Ontario

Parable of the Eagle

An eagle egg fell into a farmer’s chicken shed

and when it hatched the farmer gave it chicken feed

even though he was the king of birds. The farmer

 

clipped the eaglet’s princely beak and raised him

as a chicken. When he grew large, wildlife control

called on the farm. “It has the heart of an eagle,”

 

said the public servant. “It will fly.” And the farmer

asked, “What if he likes it here with all the chickens?”

As they spoke, the birds crept off to don disguises.

 

A Thin Plea

(Falteringly)

 

Our national bird ­– for years – was – as A M Klein said –

the rocking chair

 

I don’t know what our national bird is now – but my totem bird is

the killdeer

 

Its names – odd mannerisms – & cry – explain bits about me – in

riddles

 

My daily writing self at 57 has accrued the usual odd habits &

noises – there are awful names I know myself by – lie-dances I

perform

 

Catastrophe That Nearly Brought Down a Plane

After late-night Li Bo,

on a plane to Houston, out of sheer intumescence

I begin unravelling a sickness bag—

starting with the wired throat,

then the pleated sides, then bottom.

My finger trapezing through the waxed paper

feels like a tall-masted skiff – almost Odysseus

slicing Lake Ontario: placid like an eye

that has seen without knowing –

seen earth before there was blood,

before the peach blossoms, before words –

midsummer sky like cut nectarine –

Veronica?

What's it like at the centre of the AGO?

Hmm. Imagine being coloured, drawn, and placed

 

in a wooden frame, another hung woman, positioned

just so in the middle of a landscape surrounded by rocks,

 

lakes, mountains, and trees, MacDonald to your right,

Carmichael to your left.  Imagine being forced to look,

 

to spend every unblinking moment of an 8-day week

staring at a Lawren Harris landscape, a frozen wall

 

of whiteness, when you know, outside, the glaciers

On Seeing a Photograph of My Mother at St. Joseph Residential School for Girls

A black and white picture

 

The sun is shining through a window behind you

 

Your hair black short Your small brown hands folded neatly on a tiny wooden desk

 

Some of the girls in the picture are smiling You are not Your eyes staring into the camera Seem a million miles away

 

That stare I will see seldom and one day understand that storms begin millions of miles away

Bad Brown Girl

i can barely speak in my mother tongues stutter

my accent is bad

i hate jalebi

but i like aloo samosa

 

i'm a bad brown

girl i didn't join the

SAA or the ISA

i just didn't know

whether i was desi or irani

i said turmeric

before i said haldi

i go to white-people karaoke bars

i sang Nickelback with a tattooed man

 

i'm a bad brown girl

my family is from nowhere

and everywhere i'm not sure

i understand the meaning of the word

Ex Libris

I come from the land of

Where You From?

My people dispossessed of their stories

and who have died again and again

in a minstrelsy of afterlives, wakes,

the dead who walk, waiting and

furrowed, like ivy crawling up

 

All those museums and mausoleums,

lifting languages from rivers.

But I cannot leave them

for the rugged North

nor the hot-blooded South south of us,

nor the untamed deltas

that plaster us to our jackets

 

grass

grass is unusual

it was invented by the Romans

unlike most people grass stays where it grows

if grass had gone to the moon it would be there today

because grass looks luxurious

people put it wherever they can

a wedge of grass can split a sidewalk

city block, manhattan skyscraper

make a dog sick

step on grass; it deserves it

Trust Fund Witches

Tape hiss, Value Village, vibraphones. On fixed-gears scrubbed with salt and lemon, like the secret at the centre of a Magic Eye the witches, genderless as light, breathe green and lavender, appear and disappear, chanting your passwords in a round. Voices like dimes dropped in a bowl, blush ultraviolet, glittering auras. Skin so soft they move through walls they press against your window, sing the spell they wrote about the city there: nothing belongs to you nothing belongs to you nothing belongs

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