Meg Johnson: Five Poems

UNSWERVING

I see a wire under

my skin. From the top

of my underwear

inching up my center,

a painless stem. I worry

I am not real. I worry

the wire should be tucked

inside, not forcing its way

out. I tell myself whether

I am human or machine

is no one’s business.

 

YOUR VULVA NEEDS A SHOUT-OUT

Your vulva is hiring a P.R. firm.

Your vulva has a low profile.

 

Once, in the 90’s, Ross said “vulva”

on Friends, but that was a long time ago,

and your vulva never really liked

Ross anyway.

 

Your vulva is hiring a lawyer.

Think of all the times it was robbed

of proper attribution.

 

A girl with an upcoming Brazilian:

“I’m getting my vagina waxed!”

No, you are not.

 

“I suffer for nothing!” says your vulva,

pouting.

 

NO ONE

No one should dub themselves

motivational. No one should

claim they inspire others.

I can’t help but imagine

these self-proclaimed speaker-saints

getting rammed up the ass

with a unicorn’s horn. I’d rather

converse with a crack addict

with a wire cart and a scrunchie.

 

I can’t sit through another solo dance

piece about Persephone. In the program

notes, the soloist-slash-choreographer

will write of Persephone’s great

beauty, assuming the audience

will never question the self-cast role.

 

 

FATHER OF THE BRIDE

Ingénues stolen in plain

sight. Girls, young women

assaulted on sunny days.

This is the dark routine.

Fathers don’t go missing.

 

Your dad’s car will not

be abandoned by a hiking trail.

He is not the main character.

 

A diabetic man, little insulin.

What fairy tale can we compare

this to? Can fathers faint?

Who wants to steal a father?

A tux fitting is not

very masculine.

 

Abandoned car pointed

in the wrong direction.

A needle pricking

empty air. The father-

daughter dance.

We may never know

what song he picked out.

 

 

I’M A BEAST

I am a rapper. I rap

to my porcelain dolls.

I can tell they love

my fierce rhymes

when they don’t

move their eyes.

And when they look

white.

 

I am fake pregnant.

Not to trap a man, but

to entertain myself.

It makes me feel skinny!

 

I am auditioning

to be a puppet. I like

to pull my own strings.

I wish I was at home

pulling my own strings

right now.

 

You must sit at least two feet

away from me. If you do not

sit two feet away from me,

I will continue to smell

this sharpie marker until

you feel so uncomfortable

you must leave the room.

 

You will be confused

by how turned on you are

by my sharpie sniffing.

 

You will shiver

with self-hatred.

 

 

Meg Johnson is the author of the full length poetry collection, Inappropriate Sleepover (The National Poetry Review Press, 2014) which was a NewPages Editor’s Pick. Her second book, The Crimes of Clara Turlington, won the 2015 Vignette Collection Award and is forthcoming from Vine Leaves Press. Her poems have appeared in HobartNashville Review, The PuritanPainted Bride QuarterlySugar House ReviewVerse Daily, and others. Meg started dancing at a young age and worked professionally in the performing arts for many years. She is the editor of Dressing Room Poetry Journal and recently received her MFA in creative writing from the NEOMFA Program. She is currently a lecturer at Iowa State University. Her website is: megjohnson.org and she blogs at: megjohnsonmegjohnson.blogspot.com

George Murray: Three Poems from Diversion

#ClockworkOrRage

Come all you haters and see what I have wrought.
Our primary role as teachers is to demonstrate how to best waste time.
I survived Seamus Heaney and all I got was this lousy career.
Monuments are built daily to distraction.
The terms rescuers and salvagers are mostly interchangeable.
Before the sun has risen it is just a bright hill.
Only twenty-four men have walked on the moon and/or behind Jesus.
Crack the spine of The Gutenberg Bubble.
Statistically speaking there has to be a secret door around here somewhere.
Moses flicked his cigarette into the dead bush.
Plan your strategic withdrawal from wishing everyone a happy fucking birthday.
You have 73 important updates waiting.
A more likely zombie apocalypse would be a horde of abandoned buildings.
What we call the sociopaths among us is neighbours.
The number of aboriginal women missing from this line is difficult to estimate.
Heaven don’t want him and Hell’s afraid he’ll go Columbine.
Poets are the unacknowledged escalators of the world.
We all see dead people now.
The subtitles have been subtly lying to us for years.
Sleeper cells awaken and begin plotting in your spreadsheets.
Ennui is an alert that pops up to tell you there are currently no alerts.
The Illuminati left their lights on again.
Bombs strapped to our babies in their dear little TNT onesies.
A Room of One’s Pwn.
If I had it to do all over again it would be a cookbook.
Simply breathing is moving forward.
Every breast exposed in the Sistine Chapel is a new Big Bang.
Another opening monologue has rambled two minutes past commercial.
The emperor of YKK pulls himself together.
Look into the dead shark eyes of our leader.
You are what you contract.
Violence has an exchange rate against the price of oil.
I heard about him but I never dreamed he’d have blue eyes and blue jeans.
Truly elegant equations deserve cartouches.
Naked old men in flip-flops roam the change room with their hanging tits and balls.
Religion is like sucking in your gut while standing on the scale.
Glitter arcs from the TV remote.
There’s been a sudden spike in the number of lives ended on knees in front of a SWAT unit.
I want to die with my boots on or at least my slippers.
Hitler’s ghost slow claps in the silence men call Hell.

