NewPoetry

“be grape disguised as apple or”

kevin mcpherson eckhoff

 

The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.
Proverbs 26:10

be grape disguised as apple or
raspberry with a heart of salmon:
pine blood, rug breath, pregenetic fallacy
………….bothness in all things

study the crib, the tree house, the club, then
crank call your Geography 12 teacher:
midnight neoNazi-wawa archipelago
………….why-not as inheritance

Angry Birds: Rio
Rovio, Fox Digital Entertainment, and Blue Sky:
new high score, play ad-free, loading…
………….reward is its own reward

turnip really tastes like rutabaga or parsnip
but chess can’t beat the finesse of pogs:
gressors ferable ience duction istor
………….everything is great, just

 

 

 

 

 

 

MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

James Langer

 

It waits beyond the floating dock and harbour’s quiet calm,
Beyond inclinations of tide and lunar phases.
It’s past the bourgeois renos and open houses staged
For a sigh to come later. It is likewise out of range
Of voices cursing the city planner, his name,
His merciless resistance to our common sense,
And the fact he never existed. Its coordinates
Unknown to porch-light sensors tracking migratory patterns
Of the downtown polyamorous, who flash therapist’s scripts,
Labelled Rx, like border passes. It’s above
The humane proximity of peeler bar to rub and tug,
Up the long-faced hill that’s for giving pause to angry drunks,
And a moment’s peace, before treeless compounds
Of the derelict classes: cheap aluminum siding, concrete,
Narrow casements constructed around washouts
And an ill will that amasses in the ample spaces
Tenanted by what’s deficient, where the next break-in,
The next home invasion, can be clocked by the time it takes
The district’s active agents to burn through the last M2s.
Around the bend and past the covenant light of corner convenience,
You’ll find it luminously negated by the economies of scale
And tract housing, as each modest cross-gable fails a lost original
And higher ideal. Canted retaining walls, scant easements,
Flat-out pavement—a place that extends to everyplace else,
So is comparable to nothing and therefore meaningless. Here
Your destination’s frozen in the semblance of a hare
Enacting stone beneath the shrinking shadow of a hawk.
Up the steps, a simple knock across the double-pane,
Over the threshold, to within an arm’s length,
Where a suffering distance remains between and contains
Everything love might make of us, the good life:
Pristine, unlived, and hidden in plain sight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scare Quotes

Matthew Tierney

 

Don’t I know
a pocket square can be misplaced,
pinstripes the wrong colour—
if tungsten angst is even a colour.

Three Halloweens in a row
I went as the life of the party.
At home I’ve got every light on timer.
Twice a day the lampshades sing hosanna
and then don’t I know
to feed my bearded dragon.

‘Believe it!’ says the milk carton.
‘Cancer will be beaten in our lifetime.’
It’s been saying that
for as long as I can remember.

At my high school reunion
don’t I know
the difference between being
the smartest guy in the room, in leather pants,
and the smartest guy in the room in leather pants.

Beware the personal salutation
that falls under the rubric RE: AUDIT.
Beware the tchick after your surname
from the doc frowning at your chart.

Down the street, in the dark,
my house lit up like a close encounter.

 

 

 

 

 

Flagellum

Stevie Howell

Flagellum

In the beginning, we beat ourselves to move to the source,
the sources, the light, the food, the sex

the CNS was a tail, a spine that schemed outside, beneath
–Richard the III’s, lurching from sea

slid across boulders peppered with microbes, feasted on weaker,
those with fewer machinations

called this our home, our kingdom. Some called themselves kings
and queens, sat at the centre

of ordered but unstable scenes. The yeast doubled, quadrupled,
n-tupled, and the more we had,

the more we wanted, the less restful the sleep. We spawned arms
and fingers to snatch or stroke, handy

when you’re broken, palpated our guts to annunciate menacing
grunts, morphed vowels. Word begat

the poet. The ocean bubbled and steamed, burped up future
family, frienemies, fanemies.

In the end, we describe blatant phenomena–but with eloquence,
we slow the world down, we say, like a cud.

