Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunrise, late summer

She stood in her doorway and watched him go
fondly. He turned,
smiled and
raised a hand, catching the morning sun- a glint
flashing off a polished button-
pausing momentarily
before he stepped onto the road. This one
was so like the others yet so uniquely himself. She set aside her thoughts
and began her day. She would not be seeing him
again soon.

She would not miss him.

Ada was a practical woman. She knew
to keep them around just long enough to give her what she needed,
not long enough for them to be certain
of what she carried.

She knew
to keep her children for herself, not to share
with these intimate strangers
who might have their own plans for them,
who might return
one day
to claim them, take them
to work or

She knew.

She kept her children
close, an eclectic brood
these splinters of her soul, these dear ones who
helped her with the garden,
the water,
the tasks that needed doing every day, through the changing of seasons, through
doors and hallways, with the regularity of the movement
of the loom’s shuttle.

This one would come when the sheep were bearing their lambs, wet,
and the older children would help prepare the garden for seeding, haul
water and wood as she drew the little one into day.
They would help her
tie the littlest one onto her back
before she stepped out into the garden;
they would produce bright wooden toys
from secret places
to the child’s delight.

If that one crossed her doorstep again, some year, she would
welcome him as an old friend. Seated in her kitchen, drying his boots
on the oven he may
feel a slight tug, looking into
the bright variegated faces of the children,
hearing their chatter
wondering if he perhaps
lost something here, long ago
something nameless
something he can’t quite bring into focus in his mind,
his train of thought lost
someone hands him bread, stew, and a child bursts spontaneously into story
with great urgency and wild gesticulations

the thought won’t cross his mind again.

Rachel Westfall
March 31, 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008







Rachel Westfall
March 29, 2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008


This sky you can walk right into.
the kind of sky you can wade in
submerge yourself in, an ocean

The fish here are adorned with black feathers

they glisten
and chuckle.
they spin around you, laughing
in a language of their own
as you flounder ineptly in their element

Not yours

this is a good place to disappear

Here you are nobody, nothing.
Some look your way, but
only the peculiar fish can see you

aren’t supposed to be here
at all

the feathered ones have believed in stranger things

Rachel Westfall
March 29, 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

A room of her own

This room has a place for everything:
Here is a box for friends
their synthetic softness
to generations of dust mites
[Their colony
makes such
a soft bed for a cat]

Yes, this room has Cats-
a prowling, purring, hissing
fur-choked infestation of them

And there is a drawer for possessions:
special things, secrets
objects with lives
realities of their own

There is also a place for things
she wishes she didn’t have:
a secret cupboard
[for thoughts that sting,
words that
like rusted knives,
hurts that lash out when remembered]

There is a place for things she must keep
moments she fears losing
sure she’ll never find them again scattered
like light through a crystal
in pieces, spinning across the floor

And here is
a warm cove, perfect place
on the quilt for
a cat
to spend the night
generating rolling, soothing sounds that
phantom threats
and there is a home beside the pillow
for something, anything to hug
to keep panic at bay

This room has a place for everything

Rachel Westfall
March 28, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


this place thirsts for rain
hot, swollen rain to draw down the dust,
to break the scorching silence

this place swells, bloated
unable to find dignity, its skin
with summer heat

this is a dry-bones place, host to extended
families of flies, quenching their thirst
by the hundreds, thousands
with our
salt-sweat saliva hot blood
and tears

this place pulses with the hum
of the flies who tenderly
the corners of our eyes,
leave bold welts on the slick of our bellies
where the sweat
in nameless rivers

and still
we come, an endless supply of fools
looking for who-knows-what and leaving
an assembly line from
to hopelessness

Rachel Westfall
March 26, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008



Smiling woman

She is always smiling.

She grins,
makes you feel good
about yourself
your life
your day

she makes you feel known
makes you feel cherished

you don’t know her at all

Sure, she will bring you coffee,
or tea if you prefer, and sure, she'll remember
what you prefer

when you ask how she is, you don’t
really want to know the answer

Of course she is always fine. To say otherwise
might break equilibrium, crack the illusion
of contentment and joy

if you knew her

[Look, a river of sadness marks her body
up her arms, where she once wrote her desolation
You won’t see the scars, weathered
with time unless
you care to search for them
nobody has looked
that closely
at the worn landscape of her skin
in a long time]

she is fine

her smile is the sun, her hair
a gentle puff, a brown cloud

[See here, how life has sculpted
her skin,
has run gentle fingers over the iridescent
stretch marks on her belly, nobody has asked
about the child nobody knows she had]

you don’t know her
you don’t want to know

She is always smiling.

