All posts by Heather Haley

COURAGE REQUIRED & What A Difference A Week Makes

 

Happy 2021 my pretties! A couple of first drafts, writing still saving my psyche. Rock on and and remain well.

 

 

BRAVE

Noise Manor born,
Leather swaddled, swoon worthy
Lizard Prince, zapped, skull branded,
Wicked brained and lens-handed.

Shades-concealed peripheral glancing
All-seeing oracular eagle eyes
Take me in, propel me
Future forward faster
Than the magic bullets whizzing past.

Once the tousled raven-haired
Son with the most sun,
Expert stick handler alights
Upon a daily industrious tear
Through the cities,
Playing power tools guitar style.

Ripped t-shirt death wishes
Upon a rock star came true
For so many of our comrades.

Fiercely dumb as intelligent,
I pay no heed to gossip
But proficiently kept my location
Secret for much of our lives,
From his eternal knowing snarl.

Avian marked forbear
Spreads his wings to shelter,
Nurture fledglings.
Knows not fear.
Relentless fighter
Lightsabers frenemies.
Relentless suitor
Bears roaring mouths of lily,
Slams shut
Decades of black door
To open the portal to light.

Owns his skin,
Owns beats like no other,
A heart that beats like no other,
Worn on David of Michelangelo arms.
Red boned record lover
Basks in our spotlight
And is here now.
At last.

 

ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HOWE SOUND

Image may contain 1 person,
dog, plant, outdoor and nature,
according to social media.
Grief out of the picture.
Do we really need
another photo of another pet?

No one else had to mourn
when our mutt expired.
They cared but only being polite,
island vet carting away his bulk
for three hundred bucks,
SamIAm’s passing sad
but no tragedy.

A chaotic death that occurred
while I was on the mainland.
Sam had puked in the morning
before I ran to catch the ferry.
He often vomited after devouring
everything in his path; colossal
mushrooms, deer poop, beetles,
voracious as he was vicious
toward other dogs. Ducks.

No fur baby this hound,
though adorable and adored
by our posse,
kids riding him pony-style
or tossing sticks for hours.
My hapless, overwhelmed,
home-schooled and home alone
teenaged son called in a panic,
horror I could only imagine,
sickened as he described
peering into Sam’s unseeing eyes,
I helpless, unable to help
or take charge.
Dammit! On the one
day I have appointments in town.

Attempting to shield my beset boy
I had not yet instructed him,
warned of the cavalcade of loss
steaming its way straight for his soul
relentlessly as a tugboat.
There is no way
to illustrate its impact.
Gentle or tough, hushed or brazen
there is no way to spare anyone
from that particularly cold,
hard fact of life.
Hold Fast,
about all one can offer.

Canine Whimsy for New Year’s Eve!

A subdued one, no doubt and man’s best friend will likely be basking in the absence of explosions and mayhem.

OBEDIENCE CLASS

Puppies!
You won’t be pups for long so listen up.
You must learn to relate to humans,
A difficult lot; capricious,

Largely ignorant of our canine ways.
You will be required to muster
Every ounce of forbearance within you
Not to snap, bite back.

Sadly our wild ways have been lost
Over millennia and in 2020,
Mutt or purebred, we are all lap dogs,
Regardless of spirit or temperament.

We are domesticated.
Ugly word but our true nature
Ensures that you
Will always be untouchable

Even while indulging
Their desperate need for cuddles.
We are beyond their reach, torment.
Pups, you must find a balance

Between shy and biddable,
Charming and entertaining,
All before they grow
Weary of your antics;

Whining, chewing slippers,
Pooping or peeing inside.
One word; don’t!
Likely the most important lesson.

And hopefully your owner
Can figure out housetraining,
Isn’t too lazy
To take you outside when necessary.

Fortunately Doghood
Is nothing like the human condition.
Even on a leash, strolling in the mizzle,
We are beyond human foibles and misery.

Remember, you are a good boy!
Best of luck and be careful out there.
May your water dish always be full
And your future free of swats and prong collars.

 

IF I WAS ARTEMIS, Covid Brain verse

Cooped up, on fire, slings and arrows.  “Ambushed into rapture/By a mind out of control/Rapture that rivets me/and my head at random.” Racing thoughts, body and soul stuck in current conditions, restrictions. C’est la vie in a global pandemic as we press on. Onward and upward! Hold fast my pretties as this annus horribilis draws to a close.

 

 

IF I WAS ARTEMIS

Instead of portraying her in a video
Where I tell the tale,

Transform you into a stag
So that predator becomes prey.

My silver arrows ace your knife,
Gun, arrogance.

I deploy Nemesis
Or rouse the sea to impede your journey.

Or, perhaps send a boar
To maim your mean old ass.

