Saturday, February 28, 2009

pipe dream

Here is the second of three poems I wanted to bring forward this weekend. Actually, this is the one I was originally digging for, but I got distracted by so many others. :) They do love attention, don't they? Maybe one of these days I'll get my act together and put some similarly-themed poems into a chapbook. At least it would make a nice Yule gift for friends and family who don't mind poetry.

pipe dream


i secretly hope

you will come here

late one night


slip between

my warm fresh


your smooth strong



bright heat


drawing me





Rachel Westfall
April 8, 2008

Friday, February 27, 2009


I've been digging through some things I wrote way back when I was talking mostly to myself here. I've had this blog for almost exactly a year now, and I'm amazed at how much I have actually written over that time. Of course quantity does not imply quality.

Some of these poems I barely remember writing, now. It's a bit like that strange feeling I used to get reading my old diaries, before I destroyed them all. It's like reading something that belongs to somebody else, and it's private and kind of scary to look at.

I like this poem, so I'm bringing it forward to share. There are a few others that I might dig up and share, too, while I'm feeling brave enough.


Under the mud-sea of my despair I found you
a sharp surprise, a brilliant spark
lifting me with startling speed to the surface,
where we gasped the clear night air with the sting of salt
breath stolen by the deep array of night stars
intruding upon the blackness.

Hard as we try
we can’t hold each other’s heads above the water for long.
A meteor traces across Orion, a quick flame
and is gone.
When my sea-slick arms slip and I fall back under
I try to record this moment and file it safely,
because what are the odds that I will encounter you again
in these infinite murky waters?

Rachel Westfall
March 8, 2008

Thursday, February 26, 2009


under the sheltering arm of the kindergarten teacher
the little ones flourish, safe to explore
the confines of this weekday nest
as she clucks and tuts, holding the routine
reminding them of the rules, the three tasks
they must do every morning when they enter the class
with its tricoloured rug, alphabet cards
on the wall and bins of wooden toys
carefully sorted into stations, compartmentalized
neat and predictable like the day.

when the day ends and it’s time
for the little ones to leave this primary-coloured
soft-cornered construct where each table and chair
is child sized and everyone has their own coat hook
with a name-plate and self-portrait above,
the kindergarten teacher leads the march
out the door two by two then stands back
as they scatter to their buses, their rides,
their roughened older siblings, sketchy-looking dads
and those stroller-pushing, gum-chewing mums
with a mixture of anxiety and relief;
who will be watching over them tonight?

Rachel Westfall
February 26, 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Uniquely foolish

My son's grade 4/5 class has been doing a lot of work exploring visible and hidden disabilities lately. They have taken turns leading each other around blindfolded, things like that, as well as having a lot of discussion about the different sorts of challenges we all face. In a class of 22 students, half have IEPs in place to address their uniqueness, so it's a group that is all too familiar with the variety of ways we are wired differently. This got me thinking about a certain uniqueness of my own, which sparked this creation. I rarely write "I" stories, so this felt a bit awkward, like trying on an unusually-styled coat in a clothing store to see how it fits.

Uniquely foolish

I will never be you.

What you see so clearly is enigmatic to me.

This clumsiness, this lost feeling, these bruises

from banged shins, little toes knocked against doorframes

and shattered against mysteriously appearing chair legs,

I used to blame it all on my vision.

But glasses will never fix me.

They won’t fix my terrible tennis game,

all those useless frustrating swipes at a ball

that hasn’t arrived yet.

They won’t fix my driving,

those perplexing slow-motion encounters

with snowbanks and power poles.

They won’t fix the dozens of dishes

I’ve fumbled and broken over the years, each one special

and mourned like an old friend lost.

They call it a spatial perception issue,

a disability, one they quaintly file alongside

social awkwardness and ‘special interests.’

Really it is harmless.

I will never be you.

But this is just me

and I need to live with me, care for me

and not beat myself up over it too much.

Rachel Westfall
February 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cheeky gull

Cheeky gull, cheeky gull,
what did you snatch?

Junk food is very bad for you.
Find a fish to catch!

Cheeky gull, sneaky gull,
what did you steal?

Surely you could find
a healthier meal!

Cheeky gull, beaky gull,
what did you eat?

Those Doritos
don’t make a good treat!

Cheeky gull, freaky gull,
where did you go?

Are you seeking
some garbage to throw?

Cheeky gull, cheeky gull,
how was your snack?

