Saturday, January 31, 2009

the last night

I.
she’s gonna pay
he promised,
waiting,
waiting
the TV screen gone to coloured bars, the only sound
the kitchen clock, frenetic
him listening for her key in the lock
fists clenching,
unclenching

II.
laughing, she hugged her friend goodnight
call me tomorrow, honey
watched her tipsy, awkwardly
sit back in the cab, head pounding
from the dance hall music, a bit of toilet paper
still stuck to the heel of her sparkly shoe

III.
she keyed herself in, lurched
up the steps to her apartment, one hand
on the wall of the grimy stairwell
to keep steady
longing to puke, pull off these damn tights
fall into bed and sleep,
curled up like a cat
around her pillow


Rachel Westfall
January 31, 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

Quiet revolution

When he was little he learned the hard way
that each small act would never
make a difference

Just to be sure
his father drilled it in:
you ain’t never gonna amount
to nothing

Fifty years down the road after a series
of bleak disappointments
he decided to give it a try anyway,
so he went out one morning
and stood on the street corner
talking
to anyone who would listen

This one crossed over
so he wouldn’t have to hear him
and maybe smell his stink

That one coughed an old cough,
and quietly offered to hear him out
if he’d buy a copy of the Watchtower

This one stopped and bantered
just looking for trouble, until his pit bull
dragged him off so she could take a crap
on the thin dirty strip of grass

That one curled his mouth, swore
in his big-man suit
and told him to get a job

This one folded her umbrella,
stopped and listened with soft eyes
then put a hand on his shoulder
and told him to buy himself a nice supper

So he went back out there tomorrow
and started again, his stories
drowning out his father’s voice
at long last:
You may as well not bother

Because it doesn’t take that many pebbles
to cause a landslide


Rachel Westfall
January 30, 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Powerful poems

I've been reading some breathtaking poems on the web, here and there. I wanted to share just a few of these treasures with you. Some of these you may have seen already; others not. I thought they were just too good to keep secret.

Beneath the veil of winter born on Keeping Secrets- the story of a girl born with a caul, be it blessing or curse.

She on Coexist- on girls and self-image.

The storm on Empty Garden- fear and longing for the unknown.

Old barns still speak on The Buffaloe Pen- a girl's story that must be told and heard, about something that must never be allowed to happen again.

Mad cow on Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes- a warning to the spongiformed ones.

Love song to a cashier on Milk and Paper- this one taps into that feeling of how we want to protect the ones we love. You'll see.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Unravelling

It started out as a small hole,
just enough to slip a finger into
on her left sleeve near the seam. Mrs. Keen
was all riled up about something, parading
back and forth at the front of the class
lecturing rules, her captive audience
in their neat desks in perfect rows
hands behind their backs.

You must never push one another in line.
She punctuated every word with her index finger,
like she was slicing carrots in the kitchen.
You must line up neatly,
and I don’t want to hear a word
not one word
from any of you as you enter the school.
You must remain in single file.

This girl’s eyes traced the teacher’s movements
across the floor, back and forth.
She had three fingers into the hole
in her sleeve now, and a thread was
working loose. She tugged it
with her other hand and felt it begin
to unravel.

Thou shalt not play,
thou shalt not be happy,
thou shalt not eat thy sweater,
she thought, trying to suppress the urge
to giggle, but a snort snuck out

and the teacher whirled, pinning her
with her eyes. She put on a blank face
and stared innocently at the wall,
slightly over the teacher’s left shoulder.

When Mrs. Keen had safely resumed
her parade-tirade
the girl slipped her left hand
in front of her face and nibbled
on the loose sweater string. Saliva

mixed with acrylic yarn mixed with
magenta dye and the feeling between her teeth
was indescribably sensual. She wanted
to swallow but resisted the urge. She tugged
to draw out some more yarn and she chewed
and chewed

the sweater her grandma had made for her,
because you are my joy, my brown-eyed girl
and she tasted the specialness of it, the
colour chosen just for her, the warmth
and the apple smell of her grandma’s breath
that she wasn’t going to smell again
because her grandma was dead now,
in the ground

and she was just another unruly kid
in grade five without a grandma.


