Published Poems

Frame by frame

This film is for you:
stripped down and ripped
from hours of footage,
the fleeting exchanges
in bars and boardrooms and emails
spliced and edited into these three minutes
the passionate flashes in black and white
still life flickered into action,
a stuttered slideshow of you,
       not me
      not yet.

This film is you:
Highlights of a hundred moments
of careful focus, of hidden camera capture
condensed into 180 seconds:

stolen moments in succession
this documentary of obsession.

Every Day Poets, December 10, 2008

Taking minutes at the Tuesday morning meeting

And again, just like last week,
it is the word war. The war of words.
Threats hurled across polished wood tables
skid across the slick surface,
slam into expensive suits.
Arrows shot from between bleached teeth
pierce the air with poisoned saliva.

Every Monday morning she records
the battle waged in tongues,
where voice collides with voice,
and egos fall wounded onto the table.
But today she can’t stop looking
at his pale lips as each syllable
fires from his mouth with military precision.
Each moist movement articulates
words designed to maim.
Today she wants those lips on her,
mouthing dangerous consonants and vowels
against her neck.

Velvet Avalanche, a collection of erotic poetry, ISBN 0-9737887-3-9, November 2006
SOMETIMES CITY, Spring 2003 Edition


She reads the future
in the crumbs scattered across the table,
brown bits arranged into dull
constellations on the shiny wood:
heroes and warriors
going against the grain.

Carousel (Issue 19), April 2006


The veins on the back
of your tan-coloured hand
rise up like snakes of sand,
swirl across endless desert:
fishscales that shift and ripple,
catch light in flash movement
against the etch of settled silt
beneath shallow water.

I expect your hands to feel dry
against my face, expect the crosshatch
creases to chafe me. But there is no
desiccant clutch, no sandpaper scrape;
your desert hands do not pull moisture
from my lips; instead the dry warmth
brushes my skin with warm weightlessness.

Slowly you blow against me, hot breath fills
my ears, my eyes. My lungs struggle against
your increasing heaviness.

The veins on your forehead rise to the hot
surface, ripple with intensity.
I am thirsty, and into my open mouth
you deliver sand.

4AM Poetry Review (premiere issue), August 2005


Wind gusts smooth the field of long grasses
bend the tall thin blades to their green-silver underside;
Dip and ripple. Swish and splash.
The breeze blows grass into sea.

We dive headfirst into cool greenness, arms part
blades with each stroke, legs sweep past jade stalks
that curve in our wake. We pause for watery kisses,
tongues tasting salt and green sweetness.

I could swim here for hours with you, slice through
shining wind-waves as the air rushes above. But you
begin to feel the familiar pressure, the need for breath:
it draws you to the surface with brutal buoyancy.

You explode into air, suck lungfuls into empty chambers
as I wait suspended in familiar green below. I wrap fins around
your ankles, pull you down into the swell, know the short time
you can spend submerged, the necessity of breath.

Small bubbles leave your lips, travel toward
the surface. And I wish for a current to catch you,
endow you with the gift of gills,
draw the mammalhood from your blood.

4AM Poetry Review (premiere issue), August 2005
Conspire, August 1998
Creativity Magazine (premiere issue), January 2000


The woman in the green hat
and corkscrew hair stirs a coffee
in the sunlight, coaxes notes
with the thin strip of wood:
whole rich notes conducted upward
from the soft swirl of brown
where they explode into music
in the golden strikes of light.

nthposition online, June 2004 issue

Missing Pieces

She woke up to discover
there were pieces of her missing,
portions plucked from skin
not ready to give them up,
only flaps of flesh remained –
like the smooth, wet holes
that wisdom teeth leave behind:
cavernous openings missing bone
and enamel, half-concealed by gums
that slowly collapse over the vacant spaces.

Again she would need to pinch
the folds together and wait for the skin
to seal with a scab, to swallow the wounds
with a scar, to enclose the vacancy like a vault.
Let the empty pockets heal into silence.

nthposition online, June 2004 issue

Eye for an I

The slap of my skin on skin
interrupts sleep but continues
the dream. I half-wake to the sound
of my fists connecting precisely
with muscles and bones and teeth,
the echoless thuds of hands slugging
something surrendered.

And I am seven again, appetite
whetted by semi-conscious fantasies
of punching Vicki until
there was more blood than skin:
face swollen, bones snapped
her body a throbbing
passive purple welt.

But what I really wanted
was five minutes of
her eye in my head,
her tooth in my mouth.

Absinthe Literary Review, February 2003 Edition
A n t i M u s e, March 2004 issue

Blood test

She watches her blood spatter into four vials:
the purple and orange rubber tops
pressed in turn to the plastic cylinder
at the base of a line of gleaming metal
embedded into the flat white and
unfreckled plane of her arm.

The needle noses inside the blue vein
welcomes the warm rush of red
that engulfs its slim and silver point,
drawing warmth into itself before shooting
into tubes, wine red and bright: a spectacle
to distract from the potential code it carries.

nthposition online, June 2004 issue

After losing contact lenses at a friend’s party

Without eyes (the clear and clinging
half-spheres that move things into focus)
you are barely distinguishable from the sidewalk.
Buildings and cars are impressionist dabs
on a black velvet canvas.

