Wednesday, April 30, 2008

submerge

wait
slip under

water’s
salt arms
hold your head
arched
into moist air

moon-water-blood swells
and recedes
the dull steady thrum
in your head
rushing loud

fragments of memory
strip away
leaving only bare
weathered
bone

worn
sliver-thin

Rachel Westfall
April 30, 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

wolf

on a board her skin hung
not listening
while people argued about
what was to be done with her

she didn’t care, anymore
She was Done. Literally.
done with pain, fear

the part of her that listened
had flown when the man
came to pull her from the stinging metal hurt,
to steal her soft winter pelt that had
been so loved, tended by her mother,
her lover, layered deep fur that had warmed
and comforted pups

and that man had tossed her body in
the woods for her relatives to eat

she would laugh if she heard
these people
talk about honour and respect while
her skin was nailed here, shoved
behind a table, limbs spread-eagle
eyes forced wide with lifeless glass

she would laugh, her deep
voice rising

then her own people would hear, and they would
come, at first one, then two
then twelve, and thirteen they would be again
running long
breathing the intricate tangle
of scents in the night air
weaving with shadows
through the trees

they would run

Rachel Westfall
April 28, 2008

Saturday, April 26, 2008

inclemency

What is the meaning of this wind?

It writes its secrets across our
faces then erases them
with its next alchemical breath, leaving
the memory of its passage in

the grit we rub from our eyes and
lick off our teeth

each dusty curl maintaining only a trace of the
ones that went before, finding
its own course over and around
the obstacle that our solidity presents
unabashedly tearing at our clothing as if

it could easily be tattered, useless

for protecting our frail frames against
such laughter

Rachel Westfall
April 26, 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008

refuge

I was asleep when you called last night.

I had just left this place and gone to another,
somewhere without electronic devices
where odd wild creatures made soft sounds
as they went about their business
in the trees.

They were fearless.
Nobody could harm anybody there, and they had
never known danger.

The place exists only
in my imagination so that’s just
the way it is.

It is not subject
to revision.


Rachel Westfall
April 25, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

She found her voice

(I)

It was a recurring dream she had,
where he called her on the phone to tell her
he was falling in love with another woman,
over the phone, in love with a
phantom woman, just a voice. She wanted
to ask him the colour of the other woman’s
hair but her voice caught in her throat
and she dropped the phone hard
three times. Picked it up and said
you still there? He was still talking
as if nothing had happened,
because who was she but a
sympathetic ear, and maybe he had never
loved her anyway. He certainly
never said it. She wondered, maybe she
was a convenience, a door-stopper
between passions, or a
last choice


(II)

Another time, not a dream now
he told her
she was mentally
unbalanced, he wanted
to free her to do what
she wanted in life, he would
take the kids and raise them,
he would be free to date
then.
Fool, she thought.
She told him
in no uncertain words
where he could shove
his idea.
He could
put her down, screw around
but NO WAY was he taking
her children
and what the hell did he
know about raising them
anyway? Who has time to date?

Rachel Westfall
April 24, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

how women get silenced

(I)

laura reached around the formidable
teacher who smelled of sour
cigarette smoke like all the
grownups did in the seventies
to take her
pottery bowl from the
table: thick-walled
and slightly misshapen with blue
patchy glaze it was made especially for
the cat, whose name was inscribed
underneath, scratched permanently
into the clay with a stick while it was
still wet

Don’t touch that, it’s not yours

i just want to take a look

It’s laura’s bowl, not yours

shrinking back afraid and still
invisible standing outside the
teacher’s line of sight laura left
her bowl and always wondered
what happened to it, whether
the teacher kept it, and did she
love it as much as laura would have?