If I was a goddess
My options would multiply.

 

COVID BRAIN

Ambushed into rapture
By a mind out of control,
Rapture that rivets me
And my head at random

Until the mind crashes,
Pulled toward Earth
Via gravitational attraction
Like a sluggish satellite.

Changing my mind
Is a monumental task,
As gradual as turning a cruise ship.
Other days it snaps to quickly,

Bestowing dish drainer bliss,
Or condemning certain conceits as dull.
Take the hamburger out of the freezer.
Sorry, I can’t help myself.

I am ordinary.
Don’t know my own mind,
What it wants to say,
What it perceives

When I’m not there,
How it directs action
Or boxer-trounces deviancy.
Whew!

I don’t have to think
About sociopaths
In the family album,
His irascible fictions,

The legs he’s pulling
As I stand here
Entranced, basking in the glow
Of neighbours’ Christmas decorations.

Why can’t I have a rooftop deck?
Let’s get to the gist
Of the matter shall we,
Before it’s all your idea.

NOVEL DREAD *Pandemic Poems* Licking my wounds, Writing verse

 

“A wounded deer leaps the highest.”-Emily Dickinson

That’s all I got. Poetry. It’s enough, it sustains me. I’m not deliberately writing about the pandemic or this past year of heartache and dread but naturally one’s preoccupations well up from the subconscious. Take good care of your good selves my pretties.

 

PUNK NUN

She lives well
In this below,
Cast out,
Sheltered in place,
Fallow, content,

Sobered by conditions,
Winter bare
Limbs in place,
Stirrings put to rest,
Apart and rooted at last.

Above the maelstrom
Beyond pangs, chastity,
Fallers/timber tramps
And snares of the past;
Disconcerting desire,
Elusive union.

Vying as little as necessary,
Shy in nature,
She could not attach,
Each coupling, grafting, ruined.

Called “Tree”
She had budded late
Though normally enough.
Rarely penetrated
Though impaled repeatedly,
Conceptions sloughed,
Intimacy a confabulation,
Contortionist offerings spurned,

For when she spoke
Her paramour did not hear.
When she entreated
He did not respond
With tenderness nor sustenance
But rather, grizzled calculations.
When she wept
He promptly left the building,
Rendering her mute,
All clarity in his wake.

All that past now.
She lives well
In this below,
Cast out,
Sheltered in place,
Fallow, content,
Sobered by conditions,
Winter bare
Limbs in place,
Stirrings put to rest,
Apart and rooted at last.

 

NOVEL DREAD

Our newly acquired reflex
Is to move away
The moment someone,
Anyone, approaches.
No time to waffle!

A novel dread of others encroaches.
I’ve often feared others
But now have more good reason.
She might be asymptomatic.
I might be asymptomatic!

We are all shady,
Questionable,
Possibly bandits
Behind the gaiters,
Loitering in the lobby,
Lone carollers,
Solo celebrants.
Partay!
No longer an option.

Nostalgia attack.
I can feel him beside me
When I close my eyes,
Try to sleep at night,
Adept as he was
At removing himself,
Even as we lay together.

Desire for oblivion runs deep.
We craved solitude,
Wished to be alone
And now, utterly alone,
Masked, gloved, concealed,
I wonder
How autonomy survives
A mandate to flee one another.

 

UNSAVE THE DATE / Plague poems…

…say it all, and certainly better than I can in prose.

Try to spill my guts here but I’m never comfortable revealing too much. Apparently I’m a “super-social introvert.” Still I’m not used to this degree of solitude though it equates with freedom, once I tamp down the anxiety. Been writing like mad and happy to share some verse. Stay well my pretties.

 

 

UNSAVE THE DATE

Plague year pall
Over wedding season.
Gloomy groom,
Abbreviated bride-
Hamstrung planner.
Perhaps temperature checks,
Accessorised, matching masks?
But who will admire her lipstick?
How will she kiss her lucky guy?
And who will smuggle in bliss?

While florists go broke,
Whiskery best man’s relieved,
Happily ensconced in his bunker.

 

STILL IN THE KNOW

Does the city teach
Rudiments of urban life?
The corolla, how to sport a crown?
Both must be embraced
To be assimilated, to be chic.
More difficult is learning
To accept my mother,
A Québecois oddly named Corona,
That she skidded into me
While seething squarely.

There had been glimmerings,
As when a hoodie
Becomes a hood,
A mask, camouflage,
An errant clarinet
An instrument of spite.

As when a spangled nation
Tingles or spews
With nothing in between,
Might diffused, though might enough
To take us down with them,
With their rusticated dogmata,
Joy-sticking, foot soldier jingoists.