More than nitrogen, more than vapour, more than clay, we need me,
I say, I am the why and the because.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don River, Crossings and Expeditions

Anita Lahey

 

1.

A worker honey bee from the abandoned apiary
in the cottage backyard of famed naturalist
Charles Sauriol motors over the riverbank and plunges
into a wall of black swallowwort. One more
newfangled post-industrial invader. (It straitjackets
trees and strangles dogs.) Bring this mighty forager
a blossom all native and nectar-y, bring it
a highrise of goldenrod, an eighteenth-century
bustle of milkweed. On the double. (Where
is the ghost of Elizabeth Simcoe
when you need her?)

 

2.

A skate blade loops
and swirls, unwinding clarity,
movement, joy. When the divide
between water and air is cold-packed
and unmistakable, forces and states
of being may unite. An ancient

corn cob, a dropped
fishing spear, rings fanning
from a cupped palm. Ripples
of a circumspect gaze. Undercurrents
of hoeing, hewing, humming.

 

3.

Do giant slushy pops still exist
or have these plastic Slurpee cups
the size of watering cans been rolling
in brush by the skunk cabbage
at the Todmorden Mills wildflower preserve
housing ants, rain, mosquitoes
and spiders since 1982?

 

4.

The official, thirtyish, bristled chin, wades in,
angling for a grip on the fourth
body this season. Maybe the poor
chump’s better off, you know? His black
boot, a slime-slick rock, careening and fingers
flung through reedy air. Steady, okay,
wait—two hands holding zippo, nada
Was there a splash? His walkie-talkie’s
gone under to join what fell and sank
with buddy from the bridge. Up there,
his partner awaits confirmation,
gloved fingers on the railing, round
black speaker at her ear. Give her
a Luminous Veil. Give her a single
malt, neat. Give her a moment
alone with this feat of engineering
and its larger-than-life legacy.
She wants a word.

 

5.

Capt. Hugh Richardson’s rages and bellows,
caught on a putrid 1834 wind, rising
from the deck of his grounded
vessel at the mouth—
The destroying cancer! Destructive industry!
still fury and eddy with gull screeches
over the head of a repatriated wood duck
traversing the greasy pools
of Keating Channel. (The captain
curses the Don’s impassable silt,
not the tanneries, abattoirs,
paper mills, flour mills, lumber mills,
lantern factories and cattle fields
from which it cascaded.)

 

6.

That particular night heron spent
two motionless hours perched on a post
poking through the surface near a crack
in the concrete that encases the lower bank.
Its grey-blue bill trained on water, head feathers
ever-so-slightly rearranged by the breeze. Mourners
in the hundreds were drifting downriver
aboard kayak, canoe, rowboat, raft, reenacting
the Funeral for the Don. The chief keener,
mid-wail, erect in the bow, spotted
the stock-still bird. Fell
mute. The heron’s intentions
were clear. People stared. Some leaned
so far over to peer (like the bird)
directly into the stink, their
vessels began to list.

 

7.

Sauriol’s memories waft downstream
from the Forks, interrupting the flow
on the DVP. Nostrils lift,
ears twitch. Vehicles (not
canoes) bob and sway: 

the scent of the balm of Gilead—
the sweet tremolo of a saw-whet owl—
the sad trilling of American toads, so plaintive—
dozens of eastern bluebirds dropped
from a sky as blue as their wings— 

 

8.

A Rob Ford bobblehead is wedged
in the Y of a staghorn sumac branch
near a patch of graffiti—I be creepin’
while you sleepin’—on the underside
of the Dundas Street bridge. The sumac
were planted along the once-bleak bank
by sweat-streaked, jean-clad champions
of native species. How long before a
high wind or passing cyclist knocks
the doll free? Its painted-on eyes,
the rerouted shore: now you
see it, now you don’t.

 

9.