(II)

standing in that
dusty place
feeling lost, defeated
i wanted you
to reach out, put
your arms around me
from
behind
and hold tight

but when it didn’t happen
i had nothing
left
to say

you crouched, looked away
spat
into the sand
and ground your last words out
like a cigarette

yes you had
the final word


Rachel Westfall
April 23, 2008

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The air is always sweeter

Let me go live in the countryside
where the only perfume people wear is the
soil rubbed into their skin
indelibly darkening
around strong fingernails

The sweet smell of fresh earth
pungent manure
rotting compost
and the secrets of earthworms
rumbling rainy stories through small hollows

Rachel Westfall
April 22, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

This is not an illusion

Voices on top of voices
tell us
what they think we want to know
truth lost
to compassion

Voices under voices
trick us
with soft murmurings
into believing they really mean
what they say

Voices within voices
elude us
the real story hiding
buried deep under
word and emotion

This is not an illusion

What you are hearing
is real
but what is real
is a lie
and what lies beneath
is twisted, warped
under the pressure of
reason


Rachel Westfall
April 21, 2008

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Encounter

night run
the road slick
shadows black
the air moist
lungs grasping
shoes are pounding
steady, steady rhythm

lights flash
reflectors catching
beams stroke by
through light rain
shadows jump
with unseen fears
move faster, faster
chased by hollow air

on the left, alert
trees murmur warnings
heart pounds
someone stands
deep in shadow
eyes warm
bright pools
reflecting deep air
antlers high
in calm dignity

move gently
not to intrude
breathe long
adrenalin cools slowly
shoes are pounding
lungs grasping
trees reach
and shadows stretch
through moss air
pointing towards home

Rachel Westfall
April 20, 2008

Saturday, April 19, 2008

in the backyard


In 2003, we lived for a few months in a horrible basement suite in Saanich. There was a sump pump in the house that came on automatically and deafened us every time it rained. We had landlords who wouldn't let us have any visible signs of existence in the yard, and the rent was 90% of my income.

The plus side of living there was the incredible landscape, as the house was close to a cliff which led down to the sea. We could see sealions playing in the water most evenings. Once, we watched a family of otters cross right through the backyard. And the deer were everywhere.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Kin

What about that one there? Think she’s got anything worth having?

Yeah, look, she has a backpack and a couple of little people with her. She probably has a whole feast in her bag.

Wanna ask for some?

Naw, why ask? Let’s wait for her to put her bag down. Then we can help ourselves.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Outside in

There is only
one time in your life when you are allowed
to sit in your garden, bare
from the waist down except for a string of beads,
luxuriating in the raw feeling of
fresh earth on your bottom

Too bad it happens so early
and ends so quickly

If you do this when you get old,
someone would lock you up, saying perhaps
that Summer has afflicted your mind with her aroma
leaving you foolish

I look forward
to remembering this one sit in the garden knowing
inner peace,
modesty beads intact

Rachel Westfall
April 16, 2008

The swing


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

there's a fire in my belly

I keep

the blinds

slightly

open

so I can

watch

your eyes

smoke

over

in the warm

evening

light


Rachel Westfall
April 15, 2008

Monday, April 14, 2008

she can fix what is broken

her mind full of images
she picks
her way through the crowds
down to the water to paint

everything she owns
she carries everything
with her
in a shopping cart

the rare kind, Zeller’s
with four wheels
rolling
correctly

everything
is organized
into logical categories
treasures she found along the way slung
across the top

she takes up more space than we are each
allotted on this busy sidewalk
and
she moves more slowly
than the mutual panic around her, forcing
the flow of bodies to split and rejoin

so she is invisible to most

those who can see her cross
the street
to join her

the pigeons follow her, the gulls
talking amongst themselves in the smooth
language of the sea

they know she has the best stories

but she has no time for chatter
no time
today

mind full of images
she is on a mission
to paint away the ugliness
the pain

she is going to make something beautiful

Rachel Westfall
April 14, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Daydream

If you could run anywhere, anywhere at all
where would you go?

What would you take with you?
Follow-dogs for companionship, maybe a photo
creased and worn, a book, a bag
or would you take
nothing at all?

If you could leave behind that load
you carry on your back
the one you haven’t put down lately
if at all
who would you be?

Would you still be you?

