“Bowen Island author Heather Haley's poetry is tough, irreverent, and in-your-face. She asks all the questions that a nice girl's not supposed to ask. Down backroads and highways, her characters long to possess the past and harness the future. Cowboys, car accidents, broken hearts, dead lovers - and potential violence - hover like heat on the horizon. Whether they're gangsta girls or riot grrrls, roaming the range or pacing the mall, Haley's women are always in the forefront, in the driver's seat, crankin' the wheel in their direction.
Like wild horses bustin' loose, or an explosion in the kitchen, Haley's women know how heady power is, how it lathers beneath a mount." Her characters bite life on the neck and take what they need; and just when they think it's gone, meaning happens. This is brawny and uncompromising language from a voice that demands to be reckoned with.”
The poems below are from Three Blocks West of Wonderland which came out on Ekstasis Editions in November 2009. Some have appeared in the Vancouver Review, Collared Peccary, the Undercurrent, in Pooka Press’s photo booth broadside series and exhibited at the 2006 World Poetry Gala at the Vancouver Public Library. Online they are featured at About.Com/Poetry, e-poets.net, the Smoking Poet and AucklandPoetry.Com. Whore in the Eddy was part of the Beast Poems Project at the Chicago Calling Arts Festival, Oct. 2007 and has been selected for inclusion in Rocksalt: Anthology of BC Poetry, the first in over thirty years. Edited by Mona Fertig and Harold Rhenisch it is due Oct. 08.
Several of these poems appeared in a variety of forms and containers in unexpected places during a week-long guerrilla poetry campaign on Bowen Island, Oct. 2007 and many are featured on AURAL Heather's CD of spoken word songs, Princess Nut on RPW Records.
How To Remain
How to remain
thin. Abstain. Abstain from eating
food. Calories kill
the fat rats first. If she could say No
and balance Belgian truffles
on her tongue briefly before spitting
them out, she might remain. Live
long. Enjoy fruition. By shunning urges,
she could linger-dainty as a colt's
foot-deploying her charms raw,
dogtrotting a straddled chocolate Arabian
through mazes of lane. She could retire
to her body.
Alas, ankles thicken, braids recede,
the old mare conjured whenever she dare
to look. Fight back. She may be forced to
cover the grey, yellow, but refuses to swallow
diet pills. Amphetamines in the olden days.
Dinner in the garbage rouses niggles of guilt.
She snuffles it out before Buddy can,
barfing rather than blowing
calories on fusty pizza
or molding, olive oil-sopped arugula.
Find out more about Heather's previous book of poetry, Sideways
published by Anvil Press
Whore In The Eddy
Gazes up at ballooning clouds as if imagining
frogs. Giraffes. Corvettes and barns.
As if Neptune's head has heard
her pleas. Sent me. She looks like a mannequin.
As if by law of nature, a stripped woman's body
looks like a mannequin after it floats
to the surface in a rainforest denuded
by steam donkeys and timber sales. All matter
from the depths is netted by log jams.
She stares at me. Cannot see
the pebbles embedded in my knees.
Or my face, not so sweet.
No bubbles, just the stillness
of standing water. No trace DNA.
No hard earned cash. Only cool airstreams
of aspen leaves. My grasping hand
takes hers, skin gliding onto my fingers
like a glove. A device. We share features
any porno-masticating, regular working stiff
joe wants in his garage
between the red pickup and the Crestliner.
We watch the rim of night, a coiled
arm of stars, their slow light two million
years too late. Naked eyes decipher
Orion the hunter. Cassiopeia. Bright knots
of the Double Cluster. Mars appears.
I look the other way, to the North Star.
Hooka squats on carpet, Buddha-
esque. Undulating spirals of sapphire
smoke hula up her nose. That buzz.
That buzz that slows your blood,
calls you back to bed like a lover.
Soothes your inner asshole.
B.C. bud. Best bud
in the world. Worth risking jail for.
High-resolution satellite images.
Narcs' warrant executed Tuesday.
Grow-op raided Wednesday.
Dozens of firearms. Five thousand plants.
Big bust for a small town, says Constable Cook.
For export, for sure. Cultivation facilities dismantled.
Straight people relieved. Green party over,
but Zoe cried. It was the best job ever.