Rachel Westfall
January 28, 2009

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The apothecary's apprentice

She followed the master of the shop,
learning
dusting
labelling
grinding.
She was listening
but her mind was somewhere
three hours ago.
Her mind was making medicine.

You can make a pill from the placenta,
he said. Save it for later in life,
for the menopause it is especially beneficial.

The rarest treasures
make the strongest medicines. Our own bodies
make what we may later need.
Colostrum, placenta.

She nodded, attentive, liquid eyes wide
but it was another kind of recipe
she wove. I would take
those moments with you,
nesting, one hand
on your warm chest
fingers pressing
soft skin
hair
heartbeat, no sounds
breaking through
but the chickadees, grosbeaks
happily singing in the new day,
I would take those moments
and make a pill.

Slice it thinly, he said;
place it on a baking sheet.
Bake it at 250 degrees Fahrenheit

for 24 hours.
Then you will place the dehydrated slices
in a mortar and crush them to powder.
Mix the powder thoroughly
with a small amount of honey,
enough to make pea-sized balls.
Place the balls back on the baking sheet
and allow them to dry.
Instruct the patient to store them
in a cool place.
The dosage is 1 to 3 pills as needed.

Got that?

One to three pills
, she repeated,
unconsciously
brushing pungent herbal flour
from her fingers
onto her apron

then pushing
her ruthless curls back
behind her ear.


Rachel Westfall
January 25, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gifts

Two blogging friends have gifted me with awards in the past couple of days. I'm amazed... dazed... and totally honoured that they thought of me! I didn't want to let this go unacknowledged.

Kyddryn at Shade and Sweetwater gave me something called the Dardos Award. I can sure see why Kyddryn was given one of these; she's one of the most remarkable conversational and creative writers I've yet to come across! Well, she had the kindness of heart to pass a Dardos along to me, too. As best I can tell, this is an award for blogging self-expression, and besides, it looks mighty cool, doesn't it? Now I'm supposed to pass this along to 15 others, but I just went through a round of award giving with the Friends Award the other day, and I don't want to overload people. I'm going to hang onto it for a bit, and I'll pass it along whenever I spot someone that looks like they need one of these things.

Right about the same time, Kat at Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes gifted me with a Superior Scribbler Award. Kat is, herself, most definitely a Superior Scribbler, with her unique eye on the world and an eloquent, often humorous, way of describing what's going on in poetic verse. I'm really touched that she passed the SS award along to me! I know I'm not following the rules... and all of you in my blogroll are deserving of this award. But I'm going to wait a bit, again, not wanting to overload people with awards.

Thanks, Kyddryn and Kat!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friends

There's nothing like a little fluff and greenery to help a person detoxify. Click on the bunnies to read their story.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Delirium (or, Porn for Women)

I’m sick as a dog,
(but the dog begs to differ, she’s feeling
perfectly chipper, you know)

I’m shopping online for someone to help me
haul my sorry ass home, make me some tea,
care for the kids and the pets, pets, three

So I can be... sick as a dog,
(but the dog begs to differ, she’s feeling
like going for a frolic in the snow)

Well, I found what I need
in a bookstore, no less:
Porn for Women! Oh yes...

Men who vacuum, men who know
just what to say when you're feeling low
men who quilt, and men who sew

Look! They have Overnight Delivery
so tomorrow I can be... sick as a dog
(but the dog begs to differ, don't you know)


Rachel Westfall
January 22, 2009


This is a sample image from Porn For Women. Isn't it great?

Here is a sister poem for Delirium.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Friends awards

Faith at Stones from my heart totally made my day today by giving me a Friends award. Like Faith, I want to pass this award along to each and every one of you who comments here. I thrive on the conversations we have! But, like a good girl, I will follow the rules and pass this award along to eight of you. (I really am a good girl! Really! What's that you say? Hush!)

I realise it will be hard for those of you with newer blogs to send this Award along to eight others. Please don't let that discourage you from accepting the award! Just ignore the rule, if it doesn't work for you.