I’m sure that tomorrow
you will be back!

By Bela, Ursula, and Rachel Westfall

inspired by the above image, which came in an email with an explanation, below:

A seagull in St. John 's, NL has developed the habit of stealing Doritos from a neighbourhood convenience store. The seagull waits until the Manager isn't looking, and then walks into the store and grabs a snack-size bag of cheese Doritos. Once outside, the bag gets ripped open and shared by other birds. The seagull's shoplifting started early this month when he first swooped into the store in St. John 's, and helped himself to a bag of Doritos. Since then, he's become a regular. He always takes the same type of chips. The Manager thinks it's great because people are coming to watch the feathered thief make the daily grab and run, and that's good for business, and especially since customers have begun paying for the seagull's stolen bags of Doritos because they think it's so funny. However, the Manager did say, "This is Newfoundland, and if that seagull starts to grab a 6-pack of beer to go along with the Doritos, I may have to put a stop to it."

The image is supposed to be a moving .gif file, which shows the gull enter the store, grab a bag of chips, and leave. Unfortunately, it's coming up as a still image here! For some reason, Blogger is converting it from a .gif to a .png. Bah! You'll have to just imagine the heist.

Update, Feb 25: thank you NollyPosh for the YouTube link! It turns out the bird isn't a Newfie after all; he's from Aberdeen, Scotland. Isn't it curious how these stories get twisted and turned as they are told and retold?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lost one

You could not protect
your jewel, lost on the trail
then with choking sadness, too late
you found her, too late

Through what queer deception
have you come to believe
her empty chain has the power
to keep you safe?

You could not protect
your jewel, yet you hold this hollow trinket
against your heart, fragile hope
it will keep past and future at bay

Rachel Westfall
February 23, 2009

Inspired by this news story

Thank you, Terry, for sending me this photo of Jewel.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


The faint hope of building a life
together gives the toil of each day
false significance, this world
of exertion, and struggle, and tedium
the weariness and blinding pain
we call work

This nonsensical garden
yields only stones, its earth
parched and devoid of nutrients
the apple tree
limbs bare, pale fruit pecked hastily
by starlings, licked by wasps
before any hope of harvest

Such a weaving of the words, or dreams
it would take to solidify the walls
of a simple dwelling by lake or river
or sea, end of the journey
inhabited warmly, fire
in the hearth
this nebulous creation, home

Rachel Westfall
February 22, 2009

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Heritage day

A moment of quiet, birds
at the feeder, cats napping
as the trees keep their ears warm
under their little snow caps

and then the CF-18s
tear a hole in the sky. They can call it
a festival, or chalk it up to
arctic sovereignty but all it takes
is a small rip, wiggle your fingers in
and pull, and the day is split

down the middle

torn fabric imperfectly matched
along its rough edges. And what
will fall through? A bomb

fell through my grandparents’ roof
more than six decades ago, and so
I duck instinctively when
the bombers go over. I call it
a reflex, or chalk it up to
ancestral memory because all it takes

is a small rip and the day
is torn.

Rachel Westfall
February 20, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

The price

These hard times
have eaten you to the bone,
beneath bone,
skeleton of a skeleton,
an echo of who you were
when you were flesh
and movement and desire;
when you refracted life’s heat
as the sun’s ferocity
ricocheted off the tarmac
those dog-days.

Your hollow face, this alone
tells why you can’t read
even these words, respond
in song or verse or laughter, carve
anything living from the death
trophy you hold so close,
a grotesque substitute
for what you have lost.

These hard times
have stolen from me
the friend I lost and found
and for that
I curse them, curse them,
and curse them three times over
to make it truth.

Rachel Westfall
February 19, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The magic of the telling

Our circles are small when we live our stories, though we cast them wide for the telling. In our most cherished legends and dreams, we are ordinary goddesses: powerful, capable, woolly-caped and bold, and everything we touch turns right.

These are the stories we share not to make others chill and shudder, drawing their musty pilled cardigans close around their shoulders, thinking of where they'd rather be, and other pressing obligations as the tea grows cold and the soup congeals in greasy bowls; not to vent our frustration at never finding the right door in an endless sweat-soaked dream, the clock ticking ever faster in its urgent, nagging, persistent voice; not to wail in grief or dessicating bitterness at our wasted efforts, unborn children, ever-expanding girth and irrevocably lost opportunities.