A dusty labourer from the brickworks,
dragging on a smoke; a boy
felling a cedar for his latest
ingenious lean-to; an afterschool
trio hugging armloads of trilliums;
buddy, down on his luck, come
all the way from Nova Scotia to erect
a sheet-metal shack on the Flats.
This ghostly gang follows the river’s
forgotten, curlicue shoreline, seen
only by owls and bats, reminiscing,
foraging, speculating on what’s
yet to float their way, or
surge on by.

 

10.

Taylor regards the clump
of promising valley clay in his palm.

From the protective shade of oaks,
Simcoe turns his gaze on a stand of pine,
sees masts for ships of war.

Davies takes a pig for a country walk.
Gooderham inspects his windmill’s lazily turning blades.
Scadding lays a celery trench, mulches
a bed for tender asparagus shoots.

Gardiner scales a backyard fence to scramble
down the valley. He scrapes his ankles
on raspberry canes, tramples
asters, maps out where
to blast the hill and shove
the river over.

 

11.

I don’t know what to tell you
about life along the Don. It troubles me
to imagine its wild, abundant, free-
flowing past, and how the forms of survival
I was taught to practice have left it
like a dirty, sodden rag. The year I was 22
I crossed it twice a day, sometimes more,
by bicycle, subway, streetcar. On foot,
a friend at my side. We were
cub reporters, I’d taken a call, heard
news meant only for me. He unpeeled
me from my desk to walk me home.
I might have looked down as we crossed,
vaguely noted the familiar, brown trickle
in its trench. I didn’t think of the Don
as a waterway, a succession of histories,
an altered form. The valley was
forbidding, unknowable; to live on
its eastern flank was to score
an arresting view. That morning
I crossed the river one kind of person;
I returned used-up, hollow, littered
with debris, dismal as the Don
but still moving, this way
and that, without
apparent design, braced
for my own Improvement Plan. I was due
to be channelled and dredged.

 

12.

An empty mickey, lid tight, bobs
and meanders, sunlight pooling
in its thick, clear glass.

A corroded nine-volt settles in silt,
kicking up a tiny, temporary, unseen cloud.

The blackbirds’ conk-la-rees
ricochet from willow to willow
skipping over a log so tattered and forlorn
it can never have stood and splayed
into branches and offshoots,
bright green leaves.

 

13.

Ah, here she is, Elizabeth Simcoe’s ghost—
she’s commandeered an abandoned canoe—
Canada geese are splashing and bathing—
she’s giddy with swamp gases,
summoning loons.

 

14.

A Tyee noses upstream, dodging
cigarette butts, coffee cup lids, Styrofoam
crumbs and shards of iPhone
packaging through waters
too warm and up, at intermittent
weirs, precisely, scientifically
angled ladders.

This singleminded chief of all
salmon no way no how voyageured
from the Pacific to this concoction
of road salt and fertilizer, storm sewer
outflow and emptied toilet tanks
propelled by its own fins. No sir. It was
caught, flown over mountains and prairies,
poured into lake water, transformed
into sport for eager anglers.

Ladies and gentlemen of the post-glacial,
post-agrarian, post-Victorian, post-pastoral,
post-industrial, post-landfill, post-
radical-environmental-activist—
ladies and gents of the new-and-improved,
Better-Homes-and-Gardens era of Don River
restoration, please allow me to further describe
the journey undertaken by this pink-scaled
fish of all fishes. This fish

was not game. This Tyee cruised
Lake Ontario’s murk, steering clear
of hooks and bait. It smelled
river. Through the port land’s rumbles
and slicks, eroded soil grit and driveway sealer
aroma, through beer cans and algae, rainwater
spiked with goose shit, this fish
heard the Don’s muted
cough and reeled

in its current. It swims hard and sure—
it belongs here now, it has thrown itself
on the mercy of these ragged, panting waters—
it aims for the source.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn Tower

Jennifer LoveGrove

 

Knots are contagious in autumn.
They chant America, I am jealous,
or congested. Muddy rocks
in the lung. Leaf piles. Anonymous bread.

Remember to listen to your uncle.
His shadow, asleep or awake,
his walking stick. In the tower
or still missing.

Shred his tuxedo, save each leaf
for chewing. New homicides nestled
in loaf, in bonsai.

