pencil without an eraser
just embarrassment.
evil defines me she said heroically
distanced from everything white
in the freezing rain.
bundles of strife
sugar sniping mainly salted me.
before I angled, the world was intensely
abounding as it was. abounding.
holy mother of brotherly love
those years spent underground
so many of us, too many
huddling, euthanizing
the river pretending aimlessness
when all the time
it knows
exactly where it’s going.
m / economy
you parked the car
the bluff holding its own
and we so breathless shrink-sealed
so many selves – which one is drowning
this time?
take my hand, Rilke
knew angels better than anyone
ottawater: 10 -
attempts at martyrdom
“all the cameras have gone/ on to other wars.”
Wislawa Szymborska
the upscale jibber-jabber of synchronicity
when no one is listening
the listing of tall masts when the ocean is calm
the wild goat frenzy when morning is an illusion
the soft war of bedsheets when you haven’t yet learned to sleep
the night alley legs your stockings escape
the dead dog putrescence you jam your head against
the platinum morning you fall on your knees for
the Saturdays of buttered corn and rolled cuffs
and a backlog of children
the scrapped poem no one could get inside
the ill-timed hyperbole the deep-trenched hallelujahs
the empty crib the smiling cat
an old wrinkled t-shirt letters too faded to read
Tomorrow Man
Watercolour/Sculpture - 2013
Mat Dubé
ottawater: 10 -
for those who live in unrequited times
“I’ve lived among the ruins. Armies have marched over me.”
Rita Hayworth in Fire Down Below
The ship’s gears wailing.
The air testosterone-smogged.
Tension thick as blood, slick underfoot.
How could you resist? You are the heroine.
They will build a shrine to you,
capture you on celluloid, make you immortal.
What comes full circle: what are we missing?
Let the words in. Set fire to the music.
The strings are mightier than the pen,
you don’t need a note or a quote,
only a pillow to lay your head on at night.
Your eyes are closing.
You cannot stay vigilant,
cannot unfold your immortality.
At first it was all gold and shining,
like an empire of apples.
God is in the waiting.
Water has eyes too.
ottawater: 10 -
This is how I would describe it to you.
A man is walking along a lampless street late at night. He knows eyes are everywhere. It has been
raining and the eyes have come out like freshly rinsed stars. But they are not just overhead: they are
in the hedges, the cracks in the pavement, in tail-swishes disappearing under porches and through
yawning windows. He longs for a pillow and his double-thick mattress but he knows when he
reaches home it will still be too wet to drag them outside. He wants to be outside. All the eyes are
watching him, they hover and follow, drift and circle like fireflies. He walks for miles, until he hears
flying foxes raising the shutters of dawn. He walks until he finds a bench. Although it is wet, he sits
down. He wants to be a hero but he is not ready. He sits and waits.
Let me make it plainer. Backpedal to early evening. He is watching a movie. Rita Hayworth is
sashaying across the screen. Jack Lemmon walks down a dark street, following her like a puppy. He
must keep his shirt on. The director will not allow him to be masculine. He takes his shirt off. This
movie will not make him a star. But he keeps following Rita Hayworth. He wants to rescue her. But
she does not want to be rescued.
Or let me put it this way: you sum up your life but nowhere can you find grace in denial, rainwashed intentions, a picture of you smiling, crumbs of oblation, an apple without a bruise.
My mother bought ahead.
The depression did that to people.
Bath towels and pillow cases,
embroidered table linens.
After she died we found drawers of the stuff
and cabinets crammed with china that nobody wants –
bless the microwave, dishwasher, children
who wallow in broccoli fights, drop tidbits for the dog –
silver that tarnishes, plastic flowers
that leer at the monogrammed tableware
and the beleek vase erect as a millionaire’s butler;
one-size-fits-all Christmas gifts:
oven gloves sporting snowmen
bed socks that echo summer
place mats, coffee mugs, scented soaps.
Wrapping paper next drawer down.
Every eventuality seen to:
keys pinned inside her bra, large dated labels on jars.
And how many people knew about
the emergency dollars tucked in a tiny silk bag
under the four-legged bathtub?
Only my brother and me and perhaps
Hattie the eldercare worker who
came twice a week and didn’t miss a thing,
wore an apron with bottomless pockets.
I dropped in unannounced one day
while Hattie was plucking bills and
counting them out from my mother’s purse
while silent, solemn, my mother watched.
Your Mum’s out of nighties, she said, I’ll go buy her some.
I bought some last week, I said, easing the purse from her hands,
knowing, without even looking, the silk bag under the tub
was gone.
Ariane Beauchamp
ottawater: 10 -
between winter and spring and winter
the smallest seasons
I forget my age on occasion
confront the mathematics of my body
premature growth is smothered
hearts break across the city
the days matter, or they don’t
they are ours in our places
our cold facts change states
translation approaches
split the smallest part
between possibilities
we install, expand
collect each other
Daylight Savings
it appears abrupt
but is not
the widening
between the
numerous clocks
in our
a dissonant
we frame a single childhood photo
consider each possibly
the distance bends
ottawater: 10 -
now on the
wrong side
the absence
of night
is absent
the body
is coming apart
each day
a work
of salvage
the darkness above the bed
smells of steam from the shower
we move one room into another room
and the second into the first
our voices empty into the night
our bodies remember
adjust the relations
of our familiar objects
we are our context
ottawater: 10 -
after a painting by Jack Nichols
Canadian war artist, 1946
Half a world away, your voice no longer fits
the quiet of my rooms, solitude not dislodged
despite your call. Tropic words damp my ear
though it feels cool and early where you are.
Down the road, footprints silt in, seldom cross.
Half an hour away, and already there’s no trace.
I rub unambiguous salt stains from my boots
the river I walked along collapsing into floes of ice.
The quiet of my rooms: solitude not dislodged
with dusk tugging on grey threadbare gloves.
Though it feels cool and early where you are
half a city away, a nearer friend drives closer
Half an hour away, and already there’s no trace
the wind a dial tone snagged among leafless oaks
the river I walked along collapsing into floes of ice
ahead of me, shattering the mirror winter held up.
with dusk tugging on grey threadbare gloves.
Nightly she takes in your mail, turns on a light.
Half a city away, a nearer friend drives closer
without anxiety, the black ice scarved in snow.
The wind a dial tone snagged among leafless oaks.
Half the time we talk, and the language tumbles
ahead of me, shattering the mirror winter held up
while you shave an invisible angle of your jaw.
Nightly she takes in your mail, turns on a light.
Half a block away, your son stays at a cousin’s
without anxiety, the black ice scarved in snow
while we talk. You slip into white linen shorts.
Half the time we talk, and the language tumbles
despite your call. Tropic words damp my ear
while you shave an invisible angle of your jaw.
Half a world away, your voice no longer fits.
Half a block away, your son stays at a cousin’s.
Down the road, footprints silt in, seldom cross.
While we talk you slip into white linen shorts.
I rub unambiguous salt stains from my boots.
ottawater: 10 -
Man in the water, head twisting through waves anxious to
Hold him under, lungs
Raw, eyes crazed
Shot out by midnight’s assault of rain. Juggernauting about
For air stirs the vortex
Drags him down, arms wrench
Bands of undercurrent the gangrenous ocean welds about him
Legs wind up, tire, a cross
Country cyclist ascending one more
Steep and endless hill. No longer the apex of glory he’d cap
Sized for, torpedoed far
Off coast, a decoy tossed
About while, unquiet, the Weyburn settles deep—tool belt
Undone, drifting, boots heavy
Weightless as horseshoes thrown
Stalks of his father’s cresting wheat ripe for lying back in moonlit
As, above, clouds break
Open to floods of
Scattering, icy
Some days are long.
This is a medium one.
The slope of a hill on which something about iron.
Where we went when it was cold.
Where they (the they who were here for millennia
before the we we call us and are still here
though not right here) went for dyes.
The girl eats her tortellini from a thermos.
There is not enough.
She eats the oats and honey bar, the other oats and honey bar.
She eats the diced peaches in their plastic tub.
They’re better than the fuzzy ones
from August before school was real.
Later, it’s darker.
What she’s lived today, she’ll never say.
Il y a longtemps que je t’aime
Jamais je ne t’oublierai.
She sings astride the stroller’s bumper
while the baby whines from school to home.
A memory of summer water rises,
a picnic that promised to be the first of many.
The earth the colour of rust.
The holes each a different colour, some the paste blue of blind eyes,
some vivid, some just sky.
We stood with cameras and words in our heads.
The earth took our feet briefly. Deep prints,
guck on our boots.
The slope red, tilted from the build-up.
It was a sacred place. Is.
Some of the holes already gone dead.
Where we went when I was apart from those I loved.
I was happy. It was a grey day and we talked of other places,
all of us there without the ones we loved.
Reaching back, the mind falters.
There are not many pictures.
The mind keeps reaching.
ottawater: 10 -
Stroked, each feather of leaflets
shuts, slumps, a frown
between brows.
Cry baby.
Shy princess.
August will bring flowers
of powder. Touched,
they will hold up.
Humble plant.
Shameful plant.
By August, brittled to dust.
Too little water, too
many glassed-in afternoons.
Sleeping grass.
False death.
During the heatwave
families went beachward
and hundreds of elders expired
in their walk-up apartments.
ottawater: 10 -
All I think of now
The road
a tunnel of
snow in streetlight shadow.
Like clockwork toys, boys lift shovels
and throw
slows to a hush
smothered by snowfall pillow.
Cold dusting like ash, under foot
a squeak.
It’s all
I think of now
Cold steals my breath and time
Months ahead of extra struggle,
The cave reflected, cold and dark and home
(Matthea Harvey, “The Invention of Love”)
Mirrored in green-gold
cat’s eye gives back cave lights
dim luminescence
gritty ice gleams
with green-grey drips
plink plash
stalagmites grow
phosphorous on slick rock
fun house distortion – her masked
brother the boogeyman
running after her friends
til they scream
fall against each other
breathless in fright
fascinating in flight
motionsensitive cats
eye watcher
ottawater: 10 -
Fairfield dreams
My mother and I amble
through an underground
shopping maze.
My new city, old patterns
loosened – new place of ease.
Set into the side of a grassy hummock, door
creaks open to splintery wooden stairs, middles
worn to troughs, walls dark concrete. Or earth,
a dugout, ceilings low. Must. And dust furs
every surface; centipedes and sticky spider webs.
One dim lightbulb on a dangling cord, chain of rusted
silver bubble beads, sets shadows to swinging.
I let go of my tight
hot caution
and respond true
to her remark:
how she’d love it if I,
like the young woman passing,
ate an apple as I walked.
Did she see daring
in that simple act?
insouciance, an Eve?
Too easily, I laugh,
say that’s so funny.
She turns away,
rebricks the walls,
will not speak.
for the dutiful daughter to return
and coax the mother from her cell.
Every Fairfield is a newtown full of cellar doors
blocked by boxes, never opened. Memories of aspirated
aspirations, resettlers bearing dreams and freight.
Growth to greatness not part of this particular
dream – they’ll build a humble yet fiercely
American / British / Australian place; place of new zeal.
Ours is on a Pacific bay; it’s bella, it’s cool. Place
of winking fish scales, shining in cellar darkness
as they dry, rack after rack of silver sides
glint in the swinging light of the bulb.
Door opens to ocean, green valleys, the promise
of bounty. Cellar door opens to fields of fairness,
rivers of justice, yes, a long drink of justice.
ottawater: 10 -
ottawater: 10 -
Statement of Poetics
Perfumes fly before the gust.
(Gwendolyn Brooks)
Dry this wind, parched in spirit
parched in appetite, blowing
in rusty gusts across the sand.
Reckoning, rolling
new scents, a recollection.
Echoes of the sweeter land – soil
water – heavy air flower-laden.
Pause to sink and savour
an oily richness: ambergris
below the surface.
