Childhood

Famous

The river is famous to the fish.

 

The loud voice is famous to silence,

which knew it would inherit the earth

before anybody said so.

 

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds

watching him from the birdhouse.

 

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

 

The idea you carry close to your bosom

is famous to your bosom.

 

The boot is famous to the earth,

more famous than the dress shoe,

which is famous only to floors.

 

The Young Poets of Winnipeg

scurried around a classroom papered with poems.

Even the ceiling, pink and orange quilts of phrase...

they introduced one another, perched on a tiny stage

to read their work, blessed their teacher who

encouraged them to stretch, wouldn’t let their parents

attend the reading because parents might criticize,

believed in the third and fourth eyes, the eyes in

the undersides of leaves, the polar bears a thousand miles north,

and sprouts of grass under the snow. They knew their poems

You knock on the door

You knock on the door but nobody answers. Cupping your hands around your face you peer through the side-panel of frosted glass. A kettle is whistling, a woman singing as she sets the table. This is a familiar house. You knock again. Inside, the sounds are festive. Glasses clink and a band starts up. Pressing your ear to the door, you hear the sound of your own laughter. This is the house you grew up in. You're sure of it now.

Happy Birthday Moon

Dad reads aloud. I follow his finger across the page.

Sometimes his finger moves past words, tracing white space.

He makes the Moon say something new every night

to his deaf son who slurs his speech.

 

Sometimes his finger moves past words, tracing white space.

Tonight he gives the Moon my name, but I can’t say it,

his deaf son who slurs his speech.

Dad taps the page, says, try again.

 

Tonight he gives the Moon my name, but I can’t say it.

Too Negative

I was a kid other kids’ 

parents gossiped about.

 

They told their children

what I was: too negative.

 

I get it. Fair to fear

contagion of bad attitudes,

 

to think naming a thing

can be an inoculation.

 

Of course my friends

filled me in. Of course

 

I took my diagnosis

lying down on mostly

 

frozen sand. Loose

grains made their way

 

to my scalp. Stayed there

Wow! You've Changed

You’ve changed.

You used to be so

and now you’re all

like, you’ve transformed

I don’t know how to describe

it’s like

you don’t like canasta anymore

you text IN ALL CAPS

your selfies are so

animalistic

like, are you out to prove something

you’re a lion

you’re a bear

you’re a maggot

you’re a virus

I just don’t know

if we can be friends anymore.

Tinderbox

We were a conflagration asking

to be incarnated into the world.

Mother, superstitious, kept us

apart, two stones of the same

igneous anger.

 

Everyone saucered tears

like firetrucks before a plane crash,

as if preparing, should we combust.

Mother had once hidden

all the nooses, knocking

all hanging hooks from our ceiling,

the other family hid the tinder and wood,

crying flame-retardant

for the walls.

 

Your palm prints have returned

as shingles around my left eye.

FLOOD

The hallway is an empty

riverbed, smooth and barren.

At three o’clock classroom

 

doors open like dams.

            Gullies of teens stream

out, to become one

           flowing body. A torrent

of fauxhawks and ponytails

           channels along the linoleum.

 

           The drowned boy floats along

 

just below the surface,

           caught in an undercurrent,

bobbing past the

 

           sightless stares of teachers.

 

Winter House

My father threw his language overboard,

a bag of kittens, waterlogged mewling:

small hard bodies.

 

My mother hung on to hers —

Wove the words like lace, an open web

over the window, light caught on the edges.

 

 

My daughter is starting to pick at language,

names at dawn – dog, star, mumma –

alone in her crib, learning the edges that will mark

meaning, create borders.

 

I'm trying to find those words of my mother’s,

The First Day

When I was five I was put on a bus

and sent to Catholic school

not unlike my mother who was five

when she was put on a train

and sent to residential school,

both feeling that gut feeling

that this was not going to be

a place we would like.

 

My parents told

my older sister

to watch over me

but she had long ago

grown to not like me,

let alone protect me.

 

As we waited to go in

that first morning

a group of boys decided

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