Wednesday, December 31, 2008


The lights, each one a star
her star
follow her jagged path down the street
the music thrumming in her mind
Be aggressive, be aggressive
the lights bouncing along
with the rhythm

they know, the lights,
the know her fix--
the endorphin rush which gives her that moment
of immortality
as she breaks
the sound barrier
the barrier of the curb
at the edge of the road, the dry place
at the fringes of the puddles

the immortality of
an iPod, a pair of springy shoes
and a neon jacket

Rachel Westfall
December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Unexpected visitors

I looked out the window to check on the three chickadees that have been frequenting my backyard, and was delighted to find six grosbeaks at the feeder! They were so pretty and plump, and they seemed quite happy to preen and pose for my camera.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ode to a skanky mutt

Yard dog, yard dog
Of what do you dream?
Your chain clank-clanking
over blankets, soiled and thin

Your voice worn hollow
from bark-bark-barking
warning anyone away
who comes within fifty feet
of your precious 16 feet square
of dirt, worn down
to the dead stubs of grass
that once grew there

Yard dog, yard dog
for what do you long?
Your pads are crack-cracked,
and your fur is so rank
we can’t bring you in the house

you’re too big, anyway

If we let you off your chain
you’d knock down the kids,
horrify them
with your skanky breath
and paste their faces
with unwanted kisses

Yard dog, yard dog
what is it you want?
Shut up already,
we need some peace and quiet
around here

Rachel Westfall
December 29, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

silence part II

There is a story to go with that picture. Of course there is; every picture has a story. But I didn't want to break in on the silence; the sound of my voice might bring the soft clumps of snow down off the branches of the trees, shattering the stillness of the day.

This scene should not have been silent. After all, I was there taking the picture, and I was accompanied by two large dogs, two rambunctious children, and two lime-green bat-shaped sleds. Where was everyone? Had someone taken the bat-sled down the hill at such speed they slipped out of this reality and into another?

It really was suspiciously quiet. I thought I'd better investigate.

I made my way to the bottom of the hill, where I could hear the children's voices coming softly, faintly, out of the trees. They were somewhere off to the left. Rather than shatter the surreal quality of the moment by calling out, I decided to follow their tracks.

I followed them for some time, weaving in and out of the trees, sometimes turning abruptly and heading in a new direction entirely. Twice, I lost their trail, confused by the network of dog tracks that were intertangled with everything: snow, bushes, trees, branches, footprints.

Their voices had grown fainter, and seemed to be fading away. Growing concerned, I called to them. A reply came from somewhere ahead and slightly to the left of me; I made a bee-line for the sound, and there they were. Where? They had no idea where they were, or what direction to go in to find the trail. Their story was like this: the little one had started following dog tracks into the woods, and the bigger one had decided to follow her. Without letting me know first. It was their first woodsy adventure on their own, and they hadn't even thought of the possibility of getting lost.

Reunited, we headed straight for the nearest trail. The older one, the cautious one, declared he would stick to the trail from now on. But the little one wanted to head right back out there. She hasn't lost her taste for exploring.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

One day

I want to be the bed
you fall into
at the end of your journey

not a motel bed, me--
stale and generic,
with a stiff polyester bedspread
and magic fingers if you insert a quarter

I would be
an apple-pie bed, dry and warm
sheets fresh off the line,
quilt plump and waiting
smelling of no other
but you

Rachel Westfall
December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The way back home

Homeward I ride,
through arrogant traffic and deep exhaust;
over cold ruts and fresh powder;
snow striking my eyes until pellets of salt-ice
weigh my lids shut.

It’s uphill now,
my twenty-seven speeds reduced to three
frozen shut. As the sweat breaks
I feel newly transformed—a phoenix,
or at very least
a butterfly, beautiful, strong, special.

Something else I have become; something
undaunted by the cold, the sting of snow,
the impatient drivers, the spinning wheels.
I practically hover home
my three speeds now reduced to one
when one is all I really need, today.

Oh, how disappointing
to walk in the door, strip off
fogged glasses, look down
and find myself me,
yes still me, unchanged—sweater
covered in cat hair, drab and grey.

