Morning in March

When sleep will not stretch
‘til morning, I slip downstairs
and wait for dawn to drift over
the horizon.

As usual, the cats are up,
wanting to be fed, while the dog snores
in his crate, even when I open the door.
He’s old and prefers to sleep late.

I gather vitamins, pour a glass of milk,
slice a banana, and settle onto my sofa.

The sky is dark, but not too dark.
The moon is fading to the west.
The stars are already gone.

I wait –
listening to chimes on the patio,
watching the day come to life.
First colours change – slate grey to pewter.
Then shapes sharpen. Twigs on trees.
A bird feeder below a branch.
Sumac cones above the garden shed.

Moments later, smoke floats
over the neighbour’s house,
wispy white on violet blue.
Then a crow caws. A chickadee
flies to the feeder. Juncos gather
on the ground. Peck. Peck. Peck.
The cats stretch, stomachs full.
The dog opens an eye, yawns, and
tucks his nose under a paw.

Without fanfare, the sun scales
the horizon and washes the sky
with a ripe melon orange.

I rise and start the coffee.

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November Windows

A pale November sun
spotlights four windows
that frame tableaus
and buoy my heart now
chilled by days of grey
and degrees plunging
downwards towards months
of icy wind and snow.

Outside the patio window,
a woodpecker hops sideways,
feet gripping rough bark,
its white breast framed
by black wing feathers,
a red cap perched on its head,
as it inches to the feeder,
hungry for suet.

Beyond the kitchen window,
a dozen chickens,
buff and busy, scratch
the frosted ground strewn
with fists of frozen kale
and grain scooped from
a rusted barrel stored
beneath their stilted coop.

Against a living room window,
my husband, forehead to pane,
lifts a storm and clicks it into
place beside a wavy 2 over 2,
while a pale sun silhouettes his
raised arms in an autumnal ritual
that blocks westerly winds
rising behind his back.

Through an upstairs window,
a scene unfolds across the street,
as a young man nimbly climbs
the neighbour’s roof to replace
crumbling bricks on a chimney
built when he erected tall
Lego towers on the carpet
next to the bed behind me.

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Letting Go the Garden

Goodbye, good riddance!
I’ve tended you long enough.
My patience is worn thin,
like your scraggly cucumber vines
and withered onion stalks.

Can’t you hear the jays screech
my aggravation while goldfinch
flit behind my back and empty
each and every sunflower?
Better they devoured
your striped cucumber pests,
and ugly brown squash bugs,
not to mention,
your mating asparagus beetles
with orange shells hard as nuts.

Take heed! While geese honk
their way south, moles below
nibble holes in your squash left
too long by my growing indifference.
Better they had eaten the last
of your mishappened beans
turned to mush by cottony
mildew that billows from
your damp, autumnal soil.

Thank goodness, the crickets
in the meadow rehearse
a farewell that promises
merciful frosts
to end my stoop and bend
under the ambush of a late
heat wave germinating
misbegotten seeds and
endless weeds
on two inch stems.

Get thee gone, garden!

Today, I’d rather unbend
my weary back and
pick perfect produce
from bins overflowing
in a grocery store
so many miles away.

Then, tomorrow, I’ll pull
your shrivelled stems,
your brown and crinkled leaves.
After that, I’ll till your tired soil,
and let you disappear
under layers of snow for oh,
so many welcomed months of rest.

But wait! What is that in my mailbox,
arriving so soon, before year’s end?

Ah, a seed catalogue of atonement,
offered as a Christmas gift,
to germinate winter dreams
of sun-ripened tomatoes, cucumbers
stacked like rails on a settler’s fence,
zucchini roasted on the barbecue,
purple basil snipped onto lettuce
plucked from your compost-rich soil.

Oh, the garden! the garden!
My errant child. Come spring
I’ll forgive your vexatious ways
and, after a winter’s reprieve,
welcome you home, eyes wide open,
to make your beds, pull your weeds,
and prepare those providential feasts,
gratefully harvested once more from
your summer’s blessed abundance.

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(A Poem for a Sister Who Left Too Soon)

Last summer, hour after hour,
you milked the currants
from their slender stems
and stained your fingers red.
Some fell into your lap,
small round berries,
reflecting radiation
aimed hot, months before,
at the meteorite that
crashed with a silent thud,
into the epicentre
of your unsuspecting life.
Fleeting months later,
translucent light jelled
that fruit in jars, crimson
as stained glass, but
left untouched by your lips,
too weak to taste its
sweet offering of times past.
Now, day after day,
we savour those berries,
preserved, dwindling
spoonful by spoonful,
spread despondently
across the crater hole
left by the impact
of your cosmic passing.

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No Language for Lost Limbs

Old sugar maples edge the road
with power lines parting branches,
and trunks baring scars of lost limbs,
victims of storms and chainsaws
that feared wind and black-outs.
The ‘b’ is silent, I tell the children.
“Cross it out. Don’t say the sound.”
They nod and ask, “What’s a limb?”  
“An old word for tree branch…
a very large one…a word for you, too…
your arms, your legs.”
Limbs, boughs, silent graphemes,
lost sounds from language,
words once strong, baring tire swings,
tree forts, bare feet, bobcats,
ancient hunters with arrows.
Limbs, grayed, shedding bark,
rotting, crashing to the ground,
remnants of a dying language,
supplanted by buckthorn, box elders,
text messages, lopped words,
hieroglyphs sent to silent screens.
Limbs climbing, leaping, marching
reaching back, moving forward
through centuries to today,
now disemvoweled, shriveled,
reduced to words not spoken.
“Don’t risk life and limb; be careful!”
we warn the children. If you lose one,
you lose the other. Words hold stories,
yours, mine, collective histories.
Limbs lost forfeit leaves, shade,
nouns, verbs, a missing word today,
a vanished language tomorrow.

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Beyond the kitchen window,
a western sky darkens to dusk.
My nose drips raw into
a sink of soapy water and
a day of dirty dishes.
Gloom settles on my shoulders
like a suffocating cloak,
a black hole swallowing light.
From the pond, out of sight,
I glimpse a blue heron, fishing late.
It rises over the garden, banks through
the reddened sumacs, and catches
an updraft into glowing backlit clouds,
teasing a smile of gratitude
from my uplifted face.

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