Without eyes, colours intensify,
freed from detail, and you are a smear
of blue light between indistinct pinwheels
of red and white taillights.
The next morning
your hands are pigeons that flutter
above my blue T-shirt sky

A n t i M u s e, March 2004 issue

Toscin (an omen)


Found a finger in the snowslush:
a perfect digit with an iced-blue knuckle
and purpleblue nail, stiff and pristine.
Thought a finger would be useless
without a hand, but it made an impeccable
utensil for writing names in the snow.


This past Autumn our pines and spruce trees
were weighted down with an abundance
of cones: heavy brown omens of a long
and treacherous Winter, of dangerous drifts,
and bluecold faces and fingers.


Mittened hands shake snow
from a girl’s hat and coat and marbled skin,
poke fire into her hypothermic limbs;
their eyebrows are stretched into question marks
but their eyes lock in truth, knowing,
as they drag her from the bloodstained snow,
gloveless and missing one finger.

The Melic Review, December 1998
The Best of the Melic Review: Three Years Online. Editor: C.E. Chaffin. U.S.A. ISBN pending, December 2001
A n t i M u s e, March 2004 issue


She has never known this need:

to feel the texture of your tongue trace
a river over the topography of her shoulders,
to feel its journey over the pebbled path of her spine
mapping out each vertebra,
to feel the warm dampness of your breath
rise in clouds around each slight elevation of bone.

She has never known this desire:
to feel your mouth move over each square of skin, measuring,
to feel your lips search for freckled landmarks
as you chart each contour,
to feel your teeth mark out a legend
on the white expanse of her back, tasting
her geography, her terrain.

Pyrowords, July 1998
mag: the muse apprentice guild, Fall / Winter :: 2003 / 2004


Wind creeps around concrete
darts across the pavement
and yanks up the woman’s skirt.
People stop to watch her,
helpless, as the cloth lifts
like a kite into air,
white thighs and underthings
exposed to perverted play.

And the man in the blue suit
cannot help but stare
at the unintended exhibition,
cannot help but wrap his eyes
around the extent of shin and skin
stretching upward to the tiny pink
and polka-dotted panties
that she cannot cover with skirt
or hands or anything
in this suspended moment
when all is revealed to him.

mag: the muse apprentice guild, Fall / Winter :: 2003 / 2004 issue


From my ninth-floor window
I see the fair lights spin pinwheels,
orange and familiar.
And I am back at the Fall Fair,
with the aromas of french fry grease
and pungent onions, the odour of animals
and truck exhaust strong
even while waiting at the top
of a rusted red ferris-wheel.

Swinging suspended in drizzled air,
there is beer on his breath
as he moves toward me,
eyes shut, lips outstretched.
I relent, but wait for the moment
when the carriage swings downward,
knocks his head backward, and
fills my nose instead with
the arrival of Autumn:
the crispness that breaks
under feet like leaves,
and the dampness of earth
that floats up in smoke, buoyant
up and away from a clinging small town,
to safe distances across cities.

mag: muse apprentice guild, Summer 2003 (September)
Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 1, Winter 2004, ISSN: 1708-3486

Winter in the sky

Pressed between two worlds:
a barren snowy landscape
of winter-white hills and plains,
clouds smoothed from the compression
of heaven and hell. Sky and earth.

If the window would just open
she would fling herself from the wing
land in a snow bank, petal-soft and cold;
she would gather up armfuls of white
and toss snowballs back at the windows
where white faces press against
the glass portholes in wonder.

Regina Weese, a literary journal for Canadians, Volume 1.9 – November 2003. ISSN 1705-7833

Banff, Labour Day, 2003

All morning the air has tasted of smoke,
noses and eyes burning with the memory
of campfires, bonfires, scorched pine.
Weakened light stretches through
the haze and onto the streets,
illuminates particles and acrid breath.
In the valley, tendrils of smoke wind
along the river, curl around the mountains,
cloak firs and spruce with charcoal scarves.

Soon the sky is enkindled, alight
with the orange glow of distant forest fires.
Smoke slithers across the sky,
inches a caustic veil over the sun,
asphyxiating the light into
a smothered red orb.

Regina Weese, a literary journal for Canadians, Volume 1.9 – November 2003. ISSN 1705-7833

Bone scan

We are on the way from the doctor’s office
to the hospital as I loosen the flimsy tape
sealing the manila envelope,
and slide out its contents.
The light from the windshield filters
through the transparent photograph
of illuminated ribs, hips, and vertebra:
a map of places that have been traveled
on my father’s continent of bones:
the landmarks and hotspots circled —
the ink heavy, pooled, dark.

For a few minutes I am fascinated
by the heavily-dotted landscape,
the patterns and annotations
that describe terrain, routes, density.
But when we pull onto the highway
my mother asks me to put it away.

We both know that what I hold in my hands
is not a map for tourists or explorers;
it is a radioactive record of sites invaded,
targets hit, strategies revealed.
A battle zone on film.

NFG, Issue 3, October 2003


You examine my horizontal framework
as an architect, inspecting arches
in my building of bones.

Your hands gauge the volume of space
hidden within the foot foundation. You scan
the inclination of shin, the curve of calves.
Your palms press the bows of knees to survey
the stability of ivory archways.

Fingers inch upward to measure the circumference
of thigh, apply pressure to the bend of hip, assess
the resulting arch of back. Your hands appraise
the cushioned camber, estimate the curve of torso.