I have been writing most of my life, and am still fumbling towards a greater knowledge and awareness of what poetry
means, at large and for me. I don’t imagine that I am unique in that I am always working towards a sense of my poetics. I
feel that my writing tends to be intuitive (which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing) but that it may miss an ability to
consciously make the most of poetic technique. I write in a variety of styles, themes and subject matter, both lyric and
narrative work that hopefully demonstrates my range and reach. I’ve rarely started out with a concept or collection in
mind, however I try to bring poems together so that they seem to rise out of one another, with intriguing knots and weaves,
engaging in conversations throughout.
My content is largely emotional, with a lacing of spirit. Some poems or sequences of poem wind themselves itself into
dark corners, while others feel around for a light switch on the wall or to glimpse a glow somewhere far ahead. Metaphor
demonstrate hopes, fears and losses, and I try to use vulnerability to add tension to the metaphors. While I don’t aim
to write “about” loss and absence, the themes that re-occur are this vulnerability and the ways in which lacks might be
filled by divining their natures. I look to the the powers inherent in finding true names for that which is unnamed, while
acknowledging the implacable tenacity of the unnamable.
I’m also interested in exploring two inter-related notions. One is “green space” in the sense of nature, particularly urban
ecology, the interplay between humans and the wild spaces that remain in and around our cities. The other is the idea
and artificiality of bluescreen movie technology. The concept is to explore interior and exterior reality and unreality, the
mechanisms that underlie our understandings of the world, and how human actions and observations both affect and are
reflected in nature.
How to make parents crazy
Deny entry
to your room, and let dirty dishes pile up.
Refuse to notice the noxious fumes
they claim emanate from behind the door.
Complain that your job
at the ice cream parlour
sucks, that you couldn’t sink lower
if you tried. Make no effort
to find another. Declaim
that anyone who doesn’t share
your current passion – say, the taste
of kumquat, or the novels of Chuck Palahniuk
– is an imbecile, a freak of nature.
Do not let them drag you into the quagmire
of reason. Spin the dial through
every gradation of your mood
from effervescent to vile. Repeat
as needed. Improvise freely.
Not surprisingly, given my parallel track as a fiction writer, I am inclined to the narrative, generally with some personal
content. I also love lyric and am intrigued by ecstatic/mystical poetry. I recently joked that, when I experiment, I do so with
safety goggles and fire-retardant overalls – I tend to use traditional or invented constraints to keep my experiments from
blowing up in my face. Subject matter is often informed by my roles as mother, daughter, partner; by a sense of seeking; and
by place. The prairies where I grew up, and the west coast where I lived more than a decade both loom large. I most often
write in free verse, but enjoy working with form for its challenges and for the surprising liberation from convention it can
bring. I like rhythm and am learning to be less wary of rhyme. Precision of language, finding the most evocative words to
bring an image to life is very important to me. I am an inveterate reader, and often springboard off other writers’ ideas to
land in surprising (to me) places
Precision of language, finding the most evocative words to bring an image to life is very important to me. What I hope to
do is to continue to develop my knowledge and discipline as a writer. My goal is to get a clearer sense of whether what
I’m exploring is viable and cohesive, which poems speak to each other and to the concepts I’m exploring. Whatever the next
level turns out to be for me, I’m working towards a greater sense of my voice and my craft.
What I aspire to, and what I find in the work of the diverse group of poets whose work I have returned to over the years
(including Gerard Manley Hopkins, Sylvia Plath, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Rumi, Mary Oliver, Don McKay, Michael Ondaatje,
Steven Heighton, Roo Borson, Stephanie Bolster, Fanny Howe, Kay Ryan …) is how they create transcendence and
universality of a moment, a feeling or an image, evoking a sensation that is simultaneously totally comprehensible and
familiar, but shown in an entirely new light that makes it, perhaps for the first time, clear. They all attain in different ways
that precision I strive for of “the right words in the right order”.
Sleeping with the Window Open
white sheet
over a pasture of back
over a slow roll
of breath
a fan pivots
books are silent
on their shelves
the window is slid open
on its track
and the cat
is on the neighbours fence
the tails of the willow tree
sway and bait its paws
Patti Normand
ottawater: 10 -
The good razor
Surgery on a Spring Morning
This I share with the men
and women of the street:
I have shaved with cheap
blades. Raked my hand afterward
across the spurred landscape,
my nerve endings bristling.
Yes, women shave. Poets shave, too.
A scrap of soap measured
my days then, and I was grateful
for its endurance: it grew
smaller than a slice, a sliver, graze,
but it still lathered. As poets might.
So poor I could not afford
to panic when the Ivory paring
slipped down the drain -bravely, I wiggled my fingers
in that dark domain. The murk begged
not to be forgotten. Now I am back
in the land of the good razor.
No more numb coins. Crisp bills!
I buy the men’s since they are sharpest.
Because women don’t really need
to shave, the way they do not need
to be paid for the work they do.
Exquisite civility of the slim sliver band.
Skin so smooth you feel nothing.
I was once good. Can people tell?
Not the goodness, the loss.
I clawed and gripped
but like a shadow it slipped
away. (There had been a man
who needed always to be bigger.)
I’ve rebuilt bits of my old goodness,
clumps of ink on Thank You notes,
a grey wave to a dull neighbour who
sometimes allows his mouth to tremble,
a sickening liberality with endearments:
Yes, Honey, we’ll see you later, Sweetheart.
Today, though, I remove my skin.
I count my bloody ribs, then
crawl into their cage, displace the imposter.
It is a beautiful day, blue and yellow,
windows of air everywhere.
My head births through my old throat
like a tulip, root ball in my chest.
Surgery on a spring morning, I’m old enough
to be reborn, dispose of the brittle and torn.
Sweep up the spider carcasses, exercise
the muscle of belief for the first time.
ottawater: 10 -
This evening, I don’t smush the silverfish,
sardine of the insect world, shimmering
on the bathroom floor, as I usually do.
Because this evening, she – she? – is followed
by a silverfish a quarter her size.
Yes, she is showing her offspring the lay of the land:
the arctic-white, rubbery strip along the base of the tub,
the expanse of the worn gray floor, the sheer
cliff of the fingerprinted wall.
There is no clear direction to their journey, other than
to follow, and be followed - leader, expert, worthy.
I am taking my time on the toilet.
For years this wasn’t possible, there would be
pounding at the door, voices calling what do we do now?
As much as I don’t want the little one to be bereft
and never find her way back
to the slimy den between the gray floorboards
(so much depends on that!),
I don’t want the older silverfish to lose
its moment in the sun, this chance
to demonstrate how one dithers.
I’m a parent, too: those moments become fewer.
I was thirteen when I learned that some families, in place of books,
fill their bookshelves with photo albums, their children inside.
I was struck by this craving of the past so immediately.
Was this bindered embrace better in fact than my parents’
absolute discharge – take your sister’s bike - into the neighbourhood,
into, I’ll say it, life, which ultimately closes too, right?
Tonight, at supper, my stepson announced he wants a tattoo.
And I know, I know, it is the stamp of his tribe, those beautiful,
beautiful youth - how do they possibly choose one over another?
I don’t mean to diatribe but I suppose I do.
I have seen lovely tattoos, and will get one on my
deathbed (that back cover). I have also seen the simpering
posters I once taped to my apartment walls, and the kitsch –
pompom lampshade, plastic crucifix - that I once collected,
my deep cultural critique. Your body is your only canvas.
But I’m old and, in fact, prematurely lined. From wandering
too long in the sun and into the arms of a mean man,
who would not let go. On top of all this, surely this
is the decisive stroke - you will be forever traceable by law;
what if one day you need to go undercover?
The wine hit then, my cheeks pricked with heat as, underground,
my losses loosened: when I was your age we moved lightly,
city to city, forming temporary, but often true, friendships.
No Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, no GPS we easily shed our skins.
Owen nods while I yaw, indulgently, or, I don’t know
what he is thinking, his quiet is indecipherable.
Perhaps he is thinking something wiser than I can.
Perhaps he is thinking that we are never understood
no matter how marked. Or the opposite – that we are understood
by how we are marked. No, he has no position.
He has no interest beyond the spot burning
on the inside of his wrist, another at the front of his ankle.
Over dessert, Owen says a line of poetry would be nice.
ottawater: 10 -
George Elliott Clarke
Witness of Madame Thérèse de Couagne
I smell François Poulin de Francheville
slinking toward she,
the septic salope,
her sepia stink….
Is my husband a sculptor,
happy to work either marble or coal?
I cry too much:
I feel marinated in marble.
How do I chide an old bull?
I’m drunk with mucus:
My eye-sockets piss.
My mate’s rapacious, yes,
but it’s sagacious
policy that Angélique
be brought to bed
and bred.
Should I show snippets of naked skin?
But why must he
spelunk her dusty guts,
her predatory trap,
what grips and grinds a white man
down to nil?
My bed’s a bog grave.
Why can’t I have the honeyed sex of a bride?
Sleep is a corpse occasion.
Instead, I scent the stale shame
of a steadily thawing turd—
dingying my sheets.
Monsieur’s pal, Jacques César,
can be excused as an unwitting brute:
He’ll be stabbed dead in a cathouse. Sure.
Angélique squeals, screeches,
my man pounds her lewdly!
I’m luxuriantly shamed.
But why can’t César alone do all the fucking,
rub his charcoal upon Angelique’s filthy breasts,
pour his midnight oil into her graveyard colour?
But she sprawls, almost insolent,
in her supine sluttery,
her scorpion-sting nipples hard,
so my husband bends to her,
his gallows erection,
in dawn’s left-over shadows,
instead of ripping from my pale warmth,
a wifely, gewgaw gown,
to let it crumple, dark, on the floor.
My husband was a satin machine—
if I remember.
I pray that Egypt’s shuddering chimp,
bought off a Boston dock,
then brought here and sold to us,
will realize a reeking infamy,
to sit in her own urine,
shivering in our clean snow,
and smelling like the slut she is.
Her you-know-what gleans hair
from his beard.
I can’t cope with Misery—
this fiery disgrace.
Nouvelle-France is a grand sewer.
Angélique’s whole body is a dump.
I could demolish all this wooden virtue—
all my pining—
with a penny’s worth of fire.
[Digby (Nova Scotia) & Pointe-de-l’Église (Nouvelle-Écosse)
26 février mmxiii]
ottawater: 10 -
À Marie-Josèphe Angélique
A livid, smoky biography,
plus the perfume
of a smouldering “Confession”:
All we know.
We can’t even trace your sex—
others like you—
female, but masculine in violence—
“The Statue of Liberty”
or Juno-as-arsonist:
A martyr nevermore a woman.
In your sacred name, sailors mutiny
against ships’
and vassals
guillotine all lordships.
And there’s nothing wrong with fire!
A little light pushes back the darkness.
Spurting flame brings unhampered delight—
smoky conquest,
waves of shadows receding:
Genesis beginning in Gehenna.
Allegedly, you brought to Montreal
frigidity suddenly torrid,
much white distress,
screams melting snow.
White potentates,
bounty hunters white,
white nobles,
slave-traders white—
Stars came down with a fever;
they fell as cold, white particles.
all these traitors to human beings,
this crowd of tyrants—
Clearly, Montreal did attract
a slanderous benediction of fire,
marking it a plush tomb,
under aureoles of smoke.
all needed to be toppled from their thrones,
or dragged from horseback,
or drowned in the reek of the sea,
To these monsters, you’re a rancorous,
cancerous beauty—
a valentine of thorns.
But you defined them,
all humid-mouthed,
as anuses dripping shit.
You voyaged across prodigious saltwater
to be condemned to serial impregnation,
and drudgery.
They accused you of burning down Montréal.
Oui: There’s a wash of ash in your eyes.
Finally, fatigued—like all martyrs,
worn down by insults and blows,
you accepted to exist
in the sovereignty of flame,
to render Montréal an inferno,
and then be immolated in turn,
to turn into a bonny bonfire,
a flock of sparks.
