for Frances

When I was young, wind blew prairie grass to sky
over the fields at dawn

warblers to field wheat, blonde as summer hair
and in the evening

sun fell red off the lid of land.

He fell in love with me, the man
though I was a girl, I was old enough to know

and I laughed, his pallid hand leafing bible pages
for a blessing.

I married another.
My wedding gown lay tissued

in a drawer for years, bodice, skirt
growing smaller.

The winter I fell ill he visited me
bearing prayer in his quiet hand.

My children ran to open the door
and snow lay over the garden.


Red River

for Tina Fontaine
                in memoriam

The river
your cradle
of wrapped reeds
after the death
of you

bring God
in peace
to the drowned
of your eyes

bring God
in peace
to the flood-
of your stopped heart

child so little

child so little

on land


No White Sail, No Sun

Supper time, you’re off—where?
a boat in the Bay?
truant again, last class
before winter break
afternoon grey
as the rail yard shortcut
to another side of town

To learn about God
from a minister
who signs for the deaf
and who leaves the office
by dark, story waiting
in his hands of a storm
flinging waves into the boat
where Jesus sleeps

But you’re not in a boat
you lie on track grass
thrown out of the world
by a freight train
you didn’t hear

In your backpack
a photo of the minister
who ends up
signing your funeral
his hands waving
into the unbelieving air
trying to wake Jesus.


Cento after T. S. Eliot

By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept
at the violet hour
for those who walk in darkness,
swaddled with darkness,
for Boudin, blown to pieces,
where trees flower and springs flow.

Teach us to care.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea.

What is that noise?
Wind under the door.

I have no ghosts pressing lidless eyes and waiting.
I would meet you upon this honestly.
because I do not hope to turn again.

O my people, what have I done unto thee?

To lose beauty in terror,
Lucretia Borgia shall be my bride,
she or the lady in the cape,
arms that are bracleted, white and bare.

There will be time to murder and create,
to be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk.

The goat coughs at night in the field overhead,
What images return, O my daughter,

Memory and desire stirring
in vials of ivory and coloured glass,
running stags around a silver tray,
the wilderness of mirrors.

Weave the wind on the mainland desert
or the rain land

Pray for us now and at the hour of our birth.

#age-and-creativity, #cento-after-t-s-eliot

After T. S. Eliot’s Prelude IV

Worn boot soles
shuffle exhaust, sidewalk
evening, idling cars;
a store-front news screen
flickers mid-east war, and prices at the pump
the hockey score;

A run-on day, one more
smoke and
one more beer
before the drunken sway
to supper
on a TV tray.

the gentle palm nailed and

suffer the little—
and all things infinite,
bright and beautiful—

            Wipe your hand across your mouth and laugh

Toy guns fire at City Hall
the world revolves like
child soldiers
cutting throats
inside a mall.


Dead Son

How little time
it takes for a young body
to unpearl

Had I known
the colour of stripped skin
clawed to bone
burned to ash

Had I known
the taste of his name
to my webbed tongue

Had I known
how a feral nail
hangs death
on a life-long calendar

I would know
the never it takes
to say goodbye.


Ophelia I

A stallion stamps under a tree
in the backyard meadow.

At the casement she dreams
he gallops to fill
the nothing she holds in her arms
with blood flowers and weeds
for her hair.

The walls of the palace whisper
her name, tell the tale
of a stallion wakening
dangerous under the yew
fennel and columbine
tangling his mane.

She wants him to ride her
past false dreams and stones
in the wall, past curtains
waving goodbye,

past the field, away to his bed
of wild grass near a stream
that’s not there.