Smiling woman II

Some day, her smile
is going to
open like a ripe
spilling its foul fermented
when that happens, you'd be
better off
in some other place
some place far from here,
where the suicide bombers
don't have your
and number

Smiling woman III

She had a lover once,

Not a fast-food lover but the slow-cooking kind
the month of August filled with long conversations
and the sounds of the evening

Slow, humid nights

Brown arms entangled, legs thrown over
the bed escaping the suffocating heat
of late summer, the contradiction
of fans and mosquito nets

Her lover patiently traced the fine
silver lines on her belly, the marks
on her arms with her fingertips,
with her rough tongue
smoothing lines
Learning her landscape, learning
her stories

Her smile was real

Rachel Westfall
March 25, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sunday morning

When inertia sets in, most people
go dormant

Settle into their hardened endocarps, deprived
of light, moisture, warmth-
Waiting timelessly for change to happen
to happen on its own

Changelessness comes like a slowly rising panic
for the girl who sits in her creativity
endlessly painting change

Every stroke different, the light
constantly shifting

For the girl, inertia is a form of
slow suffocation
choking the light and life, feeling like
tight vines around her ankles
creeping upwards

Clothes too tight, a room
too warm
or blankets, damp with sweat and heavy
pressing down on her thin fevered body

Rachel Westfall
March 24, 2008

The waning of day

I found this odd poem in my files. The strangest part of it is I don't even remember writing it, but I did. That west-coast autumn weather must have really been getting to me!

The waning of day

Cardiac buttercup contortions
Leaping into my throat
A pale rope swing hanging
From the pine tree outside
Meant for the children
But enticing my vertigo.

This night is darkness.
The day glum, moody
Slim hopes for joy
Drown quickly in cold showers.

Rachel Westfall
October 6, 2004

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Rabbits, bunnies

Why baby bunnies don't make great gifts for children....

Some of these rabbits get released into park areas by disillusioned owners. Some places are becoming overrun with the offspring of abandoned rabbits who managed to reproduce before perishing from starvation, predation, exposure to harsh weather conditions, or being hit by cars.

Here are pictures of a few of the rabbits that my kids and I have sheltered over the past few years. These were all pets, and most had been released into greenspaces to fend for themselves, or were surrendered to animal shelters.

Our first rabbit, Hobbit, hopped up to me on the jogging trail at the University of Victoria. He was disoriented, dehydrated, and his back and ears had been badly torn up in a fight with resident wild-feral rabbits. Hobbit is completely blind now, but is otherwise healthy and happy.

Mopsy was left out in the freezing rain at UVic right after New Year's, left to fend for himself. After seeing him for three days in a row, I took him home. After spending several weeks in my living room, pooping behind the sofa and carrying his litter tray across the rug in his mouth, he was adopted by a friend.

To date, Dandelion is the only one of our bunnies to have crossed over. She was with us for a short eight months. I miss her wild, sweet presence.

We have two fostered Whitehorse shelter-rabbits, Gurgi and Black-bunny (aka Cuddly and Lovey ;). They are elderly gentleman-rabbits now, but lively still. They have eaten parts of the lino in the laundry room, and they recently started on the cord of my circular saw.

Petals is Hobbit's bond-mate. We adopted her from the Victoria SPCA after Dandelion died, so that Hobbit would have something to do other than hop around in circles looking for his lost friend. He took to her right away, but it took her a few weeks to get used to him. In the meantime, she lurked in her den, watching for him to hop by. Whenever she saw him go by, she pounced on him like a vampire-rabbit and used his ears as chew-toys. She eventually overcame her vampirism, and now they are inseparable.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Slaughterhouse photo essay

... in hopes that one day they will all be relics, slowly decaying reminders of the poor judgment of the past, the stink of fear and death washed away by a century of rain and melting snow.

Rachel Westfall
Manitoba, August 2007

Friday, March 21, 2008

Iqaluit photo essay

Because someone told me it's poetry if I say it is....

Rachel Westfall
Iqaluit, August 2007

Thursday, March 20, 2008


After a while she got used to the
hollow feeling
below the breastbone.

After all, it’s a space seldom filled with


of substance.

love to dance there,
faint hopes,
playing teasing games with
the longing that takes up residence
in such places.

Whenever she got
a taste,
a hope,
it always came with growing certainty
that it would all amount to

Then she would run,
up hills,
through bushes-
anywhere brutal enough to shake off,
brush off her demons.