I say that you represent
an overhanging fire—
or set aflame: Torched!
Yet, Beauty doth humble the universe!
Liberty should not require dying.
the sun!
[Puumala (Finland) 7 août mmxii]
ottawater: 10 -
Jean-Jacques Dessalines Vs. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Haiti, 1802
Our black world is still too white in parts:
Thus, Generalissimo L’Ouverture hesitates
to tear open pale puppy throats.
But their blood is only blood—
yes, but not worth as much as Merlot, Malbec, or Shiraz—
the infinite intoxication of definite reds….
Aye, relentless “Savagery” is politic.
What use be “overprepared regrets”?
The French did not regret
in casting chains for us
to make their sugar and rum.
They still don’t regret.
My dead mama used to croon their songs.
I mean, she used to sing—like Sycorax—in her chains.
But our owners, who liked to chat about Rousseau
(with verbose obesity
the vice of bourgeois reactionaries)
had aptly zero appanage1 for her—
no sense of deontology2:
No, to them, she was one more “succulent virgin,”
“Ginger that smells like lavender,”
and, lastly, an “evil-eye bitch.”
Je suis enfant du viol—
I’m the offspring of Rape—
of the libidinous prodigality of illicit “gods.”
Now, I’m their predator,
never dithering,
and kill the Europeans
like a cleaner tossing out garbage.
1 French: Profitable inheritance.
2 Ethics-based rights.
Pain is good for a laugh.
In 1776, when the Yanks yanked free
of Britannia’s yoke,
Massa thought my mama his mistress.
He come, take hold of her mouth and chin—
like a jockey inspectin a horse—
and just spat a cud of tobacco
into her maw,
that straightaway ser her vomiting.
The dude carved sculptures of whipping—
his enlightened teaching—
then bent us down to grub out crops—
crack boulders into pebbles,
or chop down palms to put up sugar cane.
We split paltry, dirty grain;
we divided patchy garments.
We crimped from spasm’d Pain;
we cooked rat-like varmints.
Boss staged non-stop orgies—
boozed-up damnation—
every Sat’day night
down to Sunday nausea.
I’m glad now to revive the style
of that cardinal Catholic,
Saint of Torture,
and tease les grands blancs
with brimstone, not treacle,
a serenade of knives,
and revived, antique horrors.
In my work, this independence war,
heads burst open,
eyes look like cunts,
people turn into maggots;
each overrun mansion blazes,
eating up portraits,
playing cards, tobacco pipes,
volumes of Rousseau,
and my insurrections leave
decapitated statues, cathedrals yelping,
pink meat gone smoky,
and the gangrene detritus of the sea—
and old fish and maggots.
Should I be a sunny, singing “Ethiope,”
or as misanthropic as insects?
History curses all.
Even the sun’s a bastard of History.
One must, at times, replace butter
with pepper.
That is my duty—
unto the serenity of eternity.
I ink my “X” in Creole:
—Janjak Desalin
[Paris (France) 12 juillet mmxii]
ottawater: 10 -
The End of Fashion
In search of unchanging vogue.
After all fur was faux.
Between emplotment and spontaneity,
the sweet spot. Silken robes dredged in mud-honey.
Wilsonic endless summer.
That breathable bodysuit becomes her
and him and her—but not them.
UV-resistant muumuus for the plebs.
Sleeve la revolution,
the social event of our season.
Next year in velour again.
Abolished belts cannot be loosened.
Commonsense dictatorships uniformly decree:
I style myself into we.
By: ARPi
ottawater: 10 -
Dylan at the gallery
Colour wicks the cotton, dark as a heart,
the redness of mud and mercy captured in pools,
shivering streaks of gold abounding.
Vivid, I say.
When a colour is this bright we call it Vivid.
And you, not yet four, repeat and gaze with me.
This is beauty, I don’t say. This is a moment
I hope you remember more than others:
The winter sun extending the open white walls,
each stop a new opinion, a moment’s curtain call
through another’s eyes.
Shiny metal, crashing waves,
Salome and Icarus in 2012.
This is what I would give you if I could give you
only one point from which to set out.
Past the anecdote of you
touching the first painting with your mitten,
scaring us all before I pulled you back by the collar,
no physical evidence of contact visible on either of you,
but that you wanted then so fiercely to see the rest,
tugged us along each hall until you were satisfied
that you had seen each work of art in the building.
Vivid is the day I would give you to remember,
if one day you wanted to remember how searching began.
Ode on the important work of finance ministers
Any vessel once paid tribute
will eventually be made to pay.
With not a drop of pleasure unevaluated
nor a spot of conscientious work
remaining to be done,
the holiest of mammals, all honest pay docked,
go plodding on for the gods of measure:
euro, euro, drachma, dollar,
penny, penny, ounce of flesh.
So the means to an end becomes
the means to a means
with no end in sight,
mass decapitalization, the inestimable
devaluation of human currency
swiped away at
by the open palm of the OECD
marking its dirty streaks along the factory windows
to block out the frustrating and lingering fantasy
still holding up the ticking of the shift clock.
Finance ministers beware or be damned,
the true origin of economy can yet be discovered
in rebellious flashes— proffering glimpses
of light
from the edges of trade
as it dangles high above the cubicle walls,
tied to the long chain of the past: bound,
warns the IMF—certain, as ever, in its certainty—
to become entangled and to obstruct
the important, computerized machinery
designed to turn humans into pennies
and pennies
into nothing at all.
ottawater: 10 -
Hiding Under Kindling
After Lewis Black
Lesson 1: “fire fuck ball”
Lesson 2: “fire Begin Test.
Say 42 years before I was born,
that godblast reversed into a fungal hiccup,
time-release capsule
drawing back into the B-29 womb
like a homesick yolk.
While comedians discuss our imminent demise,
bubble dark beer.
Say no one asked my opinion;
my balls dropped when they dropped.
On the anniversary of Hiroshima,
buy lottery tickets.
Say Bikini Atoll without tittering;
Say I stayed in hock, paid taxes, pumped gas.
Say I had sex, and if the world had ended then,
Join the new old faith
church, state:
Battered against a blackboard,
bones would make a sound:
a) like your third grade teacher
snapping her fingers in your ear
fuck –
Lesson 3: “fire –
Regard the zombie’s TV shuffle
as a chance to renege on Uncle Sam.
b) like a bowling ball striking pins
c) like anything else
d) discard like,
anything else
Write dying like my parents did
under “Goals” in your agenda.
Say the sky changed, but my shoes didn’t.
Say THE END with caps-lock on
but mind that gap between knowing and /
the thought hovering on the expletive shock:
“fireoh, fuuuuck...”
never arriving at that final sphere of understanding.
that when the teacher’s bones finally clatter
in the glowering ash,
there will / we will / still be
huddled safe under desks.
ottawater: 10 -
They Do Not Come Back
for James
Because the day wore
heavy on the sky
so close I paced
upon the cracking sidewalk
among the buildings and
first leaves of
autumn where the roots
push through pavement
and they do not come back.
In the elevator
the building
manager and it is
awkward as we
would often chat but
recently have had
so little to say and then
last week he lost
his temper so we
just stand there in
silence and besides they
do not come back.
And home at the Oval
Australia reach
three-hundred for the loss
of so few and the young
off-spinner has had a day
he would rather
forget but there is only
ever one first day
and if anything
can be said
for progress then
at least it finds a kind
of comfort in rhythm
though there is something
startling in the way
Australians pronounce
debut so it matches
the French
salut and no they do
not come back.
On the radio she
describes the dead
taken to a
warehouse, arranged
in straight lines
their faces frozen
in expressions
of surprise and I suffer
this symmetry
and this wailing
and the secretary of state
condemns those
responsible with a voice
that is broad and is
deep and my fellow
Americans, they do not
come back.
So today when I drive
I drive too fast and I run
lights on amber
when I should have
slowed down and
I am lost
for what to say
as he will not
come back
because they do not
come back
and he is gone and
he is buried deep
in the dry earth
deep enough that no
light will find him
no light of any color
only darkness in the
middle of the day
which is how
we know what we think
we know so well:
they do not come back.
ottawater: 10 -
I go to meetings. I have been to three today. In the first, I learned that although I can accept things
beyond my control, it is natural that I still want to fix them. After all I am a man and us men, I
learned, we like to fix things. Each morning I sweep the cat litter from the laminate floor into a neat
pile. I use the dustpan and empty it into the trash.
I do not each much for breakfast. I drink coffee so I can fill meetings with talking. I get anxious that
I am talking too much. I make jokes. I say ‘you know how I love the sound of my own voice.’ Then
I keep talking. It is the kind of self-deprecation appropriate to meetings. I am learning to nod, to
express myself more clearly with eyebrows. This silence builds a flimsy kind of tension. A joke can
lighten the mood. We sit across tables or on couches. These are our usual locations but sometimes
there are meetings on the internet. I log on. I type hello. The person I am meeting is typing. They
type hello. Now we are meeting.
Today between my second and third meetings, I learned that someone I knew had been dead for
three years. She would affect a bad British accent when she spoke to me. She killed herself by
drowning. Lots of people had written to her on the internet and each of them missed her. Some
found creative and interesting ways to express this. Others left only drawn hearts or things that
made them seem vulnerable in ways I never let myself appear in meetings. I cover these things with
language. I cultivate the sound of my own voice. There were concentrations of messages around her
birthday, around Christmas, on the anniversary of the day she died, as if these places were small
cities, and the other outlying messages were houses at the side of rural highways, places where
you would not expect to find people. But the people were there, at the side of the road, throwing
words at their friend’s death the same way I throw words in meetings at my own discomfort. They
all missed the woman who had drowned, much more than I miss her because we weren’t really
friends and I had not thought about her for many years until today when I found out she was dead.
I have many meetings planned for next week. I will close out this week with several more. Please
don’t be alarmed: I am in a meeting right now. I am pretending to take the minutes but instead I
am writing about meetings. Every few seconds I look up and make eye contact with somebody. It
doesn’t matter who. The act of eye contact is important in meetings. Vulnerability is important too,
just a little, not too much. I try not to wear my discomfort. I drink coffee. We sit across tables or on
couches. I pour words into the rifts between us. I type hello. I sweep the floors. I drown with the
words. I go to meetings.
Soft Focus
Watercolour/Sculpture - 2013
Mat Dubé
ottawater: 10 -
ottawater: 10 -
The Answers
The notebook was red and full of the worst poems.
The telephone was blue, bluer than the jeans.
The saxophone was gold, its case lined with blue fur.
The jacket was black and leather. I want to tell you that the top button of his dress shirt was
fastened but I don’t know. I can’t remember. And I don’t know how the movie ended because they
called us into the smallest room so we could be present while they administered a shot through the
IV in her leg and after the shot she made no noise and did not open her eyes.
The dinner plate was beige and would spin in place like a record. We told each other it was magic.
The scarf was only grey.
The zip sweater was green and had pockets. I gave it to you because it was too cold for what you
were wearing. I don’t remember why you were leaving or whether it was morning or evening but I
know there were small holes by the right pocket where the dog had jumped the year previous. And
now the dog is gone and the sweater is gone and in the department store I saw my friend who had
adopted the dog when he was just a month old. She was selling shoes to a woman with wide feet.
She told me again that the dog was gone and I did not think of you or the sweater.
The country was also green, in many shades, as seen from the windows of the plane.
The handle of the blade was brown, much paler in the places where you held it.
The first two years were a kind of orange, at least that is how I remember them.
The cat was black and splayed on a sterile table, her legs flat in front, a position I had seen no
animal adopt. She was two years old. On her right leg was a tiny bandage where the
veterinarian had attached an IV.
The smallest room was white. I asked the veterinarian if it was possible that the cat had eaten
lilies, had been poisoned in some way that was a result of my own negligence because I could not
understand why a body would just stop working.
The vase on the counter was green with a floral design.
The unopened mail was mostly white.