Dope dealers pay well. Her boyfriend
sold product at school. Their responsibilities
included digging a tunnel under the border,
blaming black fingernails and muddy jeans
on dirt biking at the gravel pit.
Parents were shocked. We thought she was
on MSN, chatting. We thought he was
on the Internet, with her, boy's father chiding,
it's APPLEton, son, not Marijuanaton.
We plan like architects
to bring the outdoors
in, parrot like realtors
the charms of a tree house,
for up on this hill, birdsong
is tangible. We always get
what we want, camouflaged
in our mossy cabin
high above the threshold
of discovery. Open sky. 360-
degree view. Proximity to water.
Reliable food sources. Plenty
of nesting material. Gravel flies
from under the foot of a rabbit
fleeing a resident eagle. Ravens
and jays battle over kibble,
shit bomb the deck.
They want in. Past windowpanes
that trick them. Frenzied.
Talons flashing, they enter
through a door in the firmament.
I guide them outside, stunned
at the feel of wing bones. Banging
hearts. A hummingbird goes
stillborn in the cup of my hands,
then, buzzers off, leaving a tang
in my throat, a ring
of ruby dust on my finger,
incriminating as pollen.
Three Blocks West of Wonderland
The murders mattered
only because they went down
in my sweet-pea-with-a-bent-stem friend
Daisy's neighbourhood. We could be sisters,
sharing obscure origins in la belle province. I foisted
white trash, Daisy adopted, blossoming into a blonde
Jewish princess. Beguiling kook. Fatal Queens accent.
Two transplants to Los Angeles. I dipped in Silverlake.
Solo act. Daisy regal atop Lookout Mountain Avenue,
three blocks west of Wonderland, aspiring director boy-toy
in tow. No gun clubs on their map of LA. Leery elkhounds
patrolled the property. Litter box kitties safe from coyotes,
rabid coons. One morning LAPD prodded creeping sage
ground cover. Rats? No. We're searching for body parts.
Clues. Wonderland, the movie based on a true story.
Val Kilmer still too hunky to play geeky John Holmes,
decidedly Joe Blow as appearances go.
Might explain his appeal though.
Everyman identified, despite the grotesque cock.
Coppola-wannabe split. Mattress and pillow a prairie
of down, Daisy bought a Colt .45 to dream on. Statistics,
shamistics. She had a plan to scare off intruders, to shoot up
into the rafters where the petrified red rosebuds hung.
Heroic as a high school graduate, slight
part of the payload, matrimonial assets
stowed in a K-ROQ knapsack, she returns, tailwind
between her legs. Mercy flight Number 1106 United
Airlines (non-stop) Los Angeles to Vancouver.
Like I can save anyone. Six years spent
spiraling, ten gagging
on a microphone. She feels scatty,
unbound, despite buckling up as instructed.
Ah, there's the Paramount lot, province
of America's Sweetheart Mary Pickford, Toronto's
Gladys Louise Smith. Only a Canadian would care.
Spies her old apartment on Virginia Avenue, seven
blocks from the studio, two from Hollywood Cemetery.
How many maidens, young ladies and starlets?
She'd visit Valentino, Fay Wray, Alfalfa, perch
on a silent granite bench beneath black awnings
of olive tree branches to read, or write
home. If only she had a stage
mother, someone to push, someone to wait
in the wings, guide her
away from flaccid A&R reps,
priaptic, coke-dealer record producers. Finger
pricked, she finds pink guitar picks, thumbtacks, cash
for a cocktail, hails a tan, smiley-face flight attendant.
I'm sorry. We're out of champagne.
Like I have anything to celebrate. Rye & 7
cheered, she recalls toxic as-Elmer's-glue Lori Kosovich
and a Replacements' song, Waitress in the Sky.
How she craved Lori's rank, festered
in envy of the best friend, Glenda,
fat, single welfare mom. A real dad
for her little man-all Glenda wanted. Lori,
a career. To be a stewardess.
Delayed landing pisses her right off
as do bloody rain, local radio, dim, chilly clime.
Carry-on facilitates escape
from baggage carousels, going around, more circles
until middle sister's curlicues, roast beef dinner.
Take your shoes off. Please. Give us a kiss. Here,
eat. Go sit with Mom. Right hand comes off
tomorrow. You'd better be there.