These are the stories we share to draw others close, the stories that bind us together harmonious with the spell-craft, the ordinary strength we share as mothers, sisters, aunts; the fortitude to reach down and draw our little sister, our daughter from the bottom of the muddy lake where she fell, not even feeling the cold sting of the water, the ache of pounded muscle or the burning of oxygen-starved lungs; the ability to revive this found child, an everyday miracle, from the spell of the foamy water with a single breath. These stories are best served alongside some fresh-baked bread, yeasty with currants and cinnamon; piping-hot tea made with garden-fresh herbs; a cheery fire, long tight hugs and belly-warming laughter.

These are the stories that bind us together. And when we are together, we know, we feel it deep down, that everything is going to turn out alright.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Evening bliss

Glow-in-the-dark dragon pyjamas + a lapful of guineas = pure bliss

Sometimes life seems too complicated. And then there are guineas.

Without memorial

There was no moon to witness the murder,
no sun to kiss an image indelibly on the basalt earth.
A few stars stood bone-still and blind
no sign of their milky companions
and even the chill in the air held its breath.

There was a girl, but now there is none
and she took her stories with her. Nothing remains
but a ripple of fear, a finger brushing the skin
drawing the fur tight on the coyote’s necks, bristling
as they skirt their way round, safe passage stolen.

Rachel Westfall
February 16, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rite of Spring

The maidens spin
and twirl, the energy rising
in a celebration dance
tender in their young beauty, plump
and fresh as new plums
dusted with a delicate yeasty bloom.

The ribbons in their hair
are bright, as are the meadow blossoms
standing straight, as prim and proper
as a row of schoolgirls
woven into their braids.

As the night grows long
the blooms will wilt and droop,
unnoticed by the girls
who laugh and clutch each other’s arms
giddy with the moment when excitement
overcomes fatigue.

The blooms only whisper
the secret--
each maiden unwittingly carries the seed
of a crone within her
deep under her womb
where it will grow a little
each season, entwining itself
slowly through her abdomen
across her thighs
into the skin of her elbows and knees
drawing moisture and sustenance
until the girl is gone
and all that is left
is the crone.

The crones sit round the fire
tending the stories, ripe and wizened
as only crones can be.
They share knowing looks
as the maidens whirl past
they stand
and rock
and spin again, each slow
rickety crickety in her own right
for each crone has the seed
of a maiden within her
deep under her womb
a living memory
of the dance.

Rachel Westfall
February 15, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009


This poem was inspired by a photo by Ken Flett, provided as an image prompt on Every Photo Tells a Story. You can see the photo here. Ken also has an amazing blog, here.


And so he drew her head down onto his chest
murmuring a bedtime song
in obscure Germanic tones

And so she soon feigned sleep
hoping he would cradle her in his arms,
carry her carefully to her bed
avoiding corners that could knock knees
and hallway hazards that would jar her awake

And so he would tuck her in
flannel quilt up to her chin
sweep her bangs out of her eyes
then plant a bristly kiss seasoned with cloves
firmly in the centre of her forehead

And so she would remember him this way
strong arms lifting her
she, light as a cat
her small purr beside his rich tenor rumbling

Rachel Westfall
February 14, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

little bird

This is a poem I wrote last May. I brought it forward because it goes so beautifully with yesterday's Valentine.

little bird

I watched the girl swing
in deep, smooth arcs, with
her head held back
as far as it
would go.

I could not see
her face, but I knew her
shining-coal eyes
were open.

The sky would streak by,
the wind-sculpted clouds
sketched over hot-blue

She seemed to taste
what it means
to fly.

I would give her
wings if I could;
not the heavy ornamental
of an eagle, weighted
with legend,

but the slim dart-wings
of a swallow.

Rachel Westfall
May 25, 2008

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You all are faaaabulous! :)

Jorc, who has a fabulous blog by the name of Empty Garden, recently received the Fabulous Blog award and passed it on to me. Thank you, Jorc; I'm honoured and touched that you thought of me!

Jorc's blog is one of the delightful treasures on the poetry blog circuit. If you haven't yet visited her space, please do!

Now it is my duty and my pleasure to pass the award along to other faaabulous bloggers. The biggest challenge for me now is to narrow it down to a few well-deserving blogs that I haven't just given an award to! My award nominees are at the bottom of this post. But first....