#OutLiars

It is time to shit in the houses of our dearest friends.
Listening to a child coughing in bed is virtually anxiety-free for me.
Pigeons anoint our monuments with reality.
To-do lists fall over you like shovelfuls of gravedirt.
Given it was a telephone wire you sat on I can’t figure out how it is your pants caught fire.
Our ears crackle as societal pressure changes.
Research all the surprising places the clitoris ends up going.
Origami cranes flock to the watering hole to find only ink.
The solar system is a Venn diagram of unrelated ideas.
I bought my soul back from the pawn shop for twice what it’s worth.
Heaven and Hell stake out opposite ends of the living room and stare each other down.
Imagine the throbbing anger that is The Hulk’s cock.
Rogue currencies exchange significant glances.
Oulipo is poetry’s BDSM.
My cappuccino foam looks like an ass crack I’d like to fuck.
The farmer comes in from the field and wipes the bitcoin from his hands.
Bracketed counters beside folder icons tick up faster.
Look at all the loose feet in this massacre photo.
I insist that this in fact is formal.
Baby Gap is clothes made by babies for richer babies.
Tremolo wisdom warbles from a dozing pothead.
Volume control is a future civil rights issue.
Stick your finger up Saturn’s rings and let’s call ourselves hitched.
Taxis pull up to the crashed planes to wait for fares.
Run away with me from the tumbling buildings.
Who else was stoned to death today?
I hope God is happy now.
Give blood every six weeks whether or not you can find a clinic.
Every idea taken from below like a seal by a killer whale or a reverse cowboy.
Austerity is what’s Owed On A Grecian Earn.
Blinking first is what liars do last.
My sons will never know a world without a mute button.
Flinch at the thought of a poetry reading broken dick.
That rollercoaster-dip feeling of a plane in turbulence is now an everywhere feeling.
Death’s no biggie.
It’s getting kind of hectic.
Floor to ceiling windows look out onto the tops of your cheeks.
Latest crack smoking video is actually of a fissure leading straight to Hell.
Truth’s unit of measure is the telomere.
Forget poetry and just enjoy the unbridled collecting and hoarding of every last thing.
There’ll be time enough for the important stuff when I’m dead.

#BearingWitless

The children did not return before dark.
You may have to settle for a Sylvia Plath photo if no Sylvia moment comes.
It’s harvest time at the server farms.
Twelve plus one is an anagram for eleven plus two.
Wineglass stems and bases look like spilling water and pools.
Barricades like department store windows.
At the edge of the woods lovers hump in a dark car slowly filling with CO.
Square roots triangulate beneath round bushes.
Comets have longer tails than other harbingers.
If you connect the dots in the Oort Cloud it reads Do Not Disturb.
The contents of the fruit bowl are a decaying data set in need of analysis.
Some races break their ribbon at the starting line.
Faith’s quicksand forms a pit into which none fear falling.
Marvel at the sheer Elvis-ishness of this moving knee.
The clever sign we crafted to hold up in this audience is sure to get us on camera.
A Sale of Two Titties.
Laptop fan grill burn on the thighs.
Minds invent scenery to impress and explain the body.
I once stood in the Sistine Chapel and what I remember is I stood once in the Sistine Chapel.
Wee Degas moments seem a little sketchy.
Luck carves its nature similar to time.
Power outages dare to split the middle of popular wars.
We will be in the future when we can watch reality TV set in the distant past.
Police chief pulled over in a hoodie.
You’d be surprised how long a 2% battery can last.
Magic rings mingle in toolboxes like washers in baby food jars.
Space seems so empty and wrong without TIE fighters.
Occasionally I forget Libya exists.
Flipped-table-righter is an unpaid occupation known as love.
You’re a Muppet but the hand up your back that moves your mouth is your own.
Amazing Grace sung from the toilet.
Heaven’s fire extinguisher is not WHMIS compliant.
Fireflies batter in unpunctured jars.
One of the bodies has x’s for eyes while the other just reads TILT.
This Polaroid is taking forever to fade in.
Any song for children is creepy if you sing it while weeping.
Roaming charges creep up like a crooked stock ticker.
There’d come a point in the zombie outbreak when I’d just say fuck it.
My black sister and I both want to believe I’m listening.
I’d fuck the me I claim to be.
The shooter fled the scene in an unmarked car.