The lilies were purple and pink. I wanted my negligence to be responsible because then something
would be responsible. And the veterinarian said no, it did not look like poison. And I asked
her why.
The questions were pale and weightless. Why did the cat’s organs stop working? Why did this
happen? And I realized as I was speaking that I was asking the veterinarian why it is that things die,
why it is that we lose things and I knew she could have no answer, and she did not.
The questions have no color of their own, the way pure light is a concert of everything we can see.
The sky was impossibly white. I felt its weight.
The answers are impossible because they refuse this light.
The bandage was also white. Her eyes were mostly closed. They suggested we wait in a larger
room near the entrance. There were many magazines. A movie was playing. There were seats
upholstered with hydrophobic plastic and in the movie Nicholas Cage was wearing a white dress
shirt, blue jeans, and a jacket.
The answers are solid and dark.
1. Question
What is no safer than faith
But much more exquisite?
2. Answer
The cup of the hand
Cradling air
Just below the hand
Of the other
Its constant pleading to
God, reduced to cool
Tips of fingers
Taking, in tenderness,
The pulse of a thumb.
Ariane Beauchamp
ottawater: 10 -
dock chain clinking
you watch the
veil dance of light
on the surface
fever water
restless, you stir
your desire liquid
inhibition stretched taut
you undress, heart in throat,
feeling nature's every eye on your skin
you plunge
snap the tension
pulse cools
you wear the river
its gown swirls around you
the current hushes your mouth
weeds brushing ankle
toes find silt
fish stare
light bends to your shape
breaking the surface again
you emerge
wearing the moonlight
Amphibious 3.
Oil on panel, 2013.
Sarah Hatton
Surface 6.
Oil on panel, 2013.
Sarah Hatton
ottawater: 10 -
junk food: for me, after the boy i liked in high school
lansdowne park after dark
soft grunge is an oxymoron.
the sky was grey as ice-cream-scoop-water
but there was nothing soft about when
you’d haul a walkman onto the bus
loop tracks around his house
for half an hour of yr life
snug&smug condos
sprout like boys’
poetry without stanza breaks
or indents.
because you really loved
that bmx boy.
yr friends laughed when he sold out
and you wanted to buy his dickies
you were so far gone
that you squeezed gouache onto a sugar bowl
smashed it
and called the pieces
“stuckism on him”.
but a million years in youngtwentysomething time
will try and teach you better than
hey, let’s get married in a
doughnut shop/in Portland
you’ll listen in at karaoke nights:
the only boy who could ever reach me
was the son of a richer man.
ottawa prole-creeps
upward/unlike vowels;
our occupants build isoglosses
between the AAVEs
and AAVE-nots.
some people will tell you that
the redevelopment was built
on (the backs of) an indian
burial ground.
other folks know that the park is
the killing floor for working-class
self-determination & for
a new brunswicker whose last words
as he hit the concrete
were oh chiac or something
along those lines.
we write and unsettle and make signs
for the scaffolds reading DIY and GFY.
despite their coffeehouse backdrops
(this ain’t eighteenth-century france)
our meetings are called workshops for a
reason. we know that
this is a dé-nous-ment.
ottawater: 10 -
Exchanges with a Weasel
you need to quit
waiting for a hawk
who’ll seize you
by the heartstrings
I’m at home. mum wants me
to live in my childhood
bedroom forever
like leda and the swan
he tells me.
you need to grab
the rabbit
by the nape
he says
while his mouth is full
of military-grade
filthy Anglo-shoelace
and French leather.
He is a saboteur
until I’m good
and married.
I can’t claim any space
of my own here
I tell him.
But there were Communists
and no potatoes
I insist.
I was squatting on the toilet
on my period
having a red scare
he asks
so I said his goatee
made him look like
a douchebag anarchist
which was kind of rad
as far as greetings go.
still I imagine that furry freak
in National Geographic
when he prised the door open
which was kind of harsh
as far as insults go
You can’t just talk about blood
and his sort of deal
in the Nineties.)
sometimes there is more than a and b
that’s true
he replies
and i am a loanword
an interloper.
He crept from my sleeve
in an east-side bar. This dirty weasel
called my friends a bunch of
Brian Mulroneys
(There were words here
sounding from like 1722
but I’ve repressed them.
posing, with his tiny fist
punching the cold air.
how did the magazine
freeze that movement?
perhaps they couldn’t
perhaps my eyes need checking
becuz they don’t belong.
your blood type is b
he reminds me
I remember the editorial
photo taken from the Crisis
of whitey versus the Mohawk
with his balaclava and fuck-off stare
b-blood is not from Turtle Island
it is most frequently found among Eurasian
nomadic peoples and Roma
and i think i love that weasel
more than canada.
ottawater: 10 -
Ten Lines
Ten More Lines
My stomach churns.
My eyes close and I see the prose.
I needed to take the edge off
and so now the edge is off.
All my cells are whispers.
Things become nicely irrelevant.
Now I’m tired and less enthusiastic.
I finally understand nothing.
Winter is coming...
a dreaded neighbour in the night.
In the night,
vague branches gesticulate.
Wind rattles different metals.
Din, croon us one, I think
to myself and smile privately.
God, I’m clever; hopefully
that’s close to grace. Evading pain
like a master of disguise,
my eyes wade through the crystal mist.
A wolf licks the window.
ottawater: 10 -
50 days
Marisa Gallemit
e: [email protected]
ottawater: 10 -
Anne Le
I watch time pass.
I bought the mug at his first show.
I liked the shape—tall, with a solid base
and with a thumb rest on the handle.
I bought it for the thumb rest
and because he’d made it. I remember
he said he liked the color (a yellowish-green,
like autumn leaves in transition), and I,
in my unfortunate bluntness, said I didn’t,
but I liked the thumb rest.
I still don’t care for the color, but the mug
has been a favorite for over 30 years.
I bought it to use, and it has a few chips
to show it hasn’t sat in a display case.
I think of him every time I use it,
and I remember how,
when the news of his death
fell out of an envelope, I thought
instantly of the mug and of how he is
dispersed now among all the things he made,
and part of him is with me—his thumbprint
on that mug for as long as it survives.
I look out the windows of coffeeshops
at passersby or at the progress of clouds
or the swirl of leaves or snow or dust.
I look out my own window at familiar trees
whose details I will never fully learn.
I watch squirrels groom each other
on the neighbour’s roof. I watch the rivalries
of pigeons, the greetings of dog to dog,
or neighbour to neighbour. I watch the moon,
the rain, the changing light.
I watch time pass.
In the slow descent into sleep, I watch the thoughts
that chase each other in frantic circles, or that flow
from shape to shape in mellow rocking motions
like music, like choreographed flame, that eventually
will waft me all the way down into sleep,
where time alters.
I watch time pass.
It is its own occupation.
Heartbeat and thought
slow down.
Those parts of me
that have scattered
during the intervening hours
find their way back.
Splinter joins to splinter,
fragment to fragment,
a quiet
ottawater: 10 -
Brief Commentaries
4 a.m.
Glass house
Rick sits on the porch across the street
whenever weather permits. He keeps an eye
on the comings and goings for as far as his gaze can reach.
When the weather keeps him inside, he watches
from his big bay window. He is a one-person
neighbourhood watch.
My front windows are tall and wide in three directions.
Before I lived here, I used to look at this place and
think how I would love to have a room
with windows on three sides, to live in light and air
like that, to live in a piece of roofed-in sky.
Now I do. I live in weather and the seasons
with more of my life than ever before. Light and air
wash through me, and under their touch,
I let go of long-held tensions.
Rick used to shovel the snow, mow the lawn,
clean the stairwells in this building before he hurt his back.
He knows what my home looks like, how I place
my furniture, that I have hundreds of books.
He knows what time I leave for work,
what time I come home. He knows the red car
that brings my white-haired lover.
Sometimes I feel the probing eyes of the street
and I think of stones and shattered glass.
And then I think of Rick, watching,
and the stones stay put.
The birds are awake.
So am I,
though less inclined
to sing.
Things That Curve and Curl
Hair ties itself in knots
all on its own.
So does any cord or cable
that’s long enough.
You never catch them at it.
You’d think they’re alive,
but secretly.
If cameras steal your soul,
the surveillance cameras
that watch over
even our residential streets
are bleeding us
to shadow.
ottawater: 10 -
First Meeting
Even before she speaks,
I don’t like
her name, her clothes,
her glasses, her nose.
It’s no surprise to learn
(when she does speak)
that I don’t like her.
A week before I travel,
I have anxiety dreams
Yesterday’s poem
Reminder to self:
would have been
No matter how exciting your day,
no matter how good your stories,
about folding dozens
of sheets and pillowcases
as a way
to peace of mind.
you step off the beaten path,
about losing the airport.
and all you get
is a new angle
on somebody’s manicured lawn.
nobody wants to hear
all the details.
ottawater: 10 -
It’s too soft to be rain,
but it’s not nothing-this cool caress
from the air you walk through.
Moments of Weather
Rain in January
is indecisive,
its mind always
on the edge of ice.
The late snow came down sloppy,
already weeping
its death.
Now it drowns in its own
salt tears.
Shade tree
in the urban heat:
cool hand
on your fever.
leave the window open.
The cool night air
is silk.
The leaves rust
and fade
into fall.
Isolated snowflakes
from a pewter sky,
for the coming invasion.
ottawater: 10 -
Rabbit sheds
Small white blossoms appear in lawns like soft
cornets announcing Spring beneath the tresses
of trees embossed with sticky buds like alms
of erotic ornament, and the weightlessness
of being brash for a change and not pressed down
by pennies and vows fills you with tendrils of lust
like a wind that carries your feet along unbound.
Inexplicably, you know your dreams are rusting
in the rabbit shed, and you want to burn the cage
to the ground with inspired theatrics like an exorcism.
You wonder who else was succumbing to a dulled fate
before they sensed the weather change, the rhythm
of craving thrummed incessantly from leaves and mud.
The sound of rabbits escaping snares and ruts.
Lifting fish
I laughed tonight while making soup. My hands
were specked with the mush of herbs just chopped,
and dusk was ruining the day with its sifted ash.
When I dropped the dead fish in the pot I thought of you
— of your longing like a terrible wound,
like an ill-tempered wind ripping apart a sailcloth.
Such vision so lifted my spirits I collapsed
momentarily with a knife in my hand laughing
like an asmatic, because such wondrous spectres
of your wasting (certain fantasy, I know) helped
make my solitary observance of your absence
into the best soup I’ve had since I saw you last.
ottawater: 10 -
On your way from one coast to another,
on a whim, escape the Ohio Turnpike.
A long-gone summer: paths I biked
along the Rocky River, Midwest small-town
streets, and the house where I used to live,
its number painted on a rock. Drink tea
with my white-haired old landlady, unwrap
gifts she keeps handy for unexpected guests.
Now, beloved,
one more place that once was mine alone
is also yours.
Theseus Lives On
Oil Acrylic Paper on wood
Anthony Tremmaglia
ottawater: 10 -
12 Erasure Poems Carved from Email Sent by the Ottawa Public Library
Subject: Nice Ottawa
Blue Tuesday
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 4:49:18 AM
Canal town-Friendly American hybrid:
Rilke requests,
please visit poet’s market.
Pick up
quest is ready:
please dress in red
or sins and maple branches
or lust
you hold
small songs & silences
calm coy suns
a northology
of old lumber heads
and doves.
10 Feb 13
bold plans,
a broken thing,
roses calmed by sunshine,
book favorites,
randy stories and Bach.
A clam.
Hold art, your angels agaze:
starry, embraced.
heals requiems,
readies questions
your incipient sorrow
hones healing
with the most vital
for everyday problems.
Serious disease,
fragile health
in a numb eye.
18 Oct 12
16 April 13
ottawater: 10 -
Notice: Danger
Subtle Weather
stairs, stares
you and your
red animal eye,
Mon ami,
end is coming.
red autobiography of childhood,
sins, all demon and angel,
We would like to remind you
of the upcoming duet for wings.