It truly is award season! Cat at Witnessing a World of People and Places just gave me the Superior Scribbler award, which I also received from Kat at Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes a few weeks ago. Is there a coincidence in their names? I would like to call it serendipity, rather than coincidence! Thank you both for this award. Cat and Kat both certainly deserved it themselves, and it means a lot to me to receive it from them! Again, my biggest challenge will be to avoid spamming acknowledging the same blogs over and over, though so many blogs are deserving of this recognition.

Now here it is: {drumrolls}! My choices for each of these awards are as follows.

The Fabulous Blog award:

Keeper of Wild Places Jozien Keijzer has drawn me into her wilderness world with her amazing photos and rich prose. She lives so near, yet so far from me, her wild surroundings a stark contrast to the small-town urban world I live in.

Shaping Stones -Ken Flett's blog is a treasure. I've yet to encounter anything as rich in imagery and story-telling. Take a peek; you'll see what I mean.

A Portrait of the Human Heart -Elle has such heart, and it comes through powerfully in her writing. I believe it's people like Elle who will heal the world.

Two Ripping Arseholes -Fat Arse and Smart Arse, I bet you guys weren't fishing for an award, eh? You might have to be Canadian to appreciate this blog, with its cynical and creative take on all things public and political. Well, I appreciate you guys, and the work you put into each of your posts.

Butterfly Dreamer -Cherie, I know you have one of these already, but you deserve another. Butterfly Dreamer is a blog with unique style, tons of attitude, and radiant energy.

Witnessing a World of People and Places -Cat, you probably have this one already. If you don't, you should. So here is one for you.

Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes and Blasts from the Past -Kat, you deserve this award too, you fabulous blogger you! :-) You'll have to pick which blog to stick it on. Or split it in half. Or clone it. Or whatever.

The Superior Scribbler Award:

Loose Leaf Notes -I only learned about Colleen Redman's blog today, after she posted a comment on my blog. What a delightful discovery! I shall very much enjoy following her work.

My other SS awards go to some of my favourite spots on the poetry blog circuit. Ideally, I would pass this award along to every blogger in my Irresistible Poetry Blogs list in the sidebar. It was not easy to narrow it down to these few!

Coexist -Diane Vogel Ferri's glorious blog. Her sidebar is as rich and enjoyable as her writing.

Keeping Secrets -Karen's blog, no longer secret, is one of the new and wonderful additions to the poetry blog world.

Outlasting Moths -I've followed Rachel Phillips' work for the past year or so, and she never fails to inspire me.

Golden Pothos -Cecily's blog is a catalog of hidden treasures. Take a peek, and see what you may find.

Empty Garden Jorc, maybe you received this one already, too. If not, you sure deserve it. Here's one from me!

I also want to give an award to Lisa, Transcript of a Significant Life, but it is the Friends Award that I feel most compelled to gift her with. I received and regifted the Friends Award a little while ago. It's not breaking the rules to go back and add Lisa to my list, is it? Huh? Huh? {Deafening silence} Okay then! Here goes.... Lisa, I hope you will accept this award from me.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Colourful guests

They came around shyly, three glorious grosbeaks, to fill their stomachs with seeds. All it took was a tiny chickadee landing to scatter them, but not before I snapped a few photos.

Dissolution by fire

Someone close to me lost everything in a house fire once-- her home, her lover, her job, her sense of belonging to the community she lived in. The depth of such a loss is unimaginable to me. I figure either you survive it and reinvent yourself, or you give in and throw yourself to the flames. The worst part of it, for me, was that a housecat disappeared during the fire and was never found. I try not to think too hard about it.

Dissolution by fire

She’d have
risen from the flames a jaguar
scorched timbers echoing
in her coat, each spot
a tiny round mirror
tongue scraping over charcoal
hotly nuzzling her stilled
companion or a compelling
swat to draw him round

but for the little plump cat
with a rude name who disappeared
that night

Rachel Westfall
February 9, 2009

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I wait

I wait
to cut you down
from the tree
where she hung
your beautiful body
broken and torn.

I wait
to see you whole
to run my fingers
over the scars
that mark the places
where woodland spirits
ran hawthorn needles
and nettle twine
to make of you
a mosaic doll
from the fallen leaves
in gold and amber
gathered from
the forest trail.

I wait
for your stone-blind eyes
retinas seared
white with loss
to turn this way
and see you are
beloved still,
beloved still
to me.

Rachel Westfall
February 6, 2008

Friday, February 6, 2009


This poem is a response to an image prompt on Every Photo Tells a Story. You can see the image here.