You palm breast-domes, analyze with fingertips
the area of each twin cupola, calculate
the sine-curved distance between breastbone and
neckcircle, and curvature of jaw.

One hand holds the cheekbone convex
as your other fingers touch protrusion of lip,
explore the vault of mouth with curving bone roof.
And when you withdraw your dampened fingers,
you reach only for your notebook
to record your observations.

mag: muse apprentice guild, Summer 2003 (September)
The Red Crow Review, Spring/Summer 1999


I kept words in my pocket
shoved down my shirt and
packed under my fingernails.

I collected them, protected them,
placed them in small white envelopes
to keep them clean — except
for the dirty ones; those I slid
under the elastic of panties
or into my shoes to bounce
around with the gravel, dirt
and tiny stones.

But now I hide words in my mouth.
I like the taste of them. And if
I open my lips a tiny crack,
they can peek out, see the world a little.
(After all, I’m not that selfish).

I am selfish.
Now I will not even rinse with mouthwash.
I want to keep the words to myself,
my own cultured bacteria. Want to enjoy
the feel of them hugging my gums,
rolling from side to side
as they bounce off my teeth,
click against enamel, tickle
my tongue as they try to escape.

mag: muse apprentice guild, Summer 2003 (September)

Death rattle

The breath inside him gurgles
heavy, asthmatic, and laboured,
as oxygen attempts to filter
its way through accumulating fluid.

Like the old coffee-maker at home
(it always spits and sputters
through the last twenty minutes
of dinner): a loud, wet, bubbling
that fills the room.

The pamphlet in his room describes
this as the ‘death rattle’:
the lungs’ loud announcement
of the lingering, but nearing end.

We sit at the dinner table
with empty mugs, waiting.
It will be less than an hour
before it is finished.

NFG, Issue 2, June 2003


Her memories are layers and layers of leaves;
earthen papers inscribed with sounds and scents
of the past, pressed together with soil
between the moist skins of reminiscence.
It is these recollections closest to the surface
that she remembers best:
the crisp and crackling memories
that smell slightly of the past
but crunch with colourful familiarity,
chafe her fingers like truth;
these memories she rakes into a pile
and runs through them, rolls in them laughing
like a child unable to care what lies beneath.

lichen literary journal, Spring 2003, 5th anniversary issue


The older woman in the sixth seat
on the #26 bus eats a banana
quickly, eyes never peeled
from the couple in the second seat
up front who nuzzle and cling to each other,
hands and faces fused. She watches
them through spotted sunglasses,
smeared sunlight daubing a golden
aurora around their figures.
Marvels at how youth clings to them
like a thick warm yellow skin.

lichen literary journal, Spring 2003, 5th anniversary issue

Canoeing through fog

There is no division between sky and lake;
we glide close to the marsh mats,
beige and blurred markers that guide our journey.
Within them, spring peepers punctuate
the discourse of red-winged blackbirds
protecting nests unseen in dried grasses.
Your paddle slides silently through water
soft and black, inking the sides of the canoe.
My paddle dips in, swirls words into water,
leaves messages for water spiders,
sky-writing for carp.

The palpable greyness holds us close to land
with porous arms and silent dense breath,
urges us to listen to the poetry of the marsh.

lichen literary journal, Spring 2003, 5th anniversary issue


I want you to touch my body as vellum,
let your fingers flutter over bone,
travel the rises and depressions of rib-ridges,
interpret the bumps and ripples of skin,
the raised lines of scar-script
that have become Braille.

These marks are a history of leaving —
an exodus from my body. These grooves
that stretch across stomach and abdomen
in delicate, curved arcs and shining lines,
these purpled shadows and globed nubs of skin,
are the indelible disclosures of absence;
they mark the departure of organs,
children, and blood. Of the pieces of me.

Absinthe Literary Review, February 2003 Edition


I want to write a letter to my narcoleptic muse,
asleep under thick and warm duvets,
on rattling streetcars along Queen Street,
beside the pier where silver-blue ice fissures and flows
as one continuous frozen wave.

I want to write and find out how she’s
getting along without me.
But she would never get to the end of the note
without slipping into sleep,
without laying to rest all of those beautiful
and necessary words,
without closing her eyes and drifting into
the cold, unreachable hyperlimnion of sleep.

RedRiver Review, February 2003 Edition

X-ray clinic, Wednesday morning

Half-naked in my closet-like waiting room,
and sitting with the curtain open
I watch the white, soft-shoed feet of technicians
fly across floors without sound; they speak
to each other in an avian language:
chirps uttered between gulps of coffee
and the rustle of papers.
Monotone music pumped through the waiting area echoes
the dull thud of blood
squeezed through my featherless body.

This thin robe is all that separates me
from the mechanical hum and antiseptic chill
rushing down from the vents,
down hallway branches.
Other patients shuffle past
but we cannot make eye contact,
cannot lift our lids to share apprehension;
immediately our eyes dart downward
like scared birds.

I sit with my arms crossed, cold,
and wish for wings, wonder about the oddly
smiling man who walks past me with eyes
focused on me like a worm. When he passes,
I follow the flight path down, see the familiar
pinkness of my bald breasts hanging useless,
exposed in the armholes of my gown.