Don yours.
We say October, dreams,
a lost friend. Remind
of the upcoming wind.
O, you butterflies beguile.
5 May 13
searching for inspiration, rich
reward, red moth to flame,
red sound on the page,
voice in red.
What is amazing: Hear Christ.
Rise, heathen, and check
our new Bible series.
aged red-eye aces duel,
respond to red questions and contact,
At last,
you are the intended recipient
of His notice. Please reply
red riots,
red sorrows and pleas
to His message.
22 April 13
dull umber light,
simple solutions, everyday
gifts. Real rain,
dour pale cloud ossuaries
in stolen air. Selected
poems, slips meted
and translated
by induction,
by sky.
29 Sept 12
24 Oct 12
ottawater: 10 -
ottawater: 10 -
September Psalm
stark marker
Breath lives
In every riven thing,
Christian man or maniac,
A spring grass fire.
I sing to remind you of the bees;
corona face, drone pearl arc,
a royal numbing curse.
A revolt.
A system for rapid phobia, anxious order
and more bee memes.
Amber words,
raw sword bees
becalm the writer who stayed.
please, no sad questions
Call me forty years of good books,
call me bad sound, eco-tom tom,
call me mall ghost, math prude, a rude rat.
Respect harrow & harvest.
Sound alive.
Sing now, the local cluster,
Limn the possible
On key.
24 Sept 12
for quests
(a map of red ore)
open field
(temporal, induction)
(burial, grail)
8 Aug 12
Call me red pear memoir, laundry, due,
call me dream dreamer, indy porn doll,
call me off the page and everything else.
Call me pop, rock, ideal sound,
call me space, in chains.
Call me water, an encounter, tide and shore.
24 Feb 13
Honey flowers.
Raw honey hives.
13 Apr 13
I receive a lot of email from the Ottawa Public
Library automated system. These poems are from
a series of erasure poems which use these emails
as source material.
Each poem is derived from a separate email. All
poems, including titles, contain only letters and words
culled from each email in the same order as the OPL
email. Punctuation is mine. [email protected]
Justin Million
Everybody Into The Pool, With Grace
Brother’s come on over,
he’ll stay as forever
long a beer takes.
My sister’s nursing Henri then tucking him in small
sheets and he shouts
because the bed is kid death
and nothing beats being awake shitting into oblivion. Little changes.
Sleep’s ill shaped
away, no girl to bounce off or
at least no kind one. Doctor says my left foot gone
ottawater: 10 -
Light, Light
Friends understand
before noon I can’tScotch on the porch by christmas light, mind
a covenant of exes. I’ve been with enough girls
to give complication its due praise, not enough
to ever make the first move on new onesI hope they’re all ok and still consider my fingersTara sees her analyst. Leah drinks. How
pain makes adults of us allEveryone loves the book
I’m not writing. I will be heroic later. I have
borrowed Cameron’s typewriter to write why-
numb because the Drink makes me sleep in
an old chair beside Maggie. Maggie’s tore up
Lisa’s above ground pool finds me in summer,
afloat in a purchase of sky. I am vicious
to myself; the hardest year on
record and whiskey in the water-
the grass being greyhound, chewed
all the dandelion; she’ll itch and foam
an hour by the water. I like to think that these will be our lean years, Maggie
With midnight into AM drives another chink out
my sentimental links. No one with me at the drinking game. A good man
can’t save a good man-
and I, and I
look to Maggie now-
Morning birds have clearly
never tried quitting
She has it bad; hips, liver, and a rescue’s nerve. She likely won’t see
next August, gone down gnawing. I wish
Mark and I would stop, fallen in
to the tall cans
arguing over Maggie’s being,
I say, right here, I say, she’s a bit of that fur of the world now you can only see in the sun and that goes
on and on and
Mark checks the light on his bare arms, lifts them toward the backyard
window curtains that are
usually open-
Guest bed lusting
solo. Autumn Sundays, nothing moves but change.
I like that.
Other people think I drink well:
one for the eulogizersThere is one good picture of me.
It’s in the scrapbook I made
for Leah. TakenFind that.
Absent belief ritual keeps us.
Twelve-step programs to get out the door.
Snap-click of routine.
Close encounters with familiar menus.
The slow breath of day week year.
Crust that feeds when the fridge is bare.
Refrains repeated put us to sleep
and in dreams, the eternal return.
Inbox Replay
Charcoal- Photograph-Digital on Wood
Anthony Tremmaglia
ottawater: 10 -
Little topographic shapes below
Ringed lines, narrow and wavy
Cold drinks leave rivers and lakes
Spilled ketchup a new volcano
Bits of a sandwich looks like little towns from above
What would those streets be made with?
They must use the cheese for comfy chairs
And paint toothpick fences
No wars would be fought if we lived there
United under a blue foil flag
Of the sandwich village my crumbs have made
A content land with crisp lettuce beds
and other odd places to lay our heads
Scott Fairchild
Creepy Go Lucky
ottawater: 10 -
Time’s Gag
In dissolution, salt appears to disappear.
Conversation grows a nicticating
Rear-view mirror. Our final sentences
That’s how people wither to zero.
membrane. By reflex. A viral neglect
lack form or density. Fashionably
Years without words: neither sounds
sets in and expands. Photos pored over
dressed in false history. I hear a movie’s
nor alphabets. You run out. Of touch.
for evidence, justifiable proof of infection.
full soundtrack, minus our voices.
The fall so much easier than the climb
Journal entries, pages still breathing:
Birdsong in the background, maybe
gives havoc its delusions of power.
rigor mortis nibbles at extremities.
water. Something gold flips away.
ottawater: 10 -
Bonus Levels
There’s a tall box around this game.
Un-decaying bodies of the toon dead
There’s virtual ammunition for sale
Resolute as migratory birds
heaped in a corner of RAM.
at schoolyard kiosks.
we fly through this strange country.
Until garbage-collection subroutines
Long line-ups, alienated queues
Wrap around each other
It’s hard to look away.
mop away every bit. Of evidence.
chat among themselves.
at night when we’re spent.
In dim rooms screens flash, hypnotize.
All reason, to mourn.
A one-upmanship parade of weapons, armour.
We’ve lost count
Junk food supplies all necessary fuel.
Some imagined place, this tallies up.
Inside it, creatures spawn
attack from land, sea, air.
which level this is.
Their bodies quiver
Behind it, nothing real survives
this doing together.
with unspent attention-deficit.
ottawater: 10 -
Ho Rose
Archaeology Scar
Mason’s drags and mason’s marks
and other lithic measures in the rock.
Our geometry across the field of ruins
trampling squill, a goat’s horn rotted
a weed wreath, rust cans and other rotten shapes
friable and temporary.
Agios Georgios lit up on the hill.
Cactus pear, agave, and the air of caresses.
See the lights of Attica holding still?
On the plain a thousand shielded cthontic spots spring up.
Mardonius’ cavalry lines the Gargaphian fount.
I blink a field of yellow grass and rocks,
heat lines of flies and formidable cowpies.
The temple of Hera is a cicatrix of schist.
Our fanning-out walk
scours the dust for exactly what phalanxes of the mind’s eye
scuttling in unified armour.
There are a thousand rocks and capes
a thousand untrammeled submarine volcanoes.
I see quite simply we are two, three,
in lumbering ambulation
tracing the masonry of each other’s fortifications.
A stray arrow spectres by
or a buzzard, or horsefly.
At the geological marker:
Rock. Rock. Stone. Spot.
Hands upon a curve of stone
hand upon a hand alone
an asymptote, no mark on stone
which, unlike the wall, was not rupestral.
A wind passed, and I buried it.
Plataea, 2012
At the altar of old-school, Aphrodite’s will,
burnt pine, charred bones, a statuette undresses.
For others, Agios Georgios lit up on the hill.
Ash in the garden, in the fount stonefill,
votives inscribed with reasonable distresses.
The little lights of Attica keep holding still.
We uncover shadows in fragments as we do in excavation,
with glasses and laughs, red walls and red wine splatters.
I offer this phiale and smoke from its spill
for a yes, for yeses, a holy aureate thrill.
The women long and the men wear dresses
with glances, near misses, a slung leg, Orionid’s kisses.
Vesper bells from Agios Giorgios lit up on the hill
hold the little lights of Attica very still.
Lykavittos, 2013.
ottawater: 10 -
Aigosthena is for Lovers
“Hobhouse rhymes and journalises. I stare and do nothing,”
Lord Byron
A flummoxed scrap of windswept flag
when you are around I am not.
Whirled up, the gulfwater hurls itself
splash by splash upon the rocks.
We sit, silhouettes on the shore, and watch it.
The cats have persimmon fur, birthmarked noses
and behold the same scrunched feral gaze.
They eat a soft brown pear and leave us alone.
The Amstel is years old and still we drink it.
You drink it while I eat a pear
and the spot on the horizon is a pirate ship
set upon besieging.
6 February 2013
Night of Your Visit to the Oracle
“For Greeks a blush—for Greece a tear.”
The Isles of Greece, Lord Byron
The soft warm reconnoitering
of wanting say this person on the floor.
Or this one. For example disembarking from your hoodie
in the acropolis museum
to discover yourself lashed in a gaze.
For example looking up from a plate of figs
to the up-down shimmer of irises, a flash wink.
What people call making eyes.
To the ancients lowered eyelids signal shamefastness.
The demure flutter that precedes
exchanged voltage
you know / yeah I know
ottawater: 10 -
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GArnet Ruffo
From The Thunderbird Poems
Norval Morrisseau loved birds, and heard and told many stories about them in both English and
Ojibway. In his paintings humans are constantly changing into birds, indicating movement towards
a high plane of existence. While in jail in Kenora in the late 1960s for disturbing the peace, he
entered a province-wide prison art contest and won first place with a painting of loons.
Four Loons, 1968
L O O N L O OOOOOnLoooooooonnnnn==LoonLOoooONLOONLoon
M A A N G MaaangMaAAnnGGmM A A A A A A aa n n n G G gMaang
LOONlO O O O 00oN 0 O L ONLOOdddoooooononononononoLooooonLOoN
M a a n g g g MA m a a n g g maangMAAAAAAgMaanggMaANg M
Norval Morrisseau did this painting in honour of his grandfather Moses Potan Nanakonagos,
the man who taught him the traditions of his Ojibway people. By now the artist is drinking
enough to kill himself and, in an attempt to heal, he joins the new-age religion Eckankar
with its emphasis on past lives, dreams and soul travel.
ottawater: 10 -
The Storyteller: The Artist and His Grandfather, 1978
Knowledge passed on.
Grandfather Wise man Story teller
Spirit of Winter
A time for the telling
Manitous. Demi-gods
Gathering. Listening
In the arms of Grandfather Thunder
Epingishmook Winohah
Mudjeekawis Papeekawis Chibiabos Nanabojou
The rattle of bones in the trees
The flying skeleton man
The scrape of claws on the rock
The flesh eating cannibals
The imprint of scales in the sand
Listen my grandson!
They all around you
Inside you.
A baby’s conscious
Original thought
Ancient belief
Medicine Dream
Six layers of Creation
Four for the Indians
One for the Whiteman
One for the Creator – Legions of Spirits
Grandfather Thunder spirit guide
New Language for a New Age
Six Worlds
Seven Planes
The mind’s eye
Energy at the subatomic level.
Psychic state.
Love Song.
Soul Travel
Child becomes Shaman.
Child becomes WoMan
The colours of healing
Red Breath. Pink Breath. Orange Breath
Yellow Breath. Green Breath. Baby Blue Breath
Midnight Blue Breath. Turquoise Breath. Violet Breath. Purple Breath
Arrival: the House of Invention.
Thought by many to be Norval Morrisseau’s greatest painting, Androgyny is stunning in its beauty
and imaginative power. By the early 1980s, Morrisseau was seeing his visions translated in largescale canvasses, and for a while he worked out of an old train station in Langley, B.C., where he
crawled over the outstretched canvasses on the floor of the huge space.
