This is our welfare half

a duplex with mint green

siding shrugged between

rail yard and main street

logging trucks and trains

shake the foundation so

much I mistake them for god

forever it is winter mom

dissolves into mentholated

smoke and Coffee-Mate at

the kitchen table painting

orcas and nor'easters in burnt

umber and verdigris until

the fuel we burn for heat

dissipates I find

my brother sitting

blue-tinged in his crib

mucus freezing to his

tiny upper lip come

spring he gets up on two

feet to press his left hand

onto her canvas leaves his

mark in the sky just over

where a suggestion

of light snuck out

through the rippled

storm cloud a copper

coin shining onto where

the waters calm at a

distance from the




Dive in
  1. The lack of punctuation in the poem suggests that it recounts a single memory or a single scene. Can you tell whether or not the speaker of the poem is in involved in, in witness of, or in control of what’s happening? How can you tell?
  2. What does the poem’s title suggest to you?
  3. What effect does the speaker’s use of verbs create?
  4. What clues point to the age of the speaker?
  5. How would you treat each line break in a recitation of this poem — would you communicate any of them to your audience with a pause? 
  6. Think of a vivid scene from your childhood that has stuck with you and create your own narrative poem from it.

Useful Links

Listen to Liz Howard read her poem “Boreal Swing”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhU5h4Ct8Zg

And to her read a poem called “Thinktent” at the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUssJLoqzgY

Dive In written by
Bibliographical info

Liz Howard, “1992” from Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent. Copyright © 2015 by Liz Howard. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent (McClelland & Stewart, 2015)

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