Small Spiral Notebook, Volume II Issue 1 Winter 2003 Edition

The next morning

Stepping into the shower
my skin smells of martini,
its cheap perfume clinging
to the curve of my shoulder.
The stream of water washes it away,
replaces the pungency of gin and olives
with shampoo and soap,
but it does not dilute the fingerprints,
does not scrub the impressions
of your thumb and fingers
from the concave of my back
from the arc of my jaw that last night
smelled only of a ten-minute shower.

Small Spiral Notebook, Volume II Issue 1 Winter 2003 Edition

A study of fruit at the team meeting

Strawberry crushed
into the white linen tablecloth:
a bullet hole in ivory skin,
a pretty puncture into
the centre of the table;
this is the entrance wound,
the pulpy opening
through which my interest

Small Spiral Notebook, Volume II Issue 1 Winter 2003 Edition

Bearing fruit

My mother told me
that if I ate apple seeds a tree
would sprout, grow in my belly, push up
through my throat, out of my mouth.

My fingers sink into a bowl
of peeled and pitted fruit:
berries, apples, plums,
the flesh chilled and wet against skin.
Pulp slips under my nails, gathers there in
raspberry-dark crescents, purple as blood.
I bring stained fingers to my lips, suck
juice and swallow tiny seeds, let them
settle in my stomach and lodge in the lining.

And I wait to bear fruit.

Verse Libre Quarterly, v:2 e:4. winter 2002. ISSN: 1533-4422


They prattle incessantly about the shape
of the waitress’ breasts, place bets
about their realness or falseness;
one of them says that it doesn’t matter,
look at them, they’re perfect: two beautiful
globes beneath a short grey T-shirt,
rounding out where every woman
wishes she did. And I can’t think
of anything but that hard black nugget
that was plucked from my sister’s pink flesh,
invisible to the eyes dragged over her,
so perfect and round
in the soft clicking light of an MRI.

Verse Libre Quarterly, v:2 e:4. winter 2002. ISSN: 1533-4422


Black sky, crisp with stars
scatters dust-coloured patches
into Rorschach clouds:
they are vapours that shift
into indiscernible shapes, drift
over darkness and moonlight.

Breath clings close to my mouth
in shapeless clouds, lingers
in the chilled air. These amorphic
ghosts absorb into pores,
shiver beneath skin,
whisper cold against bones.
Become apparitions
in the blood.

Another Toronto Quarterly, Fall 2002


Half-drunk on the sidewalk
the taste of cheese and skin
still salting my lips,
I want another glass of wine,
but would prefer more grape-
laden breath in my mouth.

Alone and half-drunk
I place my hands to my face,
struggle to hold the moment
between my palms,
but her crusted kiss dissolves;
leaves only a burgundy lipsticked print
on my glassy chin.

Poems Niederngasse, November 2002

Girl at the corner of King & Yonge

She wears water on her skin:
welts of cold and melted snow.
Her brittle lashes crack
as a warning. Her coldness comes
from the january breath of lovers
who have stolen her heat, left
whispered adorations that clung
in frost to her neck and breasts,
licked with tongues that stuck
to her in passion and kept the skin,
leaving little raw patches
where the cold crept in
and settled into bones.

Pierian Springs, October 2002


In the pub’s half-light
past mascara-smudged lashes
and beer-stained pupils,
her eyes widen as she drinks in
the image of you,
irises crackling green and expectant.
Lipstick clings to her empty pint glass
streaked with stout foam;.
the imprint of red curving lines
is a map to her desire.

Sitting in the din of slurred sentences
she wishes for one moment
to suspend, for the bubbles
of your beer to halt for just a second
so that she can slide a hand to yours,
feel the bristles on each cool knuckle
gripping a glassful of warm beer.

Erosha: a literary journal of the erotic, October 2002


His glances press against my back,
fingertips grip my skin, then release,
tickle like lashes fluttering shut.
Each finger exerts a different pressure
in search for the soft spots between bones
where the words burrow in.
His stares probe the obvious
openings and retract, misguided,
the weight of moisture on his line of sight
slides down me. I try to tug
his eyes upwards, drag sensitive pads
up along my soft corrugations
pausing between ridges. Patient

but he can only watch, can only touch
with his eyes, and part of me wants
to fling off this dress, have his eyes
rest on my hundred glowing perforations
but, yes, that would be too easy;
these burning holes are something
that fingers need to find.

Erosha: a literary journal of the erotic, October 2002


After he retired, Dad couldn’t sleep,
and soon after we moved into the farmhouse
on County Road 3, he became a geomancer:
a diviner of earth, a divider of space.
Out in the backyard in his plaid bathrobe
he would position rods carefully to capture
the auras of the soil and trees, striding
in determined angles, concentrating,
listening for the “lines” in the ground:
negative energies beneath the earth’s surface
that disrupted his own energies, his equilibrium.

We began to move like nomads across the country,
as Dad followed invisible lines in the cornfields
and hills, charted underground streams and
energy disturbances — first with wood then with special
copper and steel needles, tracking “earth radiations”
(sicknesses of the ground) as we tagged along
like frightened but slightly curious bystanders. Awestruck.
Wondering why the ground never spoke to us., June 2002


Early evening. The air is still and you
have fallen asleep beside me on the grass.
Your breath blows against my arm,
through the hair-seedlings, soft as pine;
accompanies the cricket-bliss in nearby hedges.