She always fell, winded, troubles intact.

outlasts even the most fit
and how can you run away from yourself,

Just this once, she hopes, there will be
in the end,

something beautiful
something magnificent
to take roost in that empty place,
a phoenix
maybe, sparkling and gloriously flame-red,
or even a peacock,
strutting cosmic blues and greens-

but she doesn’t believe it.

Rachel Westfall
March 20, 2008

Why mothers hardly ever get sick

If I get sick, who is going to

Put me to bed, under a pile of warm blankets
with my favourite books, a mug of tea
and a hot water bottle?

Squeeze me a lemon,
strain the juice carefully into the mug
(no seeds or pulp to irritate a scratchy throat)
add honey and fenugreek,
boil the kettle and pour the hot water?

Put a bendy straw in the mug
so I can sip my medicine lying down,
resting my aching, stuffy head?

Walk the dogs, feed the cats,
scoop the litter, cuddle the guinea pigs,
pick fresh greens for the rabbits?

Every morning, every night?

Appease the screaming child by untangling
the knotted thread of the yoyo
then wiping copious fluid
from her steaming face?

Feed the children nutritious hot meals,
not to mention tasty snacks
and special drinks
in just the right mug?

Every 20 minutes?

Go to work for me so I can
maintain the illusion
of a roof
over our heads?

Make me congee, jook, soups to nourish
and restore the strength I have lost
doing all these things?

Day in, day out?

Keep the peace
so I can forget the clock and just sleep
without having to worry
the kids will set the house (or one another) on fire?

No wonder mothers hardly ever get sick.

Rachel Westfall
March 20, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I leave you with

A space

pressed into a green velvet chair
ringed with ginger cat fur

A question

hanging in the air,
a lone sparrow

A breath

exhaled onto salt skin

A memory

of a sound wave, stilled now
muffled in dusty carpets
so enchanted by their own tapestry

they failed to note

there was ever a voice here

Rachel Westfall
March 19, 2008


Talking to the wall
I resist shouting but
in hoarse whispers

So why this infuriating silence
of unyielding bricks and mortar
shaped by rough weather,
moss and lichen
patches of grey green and orange
ancient as the sun?

Yelling into the sky
I see the clouds
roll in
and tear open
dropping sparks and swollen streaks
into the dust

If the sky hears me
why won’t you?

Rachel Westfall
March 19, 2008

Human II

Acrid scent, salt tang, peach skin, rough talk,
cool surface, molten core, hard words, gentle eyes

Real beyond potential,
master of contradictions

Split me open with a word,
enfold me with your gaze

Molten scent, peach tang, cool skin, hard talk,
gentle surface, acrid core, rough words, salt eyes

Sweet spirit of my undoing
patient weaver of my remaking

Push me under with a whisper,
draw me into you

Rachel Westfall
March 19, 2008

What I need

I was looking at some of the poems I wrote a few years ago, and I found this one. It describes a vision I had 4 years ago about how I wanted my life to be, and it's actually a pretty accurate description of how life is now. Except for Grandmother spider. She is sleeping under the snowbank still.

What do I need?

To sit in the dark
With only a pale candle burning
Watching the moon rise
Through my own kitchen window

The cats asleep
And a friend, not far
To share the moment with
If we wish

A book in my lap,
Though I gaze beyond the pages
While a mug of tea steams
On the wood table before me

My children’s soft breath
On my neck as we sleep
Our bodies curled warm
Against the nighttime chill

The sunrise in the morning,
Touching dew on the grass
And the Grandmother’s web
Ready for insects, now beginning to stir

Fruits of the earth,
Prepared in simple ways
Their comfort smells greeting us
As we birth ourselves into the day

Rachel Westfall
August 27, 2004

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Do not be afraid.

What lives under the bed
does not lurk there to frighten you, but
is caught in its own head-trap
of taxes, bills to pay, addictions unsolved
and chronic lumbago.

Just think—

How would you feel

if you had to curl all seven foot two
of your earthly body
to fit under a six foot mattress
every night for an entire childhood,

not your own, but another’s,

and jam your excessively large
worried head
into such a tiny space?

I bet your back would hurt too,
and you would groan
to chill the blood
and stretch your limbs


out into the dark space of the room
Once in a while.

Rachel Westfall
March 18, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008


The concept of the fourfold goddess- and the inspiration for this poem- come from Pashta MaryMoon, my friend and teacher. I miss Pashta and the circle of amazing women she brought together every week in her home in Victoria.


