Tag Archives: poetry

No Family Is An Island

Photo: Gabor Gasztonyi

UPDATE:

Today is World Autism Awareness Day. I’m re-posting this post from Oct 24, 2011 wherein I documented our autism journey, its heart wrenching challenges. Since then our son has attended Capilano University to earn a certificate in documentary filmmaking, worked a stint at Electronic Arts and attained huge success with his RAYCEVICK YouTube channel. With half a million subscribers, he’s blowing me out of the water! More importantly, Lucas has become a fine young man and an even stronger individual.

My baby turned 17 yesterday. My baby is autistic. ASD. Aspergers. On the spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorder, largely characterized by a withdrawn personality to varying degrees, a condition I’ve become all too familiar with, a very nuanced condition. I don’t like the term disorder. I believe there have always been autistic people, people whose neurology is wired differently, both the highly functioning and severely affected. These days it’s called “neurodiversity.”

A colicky infant, I noticed my son’s language delay around age two. I took him for a physical examination and a hearing test, both of which provided relief and positive outcomes. The next step was a visit to Sunnyhill Health Center for Children in Vancouver where he was subjected to a series of tests and evaluations by a team of pediatricians, psychiatrists, occupational therapists and social workers. Junior was diagnosed with a “moderate to severe language disorder,” which to this day bemuses me. Though late, Junior was talking, albeit not as well as his peers. Being my first and only child, I had nothing to gauge his behavior and development against. Being my son’s matrix, I didn’t detect inconsistent eye contact or social awkwardness. We were bonded, Junior affectionate.

Speech therapy was recommended and for the following seven or so years, we worked with a series of speech and language pathologists, one so horrid we turfed her after one visit. Yes, he needed to learn self-regulation but my son is a Continue reading

PRINTEMPS 2021

PHOTO: Gabor Gasztonyi

Yes, I’m jumping the gun but it feels like spring here on the west coast. Celebrated my March 8 birthday on the weekend with loved ones and our tiny bubble; chicken enchiladas and chocolate/raspberry cheesecake. Must stop feasting but think I’ll take at least another day off to celebrate. Rock on and remain well my pretties!

 

 

 

PRINTEMPS
One more ode

Immortal springtime is a tease
though not a hedonist.

The pleasure spring brings
is a fluke, for spring

is a cog in the cycle,
we, mere wreckage.

Let’s not speak of winter’s bluster
or those who are dead to us.

Today spring is large
and in charge of the decks,

arriving at last in a tide
to reanimate petrified desire,

to banish the soggy interminable
from this paradise of cedar sweetened

ocean side rainforest,
to spur us to breed, breed, breed!

Gambol trails awash
with plashing streams, silver vernal pools.

To restore wanderlust.
To hear the splendid racket,

the shrill trills of red birds
deep in a tangle of cherry tree limbs.

Such a showy in-your-face transition
after a long dawdle,

the most raucous of seasons,
surely the most glorious.

 

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.

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.

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 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

 

CALAMITY JANES

Feeling embattled? Pour vous, a poem, a work-in-progress for what is there to do but document and reflect as we shelter-in-place? I lost it the other night. In the past I would have run away, though I am seriously considering moving to the Cariboo. “I hate this fucking place!” I feel so hemmed in by the constant racket of various types, the astronomical rent and cost of living. But perhaps it’s just urban life. I miss the woods. I need a vacation! The world needs a vacation. And we aren’t about to get one anytime soon. Again, hold fast my pretties. And as BC’s Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry says,” Be kind, be calm, be safe.”

CALAMITY JANES

We are the beleaguered,
The beleaguered are we.
Each one of us, beleaguered.
Each day, week, month, year;
Beleaguered with corona virus
Or tuberculosis or autism
Or leprosy or slipped disc
Or clubfoot or schizophrenia
Or acne or blindness
Or polio or chlamydia
Or angina or endometriosis or diabetes.
Plus, depression.
We beleaguered are beleaguered
By tornado, earthquake,
Volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, forest fires,
40 days and 40 nights of flood.
Plus, anxiety.
We are beleaguered by riots, misogyny, poverty,
Racism, mass shootings or unwanted pregnancy.
Plus, oops.
We are beleaguered by sugar, tobacco,
Opioids and alcohol.
Plus, whatever gets you through.

2020 requires we delegate
Weeping, triage burials,
Battle over ventilators,
Battle over battles,
Sequester ourselves,
Sustain and administer strength,
Swabs, masks, compassion.
Silence disquietude.
Conquer enervation.
Woo fate.
Adapt or die
As Jane asks, “What else is new?”

VOLCANO WATCH-poem from forthcoming collection

pink_stars_2560x1600

Egads! No time to write, or blog, or even record in my journal I’m so busy relocating/ launching the new business along with my big kid. But, I am making progress on the manuscript with the aid of a dear friend. Here is a poem from the forthcoming collection.

VOLCANO WATCH

Punch tools. Cutups.
Antlered animals.
Arm bones astonish.
Antipodes hook.

Winged jewels.
Bluegrass blades.
Amaranthine throats.
Nothing lost on me.

I am tossed about
In a volcano
Man, billows of black
Tidings. Lured to the horizon

Through a corn maze,
Past turbulence of mind,
Nothing but pink
Stars to separate us.