Boots on the ground
As the coastline burns,
Orca blubber boils,
Pretzel-stuffed crows
And black-lunged raptors plummet.

Messages mauled before delivery,
I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut.

 

 

“Skookum Raven” Book Trailer Trick

Book Design: Derek von Essen

In case you missed it, we’ve cranked out a book trailer for Skookum Raven. Please take a look. Please share.

There are some rough and wild birds around Howe Sound — West Coast avians like the sharp-shinned hawk, the northern harrier, and the whiskey-jack. Heather Haley, an accomplished mapper of human migration, pair-bonding and predation, takes these feathered frenemies as her starting point in this assured third collection, Skookum Raven. Like her foremothers and contemporaries Gwendolyn MacEwen, Susan Musgrave and Karen Solie, Haley writes sophisticated free lyrics of a witchy feminist kind — but adds some proletarian ferocity with her bus-station grandpas and sketches of iffy guys like Ed the Fence. These are astute, austere poems which sometimes take flight into optimistic beauty — this book is “pockmarked with luck.”

“Tart, taut and terse, Haley’s honed poems of lust and loss, wrath and remorse are imbued with hard-won insight and subversive wit.  Her wry x-ray eye cuts to the quick in an array of deftly drawn portraits that will make you grin with recognition.  Haley is a master of assonance, consonance and dissonance, intermingled with flashes of a distilled lyricism”.  – Fiona Tinwei Lam

Skookum Raven is a text for the tricksters within. With spondaic pow-bams of language, these lyrics harness neologistic energies to evoke punchy lust, back alley bravado, and coastal croonings on sex, the wild, music and time.” -Catherine Owen

“Heather Haley’s Skookum Raven honours the west coast with brilliant side-eye observations couched in words drawn from a wide palette, from Chinook trade language to Pussy Riot. She brings us on a stroll through the village, showing the underbelly of every house and garden, then deeper into domestic disharmonies and unease in relatedness, writing sharply from a woman’s point of view. If any reader has become lulled with the beauties of west coast living, she will shake you into more fulsome awareness of the “hard blessings” shared. “No lotus-eaters we…”-Joanne Arnott

“Haley has the gift of writing to suit her subject in all its raddled variety, from wired and jarring to lyrical and tragic.”-Vancouver Sun

Available for purchase online via PayPal at www.ekstasiseditions.com

Contact Ekstasis for details or to arrange appearances, events or media opportunities. For further information: Richard Olafson or Carol Sokoloff          Phone: (250) 385-3378    email: ekstasis@islandnet.com

ROUGH DRAFT, ROUGH TIME

Image: KAth Boake

Poetry. That’s all I got. I’m thankful for the escape writing provides and still, do seize the day. My psyche must favour the inherent irony of “good as dead”. I’ve used it in Houla in Skookum Raven. I’m considering replacing “hooks” with “talons.”  More work to do, thank gawd, not that I believe in god.

AS GOOD AS DEAD

Unless the court directs otherwise
The parties are named
Sweet edified spouse,
Salty street-wise co-respondent;

Coolish if not cool,
If “cool” is still cool to be.
Still, all three parties wince
At infelicities, clumsy speech.

She is a galaxy viewer,
Especially at night,
Scarce as a hinny,
Or a bedmaker.

Each morning dammit,
Before leaving the apartment.
An atypical good habit
Which surely makes no difference.

A longtime waiver of claims,
Acquiescent you might say,
And lately, a sniffler.
Something in the air?

Upthrust, untagged,
Missives lost in the ether,
Petitions kiboshed,
Appeals squashed,

Letters sonnetized,
She hangs her sentiments
As if a body in the limbs
Of a leafless tree, the gibbet.

Gallows humour intact,
The only thing left to do
Is remove his hooks,
Godsent or not.

 

At a Crossroads

Photo: Bob Hanham

Torn. Partly because I feel like an outsider after being out of the CanLit loop for six years as I ran a business-I had been planning to apply to a local university’s creative writing program but now having serious doubts. My son thinks it’s a waste of money. The tuition is thousands of dollars I do not have. Attendance would help facilitate the production of a new book but perhaps I can find some other less expensive program. Can’t even join or start a writers group thanks to the pandemic.

And then there’s the matter of genre; should I tackle another novel or stick to verse? It is my forte.  Perhaps I should determine to do it all. *sigh* Do I sound confused? I never should have run away and joined the punk rock circus! Back in the day I had accrued two years of community college credits intending to apply to UBC to study literature when I fell in with the Subhumans, the Dishrags and DOA. Oh well, at least I gained subject matter.

And now I am a variable. Perhaps we all are during these plague days. Though aspects of my life suck at the moment, the muse has stuck around. First draft:

NOBILITY EXTRACTED FROM THE VIRTUAL

Via language, despite methodized
Connections, monetized clicks.
Influence down to a science.
Resist Google. Manipulation.