A single point, a fragile spark
spinning, splits into two
weaving, two becomes four
as mundane and extraordinary as the beginning
of life herself

One, Maiden of sweet potential
Dream under the dancing stars
You sweat across continents, but
your real journey is an inward one
searching for clues to the enigma
of who you are

Now, Mother of ripe anarchy
What is this reality you have birthed
to shake the moon and query the sun
to tear meaning from the subtle caves
of the earth’s body?
You have brought this here, but
you do not claim it as your own

Here, Crone of sharp justice
You take note of what we have made
and shake your head—
Where there is growth
there is always decay, beneath
And where we birth our ideas
there is needless destruction

And still, Midwife of in-between places
What we take you restore
our accomplishments null
despite the richness of our gardens
and the glint of our stashes
We keep nothing
for all that is born, you bridge
with the vast infinity of the midnight sky-cloak,
and with the sweet silent earth

Sweet as molten metal
four meld into two
searing, two become one
an exquisite extinction

Rachel Westfall
March 17, 2008

Sunday, March 16, 2008


I weave us a home out of hope and protective magic
a gentle golden sphere to keep nightmares out
and sanity in

I strengthen our walls
with goodbye kisses, instructions for the day
Do your homework, I say,
And don’t forget to play outside

So why, when I come home, is something always broken
shattered like a troublesome spirit
went through convulsions
No explanation granted, and much to be undone?

Maybe my magic failed, or I left a door by which secrets may leave
and mischief can come in
throwing our lives upside down again

Or have I trapped something inside, some chaos
that I thought I had banished forever?

Rachel Westfall
March 16, 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A love letter

The kids are playing monopoly on the floor beside me and a cat is walking over my keyboard; it's a beautiful sunny, cold Saturday and we should really be outside right now. Since I can't write something new with all this rowling distraction, I've dug an older poem out of my files to post here. It always brings up a confused ball of emotion in me to read poems I wrote in the past. It takes me right back to what I was experiencing at the time.

A love letter

Little one
Fuzzy head, soft cheek
You cannot be
You have no right
No right to be
Mother death has taken you

Nameless one
Chubby legs, navel deep
No milky smell
To waft from warm, dark head
While sister’s arms
Cradle you

Soft one
Little head, downy cheek
You are gone
Erased by mother night
Your existence
Null and void

Blameless one
Tiny smile, fingers seek
Nobody asked me
Nobody asked you
If our hearts held enough love
For one another

Rachel Westfall
January 10, 2003

Friday, March 14, 2008


Something flashes over the ridge, sun
illuminating feathers, sweet aura
shining, a glinting treasure against
the pale late-winter sky

Something is caught in the throat
of the dark thin trees, spinning down
stilled now, towards the deep
moss and cranberries, the last
of the crusted snow

Someone is held abruptly, sharply
skimmed from monotonous daily duties
of cataloguing pine nuts
from last year’s obsessive stash

Somewhere meaning
has been found in a cycle complete,
in a cough-ball, matted fur and
jewelled ribcage, intact
a life shrunk to the size of a curiosity

Someone sits now, preening
polishing hard weapons,
glint shifting from gold to green
omniscient, every small movement
and tiny death indelibly sketched

Rachel Westfall
March 14, 2008

Thursday, March 13, 2008


When the rain splinters the sky and we run
scrambling for cover under the sweeping arms of one of the
last remaining trees of stature, when the
ground splits with frost heave and we
trip, stumbling over the aching sod, when we
press against cold wind, stripping us of moist life-warmth, and we
have nothing left to protect but our lives themselves, when we
wonder, is it worth the effort?

As we save our own skins
how can we expect to think beyond this moment
and anticipate what might be needed in the next one, or the next
or by the beings beside us, around us, under our feet?

When the last tree is our only shelter, we
fight over who gets to cut her down
and build a shack from her lovely flesh
When the frozen turf cannot bear life, we
would kill for the last remaining seeds to grind
and make bread, so warm, yeasty and delicious
When the wind is not our friend, we
would strip another’s skin for warmth
soft, smooth
And somehow we are convinced that our lives have meaning?

Rachel Westfall
March 13, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Like that flock of white pigeons, oblivious to the glass atrium
in the old garden, smashed now into fine needles, found
by unsuspecting bare feet—
their eyes red droplets
She’ll get inside you
painted nails and a morbid fascination with your own fate
Her blonde stare
draws me in, assesses, dismisses me, insignificant
I have nothing she wants
My impudence swells
She dates cars
and wears animals, I console myself, indignant now,
self-righteous as a saint:
Who made the world her playground?

Rachel Westfall
March 12, 2008

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Is this the alternative to the mind-numbing monotony of the suburban routine of the same mumbled words of non-communication the same stale packaged breakfast the same rustling paper the same dry breath the same bland nothings the same slow deaths the same insignificant day over and over again?

