Tag Archives: poetry

“…The Poet’s Dust…”

Happy Robbie Burns Day! My son and I only unearthed our Caledonian roots seven years ago. After posting Family Tree DNA test results, a cousin and genealogical researcher contacted me and from there, the search began in earnest. She found a fairly close relative which eventually led to our long-lost Ferguson clan/kin. Thank you, Amy, you’re an angel!

We come from a long line of Robert Fergusons and I like to imagine we’re descendants of Robert Fergusson, the 18th poet who “ led a bohemian life in Edinburgh, the city of his birth, then at the height of intellectual and cultural ferment as part of the Scottish Enlightenment. Many of his extant poems were printed from 1771 onwards in Walter Ruddiman’s Weekly Magazine, and a collected works was first published early in 1773. Despite a short life, his career was highly influential, especially through its impact on Robert Burns. He wrote both Scottish English and the Scots language, and it is his vivid and masterly writing for which he is principally acclaimed.” This article discusses the influence of Fergusson on Burns.

I was fortunate to visit Edinburgh for the first time last fall and certainly felt right at home in a city that reveres literature and honours poets, including this statue of Robert Fergusson who “was buried in the Canongate Kirkyard. Robert Burns, who admired his poetry, arranged for a headstone and provided the inscription in 2004. “No sculptured Marble here, nor pompous lay, No storied Urn nor animated Bust: This simple stone directs pale Scotia’s way, to pour her sorrows o’er the Poet’s dust”.

Perhaps my seemingly mysterious penchant for verse and love of language, which always puzzled certain people, might be explained by our heritage and inspired this poem.


Ferocious as I am elegant
I did not ask for this
protracted neck, pale plumage,

penchant for the pond.
I may appear to be gliding
but my palmate feet paddle.

Neither did I ask to be a versifier,
foolishly speaking
in the voice of a swan.

We did not ask for this fate.
Who in their right mind would,
the gift of life bestowed without consent.

Born with words in my mouth, placed
by an unseen hand, an omnipresence
whether I believe in divinity or not.

What does it matter, my faith?
I can identify with a hissy waterfowl
or the Virgin Mary’s quiet grace.

Blame it on nature.
Biology. Perhaps a tribal resonance:
Yeats, Baudelaire and Burns whispering.

Words surge forth, a torrent,
language coursing through my veins,
language etched in my bones.





Happy New Year my pretties! Eat my dust defamers and bloodsuckers; I am not only moving forward, I am hurtling ahead, resolute and able to compose consistently. Latest poem, first draft:


Forecasts foretell the fading rustle of paper,
echoing the decline of oracle bones
and though I roam a boundless digital domain,
treasured scrolls still clutch my heart.

Cull your darlings, for eco’s sake,
as I grapple with releasing their tenacious grip;
bankers’ boxes tucked beneath my bed
brimming with artifacts; broadsides, pamphlets,

postcards, chapbooks, flyers, now contained,
finite, defying the allure of documents.
My successors may not revere their significance,
no meaning when I’m no longer here.

Thus, I must sift and winnow
before my journey into the abyss,
allow ephemera to dissolve into the ether,
including the once cherished,

purging a sort of strength planning
amid life’s gyrations,
as to better leave behind
these oh so poetic chases.

Seeing As Our Desires Guide Us…









A work in progress for those paying attention. Thank you. I’m diligently toiling away on two books, my fourth collection of poetry and a rewrite of my novel, which buoys me amid daily heartbreaking news of strife, war and disaster.


Seeing the mountains,
however distant buoys me.
Grouse Mountain presides
outside my window,
its Eye of the Wind turbine intrigues,

the way beholding a constellation’s sprawl
casts enchantment,
the way beholding you
the way we stood apart together,

contemplating Vincent’s eyes and irises,
engulfed in cascades of cobalt,
amid a sea of raw self-portraits,
lost in ecstatic undulations,
imperceptible dilations,

transported from the shackles of realism
to a realm of painterly distortions,
to Saintes-Maries,
unfurled before us, as if a canvas,
a portal to the 19th century.

I see your mammal gaze,
sinewy strokes, tumultuous vigor,
the disastrous mettle of your being.
We carve our vision, craft sightlines,
allowing desire to guide us.










After years of pandemic isolation, my son and I are flying off  to Winnipeg in a few weeks as part of my book launch tour and to visit friends and family. It should be interesting to see what air travel has come to. I inherited a love of aviation from my step-father, a former member of the RCAF. Forthwith one of my numerous flight-themed poems.


Not much to do in a small town.
We’d skip school, drive to Richmond,
hang out in the airport lounge,
swig Heinekens and watch
jumbo jets land and depart,
rarely carded in those days,
no one surprised if you drank alcohol
at age fourteen. It was expected,
like shedding one’s virginity.

My mother never flew in her life,
terrified the first time I took off
in a 10-seat Otter north to Gilford Island
for a summer job of tree-planting,
hapless recruits seated on the floor,
engine cacophony so loud I nearly puked.
I would have been mortified.
Too young to be a hippie,
I lasted four days,
relieved to escape the stench
of fried tofu and patchouli.