The dogs, not sharing
my dismay at all, woo with joy
because I am still me, just me,
and we are together

Rachel Westfall
December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Man doesn't judge Yukon by its bigotry

Just passing through? Check a piece of yourself at the door
your skin, that would be a good choice
You see, we come from all over
but we don’t like your model around here
No, sir

Good men like me, we come live up here
way up here to get away from you sorts, the likes of you
who would steal our women
Yes you would

See how they look at you, up and down
as if all they see is beauty
and majesty, and they can't smell your stink,
your stain

They looked at me that way once
I swear they did
Yes, I too was beautiful in their eyes, once
when I bought them drinks
drinks, drinks

But since you came round, that light
has gone from their eyes, just gone
and they only have eyes
for you

So you’re just passing through?
Check your skin at the door
cause we come from all over
but we don’t like your model around here
No, sir

Rachel Westfall
December 23, 2008

Man doesn't judge Yukon by its bigotry - Whitehorse Star

Monday, December 22, 2008

Resilient little beings

It was so cold yesterday, I could see the chickadee's breath, cottony clouds of white. There were three of the fluffy little guys hanging around the feeder as the sun fell, as well as two mice who ventured out from under the shed to collect any seeds the birds had missed.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Blessed Yule

When I took this photo, it wasn't my intention to create a symbolic image of an egg and sperm. But what a great way to represent the fertility that lies beneath the longest night, fertility that is so potent it leads to the rebirth of the sun!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Haiku Festival

Remember learning the Haiku poetry form in school? Let's see what you can come up with! Here are a few the kids and I made up this morning.

While these were written in play (because I find playfulness a great way to encourage the kids to write), I certainly mean no irreverence towards the Haiku form. Any Haiku contributions are welcome, serious or silly-- please share your inspiration via the Comments form!

You may also notice a Limerick snuck in there.... the work we did with limericks last weekend seems to have made a lasting impression on the kids!

walking in the snow
we do not know where to go
we will never know
- Bela Westfall

spring thaw reveals gifts
mountains of wet doggie dung
fling it over there
- Rachel and Bela Westfall

in the night stars glow
they will go where we don’t know
shining on the snow
- Bela Westfall

the stars walk in the night
we see them shining so bright
they go to a cave
they fall in a wave
but now they feel alright
- Ursula Westfall—this started as a Haiku, but she got very upset by the short number of lines and turned it into a limerick!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

One Christmas morning

The raven lay dead.
Her beak slightly open;
one wing outstretched
in a mockery of flight.

The boy ran, feet pounding,
slingshot bouncing in his hand,
still so new it was Santa-fresh.

He really hadn’t meant to harm,
only to tease the birds,
scatter them. When one fell,
crushed, yet still all shiny black
against the frost,
his heart dropped
into his feet.

He would erase the moment,
if he could. But he could only run
before someone
came and found him
standing there,
guilty as sin.

The ravens, the others--
they knew, and they followed him
the whole way home
teasing and chuckling
like it was a special day, their feathers
a great sparkling gift
to the earth.

Rachel Westfall
December 18, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The black penny

Some of what you speak
is so dark, we cannot see it

our fear is that great. Our eyes
avert instinctively, so sure,

so certain something foul lies
beneath, ribs torn, carcass
floating bloated-dead. And yet,

at times, your words
are born like composite flowers
sweet with dew, radiant
as the sun himself.

You see—

some of what you speak
teaches us to approach

sidelong, circling with
the slow patience of a fox,
tasting the air
for a hint of smoke or gilt

not daring yet to ask,

A penny for your thoughts?

Rachel Westfall
December 15, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Unguarded Utterance

A couple of my poems have just been featured on S.L. Corsua's monthly recommended reading list at Unguarded Utterance. This is the first time I've come across UU; my hit counter alerted me to it. What a beautiful, elegant blog filled with gorgeous writing. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday morning limericks

It's time for some more guest poetry!

Sunday morning limericks
by Bela and Ursula Westfall

There once was a freckly dog
that was playing in the fog
a squirrel she heard
so she flew like a bird
and landed in a bog

There once was a very loud cat
who looked a bit like a bat
he jumped in the air
while chasing a hare
and landed with a splat!