I want your air exhaled through my continent of forest,
of scattered woodlands and grasses: a zephyr
to tickle through toes, a wind to curl around contours,
to waft upwards through thickets and luxuriant wealds.
A warm wind to wander across open plains,
over gentle hills and hills.
A moist breeze to hover in the valley of lips –
blown from the hollow of your mouth

that moves only in sleep., June 2002

Lunch-time cab ride

The taxi driver has a poem
fastened to the steering wheel:
verse inscribed to lined paper
in clean, unshaken, capital letters.
From the back seat I try to steal
a few words, try to piece together
lines and stanzas, but I just catch
the serif tails of “history”, “daily”, “rich”
before they slither beneath thin dark arms.

I wait for left and right turns;
as we turn corners, a few full phrases
glance up between his fingers,
and I can almost read them,
the words collecting, accumulating
like the numbers on the fare machine.
But then we are driving straight again,
where arms protect the secrets on the pages,
shield me from the truths
of a steering-wheel verse., June 2002

Herd heading home

The taxi driver has a poem
fastened to the steering wheel:
verse inscribed to lined paper
in clean, unshaken, capital letters.
From the back seat I try to steal
a few words, try to piece together
lines and stanzas, but I just catch
the serif tails of “history”, “daily”, “rich”
before they slither beneath thin dark arms.

I wait for left and right turns;
as we turn corners, a few full phrases
glance up between his fingers,
and I can almost read them,
the words collecting, accumulating
like the numbers on the fare machine.
But then we are driving straight again,
where arms protect the secrets on the pages,
shield me from the truths
of a steering-wheel verse., June 2002


The idiot yelling from the back seat makes the woman
in the sixth seat uncomfortable. She clutches purse
to chest, coughs with dry nervousness. Hands bolt
like startled animals, claw through the contents of her bag,
search for mints or receipts or change to clutch.
And her fingers find a stone that Natalie
had plucked from the beach last summer
when the water was cold, sky overcast, sand dull:
a stone — a little chunk of iron pyrite
mistaken for gold.

The man yells again, claims that he could drive
this damned bus better himself. Reminds her
of her dead husband, the way he was
convinced of his expertise on everything,
the way he had pitched the glittering stone to the sand
chastised them for foolishness, cursed them with poverty.

And the sudden richness in her hands makes her smile., June 2002


Slowly she is grinding herself away
through the lift and shift of weights
the ascension and fall of chest and knees,
limbs raised and lowered with concentrated precision.
She works with controlled movement
toward attrition.

Yesterday there were more beautiful purple grooves:
tributaries mapping the progress of shrinking skin,
plum-coloured striations marking
territory she once occupied.

She is shrinking. Into a plane
of chiselled flutes, of river channels
cut through glacier-worn hills,
of pink and corrugated flesh.
Of less., June 2002

Six weeks

We had six weeks to lose you:
to spread out photographs and videos
from family trips, to blanket you
under the familiar weight of memory.
Six weeks to move through the house with you,
hold your possessions in our hands
and still feel the warmth left by your touch,
to travel hallways to the room
where we nestled you in bed
and blushed warmth into your cheeks —
prepared you to welcome others
to lose you.
They left memories
on your bedcovers like coats
from dinner-party guests:
heaped, weighted and warm.

When the breath left you and dissipated
into bedroom air, we bundled
these layers of fabric, piled them
throughout our house as coats against cold
when we needed to feel warm
in the cold and the still of your absence.

Banshee Studios, May 2002 issue: “Beltane”


Each Saturday morning I see you
handing bills to the cashier at the checkout
and the skin on the back of your fingers
is workworn, chaffed by the elements
into which you plunge your hands each day:
soil or flour, I don’t know which.

I want to move my fingertips down each rung
of the ladderlines of your fingers,
across the grooves in your palms
where this secret lies.

There is a freckle on the back of your hand,
and I want to touch my tongue to the skin
to see if it tastes like earth or chocolate.

Banshee Studios, May 2002 issue: “Beltane”; Second place winner in “An Instance in Which You Missed Something” contest


For Tom

There are ten times as many weeds this year.
My hands reach down between wet green leaves
search with uncertain fingers for foreign
plant life cloaked by beans and peppers.
Dew clings to my fingers, paints
iridescent lines of water across skin
as I pull my hands up from the jungle of leaves,
weeds exploding water drops in a multitude of directions.

Tom had told me that during the Depression
his mother enforced math lessons
as they spent hours hunched over the garden
plucking dandelions and Queens Anne’s Lace
from between the vegetables to a rhythmic
recitation of 12 X 5, 12 X 6, 12 X 7 —
each weed a deliberate act of accretion.
His mother remained silent as they divided
corn from velvetleaf, peas from pepperweed
until it was time for a new table; 13 and 14
snapped from her lips like green stalks
between determined fingers. Applying math
to nature was his mother’s faith that
the carrots, turnips, and onions would multiply
beneath their fingers, bring enough potatoes
to divide amongst kith and kin for another year.

The Morpo Review, March 2002, Volume 9, Issue 1. ISSN 1532-5784


We used to come here to swing.
And now, thin branches, black-barked and bare,
spread cracks across the greying sky –
a filigree of fissures where chilled drafts enter
and sweep downward, vibrate trunk and limb,
loosen fragments of sky
that fracture at our feet.