Androgyny, 1983
ottawater: 10 -
Untitled (Thunderbird and Canoe in Flight, Norval on Scooter) c. 90s
four panels assembled into one 366 x 610 cm canvas laid before him
a room dwarfed barely able to contain his vision the imagining of scale
comes in brushes unfolding a reverie of paint on white sky water earth
canvas astral universe consciousness eck portal plane inner outer body
strength courage fertility fidelity patience perseverance grace endurance elegance
benevolence brother sister uncle aunt father mother grandfather grandmother
marten loon fish bear clan eternity discovery transformation totem human
anishininabe animikibe bahnasik midewiwin grand medicine society good hearted ones jiissaskid
shaking tent wabino medicine mikinak nokamis pinasiwuk mukwa meeguyn ginebik mishipeshu
mitigwakik manitou tobacco sage sweet grass cedar tree flower flight memory whisper butterfly
joy north south sunrise sunset child shaman elder east west
sun moon stars river nipigon sandpoint sandylake beardmore family love
land history drum rattle rain story tradition of remembering elders tobacco
spring fire prayer pipe ceremony power sky thunder lightning eye wind wing beak
claw sight touch taste feel hear imagination message messenger language symbol colour hue
value intensity so vivid the dreaming hurts his eyes
wakes him in the middle
of night
By the end of the 1990s Norval Morrisseau found himself fighting Parkinson’s disease and confined
to a wheel chair. Although he did not see himself restricted to the earthly realm, his hands shook
uncontrollably and he struggled to paint until that too was finally taken away from him.
ottawater: 10 -
Mook Sang
a portrait
hunt club, or a case of suburban sprawl
the sinking of the BX
just outside of the city, hills form the valley
pools of water leftover from the melt
wow the story i can tell
probably the same one as you
of a new home and
you’re the only one who knows it
it came to nicole’s understanding that the riversteamer ran back when those
kinds of boats went up and down the fraser hauling cargo and people and
card games with jazz blowing off of their decks across the water and into
the trees of the surrounding forest that made the city
milled from swampland
they removed the trees but planted new ones
and it looks better, at least
more habitable
described by
a bus route number
144 b/t johnson and bank
the pockmarked trees and
nineties’ renovated
craft homes
southeast end becomes
she came to understand that the vessel sank in 1919 under mysterious
circumstances at an infamous rock after which the ship had failed to be
salvaged spending the lonely winter weighted by a hundred tons of bagged
cement that had hardened in the water before the frost like the ship had
wanted to stay
early August and we wanted to leave the bowl
I took us in my Caravan, past the streetlights
the hills
are a green-backed lake monster
the entrance is a street sign
Forests for the World
under the canopy of trees I imagined it was night
myself as Goodman Brown, with significance
people paths or bear paths
the only differences here are names
like Robert Bateman with every freckle and hair
to proportion
I thought you were painting me
you said
take in the view from a snowglobe
greenspace in dimebags
neighbourhood kids unique flakes
plastering snowballs on the side of a city bus
it seemed every northern city had a BX pub or hotel that used the
sternwheeler for namesake
every place that anyone had ever been had places like these trying to
preserve their heritage anything that made them unique
delia smith
with hands
this is how they remember
themselves, our selves,
three hundred days later
we used to never know the sunset,
lost it as it lost itself behind the silhouettes
of tractor trailers on an east-bound country high
way, eighteen wheelers setting on the off-ramp,
towing with them remnants of a day already past.
an exposed pipeline in dirt,
a wrong turn. holes
where my eyes had been
once, and were; yours on the
nape of my neck, with your hands,
in gananoque
a winter so long no spring
ever came, no summer
bled into no fall
the better parts of my
dead skin land in your
hands because there is no other place.
every place that there is we have been
to already, breaking cement,
chipping the streets on our own.
ottawater: 10 -
The Sanitarium Garden3
At St. Remy the artist resided
For a time with other madmen.
The flat of the brush applied
Over and over, building up
A pattern of distortion and wave.
The trees move with this wind,
They shudder and wildly rumba
As if they had some spirit within.
The leaves, red and gold, aspire
To float up into the seething sky,
And the dark-green cedar ends in a taper,
Pointing up towards the way of flight.
Two ill-proportioned tree trunks,
Ugly jade-purple, snake their way
Up the painting: bars that hold us in
And frame the garden fires.
3 V incent Van Gogh admitted himself into the Saint Paul asylum at St. Remy in May
of 1889 and was released in May 1890. One of the many paintings he made during
his residence was “The Garden of the St.Paul Hospital.”
Scott Fairchild
Creepy Go Lucky
ottawater: 10 -
Cosmic Idol
A millionaire is shot. And his wife. And their unborn child.
Revenge selects an arsenal of weapons.
Each week he must adopt a new style
and out-wit, out-sing, out-dance, out-ham his competitors.
Armies drawn by lots construct arguments.
Leaders rise like tanks and airplanes.
Gardens plant anxious roots.
Gossip punished by banishment.
The pace exhausting: early-morning and late-night rehearsals,
bickering of choreographers;
Goodbye beautiful youths.
Perhaps you would like to marry a sweet blond or bouncy brunette
before the bullet rounds.
Perhaps you would like to use a lifeline to mail a letter
to your attorney, or ask your dear
old mother for advice.
Each week, ten thousand foot soldiers are served
faulty gas masks, ten thousand more must give up
their limbs for tent pegs.
The challenges get crueler. The prizes stranger.
The confessions more predictable.
Nations text their ballots into the trenches,
go back to genetically modified dinners
and genetically modified cares.
As soon as a commercial break calls truce,
the fan website nearly crashes from all the orders
for bright red poppies and T-shirts that read Never Forget.
then to have to put up with the snarky British judge,
the washed-up diva, the pop producer with the three-word vocabulary,
as well as the schmaltzy commentary by the over-friendly host.
Orpheus curses how he got dragged into this business in the first place.
To attract an agent? Free publicity?
The chance to prove once and for all that, given the platform,
he could bring an entire planet to its knees?
How is it he’s found himself in pancake make-up, fussing about his hair,
the cut of his jeans—how the fabric fits snugly around his classic ass.
Will he be hip with the kids? Down with the guys?
The bomb?
A musical score conducted by strobe lights.
Three-headed monsters guard the gates.
Was it a woman he was wooing?
An old friend with a chronic cough?
His childhood basset hound?
Behind the curtain, amid confetti, a shadowy figure calls to him.
Oh, please, he begs, let it be my next hit song.
ottawater: 10 -
Temptation Island
Live At the Anchor Bar
Henry keeps falling in love. What a problem!
What a hit among the lower classes!
Saturday night. You can’t go to Buffalo
without stopping at the Anchor Bar.
Pay homage to Dodo and Icarus:
the origin of wings. Bring your
best appetite, and pull up a seat.
A mob surrounds the coast’s circumference
angling for a glimpse of a lace ruffle, the whiff of a cigar,
the sounds of string quartets or actors’ monologues
for the aphrodisiac of courtship.
Gold, gold; palace sets all painted in gold.
Whole crews employed solely for the purpose
of spreading aristocratic fever.
Do you love me for my money or my charm?
The question wafts along the waters,
at times answered truthfully, at others submerged
under sugar cane and sapphires.
He must choose another wife. Or someone must die.
Behind his crown Henry smiles, nonplused,
having scripted this scenario before
after tasting half the lips of England.
Off with her head! Off with her head!
It’s hard to say who leaked the information first.
Even before the episode aired, the cheer was catchy.
Buckets of buffalo wings
dipped in five famous sauces—mountains of fried flesh
sacrificed to the altars of Dodo Green—spurting sex
and bluesy misery going on sixty-four years
in a silver sequin dress.
Too heavy to walk comfortably, let alone fly,
Icarus blames his father for never teaching limits,
for abandoning him to make difficult decisions
at vending machines, for toting home meal
after meal of take-out.
The prize: a six-month supply
of suicide.
While Dodo crosses herself on
her rum and coke, Icarus dreams of inventing
bottomless intestines so satiety
will never finds its way out.
Icarus’ fat fingers bloom
behind the birds and the frenzy of his fellow
contestants—the cheapest thrill this side of
paradise—stacking bones in the middle
of the table for Dodo to break into wishes
at the end of the night.
ottawater: 10 -
ottawater: 10 -
The Amazing Race
Bored atoms leaning against dimensional walls
kicking up a fuss. Bang, bang.
Countdown to extinction.
This episode, gods spread like lice.
If you are feeling homesick
rest assured you are not alone.
The vast majority of the planet
is nothing but a series of loungers
at the boarding gates of time.
Thrill-seeking finds its own routines.
Press a button and old surges reinvent themselves.
A kiss is still a kiss.
If you can outwit diseases,
maximize resources,
purge toxins,
bank memoires,
pawn off your undesirables on the locals,
and have enough left in reserve
to sprint to the finish…
you can vanquish your enemies and
one day realize your dream
of owning a Cadillac
or opening a vegan restaurant.
At his juncture, four out of five teams
are forced to apply for new passports.
Average wait times are anywhere from
five seconds to five lifetimes.
The world turns according to:
Lists. Lists. Lists.
How is it after all these legs and pitstops,
after all these fights and miscues,
our fates are nonetheless forever entwined
yet we still don’t have anything resembling a clue?
Instead of cutting off the plague at the roots,
we attempt varieties of cleansing.
Cave-dwelling couples copulate.
The continents begin bickering.
Rates of drift rise.
If you can get your hands on an accurate map,
you are so ahead of the game.
Doubly so if you are quick at picking
up languages. Or if you know someone famous
who will lend you a boat.
The trick is to plunder with purpose, land
agricultural punches, haggle
into power. (And kill Indians.)
If you can get your hands on sugar or coffee,
you are so ahead of the game.
Next week, there will be fewer competitors,
but more puzzles and brain teasers.
Finally, the arrival of guns.
Now the wolves will separate from the lambs.
Trade a Christian for a Muslim.
Trade a hooker for a doctor.
Trade a rickshaw for a parachute.
Trade a donkey for a Malamute.
Trade a prescription for an anthem.
Trade a watch tower for a bulldozer.
Trade a poem for a pendant.
Trade a bar stool for a bazooka.
Trade an orphan for an orgy.
Trade a human for a city.
Watch the stocks rise and fall.
After much fierce debate
(and thousands of ritual killings
plus other sanctioned bashings)
the legal definition of a couple is changed.
Heard you Cry
Oil pastel-Acrylic-Photograph on Wood
Anthony Tremmaglia
ottawater: 10 -
January, 1992
A Civic Poem
September, 2000
Each of us was
our own ugly version
fleeted in fresh flannel
and brand new Doc Martens
Panic the day
with incessant report
We drove around nights
listening to Kid A
in your father’s truck as if
the thing didn’t run on gas, as if
the kilometres added up
to no distance but more distance –
money for when we’ll start
wanting things for real, wanting
a place for ourselves in all this
or how the future was
brilliant and bright and free –
not the edge of something
dark coming to become
a middle with time – the edge
but unconcerned with it
like a fly is with
the shadow of a cliff
in your father’s truck
in the night driving on
we listened to Kid A as if
things weren’t connected
Nevermind brooding from bedroom
corners, doors locked shut –
our individual rage keeping
everyone out but us
A nineties pain
How long it took the spring
to reach our shattered ground –
the length of side A
and the length of side B
Tape ribbon worn dumb
Busy, the city
busied consensual
Hardcore tenants
inclined for the job
And the snow and the snow
completely regardless
ottawater: 10 -
The rail at the edge of the highway is nothing
to a single step of the stony stair
stitched with weaving water, a carpet of water, ridged
with crannies, up down up down back forth
like the motion of stitching, woven
by the rolling woven water. High steps the hill,
high to the hazardous hump. Mist overshadows the overhang,
hiding from sight the leap of its height.