My next flight was south,
to Los Angeles to join fellow aspiring
rock stars Randy, Brad and Karla,
share a bill with PIL
at the Olympic Auditorium,
going so resoundingly
I didn’t return for twelve years,
pummeled but resigned
to my tantalizingly close
to-the-brass ring but never-was status.

Surveying the girl
with the Please Kitty backpack,
fevered skin crazed with crimson,
I knew it was to be my last excursion
for a while, for as long as it takes
for everyone to recover
our dreams.

The Land is a Mother that Never Dies…

Photo: Jon Wrasse


Photo of moi in Joshua Tree National Monument many moons ago and enclosed, a work-in-progress. Needed to make a long overdue blog entry. It’s been taken over by bots and persistent spammers like Eric who know how to attract visitors.  So busy of late! But c’est la vie. It is also good and more social as we slowly emerge from two years of you-know-what. Every visit or event is a reunion! Going downtown this evening after rehearsal to see dear friend Soressa Gardener in performance at an outdoor concert at the Vancouver Art Gallery.  Rock on and remain well my pretties!





The land is a mother that never dies.
Who said that? Victor would know.
Victor’s mother videotaped her will,
farewells and tenderness immortalized.
A good son, the sort of son I would be fortunate
to conceive one day, a fine young man
who shared everything, especially his apparitions.

Blackbird red against a sky wall of dust,
paper doll shrivelling in firewater,
glass-eyed deer head in earthquake debris,
an angel face in the snow. Yours!
Gray whale 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,
sprouted in the fossils of mammoths,
sloths and giant bears.
Look down. Beneath our feet. Treasure!

Look up, past your head. Condors bend boughs,
the light a diaphanous linen sheet.
Beats! From within, from without.
Bequests. People being people must conjure up gods
though red army ants conquer these hills each day.
He took me because I forgot to leave.

The city. 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.


PRINTEMPS- a poem for the glorious season

PHOTO: Gabor Gasztonyi

And a suggestive-of-spring image by my dear friend and favourite photographer Gabor Gasztonyi.

Yet another ode

Immortal springtime is a tease
though not hedonistic.

The pleasure spring brings
is a fluke, for spring

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

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 verdurous tide
to reanimate petrified desire,

to banish the soggy interminable
from this paradise of cedar

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

Gambol trails awash
with plashing streams, silver vernal pools.

To restore wanderlust.
To hear the splendid racket,

the shrill trill of red birds deep in a tangle
of cherry tree limbs & pink blossoms.

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

the most raucous season,
the glorious season.




Neither winter nor crumbling highways
will impede truculent truckers
transporting empty containers
fuelled by misguided millions.

American aping,
peripheral neo-Vikings
off to vanquish snowflakes,
smash Ottawa walls
beneath a shapeshifting banner:

Machinery as weaponry mission.
Blind to delusion,
roadside placarded converts
eagerly buy their cheap wares.

Infodemic intrudes yet again
via global eternal news,
warring and impotent memes.
By now I have moved past fear.

I am confused though.
When did the chasm’s maw
yawn so widely
it swallowed all reason?

Objects of hate hated in clusters,
according to seasons of scorn
or whichever clever derision
becomes most click worthy.

But first, tea.
I put on the kettle,
sock-footed and well-flannelled,
crawl into bed,
grilled cheese sandwich in hand,
ooze soon meeting the comforter.
Chamomile lulls angst. Outrage.
A little.

I poke my head outside
to meet the weather,
to breathe, night sky a device
replete with luminous constellations,
lunar phase applications and bats
free as birds.

Reading, Ruminating, Composing, Editing …

…after months of being away.

Finding much inspiration in Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel “Crossroads,” a pastor protagonist inciting me to investigate theology. I was raised in a secular household by lapsed Catholic parents but would often attend church in order to sing in the choir. I’ve realized that being well-versed in Bible verses informs my poetry.

In the voice of Marion on page 437, discussing the afterlife with Russ. “I think the only thing that matters is the state of your soul while you’re alive.” “Is that-Catholic teachings?” “Definitely not. Father Fergus and I discuss it all the time. To me, there’s nothing realer in the world than God, and Satan is no less real. Sin is real and God’s forgiveness is real. That’s the message of the Gospel. But there’s not much in the Gospel about the afterlife-John is the only one who talks about it. And doesn’t that seem strange? If the afterlife is so important? When the rich young man asks Jesus how he might have eternal life, Jesus doesn’t give him a straight answer. He seems to say that heaven is loving God and obeying the commandments, and hell is being lost in sin-forsaking God. Father Fergus says I have to believe that Jesus is talking about a literal heaven and hell, because that’s what the Church teaches. But I’ve read those verses a hundred times. The rich young man asks about eternity, and Jesus tells him to give away his money. He says what to do in the present-as if the present is where you find eternity-and I think that’s right. Eternity is a mystery to us, just like God is a mystery. It doesn’t’ mean rejoicing in heaven or burning in hell. It could be a timeless state of grace or bottomless despair. I think there’s eternity in every second we’re alive.