It reminds me of the sidewalk on James Street,
narrow crevices cutting across cold cement,
scars mapping the pathway into small, safe places:
a network of skeletal lines over which we leapt,

It reminds me more of the grey wall
at the bottom of the stairs in your house,
the large indentation where it connected with
a mother’s body, the fine cracks reaching out
like branches of a tree.

Mentress Moon, February 2002

Green woman

In the third pew I saw her
turn to reach for a hymnal:
a woman, turtle-shell green and radiant,
verdant skin and eyes marbled
with veins of copper and silver.
In the stained-glass sunlight
she shone metallic, like the flash
of fish in northern Ontario waters,
or birch leaves in a September wind:
the flashdance of chlorophyll and silver-white.

The others whispered that she was a
victim of a misplaced needle as a child:
a sudden and irrevocable infusion
of emerald-green into every cell.
And she was permanently transformed
into a serpent.

But there was nothing reptilian
about this living jade sculpture,
this perfect singing jewel.

Mentress Moon, February 2002
The Morpo Review, March 2002, Volume 9 Issue 1. ISSN 1532-5784


Her hands clasp my face
grip shining cheeks with leathered
palms that smell of oranges
‘We give ourselves away
through words’ she smiled
and released her citrus grip

Up the aisle I trudged
trailing metres of lace and silk
hands wound around clumps
of white blossoms meant to give me luck or courage
(or something in between)

He grasped my hands
with fierce nervousness
fingernails buffed and cleaned
with orange sticks
My lips spoke ‘I will’
and I gave myself away.

Mentress Moon, February 2002


After several beers and tireless bragging
about the planes of pectoral rock
beneath his shirt, he asks you to hit him
in the chest, really punch him,
put all of your weight into the blow.
And the ale swirling and swilling inside you,
smothers your usual hesitance, chokes off
any sense of momentum or strength.
You strike him just below the collarbone
fist and muscle colliding like stone
against stone. Sparks radiate from his shirt:
small blue and silver comets
shoot outward from chequered flannel,
bursts of cerulean light
that fade in the fall toward worn carpet.
No one else sees them but you and him.
And me.

Mentress Moon, February 2002

After drinks

Your mouth
leaves a slippery circle on my thigh:
a temporary brand of possession,
a shining ring of moisture
like the corona of condensation
left on the bar from our screwdrivers.

Your mouth
traverses my stomach’s plain,
climbs to the peak of my breast.
You stab the orange paper umbrella
into my skin to announce your discovery,
your claim, your love?

The Melic Review, September 2000
The Best of the Melic Review: Three Years Online, Editor: C.E. Chaffin. U.S.A. ISBN pending. December 2001


A composer, he draws lines in my skin,
arranges music for my body. Stretches
a staff across taut tendons,
prepares the striations for sound.
His fingers palpate
wait, search for the places
to press precise notes into muscle:
plotting small circles between bones,
slurring sounds between tissues.

He writes a song in my skin,
an arrangement of notes that sinks in,
resonates deep into once-silent fibres,
releases sound from strained stillness.
He coaxes melody from the ivory
keys of ribs, from the dulcet hollowness
of scapula and hip. Presses neck frets
and strums rhythm across back,
plucks scalenes like harp strings

and brings music back to me

Creativity Magazine, January 2000 (premiere issue)


He always looks at her when she speaks
as if each word that drops from her lips
is a precious stone, watches her eyes
crinkle and spread open as glittering words
spill out between teeth. He wonders
if the skin on her cheek is as smooth
as her words, wonders
if it feels cool, pearled with wisdom.
As she speaks, there is nothing more he wants
than to bring his hand to the curve
of her jaw, to feel its polished surface move
as her lips deliver jewel after jewel;
he has always wanted to hold one in his hands,
to swallow one down his throat.

Creativity Magazine, January 2000 premiere issue

Identifying the body

In the crisp blue light of the TV
she had turned to me and asked if
I would be able to remember
any unique marks on her skin
if I ever needed to identify her body.
The question swam close,
but I could not reel in an answer,
could not produce the words
of the parts I had photographed,
held, tasted.

In the indigo glow she lifted her
sweater, pointed to an almost nonexistent
plum-coloured patch on the side of her ribcage,
close to her breast: the shape of a foggy
Newfoundland in the ocean of skin.
Of course, I always knew that it was there,
never thought about it. Until now

when the sheet is pulled back
and under the marbleblue arm
lies a cold island and a freckle:
the distinct and unforgivable
mark of St. Johns.

The Café, Fall/Winter 1999, Barrie, ON. ISSN 1488-1365

Waiting room recollections #1

January 18

The windows reach up two floors, stare
with filmy vision into York Street streaked
with cars and buses and blurred buildings.
The glass is fingerprinted and smudged
with the exhaust of countless admissions of guilt;
their stale breath still hovers in the filtered light.
still sticks to the expensive leather sofa;
I sink further down into its gummy clutches
and wonder what the hell I am doing here
waiting to exhale my life story to someone
who can’t even keep his windows clean.
How dirty his will his hands be?