If I encountered you then
in a mysterious
tropical place far from here, fragrant with spices
and impossible blossoms
would I know you?
Would you know me?

Or would you pass me by, just another
stranger on the road,
frown
briefly,
smooth your brow
and carry on your way?

Rachel Westfall
April 12, 2008

Friday, April 11, 2008

Watcher in the woods


What we do with our spare time

The kid is so like his mama
so unlike, too, with his green-brown eyes
fair salamander skin, open face
and inarguable maleness

but so like his mama

this kid finished his work
finished his homeschool for the year last night-
two hours gone by and pencil blunted-
while his sister and mama made cupcakes

celebration cupcakes
to honour the day
the work was done at last

to celebrate the end of evenings of arguing
sweating, crying over modules required
catch-up to be done before we could play

time for a festival of freedom!

Then- work done, he decorated a cupcake
for his sister, only for his sister
and sat down at the computer to type

Yes, to type. It’s time to get to work
he said.
All evening he typed
and typed
a letter to the paper, a letter
about why the city should
leave the woods alone

why the woods are special
why the woods should not be
knocked down

all evening, one-finger typing, learning about
red and green wavy lines
and how to make them go away

but if only it was so simple to send away
the bulldozers
or build traps for them, the barricades
he has dreamed of, clear plastic fencing
creating a protective bubble around this home
for friendly squirrels

When the machines bring destruction
this summer, as surely they will
I hope for
this child who is so like his mama,
I hope that
unlike his mama's,
this kid’s resolve
is
not
crushed
by the utter inability of the adults
in charge
to hear a word
a single word said by a child


Rachel Westfall
April 11, 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

raincoat

when you left that night
left me hanging
you took a piece of me
with you

you went so fast, i
didn't have a chance
to reclaim it
though part of me
tried to run
after you, it
was too late

now
until you come back
if you come back
i need to reel it in
patch the softness all
back
together
so i can think straight

so i can breathe

so i can form a sentence again

you might have realized i
needed it
if you had thought
it through

but maybe you believed i
gave it to you
to hold
passing it tenderly in
cupped hands as if it was
a cricket pressing for escape
because
i didn’t really
have a use
for it
because it meant nothing

i want you to know

i would never give you something
without
value
never

rachel westfall
april 8, 2008

small

i am helpless in the face of your anger

misunderstood
its push is too strong
beating down

i've lost composure

inside
i am small-self again
hiding behind the sofa
rain-cheeked with forbidden tears

having learned long ago
i have no right to feel this way
no right at all

only wrong


rachel westfall
april 8, 2008

Caged

Small strange square territory, marked over and over

Light dark irregular, no pattern, confusion

Every corner checked, no escape

One hope, strange hand bringing food

Strange sound, strange smell, door opens, teeth flash

Scurry to the back, mouth tastes metallic

Quick hide, fear of anger

Universe edged with wire mesh, no horizon

Small strange square territory, marked over and over

Dark light irregular, no pattern, disillusion

Rachel Westfall
April 8, 2008

Monday, April 7, 2008

Little Bo Peep

Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep
so she went to the U and earned a Master’s degree
in wildlife management

Little Bo Peep’s errant sheep
heard tell of a utopian life
in a game sanctuary, so he hoofed a ride
in a camouflage van, all the way
to where heaven began

But he should have ran
for the hills, instead
since that van held some fellas
who were looking for a head
full-curled, just like the one he had
between his fine, muscled shoulders

One fella named Ralph,
a ticket he had
sold to the highest bidder
That ticket was for
a certain lost sheep
who had Ralph’s name on him

And all this time
the sheep had been wondering
“Why have I such an odd tattoo?
A free creature I am, I come and I go
so why say I belong to you?”
Though wonder he may,
it was too late in the day
to have that mark removed

Now Little Bo Peep has found her sheep
with the help of her technical team,
helicopters and radio collars,
but despite all that technology
he wasn’t where he oughta be
roaming wild and rutting free