A path slips away from the plateau, where water
weaves under rock, and from the molten
softness of sand, the inconsistencies of rock,
melts water onto the stair’s next step.
Over it hangs a unique darkness.
It is hard to see a tree’s height ahead
or whether those are pebbles, or white toadstools.
The emerald mountainside, dimmed by rain
is littered with birch bark, like uprooted roots or
white dandelion stalks. That is how thin they seem
against the next step of the stair, where stair becomes cliff
and carpet becomes cascade.
Though by water’s reckoning, the fall is first,
then the step-by-step, the stitching.
The sidewise striations of the cliff, the strips of foothold
too far removed for single footsteps to span.
To advance, opposite the water,
man has to get out his hands and climb,
the mountaineer’s form of kneeling.
The path, marked off with a wooden sign, a stutter
in the throat of a deserted trail,
is a rockslide waiting to happen.
Unable to understand the height, the hand
that stitches, the mouth that utters the waters,
unable to kiss the gargoyle with our bare feet,
or clasp a jewel from the crown of the mists,
at last we reach the best place for understanding,
and stand.
ottawater: 10 -
ottawater: 10 -
A Joni Mitchell in Pieces
It don’t matter if
I speak freely, sing
supreme, do pop-wheelies
or smoke to tighten
the blood, to keep my Players
Extra Long, light up in a torch
song, hit the bong and fly
over purple water over
white snow.
It’s human,
all to human
an eternal recurrence
to have snow then flower,
drink Alize, then shower
beachcomb through a day,
and make singing pay.
What it was
it would be,
(if you need to slip
through Nietzsche)
in the spectral shades
of naked day
sipping on a cold Blue
Bombay, a woman
shaped like a lyre
in a dream
that every ear
would nestle up
to hear a kernel
of her thoughts.
And we assume the myths
pulling back the husks
to get at the real cream
of the praries, how the rows
and rows are filled,
everything sold out
as we are pulling back
the cover and sighing
pulling out the silk and leaving
what’s important.
If you burned through
the good book, slow
and smooth, could you
forget snakes can’t stand
or that a brilliance in a heart,
can relax in the dark, in the blue
what it was, it will be, to marvel
in smooth rooms, and listen
to see a sun turn
away from a throat
simply glowing.
into her hair
of that long hair
that long silk hair
silk hair.
Rêve peuplé d’animaux
Le grand ménage
The nights get later the longer I’m here.
The thoughts get darker.
At 2 a.m. I pull up the covers, sink into a dream
An unfamiliar collection of rooms
in a dream of putting the house together.
Finally, we could start living.
of a cat with glass in its mouth.
I’d asked you to remove the shattered window
from the living room floor
In fact, it was just an apartment.
Like that first one on Clark in Montreal
but not.
but now the cat we don’t have
is making a meal of it. About which time the computer
in the study logs off loudly
You worked on some rooms
while I worked on others but somehow
it all made sense
like a horse whinnying. My mind snaps
open like a hatch. The bathroom light I’d dimmed
so precisely before bed
—like luck when it comes.
We threw a lot of stuff out. It was easy—
the windows were open.
is now off. The white hare I’d caught
in the headlights earlier, as I drove up the lane at dusk
with groceries—who vanished smartly
into the woods in his smart waistcoat—
has managed somehow to skirt the alarm
and now sits on my chest
like he owns it, refusing to get off.
ottawater: 10 -
Crossing the Field
No one else is here and yet
I close the drapes to dress.
The bearded woods are inviting. Never go there.
We wade through wind,
crossing the field to the neighbours’
to help kill roosters.
You cannot see into them more than a few feet.
When the sea calls to you, Walk on me, I am frozen,
turn away. I tell you, yesterday
The sky a white-capped sea.
There were two houses,
ours and the house next door.
They had separated our house from its foundation
in order to move it
onto the foundation of the other house:
the phone rang twice
then stopped. I’m amazed at Helen,
living all those years alone on the North Mountain,
firewood piled to the rafters
in the shed, cat often in hiding. Who knows what
peering through the window while she bathed.
Now her beauty as great as the night.
Later, the sinister chase, considered
chop. Long dip in boiled water.
They’re lean as November
beneath their salt-and-pepper feathers.
ottawater: 10 -
the belly of our house being ripped open,
its bones shattered and ragged torso lifted
from hundred-year-old haunches—hand-set stone
three feet thick—onto the concrete rim of the other house
(now missing). Clearly, it would not fit—our house was too grand,
too heavy. But still the move was necessary.
And us, spattered by the end.
Heading home after pumpkin bread
and oily tea, plastic bag twisting
as it bumps my leg, the heavy
first snow laid out like cheesecloth
over the hardened ground,
I meet up
with the right moment in my life.
We nod as we pass.
In the backyard rhubarb rose up
in a jungle of stalks flailing at the fence, desperate to get over,
tarpaulin-sized leaves funneling crashing rain into roots now gushing
like severed veins
and everyone shouting—foreman, workers, neighbours, us—
over the roar of the machinery—What’s that?
I can’t hear you!
I said I can’t hear you!
The black horse stands perfectly still in the rain
as we come up over the hill, our heads down.
A sodden blanket covers his back.
When the Maple Fell
October 22, 2002
in full fall regalia, it rolled its drums across the lane,
a marching band on fire.
Unreal, you say, like an iron statue.
Even as we near the fence
and call to him softly, he gives no sign
of being alive.
Years and many moves later,
he is still there
in the paddock down the road
from what was our house.
It’s still November, raining,
and we’ll soon be rubbing our hair
with a towel in the kitchen
as the kettle creaks to life on the stove.
Like an education,
no-one can take this away from me.
Neighbours came with cameras, birds
with eulogies that went on for days, a fitting wake.
Arborists armed with chainsaws
left its rain-black limbs in five-foot lengths
about the yard—a battlefield swamped in fog,
ten feet of its trunk still standing: Art.
Each leaf a campfire drawn by a child.
Each key an eyebrow, thinking.
The house will mourn the longest
its friend of few words, shadowy companion.
Hardwood will redden the woodstove
the next five winters, easy.
Planted before airplanes, before the Romantics,
the tree never travelled
though it knew a million starlings, waltzed
alone ten thousand windy nights.
ottawater: 10 -
Country Music
Everything that happened happened there.
The barn across the road with the magazines
the boys fed on all summer like wolves
returning to a kill. Only the children
knew they were there, in a partitioned room
in the loft, and the men who’d stashed them.
Swallows trapezing the circus tent below.
And the hay wagon become a ship—the frenzied
leaping from its gunwale into a crawling sea.
That summer of the broken rib, land
of a father’s mercy long gone from the horizon.
On shelves in the basement, jars of pears
and peaches, organs in a lab at night.
And the ringer washer there to lean on,
grandmother in a minty dress. Bed tucked
in the corner under a high-up square
of muted light giving onto thistled lawn. Electric
mower, bite of lightning charging up her arms
and the cord dead in the grass, a severed
snake. Twenty-dollar bill, leaf, shifting
on the uncut grass ahead. Twenty dollars
a hundred back then. Balm of praise laid
like a hand on her head when she carried it in,
butterfly by the wing. Wait till they see
how honest. The thought somewhere quiet,
in the murk beneath the bed. In every childhood
there is a place that matters above all others.
A place that made us, good and bad.
Now listen up all you A-holes
who couldn’t make it with the missus,
who ran off, got down on your luck, did time,
came crawling back, begged forgiveness
then did it all over again.
Fuck you for singing your suck-ass songs
up and down my childhood hall.
For the nap he’d take after on the couch,
going down like the winter sun as the last twang faded
and the hurt bars of silence
clanked shut.
Holding us all prisoner
till black-windowed dark and supper.
The hours he dreamed of horses with two heads
or being dragged through a forest
by the feet
and who knows what other horrors
he could never tell anyone about.
ottawater: 10 -
ottawater: 10 -
If a Door Opened
ottawater 10: Artist statement
What would it be to stand at our own window
on our own worst night of the year, looking in?
Being human is hard. Our brains are big, which is great for problem solving but can lead to excessive thinking at the expense
of intuition. And we need our intuitive powers big time to be able to cope with the duality of light and dark, good and evil,
which cannot be fathomed or grappled with by thought alone. Thank god for art. Poetry comes from this intuitive, instinctive
level, and reading and writing it is one of the best ways I’ve found to cope with being human.
Think of all the brave houses, shouldering
darkness and rain. If a door opened, would we enter?
Kindness sits by the window smoking, her pale flesh
swelling like bread dough in the August heat.
She shrinks at the slam of a car door. Kindness
has been so sad for so long, no one wants to be around her.
We’re rich, she said, we have each other. Now,
we laughed at supper. Uncontrollably sometimes,
a woman and three children. We took turns falling off our chairs,
we were so bloody happy. Alive is a better word.
This seems like a good time to mention that I am extremely reluctant to say anything about my poetry or writing
practice, mainly because I want to contradict everything I say as soon as I say it. However I’m usually interested in what
others have to say about theirs, so fair’s fair.
The poetic form feels natural to me and I follow my instinct to write it in a natural way. So my style is, I suppose, a
plainspoken, narrative lyricism. For me, the discovery and surprise that are essential to poetry come through the poem’s
revelations. My intention is, antithetically, to let go of intention and let the intuition lead. At the same time, I want to
communicate with readers so that’s where deliberation and craft come in. And right there might be a contradiction, or just a
question of balance.
After the initial spark, or poetic impulse, I don’t know where the poem will go, or if I think I do I’m probably mistaken.
My role then is to be curious, brave if I have to be, as intuitive as possible, and to let the poem guide me. But I must know
when to push a little, too, to say to the fledgling poem, Be honest, go for it; even if it’s heading toward a dark place, which is
often the case. Then I must be ready to follow.
As a writer, I’m not a heavy thinker. I’m not much interested in theory or poetics, which is why I didn’t pursue an
academic career. Language is where I live, not something I want to explode. My yearning is to interpret the soul’s muffled
voice, not to explore the machinations of language or thought itself. In terms of subject matter, I’m preoccupied with how to
make sense of human suffering at a personal level. Jack Gilbert’s “A Brief for the Defense” ponders this beautifully. So does
Don Paterson’s “The Lie.”
Musicality is important to me. A rhythm might be established in the first line (breath), a diction or tone might come in
from some influence I can’t always place. After the initial beat, I feel like I’m following the piper. Then it’s important not to
be overly guided by sound and lose sight of meaning. I think of sound as thread holding the poem together but in a subtle,
almost hidden way.
ottawater: 10 -
Sylvia Adams is the author of a novel, two poetry collections and a children’s book in verse. She is
owned and operated by an all-white cat named Tulip who hates sharing the computer and gets her
Cameron Anstee lives and writes in Ottawa ON where he runs Apt. 9 Press and is pursuing a PhD
studying Canadian Literature at the University of Ottawa.
John Barton’s ten books of poetry and six chapbooks include For the Boy with the Eyes of the
Virgin: Selected Poems (Nightwood, 2012) and Balletomane: The Program Notes of Lincoln Kirstein
(JackPine, 2012). An eleventh collection, Polari, is forthcoming from Goose Lane in 2014. He lives in
Victoria, where he edits The Malahat Review.
Stephanie Bolster’s latest book, A Page from the Wonders of Life on Earth, was shortlisted for
the Pat Lowther Award, and an excerpt from her current project was chosen as a finalist for the
CBC/Canada Writes competition in 2012. Her first book, White Stone: The Alice Poems, won the
Governor General’s Award and the Gerald Lampert Award in 1998; her first chapbook, Three Bloody
Words, appeared with above/ground press in 1996. She edited The Best Canadian Poetry in English
2008 and The Ishtar Gate: Last and Selected Poems by the Ottawa poet Diana Brebner, and
co-edited Penned: Zoo Poems. Born in Vancouver, she teaches creative writing at Concordia
University and lives in Pointe-Claire, Québec.