 

cover George Murray is the author of six books of poetry, including the forthcoming Diversion, from which these pieces are excerpted (ECW, Fall 2015). He is also the author of one book of aphorisms and books for children. He lives in St. John’s, where he writes and edits.

Ashley-Elizabeth Best: Two Poems

LADY ODDBALL

I’ve discovered the shortest route between two wants is a scream.

Called into life, an undersong of grief, a magpie of magic, the seed
of my legend focuses the world.

My lips blacken at his mouth, I wipe off those stage kisses in full view
of the audience, in the stone of the moment.

My heart’s beating so loudly I miss my cue, strum the inlet of my
jaw-harp, give me back what was mine, I’ll eat all my misspoken words.

Now that no frontiers remain, I make a fist of myself. I’m equipped
with some standard attributes of stardom; I look helpless enough
to protect, courageous enough to admire and pretty enough to adore.

I should be scared—I’ve occasionally opened a heart. I’ll eat my empire
from the inside out, feel this day’s violence a victory.

 

NOT YOUR GIRL

After a couple of drinks I’ll believe
anything, that the worst thing
I ever did was fuck my best friend’s
dad, or about the night I got so drunk
at my sister’s wedding, yelling
at every passing man from the midriff
of the dance floor, No I don’t want
to dance with you.

My ex has joined the procession, my
eviscerators tonsured and waiting
their turn. Spine articulated, he tunnels
into the harbour of my belly, my
abundant anatomy.

I’ve cluttered my life with people
who dislike me and continue moving
solo through this overture, kisses like
puncture wounds, all scraggly wide
awake.

_____

Ashley-Elizabeth Best is from Cobourg, ON. Her work has been published in Fjords, CV2, The Columbia Review, Berfrois, The Rusty Toque, The Battersea Review, The Puritan, Zouch Magazine, Grist, Ambit Magazine and Poetry Salzburg Review, among other publications. Recently her manuscript, Slow States of Collapse, was shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. She lives and writes in Kingston.

Sarah de Leeuw: from Outside, America

TO ARGILLITE, RETURNING

OUTSIDE, AMERICA Five poems_de Leeuw-March 2015
OUTSIDE, AMERICA Five poems_de Leeuw-March 2015
OUTSIDE, AMERICA Five poems_de Leeuw-March 2015
OUTSIDE, AMERICA Five poems_de Leeuw-March 2015

 

SURFACING BEHAVIOUR

Just shy of Alaska, catamaraning the contested
Dixon Entrance A-B Line somewhere south
of Prince of Wales Island we’re waiting

with whale-sized patience for the firm blue sea to split
open, our Canadian cell phones buzzing with text links
to American dialing codes and roaming fee

warnings, a cormorant, a distant Tsimshian shell
midden, where grass touches tide, two Metlakatlas
tilted totems and those massive migrating mammals

we want to see, hoping some will be friendlies
breachers or bubble netters, the stench of their baleen
breath fishy and flint and their krilley shit strings

of bright orange recede and we’re astounded silent alive like life
before never knew of throat groves dreams of touching
tail flukes we’re fools taking selfies trying to focus

on us and their bulky heads sky hopping, nodding
their bristled faces, barnacled backs, an acrobat’s arc
a hump our hearts hammering standing still surrounded

by ocean and pods and small clouds
on the horizon and sounds like zings, strings
on saw blades they are so animal

but so me too and so close I look exactly into an eye
and then down a blowhole, breathe in her exhale
and know nothing greater.

 

WHEN YOUR MATE

OUTSIDE, AMERICA Five poems_de Leeuw-March 2015

 

CENTRAL INTERIOR

It is summer in British Columbia except
not quite way up here, even though the rivers are
flooding their banks and the ground is loosening and my
sister is living in Munich right now, going to volleyball practices
in the evening after work, working out in purple spandex with her ropey
arms and platinum hair, a bombshell who misses London, the city, the pace
so when I’m driving early in the morning to catch a flight going south, sky as light
as late last night, crusts of snow still in the ditches, I catch my breath at the small
town-ness of it all, at the hard drinking men hauling themselves into cabs
of logging trucks, mine and mill dust floating in the air, a blur, inside dad
are cells so sick it takes everything for him to walk once around
his garden of new sharp tart rhubarb stems sticking almost
like they hurt so red up from composted earth
waxy leaves opening, slackening fists.