* * *

In contrast cleanliness, the office is dimly lit,
painted in the right shades of magenta
and tangerine to inspire condemnation, admission –
I could confess to anything here
and convince myself of its truth.
The multi-faceted multi-coloured clock
counts the minutes of my narrative,
the seconds of his questions, the hour
it will take before I can leave this
pastel purgatory of dusted knick-knacks,
straightened shelves and books,
carefully-aligned pictures, and
the perpendicular placement of pens
to writing pad. Nothing is out of place but me

the ShallowEND, September 1999


The woman in the sixth seat on the left
side of the bus reads a magazine in a language
I’ve never seen, turns the pages carefully,
focuses on each image, each section of text.
Stops on the centrefold: a series of hands
palms upward, foreign text flowing
around images, lines unfurling to the edges.
Magazine balanced on her lap, she holds both
of her hands upward, palms open as if in prayer
or in preparation for surgery.
And she begins to examine the lines
fingertip to knucklegroove, palmridge to wrist,
searches for the forks that point to prosperity,
tiny pathways to salvation. She studies them all,
head bent forward in anticipation, fingers
curled inward to hold the potential fortune close,
eyes riveted. And me, across the aisle: a voyeur
palms pressed together, sealed with sweat,
willing her to find the lines she seeks.

the ShallowEND, July 1999


My fingers grip your face like rock; I stick
digits into your open mouth
into nostrils ears eye sockets
to steady myself as I climb upward
to the top. Your hair, eyebrows
twine around my fingers: snarls of brush
and vines that twist around my hands, snag
my ascension, hold me next to stoney surface.

You would hold me here forever if you could,
allow birds to peck out my eyes and organs,
permit the sun to bake me into earth.

I repel down to your bottom lip, a slippery
protrusion of rock,
call into deep caverns;
the resounding echo signals emptiness,
assures me that the caves
are hollow vacuous cold
best left unexplored.

The 2River View, June 1999


Such a colourful memory you had
(before the shock):
bright, when we had expected it to be grey.

Wish that one of us could collect the animated
chunks spattered on the ceiling, walls,
across the floor. Glowing at our feet.
Wish that one of us could make a small incision
and carefully stuff vivid memory back in:
take the auroral thoughts and recollections
shove them back
into the creases where they once lodged,
reattach them to bright, living cells.

We should have been warned that this would happen.
They should have advised us to wear dark glasses.

The 2River View, June 1999


Large gatherings of people are oppressive:
the claustrophobic swells of voices,
the stickiness of too-close skin, the odours
of lunch lingering on collective breath.

Reunions. Strangers meeting and leaving
still strangers. Conversation attempted
where an exit beacon beckons nearby:
questions that poke into skin eyeballs mouths,
foreign hands that grab stomachs
searching for signs of procreation,
lips that blather about blissful births and parenthood joys,
voices muted by the screeches of bored and hungry children.

There is no comfort in the warm potato salad
and stale rolls. Consolation can only
be unearthed in the bowls and bowls of coleslaw.
There is solace in mountains of shredded cabbage;
it has been fed through the grater,
has felt the grating of nerves.

Midway through dinner, it is easier to steal outside
into cool silent air to inhale narcotic aloneness
and pick cabbage, shred by shred from clenched teeth.

The Red Crow Review, Spring/Summer 1999


A fish swims between us
side by side as ocean floor
swishes around aqueous legs
and undulating hair; coral and seagrass
swaying in the lilt of water.

A fish swims under arm-arcs
nibbles at sandskin
searches caverns for food; a fish swims
into my watery caves: dormant holes in the sand.

A fish swims above our planted bodies
breathes globes of air that trail and spiral
upward onward airward
to a surface we can no longer remember.

like lemmings, May 1999

Richmond Street

To sit by the window in my apartment
above the shops. Screenless. Curtained with gauzy
white sheets smudged with smoke and car exhaust. My feet
rest on the window ledge, one toe eased into damp
windowbox-soil. Searches out old geranium petals, still-soft
against skin. The room is hot; heavy breath blows curtains,
lifts my skirt to cool the back of clammy knees. Sweat-trickles
tickle the flesh between breasts and shoulder-blades
Suddenly I wish that I hadn’t finished yesterday’s wine.

Amateur guitar-strumming soothes me.
The street musician plays wildly beside the outdoor
patio where the thirsty exchange of ideas is whetted
by the consumption of ale. Their words ring familiar,
form the lyrics to songs I had forgotten, cause me
to remember fervid coffeeshopbanter of years past.
Nostalgia-warm, I fan my face with a nearby paperback.

Sandaled and blue-skirted girls pass below, necklines
and hair billow with warm wind. They cross
the car-dotted street, past the stone steps
where the black-haired girl sits in late afternoons
scribbling into yellow notebooks. I call across to her
my voice smothered by car-hum and wind. Invite her
to my warm-winded place. To discuss
where we had hoped to be at this time in our lives
on a day like this. To discuss geraniums.

Grain Magazine, March 1999


Dying highways
are grey gouges in the landscape, frozen
furrows cut through brittle November cornstalks
and fields of autumn-shocked grasses. Exposed,
out here, the wind swallows all sound,
hardly hindered by isolated spikes of trees with
limbs like bent nails. It blows constant, swells
with empty roaring, slaps at my face,
at brown barn-planks and cedar rails.

The cold sting lingers. I miss
the closed comfort of concrete, of brick and stone
warmed by the breath of a thousand exhalations
where buildings channel voices
and noises are funneled between high-rises, flowing
into warm rivers over sidewalks which have absorbed
the dust of infinite strides, rushing
toward lighted windows of cluttered cafes
where conversation germinates.