Buddhist, isnt’ it? “Practice the miracle of being here, one moment at a time.”-Thich Nhat Hanh. Something I’ve been pondering since his passing, how to be mindful and in the moment. I touched on it in this poem I started yesterday, thinking about how precious time-and moments-are.


We engage in a dance
called Together Then Apart.
Intervals between vary according
to the latest news or mutations.

With enough lovers to fill a ballroom
we’ve moved past the Tango,
past clinging, demands, urgency,
and sexual intrigue be damned.

My time alone runs concurrent
with the time I have left,
prizes both,
however long they may last.

I’m ready at last
to honour my body,
its ability to function,
to serve, to move.
I marvel at the ease

with which he inhabits his,
watch it long and lithe
break free of the stove
to pretend with the Pretenders,
neon fuchsia boa flowing

over sinewy chest,
pink feather clamped
between teeth ala Flamenco,
muscle-grooved arms,
a flurry of fists, raven hair,
flying solo in the moment.



The life force and the pandemic persist. We abide. Endure this volatile time of anti-vaxxer protests holding up hospitals and a fourth wave. I think of the future, my son, my one and only precious offspring and wonder what I’ve gotten him into. At 27 he is in no hurry to settle down and have children. Certainly I don’t blame him. I was so ambivalent about the decision that I didn’t give birth until the last possible minute. A good decision, it turns out. He will never be one of my regrets. I do suffer grandma envy though. Who knows. The future is unwritten. Apparently I must write about it. And as uncertain as it is, can only speculate.



Shall I presume my descendants
will not know my name?
Shall I presume
my descendants will not care?
I care about my grandmother
though I never knew her.
Do I know her mother’s name?
That could be a short bloodline.

Our descendants are busily alive,
some having served in Afghanistan
immediately after breast stroking
through university, its Olympic sized pools.

Several are currently detained in China,
suspended within an excruciating wait
for “quiet diplomacy” to kick in,
while others populate
pandemic frontlines in hot spots
India, Brazil and the U.S.

This is no time to cry.
There is no time to collapse
though we must seek stress relief
and quality sleep; eight hours
every night. Seven minimum.

We have birthed the same soldiers,
priests, evangelists, titans,
police and politicians
every other generation conceived.

Perhaps our influencers,
media personalities and content creators
can save Mother Earth.
I suppose that qualifies as hope.

Is she still referred to as Mother Earth?
That’s what this sweet old orb
is to me and my generation,
the generation young folk
are relieved to see dying off,
for they are more
than mere descendants,
they are redeemers.

I hear the birth rate is slowing
in parts of the world.
Perhaps our descendants
are our mothers.
Know best.


Not me but all the phenoms I’ve known. I moved to Los Angeles in 1980 with bandmates Brad, Karla and Randy and our hopes of fame and fortune. The 45s were to open for PIL at the Olympic Auditorium. It was a big deal but we broke up mere days before the event. Like a Lost Girl I wandered, first to San Francisco then New York before returning to the City of Angels where I resided until 1992. I pulled together an exceptional group of musicians to form Heather Haley & the Zellots. Jon Wrasse on guitar, Jeff Moses on rhythm guitar, Mark Francis White on drums and a revolving door of bassists. We acquired a studio, rehearsed and played gigs and developed a strong following, nominated Best Pop Group by the LA Weekly Music Awards. It was a wild ride! Often we’d hear that an A&R guy from some major label was going to be at one of our shows and often it went nowhere. Always a huge let down and I came to realize those dudes had no power at all though they exploited the illusion.  I also realized my shot at the brass ring was diminishing as I got older. This is Hollywood after all. I slipped into a downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse, unable to see my behaviour was a consequence of feelings of failure, how it provided an escape from pressure. When I went down there I had no doubt I would become a rock star. Ah, the hubris of youth.  I often joke, “I could write a book about it. Wait, I did write a book about it!” My “incendiary” novel, “The Town Slut’s Daughter” depicts the perils of the music industry from a female point of view.  Yes, I can joke about it. Human beings are resilient and c’est la vie.  I found the North Star, survived and adapted other modes of being while continuing to write about the experience in poems like this. (A rough, first draft.)


Swoon worthy.
Some rock stars are.
Some rock stars never get old.
Others never die.

Photography came to canonize,
characterize mannerisms,
exalt sin, hips,
the vulgate that is dance.

Photographers subjectify sassy,
singers swallowing microphones,
virtuosic strummers riding bareback,
commanding drummers commanding
from their fort-kits.

Some rocks stars are regal
despite tiny stages. Taunts.
Their facility dazzles.
Essentially lost, rock stars
are trip takers.
of song and snowberry clearwings.
of the lyric.
unearthing a distinct call,
inimitable inflections,
a new primitive narrative,
turning the inward outward.

The hard part; keeping it,
in spite of thieves and saboteurs,
in spite of despotic CEOs,
in spite of The Road,
dry states, dead-eye
melt downs and plank walks.

Hard to hold fast in spite
of blinding lights,
deafening volume,
dizzying flights,
the series of lavish homes
and incessant swooning.
Phenoms must find the North Star
in spite of all the din.