Have we escaped the vast emptiness the sticky trap the bored tired twisted sheets the fumbled night sex the whining kids the plump dusty pillows if only the pillows are content that nothing ever changes?

Does this insanity lend us fresh new lives new deep meanings new split landscapes new ragged skyscapes new significant battles new brilliant energy new dignity new reasons to be alive?

Shall we enter this reality this endless marathon this sparkly illusion this slow daydream this blinding drugged pain this cold-sweat nightmare this mad innovative way of cheating banality?

Shall I go first?

Rachel Westfall
March 11, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008


My irritation begins with an itch, just beneath my awareness, something I can’t reach
crawling and
prickling between my shoulder blades
becoming more insistent
the annoyance slides upwards, mischievous as a imp
into the back of my neck, making my hair stand on end-
my ears thrum-
grating creeps upward
anger beginning to heat
the fire
the flame rising, I’m going to explode
with a SHOUT

Everyone flinches: cats, dogs, kids
one dog scurries to the door, tail down, ears back,
eyes on me warily, whites showing
back against the door, willing it open
thoughts full of old pain suddenly remembered

I breathe deep with relief
pressure released
nothing is benign

Rachel Westfall
March 10, 2008

Friday, March 7, 2008


The sun touches my face suddenly,
the crone’s kiss from my eyelids;
cutting like an amber blade into a landscape
parched of colour.

Sometimes it hurts to be awake,
an ache reminding me of the cobweb pull
of seductive sleep.
But with this sun comes a comfortable awareness,
a warm touch across my forehead
bringing the scent of the gentle first stirrings of spring
and the hearthsong that calls the sap to rise in the trees.

Pulsatilla, anemone, sedge,
all begin to stir beneath the snow.
I can hear them
the last of their stories that pass the time
as they sit, gathered together
in their dark snow-capes and frozen mud-boots,
anticipating the glorious wavering heat;
thirsting for light.

Rachel Westfall
March 7, 2008

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The woods

Under the belly of the stars
secrets lie.
The moon watches, lips rounded in a sympathetic breath
whether lovers grasp, creeps stalk their victims
or chainsaws rip through living tree-flesh in the night,
hasty to commit their furtive misdemeanors unseen.

Under the belly of the stars
a forest dies.
Bulldozers roll in with their
secret lies.

A child’s poster,
a crayon sketch of the gentle woods
with a message, forgotten,
is scattered to the wind.
Just another piece of litter,
unremarkable like the child’s dream
of nature’s mossy garden full of small miracles:
snails, squirrels, berries and life
crushed and rendered meaningless.

The moon witnesses the crime
but she is not telling.

Rachel Westfall
March 6, 2008

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


The citizens chuckle among themselves
and smooth their glossy feathers.
Yesterday they thrived on the mishaps
of that unfortunate species that slowly plods
along terminal streets of their own making.
They wait overhead,
shadows that see all and observe no arbitrary boundaries.
Today perhaps, with luck they will feast
on the generosity of strangers
and tomorrow on the refuse of now-minded
selfish criminal kings.

The citizens smooth their feathers
and prepare to take flight at the first glimmer of light--
not yet dawn, but ravenrise.
The air stirs, and soon
By the hundreds, thousands they cross the sky
muttering softly to one another,
sharing the tall tales of prospectors
of treasures lost and won, places to seek
and sudden deaths outwitted.

Rachel Westfall
March 5, 2008

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Winter garden

My garden sleeps under three feet of snow.
The dogs exhume the mice who sleep there
and leave their frozen selves
lying on the snow, tiny pink feet
and thread whiskers perfectly preserved.

Death does not hold winter
but encapsulates it
resting with the seeds of poisonous vines
nightmares ready to awaken with the spring thaw.

Delphiniums wait in their cold dormitory
steeped in potential to put tired ones to rest
not gently, not with whispered lullabyes
or a brushed kiss on a downy forehead,
but roughly-- violent convulsions,
an agonizing rush to a bitter end.

Death should not come until spring
when the ground softens enough for the digging
of a hasty bed for the dead,
deep enough to ward off the dogs’
curious excavations.
Now, my garden sleeps.

Rachel Westfall
March 4, 2008

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Gifts and Treasures

Thanks, Kat; Ewe Rock too!

Thanks, Jorc, and thank you Linda!
Thanks, S.L.!

Thanks, Kat; and thank you, Cat!

Thanks, Kyddryn!

Thank you, Faith!