Conspire, August 1998


His skin was green. Not the green
of trees and wild grasses.
Pale greyish-green. Celadon.
The death makeup had glazed him
into pottery, smooth and shining,
glowing porcelain green.

I wanted to place my hands on his face
on the cool ceramic surface,
his wrinkles etched deep
into the bone and ash:
designs of age and adventure
swirled into the clay with steady hands.

Gorgeous and cool mint-coloured skin
varnished and hardened into death,
he had become his own beautiful urn.

Recursive Angel, July 1998
Creativity Magazine (premiere issue), January 2000


The birds arrive at 7:30 exactly
swoop down from above the apartment building
in flocks from the east, vast and trembling;
darting upward, they catch air currents
in perfect choreography, bank left
and dart downward. Thousands move in,
plummet into the treed expanse below
in a swell of chirping, a constant squawking chorus.
I look down from the balcony onto trees:
leaves and limbs bounce from the gentle weight
of so many birds. They dart and dive into leaves,
move from branch to branch in graceful arcs
like fish leaping in and out of green waves.

My voice cannot climb above the crescendo of bird-song,
the noise obliterating traffic, neighbour’s TV;
it suffocates the sounds of engines and music,
their vibrating voices amplified by trees
and the distension of air
like a swollen stomach full of fish.

I wonder how they know that it is precisely 7:30
night after night, what alerts them to the time,
draws them to the same sea of trees. How do they
know when to gather in flocks that fan out over twilit
sky when to dive into waves. What beautiful instinct
to know when to turn into a fish.

The Amethyst Review, May 1998 “Harbours” contest issue

January’s fingers

January’s fingers always find me
as I tread warily over a crust of snow,
brittle and vulnerable as old bones. His arthritic digits,
crippled with cold, ache to clutch my warm skin.
It always begins as a blue-veined fondling, then the sudden
shackling of ice-handcuffs. His biting breath lifts my scarf
from my neck, forces its way under my collar,
rushes down my shirt.

I want to sprint across the barrenness, to suck
breath after cold breath as he thrusts his icy tongue
down my throat. January’s fingers press into the back of my head,
numb my skin and skull. Then his arctic hardness
slams against me.

Zygote Magazine, Winter 1998; Third place in contest

Poems are eggs in my ovaries

They wait, inchoate,
for their turn to travel
to the oasis of uterus; there a poem
can be fertilized with the persistence of
one thought, one event.

Poems grow in the moist jungle, feed
on the floor of the lush vegetation of womb,
nurtured by the temperate climate.

Poems are pushed out into the world.
Sometimes they are premature
and suffer the lethargy of lungs,
fragmentary organs unable
to breathe on their own
Sometimes poems are healthy,
tap the maternal instinct,
bring joy to those who hold them close.
Sometimes poems are stillborn.

The most painful of poems
are those half-finished,
stuck in the birthing canal,
lodged in squeezing darkness.
These poems howl at me from the inside,
keep me awake at night with their muffled wailing.

Treeline, Autumn 1997 Vol.2 no.3

Cold french fries

The food has grown cold.

Our first gelid words could have been sliced
into wedges, served as an apathetic appetizer.
All heat has been smothered by our distant discourse.
Sporadic phrases spurt from our throats in guttural chokes,
land on our plates as limp lettuce leaves.

We have brought this up before in
regurgitated conversation.

My intensity has cooled to lukewarm. Your wit
has wilted into sarcasm. We once filled evenings
with cooking and fervent conversation. Now
all that we can discuss is the thermal dynamics of french fries
and wonder how they can get so cold so fast.

Treeline, Autumn 1997 Vol.2 no.3


Under branches that reached to the ground
with needles or snow, under the tent of
forevergreen, I made my home.
Earth or ice carpet, branch hooks for
pictures or hats or flowers plucked from
the nearby weed garden.

I took bowls and spoons
from my mother’s kitchen to make my
culinary creations from bark, sap, and pieces
of cedar hedge, mixing bits of greenery
with puddlewater or snow melted between
unmittened hands.

After lunch, after washing bowls and spoons,
I settled down in snow or soil, looked up
the tall brown trunk, through cracks
in the green-roof. Saw sunlight rain cloud snow
and twilight. And an infiniteness
that always included me.

The scent of earth and pine always places
me under that tree, in my greenspace. Reminds
me of beautiful aloneness and losing spoons.

Treeline, Autumn 1997 Vol.2 no.3


They wear secrets on their matte faces
smoothed on subtly into a makeup mask. I saw them
pass traces of stories on linen napkins,
on handkerchiefs, saw them brush their lips against
ears, leave stories behind in russet smudges,
wipe foreheads and lips with delicate finger-strokes
then press gossip into palms,
gossip that rubs off like face powder, like lipstick–
like pollen, passed from flower to flower
from anther to stigma
the stigma of others.

Other Voices, Autumn 1997 issue; First place “Gossip” contest

One thought on “Published Poems

  1. Bobbi says:

    There was a poem of yours I bookmarked called ‘after drinks’. I was going to make a collection of my favorite poems (just for me, mind you) and I went to the link but it’s no longer there. Is there a chance you could send it to me? Thank you

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The Editors' Weekly

Official blog of Canada's national editorial association


A compilation of current reporting and archived published work of journalist Nate Thayer

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