She was one so unlike the other girls
she frightened us with her strange dark songs
that hinted of the secret places
inside the nests of swallows,
the alchemy of maple seeds
and the muttering of the bees.

She wore her hair high upon her head
from where it hung like a fountain’s spray,
catching petals and pollen and twigs
while we all wore ours straight and long,
our eyebrows arching with displeasure
just to see her so.

Though we knew she was her papa’s treasure
an only child, her mother gone,
we saw that she was mad;
and cruel as only children can be
we followed her on idle days
to witness her anomaly.

Each sun-kissed day while the asphalt seared
the calluses from our bare feet
the dust rose round us in choking clouds
and the tires stank of hot rubber,
the girl played alone in her deep, green garden
her hands cooly cupping each floral spray
as she sang it into being.

Lulled or charmed by her steady chant
one by one the skippers would climb
onto the pollen-laced arch her fingers made
feeling their way with rough clasping feet
and they rolled out their miraculous tongues
to taste the dew upon her skin,
dew that was sweet as honey.

As the shadows stretched, tired and long
we jeered and spat in the dust,
cruel as only children can be
while Vanessa sat high on a well-worn branch
in her papa’s great old apple tree
singing her strange dark faery song
of butterflies and blossoms.

Rachel Westfall
February 6, 2009

Breathing Poetry

I have a second poem, Feline Night Thoughts, up on the poetry site Breathing Poetry today.

If you haven't checked out Breathing Poetry yet, please do. The site hosts a poem a day selected by the site owner, and she has found some real treasures!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Where the wild things are

Vines encircle
mushroom pale limbs
sweet flesh
twining around
drawing down
into earth
into soil
drawing down
into seed
tendrils coiling
in slow bondage
an inch an hour
drawing down
we become
red rot
woodlice carving
damp homes
from decaying marrow
pungent, bright
their roofs thatched
precisely with
neckera moss
a perfect shade of green

Rachel Westfall
February 5, 2009

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

And now there is WalMart

Hey, Coyote--

There used to be a marsh here, sure,
but now look what we have:
the ample parking, the rows
of matching blue-handled carts, tamed into submission
by a remote control cart pusher.
A dream job! Imagine the power
of being the one with the remote.

There is room here for an RV city,
the lineups of old folks
at the in-shop McDonald’s each summer morning
a testimony to the success
of replicated retail. We know

just what to expect from the lurid rows
of fluorescent lights,
the stacks of matching merchandise
and the greeters in their blue vests.

We know just what to expect.

There used to be a marsh here, but now
there is WalMart. Hey, Coyote--
looking for dinner?
Lurk here long enough between the cars,
head down, and sooner or later
someone will cast you their leftovers,
the trickle-down effect of this
new commercial reality. There is no need, now,
to track down dinner by its footprints
in the snow; there is no need

for each experience to hang on its own
in the moist air, invented in the moment.

Rachel Westfall
February 3, 2009

A sister poem: At the dump

Monday, February 2, 2009


If I lost my kite
high in a tree would you climb
up awkwardly, bloodying your palms

on the rough bark, scrambling for a foothold
to bring it down? Remember when
a man offered comfort to a little girl

who had a broken toy in her hands, colourful
blocks in pieces; he took out his wallet and pulled out
a two dollar bill, crisp and red; frightened,

she snatched the money so quick then ran
with a short glance over her shoulder, pursued
by those stories of what happens

to little girls who talk to strangers

Rachel Westfall
February 2, 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I have a gift to share

What a lovely weekend to enjoy a sip of sweet, tart lemonade! S.L. Corsua of Unguarded Utterance has given this blog the Lemonade award "For sites which show great attitude and/or gratitude." What a treat to enjoy lemonade with S.L.; I wish I could travel halfway across the world to enjoy it in person with her! Please do make the journey across to her blog, if you haven't already; it has the most lovely, soothing design and layout, as well as some gorgeous poetry and photography.

I'd like to pass the Lemonade award along to a few creative bloggers whose blogs have taken on cheerful, bright and festive colours: neon, pink, and other places I'd never dare go in my own decor. Check out these blogs to enjoy some skilful writing gloriously displayed in a day-glo setting! You folks make me smile; please do have a sip of lemonade with me!

Nolly Posh @ Nolly Posh (polka-dot sock monkey!)

Lorenzo @ Crowned with Laurels (neon!)

Scott @ The Sonnets of Scott Ennis (Valentines theme complete with love sonnets!)