 

WHEN I MARRY FOX

September October collision, colour of flesh
orange sockeye salmon spawning-spent
beneath floating leaf decay and me, denless.

The dishwasher, the Lazy Boy chair, even the lawn
mower broken and useless. Husbandless, I stare full
of envy at the diamonds of other women.

Bear, beaver, and even bull-moose
have all said no. Like a hard-boiled egg
lodged in my throat, loneliness.

And did I mention the selkies? Despite seal
fingered flippery children, their rotsalt stink
of sea and tidal flats, their men are shored. Beached.

Then Fox nip‐knocks for me, leg
lifted, piss‐sharp smell ripe as the ping bite
of high bush cranberries.

I will wed you, wed you, wed you he yips.
My hairless white body looming, his promise of torn
up alley cats convincing me: forgo silver stilettos, forget lace.

His bedroom is lined in downy owl fluff
a neck he cracked years back. At first his teeth
draw blood from my nipples, razory little slices.

He tugs at me like he’s tearing at tough
fresh road kill. Slowly calcification takes hold.
My skin thickens, his winter fur comes in full.

In our new year, when humans are thumbing corks off bubbly
popping party sparklers and snapping open tin-foiled Christmas
crackers, he says: it’s time to sell my hide. Pelting time.

This is what he offers our world. Transforming briefly to man then crawling
back to me, bled. He muzzle‐shuffles gifts toward me, exhausted.
A restaurant packet of salt. A bottle cap. A bright blue Stellar’s Jay feather.

Of course I wait, now I’m a fox wedded wife.
Our milky furless pups flipping inside me.
As if from drowning springs life.

_____

Sarah de Leeuw is a creative writer and human geographer. A two-time recipient of a CBC Literary Prize for Creative Non-Fiction, she is the author of three books including Geographies of a Lover which, in 2013, won the Dorothy Livesay Award, a BC Book Prize granted annually to best book of poetry by a BC author. Her literary and academic work appears widely in journals, anthologies and textbooks. She lives in Prince George and Kelowna, British Columbia.

 

Northern BC folio curated by Gillian Wigmore.

Rob Budde: Three Poems

WHAT WE DO

“Today it’s going to cost us twenty dollars”

–Gary Soto

Either rip off cereal box coupons, or don’t,
make note of how much milk is left, think
about trying another substitute—almond milk
maybe—walk to bus stop and find a quarter in
the weeds, shiny, like it might have just been dropped;
on the bus you remember you have to get a new
headlight for the car, and fix the side panel that
has come loose. You remember her face. They are
out of local organic eggs so you buy some that are
free run, but know you read somewhere that is not
that great. The internet bill is due today and you
pay it online by direct transfer. There is no other
way to do it. When you get home the cat has knocked
the open cereal box onto the floor and batted little pieces
everywhere. As you sweep, you wonder if it is worth it
to go out to get eggs and milk or stay home, and try
a poem or two. You think of her, her face, the way
she avoids your gaze, moves into forms.

 

ON NERVOUSNESS

whining at the door of
ridiculous requests

hoping that the rash
is not related

stuttering on an explanation
with no question

blabbering on about
herbs and balloons

the century that can
shatter the human myth

he leaned out the driver
window with the wind taking his words

all the reasons are piled
against the wall of the artery i keep forgetting the name of but
it is an important one and in real life not at all the neat shape
you see on hallmark cards and if i gush will i come clean will
the toxins spill out into the river and kill fish eggs aorta it’s the
aorta i am thinking of and it constricts when i say i love you
but is it the climate my aging cells or true

writing and deleting the same
message 44 times

writing a message and sending
it but before you were ready

chest pains are a sign hung
on the door saying ‘i am still here’

i tip over

 

IF I WERE A MAN

1. The tip of my conscious
gender would flinch

2. Time would stop for me, its
marks and transitions swiveling
to greet me; time as distance
I am traveling toward

3. I would eat
everything; toxins
don’t scare me because
I made them

4. My love of nature would know
no bounds; it houses
my ideas and feeds my
urges to make accurate maps;
I would travel the world and
experience it all; I’d be open
to new ideas, thrills, all the exotic
has to offer

5. I would make lists to
characterize gender; the constructions
hardwired into my male hunter
brain as I lumber across the land looking
for sustenance, an animal to bring down

6. I would depend on semicolons
to condition my thinking; it is like
a binary flipside to everything
I do

7. I would love women—not all
women, some are down-right frightening—
with every ounce of my being, revere
their form and sure-footed wisdom