No, instead his lovely head
was on the wall of Canadian Tire
why not go and see for yourself
then you’ll know that I’m no liar
and all of this tale is true

Rachel Westfall
April 7, 2008

diversion

take a slice of childhood
and serve it,
sunny side up
on toast

look! fresh fluffy snow
covers icy crusted flakes
of partly melted
many times refrozen
detritus

slide, shape,
roll in it
toss handfuls in the air
and watch it come back down,
clumping now
but watch out
for the razors of ice
that
hide
beneath

don't worry
steel jaws come speeding
spitting sparks
in their hurry to
erase
the memory of winter
for the glory of the SUVs and
their nylon-legginged
foolish-booted drivers

better race to Starbucks
or is it Timmy’s
and get your fix before
the snow
gets
beneath
your
skin
and perverts your intention
to get to work
on time
on time
on time
or at all

Rachel Westfall
April 7, 2008

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Orchard

What if I discover a ripe peach
still on the branch,
brush my cheek past its pointed leaves,
rich shining green reflecting sunlight
and find its
soft
feathery
skin?

What if I take that peach
into my mouth,
the whole fruit, skin unbroken
its texture
grasping
the roughness of my tongue?

What if I hold that peach
in my mouth
just
for
a
moment
before biting hard,
juice running down my chin-
before biting hard, would I
be able to taste its
sudden
sweetness
from memory alone?

Rachel Westfall
April 5, 2008

Friday, April 4, 2008

Midsummer

Eyes closed against the sharp pressure of the endless sun, she stood
dreaming night.

Deep blanketed night full of the rustle of feathers,
the clicks of insects, carnivorous eyes glinting in the light of the moon.

Rich full night blooming with the scent of grasses, campfire smoke
and the muggy fluid texture of the creek.

Smooth warm night wrapped in tides of swelling summer air,
enveloped in shivers of black velvet.

She raised her brush resolutely to her tongue, shaped its bristles
expertly into a curved point,

and painted night into being.

Rachel Westfall
April 4, 2008

Guarding the pathway between earth and sky


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Welcome

take only what you want
but give nothing in return
and one day
you will find that the well
has run
dry

she has closed the door, but
she will open it again
if only you knock

if only

if only you make her smile
make her laugh until her cheeks want to
split
open
and her sides ache for want of breath
if only you lend her a deep sigh

if only you ease the strain of holding it all together

if only you could see it

there won’t always be a place here
but
there will always be a place
for
you

Rachel Westfall
April 3, 2008

Mud season is here


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

divided

the moon may birth a twin,
a pale companion in a dark sky

when the old year dies, a new one
may rise from its mineral-leached bones
stretching fresh limbs

paired sparrows may fall, lost
as butterflies, startled into flight
take their place, rising in smoky clouds, their
intricately woven wings perfectly matched

yet there is only one of you
there is only one of
is only one

Rachel Westfall
April 2, 2008

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ulla's song

For Ulla of _A Deceiving Sleep_ from Gypsy Folk Tales, a collection by Diane Tong

It was not for want of beauty,
not for want of beauty that Ulla’s knife wept
for he was beautiful, alright
the one who stole her away,
carried her away

He was radiant, he was
a child of the sun;
a more well-formed man
there has never been

He had a way with horses, and his touch
was golden
his touch was golden
on her skin

It was not for want of beauty
that her knife shed tears
that
night

her knife wept,
wept for what was lost, for
a job not done
a sleep too sound, a blade
left clean

Had she not been
sleeping
when the man came here,
her knife
would have sung the song
to which the stars dance
and she would never have been taken,
she would never have been taken
nor her horse
left
heartbroken

Ulla waits for the night
when he will eat too well, drink too thirstily and
sleep will drug him
like an axe
like an axe to the back of his perfect
mother-kissed
soft-curled head

Then, her knife will sing
her knife will sing, her knife will cut
through the bonds that hold her

She will ride free
under the sky
under the deep, dark sky
once
more

Rachel Westfall
April 1, 2008