There once was a beautiful tree
that was guarded by a bee
protected from saws
and grizzly bear’s claws
and the beaver family

There once was a clown named Ned
when he bonked his head on lead
he wouldn’t get hurt
he’d fall in the dirt
then he’d get dirty instead

(Bela wrote this last one when he was about six, and he drags it out again every time we talk about limericks!)

Guest poets are always welcome, and I promise I won't tease you unless you're family. ;) Feeling limerickal this morning? Share your inspiration using the Comments form!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Spot the impostor

First one to spot the impostor wins a, er, squashed Tim Horton's paper cup, dropped from an obscene height from the beak of a cheeky bird. I might never grow tired of photographing ravens, and they seem to find their way into my writing quite often, too. You can see more ravens here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Spirit child

Her hair was fire
or was it air? a pulsatilla cloud

its strands frozen, motionless as the fear
struck her. It was her back

turned towards me, rigid, and her arms
wrapped securely around her bundle of special things

that gave her away. A child she was
no more, but an ancient soul

caught in this dizzying fragment of time, caught
in a wave of recollection.

Rachel Westfall
December 12, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

To heal what ails you

There's nothing like a woodstove to bring some cheer to the night. A woodstove outside in the snow is just that much better. We were just burning the stink of the paint off this one, but maybe I should cancel the installation and keep it outdoors, hmm?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The ice queen's breath

Her name was wind
and she was a cruel companion
licking crystalline snow
then tossing it
with perfect recklessness,
relentlessly into our eyes.

Her name was wind
and we bowed before her, squinting
only dreaming of having the power
to banish her.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

a fairy tale sleep

each night, It grew closer--
that which chased her in her dreams
and she woke fearful, sweat-soaked
and unrested, drawing her strength
more and more from the waking hours

until she began to fear
the once comforting arms of sleep.

one night, exhausted
from endless pursuit, she came at last
to a deep-woods pool of water.

how still it lay
and how sweetly it mirrored the sky
without a blemish.

under its perfect surface
she slid
smooth as an otter
and soundless.

it remains to be said--

when she woke, come day,
she found
her hair hung
in wet limp strands
crossing her forehead, woven
with leaves and anointed with
forest brine.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


The great secret
is that
you are



all day
the whole

and it breaks me
not to taste you
not to breathe
your air


Rachel Westfall
December 7, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

Winter's coming

Thin-shirted child, I know you feel
the chill of autumn, smell the sniff of imminent snow
Maybe tonight?
Maybe only in the mountains, but
it will spread like contagion once it starts

Why do you stand alone on the empty
side of the playing field, your arms
wanting to wrap round your thin frame
to keep the wind out, but hanging
helpless by your sides

when others run
and chatter in accord down the other end?

This gloom of nights eating into day, this breeze
sends the small birds into clusters,
safe collectives seeking racemes of red-gold berries
as they wend their way south

So why do you bask in your loneliness, child?

Rachel Westfall
December 5, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

nameless III

since you no longer hold me the way
you once did

at night I roam the stars
aimlessly breaking
through twisted sleep

and wake unrested, blinking the crust of night
from my eyes

sightless eyes

Rachel Westfall
December 2, 2008


nameless II

Monday, December 1, 2008

the weaving II

Sweet child, I would give you all that I can...

I can’t offer you much that is tangible, but a castle
I would build from these words, if I may. The turrets

might not look like much from the outside, but inside
you’ll see how the windows are stained glass, streaked
with colour and shifting with age in the way

only glass can. One day, perhaps I will tell you
the tale of how they were made and annealed
at the mystical fires of the underworld. The halls

are stone hewn from the high mountains, and I may
tell you I shaped them myself with my bare hands,
or perhaps they were carved with the expert touch

of the short, burly, gruff earth-dwelling folk,
the sort you will only ever find in stories. You can see
them now, and hear their slow banter as they work

but as you grow into an older,
more practical sort, the memory will fade
into legend. But for now, sweet child,

in this castle may you find true rest, and dreams
that are pure and simple.

Rachel Westfall
December 1, 2008

the weaving