8. Numbers would be in my pocket

9. I would be to-the-point, upstanding,
gentle, forgiving, generous—my abilities
would be the world’s to have; I would be
in the conditional future tense

10. If I were man imagining being
a woman I’d try to
be one of the guys, fit in and
be cool; I’d leave behind that tortured past and
just move on

11. My poems would be emotive, glimpses
into the inner workings of the world, the human
made tactile in the flick of image—
a hawk espied on the horizon

12. I would love language, its access
to thought and persuasive tenor; I would die
without words, without pages of alphabetized
props, without that paper-thin veil to hide
my fear (she) that invades

_____

Rob Budde teaches creative writing at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George. He has published seven books (poetry, novels, interviews, and short fiction), his most recent books being a collection of poetry titled Finding Ft. George (Caitlin Press 2007) and Declining America (BookThug 2010). Find him at writingwaynorth.blogspot.com.

 

Northern BC folio curated by Gillian Wigmore.

Fabienne Calvert Filteau: Three Poems

PROLOGUE
from Second Growth, Creekstone Press 2014

we came for wilderness, bounding trail, rinds of trail
slumping into streambed, river mud hugging our shoes, pulling
ourselves deeper into the forest by its trunks we came –

for the twinge of rain-aged bark in our hands, sunshade
of fir, dogwood, aspen, birch mycelia
flexing whispers between roots, milk-warm
mewling of chickadees, junco tweets kissing bluest
bluest sky, woodland – sponge-deep, open-pored, moss
soaking in all rough edges of sound, we came –

for the coke-sour glint of strewn bottles, burnt-out cans,
cigarettes for birdfeed, scream of slash piles, scream of skin’s
slow scald by water, ubiquitous drone of the ant-trail highway,
tires screaming in gridlock,
scream of jackhammer, rock drill,
screaming teeth of the tree buncher, forested escarpment
crushed to pulp, slash piles incinerated to char in the snow –

we came for boombox static, heartless rock, flatulence
of spun-out tires, the shores of heart lake flanked
by a deadlock armament of quads, we came for the quads

belching like kid soldiers as they pass, forest floor
churned to muck, for fish in the lake, reel’s plastic line
and cancer, the body toxic, for the driver
grinning at our tits, we came for the smack
of muck in our faces, we came to see ourselves

glistening from oil pools and mud. there has never been
a time like this. we curl toward the remaining woods. it took
millions of years for this world to adapt
to the toxicity
of oxygen,
and above our heads, aspen
clothed in mushroom shelves –
caps soft as antler down, underside’s
cream-bathed glow – pocket reservoirs
of what’s left of the dawn.

 

BEETLE KILL

Change bloomed slowly –
one small blush
deep in a provincial park, the budding heart
on skin.

Back then I marched straight
into the canopy’s rusted out-heart and never
looked up.

There were easy distractions – flycatcher’s
drunken prattle, how light flits
between trunk and shadow, purple columbine
winking through deadfall.

A pine beetle burrows below bark.
Spores through sapwood
fan like spilled ink.

Not long ago, yearly cold snaps
froze the suckers in their boots.

Now winters sludge along, the beetle
eats its heart out, and snap
goes the timber
of weak blue wood.

From this hill where I stand, the red forest, a dead sea.
One province’s hellfire. Glaring eternal sunset.

Overnight, it bloomed all over me.

I wake to openwork, heart’s shifting filigree,

rust-read and sweeping eastward
under a clear Chilcotin sky–

 

SALMON GLACIER

splay of her limbs, moose
polished clean to bone
by water so pure it squeaks.

lower your cup to the stream,
drop below the plume,
below the feather spray of rapids.

how the river breathes
a white raven ghost, water
exhaled by the lung of the world,
north enough
to drink.

sing the glacial
cave-call, peat and sinter,
hollow echolalia: older

than rock pestle on mortar stone,
breast plate
armouring the heart
passed down the woman line
down the valley.

listen to the clatter –
moose tibia at the bend,
rocks at the upstream eddy,
marked

by one last
glistening thrust, salmon

scales slackened
to let the soft bits through
pulled home by the sound: ice

knuckling its own knuckles
shudders at the source,
carols the long lament
of calving off, of working
itself free.

_____

Fabienne Calvert Filteau grew up in Ontario and graduated from the University of Victoria in 2011. For a decade she worked as a tree planter throughout BC. She has been published in Paragon and Prairie Fire, among others. Currently she lives on Gitxsan territory in Hazelton, northwest BC.

 

Northern BC folio curated by Gillian Wigmore.