Frances Boyle’s poetry and fiction appears in The New Quarterly, Vallum, Arc, Prairie Fire, CV2,
Fiddlehead, Room, Freefall , Moonset and elsewhere, including previous incarnations of Ottawater,
and in anthologies on form poetry, Hitchcock, love poetry, and daughters remembering their
mothers. Prizes she’s received include This Magazine’s Great Canadian Literary Hunt and Arc’s
Diana Brebner Prize.
ottawater: 10 -
Heather Brunet attended high school in Ottawa and now lives in Montreal. She is an undergraduate
student at Concordia University.
Elisabeth Harvor’s most recent book of poetry is An Open Door in the Landscape and her most
recent story collection is Let Me Be the One, a finalist for a long ago Governor General’s Award.
Sara Cassidy is proud to have work for a second time in Ottawater. Born in Ottawa, she roamed far
Jenna Jarvis is working toward a Master’s degree in English literature at Carleton University. Her
and wide and now lives in BC, where she is artistic director of the Victoria Writers Festival. Her
fifth novel for youth, Skylark, will be released in April, 2014. Her poems and short stories have
appeared in Geist, Qwerty, The Malahat Review, Prairie Fire and in the chapbook Sardines
(Greenboathouse Press). www.saracassidywriter.com
poetry has most recently been published by PHIL, S/tick, and Conduit Canada. She is the winner of
the 2012 John Newlove Poetry Award and released a chapbook with Bywords, titled The Tiger With
the Crooked Mouth, in October 2013.
George Elliott Clarke feels that he´s finally getting his big, brassy, Africadian voice to say exactly
what he wants. The poems here are from his epic poem in progress, “The Canticles.” Part
I--Dialogues on Slavery--should appear in 2014 from Guernica. His newest book of poetry is
Illicit Sonnets (London: Eyewear, 2013).
Stewart Cole grew up in the Rideau Valley south of Ottawa, and now lives in Wisconsin, where
he teaches at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. His poems have appeared in a variety of
publications across Canada including The Fiddlehead, Prism International, and Riddle Fence, and
his chapbook Sirens was published by Cactus Press in Toronto in 2011. He also regularly reviews
Canadian poetry on his blog, The Urge. His first collection, Questions in Bed, was published by Ice
House (the new poetry imprint of Goose Lane Editions) in 2012.
Anita Dolman is an Ottawa-based writer and editor. She lives in an Ottawa-based house with her
Ottawa-based spouse, their Ottawa-born son and their Gatineau-born cat. Anita’s poetry and fiction
have appeared throughout Canada and the United States, including in Grain, The Antigonish
Review, Peter F. Yacht Club, The Storyteller Magazine, PRISM international, Utne, and the anthology
Decalogue: ten Ottawa poets (Chaudiere Books, 2006). She is currently finishing a manuscript of
short fiction, which, against all odds, is largely failing to be based in Ottawa.
JM Francheteau is a rural transplant based in Ottawa. 2013 publications included poems in CV2,
Bywords and The Steel Chisel, as well as a chapbook A pack of lies with Dog Bites Cameron. His
hands splotch red, blue then orange in the cold.
Richard Froude is the author of FABRIC (Horse Less) and The Passenger (Skylight). He was born in
the UK, lived in Ottawa in the late 90s and currently calls Denver home.
N.W. Lea lives and writes in Ottawa. He is the author of two chapbooks, light years (above/ground)
and Actual Girl (The Emergency Response Unit) as well as the full-length collection, Everything is
Movies (Chaudiere Books).
Anne Le Dressay has published two poetry books, Old Winter (Chaudiere Books, 2007) and Sleep Is
a Country (Carleton University Press, 1997). She has also published frequently in print journals,
most recently in The Antigonish Review, and has poems forthcoming in Prairie Journal. She has
also published in e-magazines, most recently Curio and Ottawater. She lives in Ottawa, where she
is happily retired from the public service.
Michael Lithgow is a post-doctorate research fellow at McGill University, Department of Art History
and Communication. His essays and poetry have appeared in academic and literary publications
including the American Communication Journal, ARC, Contemporary Verse 2, The New Quarterly
and The Fiddlehead. His first collection of poetry, Waking in the Tree House, was published by
Cormorant Books in 2012, and shortlisted for the Quebec Writers Federation First Book Award.
Work from this collection was included in Best Canadian Poetry 2012 (Tightrope Books). He
currently lives in Gatineau, QC.
Born and raised in the U.S., Sneha Madhavan-Reese has made Ottawa her home since 2009. Her
poetry has appeared most recently in The Antigonish Review, Branch, Descant, as a Leaf Press
Monday’s Poem, and in her chapbook Some Things With Certainty (Phafours Press). Her manuscript
Observing the Moon, from which these poems are taken, was a finalist for the 2013 Alfred G.
Bailey Prize. Please visit www.madhavan-reese.com/sneha
Karen Massey lives and writes in Ottawa. She has one chapbook, Bullet, and her work has
appeared in varied Canadian journals and anthologies. In 2013, her poem was long listed in the
Geist 2nd Annual Erasure Contest. She and her family live between the canal and the river and
two branches of the public library. [email protected]
ottawater: 10 -
Justin Million is an Ottawa poet. His work has appeared in ottawater, sassafras, The Steel Chisel, In/
Words. Million has also been lucky enough to have two books published by Ottawa’s Apt. 9 Press.
Colin Morton’s books of poetry include Dance, Misery (Seraphim, 2003), The Local Cluster (Pecan
Grove, 2008) and Winds and Strings (Buschek, 2013). He is a co-director of the Tree Reading Series
jesslyn delia smith currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario. Her latest chapbook the grass is a yard now,
again was published in October 2013 by Apt. 9 Press. More poems and updates can be found on
her blog at jesslyndelia.com.
and co-manages the Poetry Views review site at http://poets.ca/reviews/.
D.S. Stymeist currently teaches Renaissance Literatures in the English department of Carleton
University in Ottawa and has published a number of poems in Prairie Fire, A/Muse/Me, and
Bywords. His essays and reviews have appeared in journals such as Studies in English Literature,
R & R, Cahiers Elisabéthains, RQ, Mosaic, and Genre. He is presently revising a novel set in the
Canadian West in the 1970’s, as well as a short collection of poetry entitled Lexigon that explores
the intersection of language and history.
Andrew Oliveira is a young writer who is currently strolling about Ottawa. He spends time
between his writing entertaining his cat Atticus, worshipping his muse and partner Barbara, saving
virtual worlds from a plethora of crises with the power of his thumbs, and dusting his unused
diploma from the University of Ottawa. He has been published in Bywords and is thrilled to have
his poem in Ottawater.
Roland Prevost’s poetry appears in Arc Poetry Magazine, Descant Magazine, The Toronto Quarterly,
Dusie, The Ottawa Arts Review, Stone Chisel, The Bywords Quarterly Journal, The Peter F. Yacht
Club and Ottawater, among many more. He has four chapbooks: Metafizz (2007, Bywords), Dragon
Verses (2009, Dusty Owl), Our/Are Carried Invisibles (2009, above/ground), and Parapagus (2012,
above/ground). He’s also been published in three poetry collections by AngelHousePress: Whack
of Clouds (2008), Pent Up (2009), and Experiment-O (Issue 1, 2008 online). He won the 2006 John
Newlove Poetry Award. He was, for a few years, the managing editor of seventeen seconds: a
journal of poetry and poetics, as well as poetics.ca, both online. He studied English and Psychology
at York University and the University of Manitoba. He lives and writes in Ottawa, Canada.
Dr. Priscila Uppal is a Toronto poet, fiction writer, memoirist, essayist, playwright, and a Professor
of English at York University. Among her publications are nine collections of poetry, most recently,
Ontological Necessities (2006; shortlisted for the $50,000 Griffin Poetry Prize), Traumatology (2010),
Successful Tragedies: Poems 1998-2010 (Bloodaxe Books, U.K.), and Winter Sport: Poems and
Summer Sport: Poems; the critically-acclaimed novels The Divine Economy of Salvation (2002)
and To Whom It May Concern (2009); and the study We Are What We Mourn: The Contemporary
English-Canadian Elegy (2009). Her work has been published internationally and translated into
Croatian, Dutch, French, Greek, Italian, Korean and Latvian. She was the first-ever poet-in-residence
for Canadian Athletes Now during the 2010 Vancouver and 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic
games as well as the Roger’s Cup Tennis Tournament in 2011. She is currently a member of the
Adrienne Ho Rose is a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Iowa. Her
poems and translations have appeared in The Antigonish Review, Arc, Circumference, Denver
Quarterly, The Malahat Review, The New Quarterly, Ninth Letter. These poems were written
during a nine-month residence at a foreign archaeological school in Athens, Greece.
Natural Resources Creation Group at the Factory Theatre. 6 Essential Questions, her first play, will
have its World Premiere as part of the Factory Theatre 2013-2014 season. Her memoir, Projection:
Encounters with My Runaway Mother, on which the play is based, has just been released
Publishers and is currently a finalist for the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writer’s Trust Prize for
Non-Fiction and the $25,000 Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction. Time Out London
dubbed her “Canada’s coolest poet.” For more information visit priscilauppal.ca
Armand Garnet Ruffo recently co-edited a new edition of An Anthology of Canadian Native Literature
in English (OUP, 2013). His creative biography on Norval Morrisseau, Man Changing Into Thunderbird,
and a collection of poetry based on the artist’s paintings, The Thunderbird Poems, will appear in 2014.
Excerpts have appeared in ARC, Bywords, EVENT, and The Malahat Review (2013) and will appear in
Canadian Literature. He currently lives in Ottawa and teaches at Carleton University.
Tim Mook Sang, a former-Ottawa resident, is now a schoolteacher in Montreal. He has been
published in The Literary Review of Canada, Bywords Quarterly Journal, All Rights Reserved,
Canadian Literature, In/Words Magazine, Jones Av, ditch, and New Fairy Tales.
Will Vallières is a Montréal poet. His work has appeared in Matrix, Lemon Hound, The Void, and
Weijia Quarterly. He went to high school in Ottawa and then spent two years working as a janitor
on Parliament Hill and drinking too much. Now completing an MA in English & Creative Writing at
Concordia University, he comes back to Ottawa once every season to visit his old friends and reminisce.
Gabriel Wainio-Thé​berge’s family first settled down in Ottawa when he was seven years old, having
previously moved him around several towns and cities in southern Ontario and Quebec. He still
“lives” there when he is not in Montreal, attending Concordia University for Liberal Arts and Creative
Writing. His writing has been published in The Claremont Review, Vallum, Feathertale and The Red
Line. He has been honoured to have the chance to work with Roo Borson, Anita Lahey and Karen
Schindler, whose Baseline Press published his first chapbook, Small Hallows. Ottawa’s strange mix of
city, country and suburb, by turns picturesque and unsettling, has had an inescapable influence on his
imagination; so has the Literary Arts program at Canterbury High School, where thanks to amazing
teachers and supportive friends he was able to get a head start on learning both basic and advanced
techniques of writing. He is currently a representative of literary collective THE WORLD (theworldlit.
tumblr.com), along with several other young Ottawa and Montreal writers.
Matthew Walsh was born in Nova Scotia, Canada. He has lived in Alberta, Ottawa and Toronto. He
is currently living on the west coast in Vancouver to attend UBC’s Creative Writing Program. His
work has or will appear in Carousel, Zaum, Echolocation, and The Found Poetry Review. He was
Geist’s Emerging writer in October 2012.
Deanna Young is the author of two books of poetry, The Still Before a Storm (Moonstone Press)
and Drunkard’s Path (Gaspereau Press), with a third book forthcoming from Brick Books in 2014.
Her work has appeared in journals across Canada including The Malahat Review and Arc Poetry
Magazine. In 2013 she won the Grand Prize in the PRISM international Poetry Contest. She lives
in Ottawa where she teaches at Algonquin College and co-directs the Tree Reading Series.
ottawater: 10 -

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