Toast Twitter, or at least,
Notifications Off.
How many Likes will it take
To get through puberty?

Pass the imagination please.
So full of information,
Content,
I could retch.

What’s so great about virtuality
After all? Language betrays it,
Stabalizes,
The way language steadies
You. Me. Us.

So theremalize me dear, for
I am a variable without you.
Be my rompish beacon,
My poetic vane.

Language will ennoble.
Language will
Extract the nobility
Within us all.

SKOOKUM RAVEN Has Landed!

She persists. Due to a reversal of fortune six years ago I had to leave my island home and return to the city. I started a business which left little time for poetry; reading or composing. Despite that and with herculean effort I’ve managed to produce a third volume of verse and today announce the launch of Skookum Raven. I am able to take joy in witnessing manuscript transformed into book, forged in the crucible of coronavirus. I am still a page baby, a re-emerging page baby. Poet.

I won’t discuss poetics-leave it to the rigour of critics-or defend the form but certainly the right to employ my voice, to claim a quality of life, as life invariably ebbs. There ain’t nobody that can sing like me. I know my purpose and it’s my way of staring down the abyss.

Many thanks to my publisher Ekstasis Editions, to friends and family for their love and encouragement. Here comes the show biz:

There are some rough and wild birds around Howe Sound — West Coast avians like the sharp-shinned hawk, the northern harrier, and the whiskey-jack. Heather Haley, an accomplished mapper of human migration, pair-bonding and predation, takes these feathered frenemies as her starting point in this assured third collection, Skookum Raven. Like her foremothers and contemporaries Gwendolyn MacEwen, Susan Musgrave and Karen Solie, Haley writes sophisticated free lyrics of a witchy feminist kind — but adds some proletarian ferocity with her bus-station grandpas and sketches of iffy guys like Ed the Fence. These are astute, austere poems which sometimes take flight into optimistic beauty — this book is “pockmarked with luck.”

Skookum Raven is a text for the tricksters within. With spondaic pow-bams of language, these lyrics harness neologistic energies to evoke punchy lust, back alley bravado, and coastal croonings on sex, the wild, music and time.” -Catherine Owen

“Tart, taut and terse, Haley’s honed poems of lust and loss, wrath and remorse are imbued with hard-won insight and subversive wit. Her wry x-ray eye cuts to the quick in an array of deftly drawn portraits that will make you grin with recognition. Haley is a master of assonance, consonance and dissonance, intermingled with flashes of a distilled lyricism”. – Fiona Tinwei Lam

“Heather Haley’s Skookum Raven honours the west coast with brilliant side-eye observations couched in words drawn from a wide palette, from Chinook trade language to Pussy Riot. She brings us on a stroll through the village, showing the underbelly of every house and garden, then deeper into domestic disharmonies and unease in relatedness, writing sharply from a woman’s point of view. If any reader has become lulled with the beauties of west coast living, she will shake you into more fulsome awareness of the “hard blessings” shared. “No lotus-eaters we…”-Joanne Arnott

“Haley has the gift of writing to suit her subject in all its raddled variety, from wired and jarring to lyrical and tragic.”-Vancouver Sun

For a preview check out the Skookum Raven book trailer.

If you’d like a copy please visit Ekstasis Editions’ website. Also, contact Ekstasis for details or to arrange appearances, events or media opportunities. For further information: Richard Olafson or Carol Sokoloff    Phone: (250) 385-3378    email: ekstasis@islandnet.com

 

SEA SONGS

Rough night but not as rough as the night before. Is anything in life more vexing than matters of the heart? Took some melatonin which might have helped provide a slightly better-quality sleep. Certainly I am weary. Aren’t we all? Finally cried watching a poignant and fascinating Netflix documentary, My Octopus Teacher, about Craig Foster, a South African filmmaker who burned out, took a year off to dive into the cold Atlantic each day, sans wet suit to commune with the colossal kelp forest and a vast array of aquatic creatures. Such a lovely antidote to reality and quite the lesson in marine biology.

I forget that I live by the ocean though I can smell it on some days and almost see English Bay from my East Van balcony. Then, randomly I came upon the Wallace Stevens poem, The Idea of Order at Key West.

The sea is calling! As is song.

THE IDEA OF ORDER AT KEY WEST

She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.

The sea was not a mask. No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if what she sang was what she heard,
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard.

For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang.

If it was only the dark voice of the sea
That rose, or even colored by many waves;
If it was only the outer voice of sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
However clear, it would have been deep air,
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
Repeated in a summer without end
And sound alone. But it was more than that,
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.
It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour its solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As the night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting