Julie McIsaac: After Basho


Out my window, honking horns stab at the drifting smoke from a thousand since-butted-out cigarettes. By my gate, dogs wait to walk, leashed or unleashed. I can make out the poem but can’t enter into the feelings. The old punk walks by my window again. I recognize the counter-culture ethos but can’t fathom a life of intense commitment to dyeing and spraying one’s hair. I surpass the elder punk only in my feminism. Hidden behind the steel bars on the window of my ground floor apartment.


Tall blue mohawk

Neck tattoos

Sensible shoes and a cane


At a poor bar-fridge temple

Ice is bitter

My voice frigid




At dawn the white wake of a boat heading off. I live on the ground level. I live in lonely poverty. The Old Punk wrote a song about a bar-fridge temple and the suction noise it makes when it is opened and closed. Moved by the lonely poverty, The Young Feminist wrote an ode to low-carb beer and the South Beach Diet.  The craggy Atlantic Coast has called to us all.


Fat burns

From drinking

If you do it right




The town called Shediac in the province of New Brunswick is not far from the capital. It is a hilly village like no other, with brothers who live at the top of the road, unspeaking, foul, forbidden. The master of this house is a man of fierce addiction and trauma. Next to the main house he has assigned a place for his brother to live. In the garden he has cultivated illegal plants and set curious boulders. By his own hand, he has trained the branches and arranged the rocks. He shows deep sincerity in shunning his brother, who he claims is out to steal his weed. It is said that when a family is poor, filial piety will be expressed.


This man waits to fulfill that virtue

In a home that knows winter

And the pinched sounds of hail




Alone I spent a night off the freeway next to Mississauga. The mountains were so deep. Grey clouds lay piled on the peaks of tall buildings. Misty rain filled the parking lots. The bar-fridge temple bore prices that kept me from it. The freeway chugged and lulled next to my ground floor hotel room.  The window wouldn’t shut all the way. I slept badly, worried about intruders.


One eye open

For the thought alone

Chills me




Last year while journeying to the capital, I picked up a female hitchhiker.  Are you a feminist, I asked?  This spring, off to visit her daughter in Newfoundland, she stopped by for a visit.


We didn’t use those words

When I was young, she said,

Unless we meant it

but yes


Julie McIsaac is in her 3rd year of a PhD graduate program in English at Rutgers University in New Jersey. She is the author of Entry Level, a book of short fiction. Her manuscript, We Like Feelings. We Are Serious, was recently shortlisted for the 2013 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. She also writes about multi-media artwork, stand-up comedy, and feminism.