Trace each loop, rib, and knuckle.
Touch your hand to his —
in cement, then water. Cough,
then jump——

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature Poem

Meaghan Strimas

 

Seriously, who doesn’t want another poem

about the fern fronds who wave farewell,

(weeping, perhaps?) as some backpacking

sap leaves the forest for the highway.

 

I like nature, too. I like the birds who

shit-bomb my balcony, and I like the parks

we’ve “saved.” Good thing, for us, this greenery

exists. Yes, we do make room for the squirrels

and the chipmunks. It’s a little more delicate

with those skunks and raccoons. Still, we’re good

to leave the nests where they’ve been built.

We’ve a healthy respect for avian architecture.

Plus, it’s a real effort to climb that high.

 

I know a guy who claims he’s going to live

off the bounty he’s growing in his yard.

You should see the two plum tomatoes that hang

like sagging nuts from his leggy vines.

Last count–six whole peas. But why romanticize?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another View

Phoebe Wang

 

The evening, served on a blue-glazed platter.

The window admits as much of the slow parade

as it’s able: white moths folding like napkins,

soaking in the sun’s drops of oil.

Clouds open their gates. Crows clock

by thick as captions. It grows late.

I, too, want to be heading somewhere.

The hours roll off the table, my four-cornered life,

out of circulation. Out of the frame.

I have more than my share. Still I reach

for any excuse to leave the task at hand.

But what can other windows offer?

Boxed herbs in a flutter. Buttery light soaking

curtains as if they can’t contain that much richness.

Behind them, the shadow-play of husband and wife,

and love sits down for dinner.

My view is selective, allowing for the unseen.

In another room, I’ve made an incalculable vow.

Darkness drops down like a double-barred caesura,

between this day and all the others I’ll toss a coin for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contemplating Your Progress

Molly Peacock

 

…………….Thomas Crawford’s sculpture, 1856
…………….Brain Bleed, 2012

The New York Historical Society.
Huge white marble sculpture in the lobby:
“Dying Indian Chief Contemplating

the Progress of Western Civilization.”
You duck beneath him with your wobbly cane
then upturn your face toward his, contemplating

his sober view of hysterical society.
“Something terrible has happened!” you say loudly
as a teenage girl to the sculpted dying man.

“He’s so sad!” you repeat to the empty lobby
where you make a pair, a society of two
(plus a volunteer and a guard) contemplating

the mystery of the new you, brain torqued
from your stroke. You connect without history
—but with feelings whole—to the agony

of the Dying Indian Chief in marble.
Your fresh response remakes his catastrophe.
Yes, something terrible has happened—

we amble on. “That’s a very sad man back there.”
Progress comes. With a cane. Without piety.
Wake up a statue. Then repair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuttlefish

Michael Prior

 

I meant to acknowledge what you hadn’t yet confessed.
Just as a dog will tolerate strangers who approach
him sideways and with an extended hand, we’ve let

inconveniences beget emergencies. Phones closed,
switched to airplane mode, the atmosphere returned
us to our proper sphere. How could I have known

I was still broadcasting on descent? The slow burn
of aluminum scattering that which lacks mass
at lower pressures, temperatures undiscerned.

I cycled through my states, wore an ill-fitting mask.
Regret thickened asthmatic in a chamber of the heart;
its porthole was a small aquarium. If I tapped on the glass,

bright denizens below swam in and out of the dark
like fallen constellations treading water,
about to flicker out. The impossibility of disembarking

stirred an eel in my ribs. Our departure
forgotten, ambient-lighting asked for patience, pleaded
for continued understanding, as the unclaimed future

rattled in the machine. I saw what was needed,
what I had felt: the dim glow of resignation through
the tint of night—as if clarity was time’s unheeded

toll: the porthole’s algal shrouds pulsed with the blue
of wave and wind. Who rewrote our dialogue? The same
words recalled in different coloured ink. Confused,

I thought of the cuttlefish, struggling to reflect the inane
geometrics of a scientist’s whim. A life spent matching
exteriors, while the interior remained unchanged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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