Friday, July 24, 2015

Bright Stars Tanka Anthology, Vol. 3, June 2014

a love song
for you
baiting the hook
reeling you in

the endless highway
her twin's only son
and his girl

in the forest
ghostly Indian Pipe
e m e r g e s
out of moss and earth
older than I'll ever be

collecting flowers
to press inside my book of you
gathering words
of stone and feathers
acorn poems in my pocket

in the highlands
we are standing stones
toward each other
f r a g m e n t e d

in my pocket
an opened invitation
I already know
the name of his new wife
the name of my best friend

at the clinic
one pale woman
while they review
her mammogram

snow stars
in the grace notes
of your hair

you cradle
my stone sorrows
in the leaf
of your palm
sifting me into sand

she flew
from the tropics
to the prairies
carrying orchid leis
for her winter sisters

on Santa's lap
year after year
she asks for one thing:
a father who stays

fly with me
over the mountains
in the curve
of a magpie's black wing

a nest for you
blood-tipped raven feathers
from my brooding breast

dissolving into wind
over the prairie
ancestral bones
remember my name

pine needles
stitch my lips together
a silent vow
the forest has heard
so many broken promises

our breath
wispy quills of maroon
a graceful ballet
in the sky

a heart in sand
i offer
my beloved's name
to the boundless sea

a fox
on the cabin steps
our dog asks
if she can go out

black ice
and snow angels
at twilight
we are riven
we are stone

into midnight
by stars upon stars
nothing but stars

your lips
a perfect storm
raining kisses
into the chipped bowls
of my unquiet hands


I see now
with my inner eye
that she always walked alone
beside the waters
that called her name
a small song rang out

a firestorm
is raging in her belly
she rends the heated cloth
and bares the scars
upon her naked breast
she is leaving, she is leaving

after she
is said and dead and done
we are earthbound
dust sparkles
on our wings though
we are still too singed to fly

mother, why
does the torment of your life
still haunt me
daughter, let go
you were never meant
to bear my cross of stone

O (No) Canada

shame on us
thousands of aboriginals
in nutritional experiments
and residential schools

now they search
the dump for bodies
hundreds of missing
and murdered Indigenous sisters
whose spirits wait for justice

Crocodile Tears

Oh, those crocodile tears. You painted your face with them every time you wanted something from me. All it took was a single tear quivering on the tip of your lash, and I would dissolve into a crush of bruised petals beneath your feet. You devoured me with lips dripping lies like honey. When you finally spit me out, I was nothing more than a shadow.

they said
I squandered my only life
on quarter moons
and pennies
for your thoughtlessness

New York Room

(After Edward Hopper, Room in New York, 1932)

Passing an open window on a sobbing afternoon, I catch a fleeting glimpse of you, reading. I wonder if the broken arrows of world news are piercing your conscience, or whether you are charting a new course on the unfolded map of your heart. Perhaps your mind's inward-looking eye is remembering the nothing and everything of me. Your woman in red presses the keys of the piano tenderly, as if they are recalling the song of your flesh, though there is no answering thrum. I avert my knowing gaze from the ache of her unsuspected future.

through keyholes
all the things
we wish
we could unsee

1st Place
Writers' Collective/Winnipeg Free Press Short Fiction Contest, 2011


I came in off my land 20 years ago, weary and beaten down inside and outside. My man was gone. My kids were gone. Now I'm nearly gone. I'm brittle as bone, scarred by the sun, with furrows as deep as those on the land.

thumbing history
through train track-stitched prairie
to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
and its mountain
of bleached skulls

I'm the town's school librarian now, and it's a comforting job having out-of-date, yellowing, and dog-eared books as my faithful companions. Books have always seduced me, and I gorge on them like some sweet pleasure that I will soon be denied. The library's fusty air and squeaking floorboards are both soothing and inspiring. This is where I began to work on the book that will bear my name.

at the library
aspiring writers
from inky cocoons
unfolding new wings

Accompanying each story in my manuscript is a photograph of a derelict building that will soon vanish from the face of the earth. The pictures help to breathe life into the tales told by those forlorn walls. A stately old farmhouse has taken root up on a nearby hill, with a vista of swaying golden wheat surrounding it. Defending the sagging front porch are two gnarled lilac trees that scarcely bloom. The front door dangles askew, and most of the windows are wounded. Inside the house, shreds of decayed curtains and patches of water-stained wallpaper are still visible, but nearly all the paint has peeled away. Lacy cobwebs float everywhere, while puffs of dust rise with each footfall.

dirty thirties
three million acres
d r i f t i n g
in a dust cloud of dreams
over the Atlantic

I'm wary while setting up my tripod. Hunting season is fast approaching, and I've been winged a time or two over the years. I guess I've always looked like something wild. My breathing is slow and easy as I frame the scene. Suddenly, the house on the hill is violently splitting asunder, creaking and groaning like a ship going aground. There is no time to capture the image of the crumpling veteran. As the house willingly surrenders its ghosts, a towering cloud of roiling dust rises over the hill.

hover and moan
then disappearing
into smoke

In the dusk, as I am crawling over the pile of bleached bones that were once a home, white feathers begin to swirl like snowflakes over the wreckage. I look up at the silhouette of a whistling swan gliding across the face of the moon. Then, I put my hands in traces of something that looks and smells a lot like blood.

1st Place (prose excerpt)
Writers' Collective/Winnipeg Free Press Fiction Contest, 2012

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