PLEASE PROVIDE CAMOUFLAGE

IMAGE: KAth Boake W

Though disconnected during these pandemic years I continue to seek. Compose. For you, rough draft of a prose poem, my first in many years, inspired by dear friend Jhim Pattison; sweet, kooky neo-surrealist whom I miss terribly. We could talk for hours, about everything and nothing. An avowed alchemist, Jhim was a stalwart guide on my inward journey toward peace.

 

 

CAMOUFLAGE 

The land is a mother that never dies. Who said that? Victor would know. The 80s was the video decade and 1989 the year my dear friend Victor’s mother videotaped her will, farewells. Tenderness immortalized. My friend was not left out of the will, in fact Victor was the executor. A good son, the kind of son I would be fortunate to reproduce someday, a fine young man, foreign concept in the 80s. Aside from Victor, who shared unerringly, especially his apparitions. Blackbird red against a sky wall of dust, paper doll in firewater, deer head in earthquake debris, uncovering an angel face in the snow. “Yours!” Orca shadow on the incoming tide. Gila monsters, boulders and yucca trees. He took me to the sleeping giant desert, to hear with my own ears thrumming deep within bells of pale blooms, in the fossils of mammoths, sloths and giant bears. Look down. Beneath our feet. Treasure! Look up, past your head. Condors bending the boughs, light a diaphanous linen sheet. Beats! From within, from without. People being people must conjure up gods though red army ants conquer these hills each day. He took me because I forgot to leave. “See, it’s painless.” Let’s live here, in that cloud-cloaked cottage of stone, kit foxes for neighbours. Look at the way she moves through the chaparral! Loping, then bounding, coat the colour of sand, invisible to golden eagles. Cloak me Victor, please provide camouflage. You’re the only soul who can.

FATHER HUNGER

We enjoyed a highly romantic Valentine’s Day. Snowed in, my beloved kindly brought dinner; homemade butter chicken, aloo ghobi and rice. It’s a blessing, spending time with a fellow foodie/sensualist.

I’m reading Eavan Boland’s  inspirational Journey With Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet, thinking about my relationship to my father. Or, fathers.

“And he, the supremely important and attended-to presence.” Despite all their conflicts my mother treated my father that way, always providing the lion’s share. In return he belittled her. And largely ignored his daughters, until angered. “Standing over their statements, their promises. Looking up at them every morning, I felt like what I was, what I would always be: a daughter.”

That resonates. I still feel that way, all these years later. Hence the following poems. Dear old Dad’s been on my mind lately. Haunting me. Father hunger? So many of us are afflicted. I’ve worked hard to accept that I will never win his approval.  C’est la vie.

 

SUMMIT

Our ruthlessly peculiar family
reached its zenith
by conquering ten years
of inertia, indecision and delays
to leave the sun struck flatlands
with ninety-three bucks
and several shreds of dignity.

A mountaineer cannot be confined
to the wide-open prairie,
he must ascend
those fabled Goliaths,
made to see over
but dammit his daughters
must see them,
nay, live in them,
for them, as he did.

A day later the Rockies
emerged from the horizon
shrouded in their immortal grandeur.
Hours later, in a squall
and far from our coastal destination,
the loaded down station wagon
broke down at the top of Rogers Pass.

Dad steadily made his way
through a maw
of flying snow and frozen scree
to the nearest settlement.
We, snivelling, huddled
our skinny girl bodies together
in a nest of blankets and parkas,
blissfully unaware of the lives
mountains take via avalanches,
fern concealed crevasses, hypothermia.

His landing in a bantam mining town
provided a foothold of two years,
working to pay off the motel bill,
squirrel away savings for the final lag
of our journey to Vancouver,
its peaks and a new chapter of peril.

 

MY FATHER’S CHURCH

The four of us hiked together
nearly every Sunday
regardless of season
though we didn’t call it hiking,
we called it going for a drive.

A drive could involve fishing,
prospecting, duck hunting,
huckleberry or hazelnut picking,
a frozen pond. Lungs shivering,
ice-skates anchored my flighty mind,
my sisters’ willowy limbs.

A drive could involve cutting
down a hemlock for firewood,
near misses with black bears and logging trucks.
To our delight, Dad would carve whistles
out of mountain ash then wince at the racket,
much the way he cringed
whenever I pointed to shiny pebbles

and shouted, “Gold!”
“Fool’s gold.” “They’re still pretty.”
Once I found porcupine quills on the forest floor,
foolishly jabbing them into my thigh
instead of placing them in my pocket.
As determined as I was to pull them out
by myself I could not, astonished to discover
that those buggers truly are barbed!

Embarrassed and dreading his contempt
I said nothing the entire ride home
where I was forced to announce
the unbearable pain with a yelp,
offending needles
promptly removed with pliers.
I don’t recall anger.
My father was at peace
in the woods.

NEW IS NOT OVER

Image: KAth Boake W

Songbirds are visiting! Chickadees, towhees mostly. I must work to shoo the neighbourhood’s felines away. I disinfect the feeders once a week to keep rainforest mould at bay.

I’ve been reflecting on how different life has become in this new year. While the pandemic continues its inexorable spread, causing dread, fatigue and grief, other aspects have improved and I am far less isolated. I used to love a somber individual; judgemental, overbearing, withholding and embarrassed by my exuberance. “Okay, settle down.” No wonder it didn’t work out and, never again. “Exuberance is beauty.” -William Blake. I’m determined to spend my precious time with those who accept my flaws and idiosyncrasies and encourage my enthusiasm, expression.

 

JANUARY 1, 2021

 

She’d feared beginnings were over,

that she was caught in a maelstrom,

huffing beneath a perpetual

same-old, same-old,

that the annus horribilis

truly was eternal,

lockdown a revolving door reality show,

Morpheus at the helm

of each interminable day.

Hope gone. Stolen,

along with human desire,

physical contact. Libido

in stasis. Half-life.

Half-over.

 

Yet here she is

at the dawn of a new year,

dancing, as if at a party,

new beau-spurred,

new beau a gift

sharing turquoise and flowers,

new beau bedded,

awakened from her slumber,

transformed by a kiss.

In the morning light

dark chocolate in coffee

makes for a mocha.

New twist for the new year.

 

Things happen,

including the unexpected,

even within this odd limbo.

Life forces cannot be halted,

neither by virus nor firestorm.

And to her surprise

she finds that she is free.

Free to muse, free to expand,

free to chance it all,

free to say anything,

anything at all.

He wants to hear it all.

Hallelujah!

New is not over.

 

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 brave, swoon worthy
Lizard Prince, skull branded,
wicked brained and lens-handed.

Shades conceal peripheral glances.
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.
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 a portal to light.
Owns his skin, owns beats like no other,
owns a heart that beats like no other,
worn on David of Michelangelo arms.

Redboned 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 or 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 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
ruthlessly as a tugboat.
There is no way
to illustrate its impact.
Gentle or tough, hushed or brazen
no one is spared 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 options swell
when I’m a goddess.

My silver arrows ace your knife,
gun, arrogance.

I deploy Nemesis
or rouse the sea to impede your journey,

perhaps send a boar
to maim your mean old ass.

 

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 chicken 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.