My 'official' Friend Awards:

Kyddryn at Shade and Sweetwater is one of those rare, wonderful people who not only listens, but really understands. She takes the time to respond in a way that always makes me feel validated. She has supported me in my writing from the beginning of this blog, and I sure appreciate her! It is not surprising that her own beautiful blog has evolved into a network of supportive friendships. Thank you for your friendship, Kyddryn!

Julie at The Buffaloe Pen always takes the time to respond to comments in a personal way, and she is so incredibly supportive of others. Though I have only met Julie through her writing, I have a sense of really knowing her through that writing. That person I sense has a big, nurturing heart, and is immensely kind and thoughtful. Her poems and her comments reflect her compassion, and her deep understanding of the human spirit. I am so glad to have met you through our blogs, Julie!

Christopher at View from the Northern Wall encourages conversations through his writing, and to my delight, he often converses in poetic verse! He is kind and supportive, and while he is totally unafraid to express divergent views, I have never felt shut down or silenced in any way by what he shares. He seems to take a real interest in hearing what others think and say, and he often responds to it from a novel angle. This provokes thought and deeper discussion. I know Faith gave you this award as well, but you deserve several. ;) Thank you, Christopher.

S.L. Corsua at Unguarded Utterance not only writes beautiful poetry, but also reads a lot of poetry on the web and leaves delightful, complimentary comments. For the past several months, she has compiled monthly reading lists of some of the poems she has encountered, and blogged them, encouraging others to read them, too. If it wasn't for S.L., I probably never would have found out about some of the incredible writers that I'm following today. S.L., thank you for making this huge contribution to our community!

Kat at Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes is one of my very favourite fun bloggers! Not that she can't be serious-- but I've been having so much fun in my conversations with her, as we share poems and stories. She's one of those rare people I can have a conversation with using only rhyming couplets, and come out it feeling energized and inspired! Kat, it's been great getting to know you; thank you for your friendship!

Jozien at Keeper of Wild Places is quite new to blogging and computers in general, yet she somehow finds the time to reach out, interact, and share her experiences with others. I'm sure glad she does, because she has a lot to share! Her appreciation for the natural world makes me feel like we are kindred spirits, in a way. I'm grateful for this blogging network, and to Urban Yukon which put me onto Jozien's blog, for without it I might never have met Jozien. I'm so glad to have found you, Jozien!

Michael at Michael's Meanderings is always up for a bit of fun; he joins into the silly poetry challenges that I've put up on weird days, and he's not afraid to get really, really silly! If you visit his blog, you'll notice that a bit of his silly side sneaks out there from time to time. And then there are his Superheroes... Michael has also put a lot of time and effort into some of the more serious discussion that has taken place on this blog. Thank you, Michael!

Faith at Stones from my heart deserves to get this award back from me. No, Faith, I totally don't expect you to give out another eight awards! But I really appreciate you-- your work, your support, and your friendship. Quite aside from really enjoying the peaceful, calming place that is your blog, I feel very welcome there. Thank you for your friendship, Faith!

February 10, 2009-- edited to add Lisa at Transcript of a Significant Life. She is a nuturing soul, and most definitely a top candidate for this award! I'm so glad to have met you in this blog village, Lisa.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
If you do choose to accept this award and wish to pass it along, please include the following explanatory paragraph:"The Friends Award isn't about being the most popular blogger or having the most read blog. It is just because you are a friend." Here is the cleverly written text of the award: "These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbon of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

Oh please tell me it's spring!

So innocently

I put a bag of supermarket string-beans
into my shopping basket, thinking
they would be a crisp treat
on this cold-drizzle day of work
and dark and damp. Needless to say

back home, beans bought and paid for
in cash, two dollars and thirty-eight cents
I took a reckless bite
from the end of one: long, firm,
slender, an elegant green.

In that single bite
I tasted

swingsets,

sun-dresses

and skinned knees,

long evenings

and mosquito bites,

barbeque smoke,

laughter,

summer soil. Needless to say,

In that single bite
I have endangered my belief in winter,
I have railroaded
my seasonal survival plan.


Rachel Westfall
January 20, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

the murder

Everything’s ruined
torn by careless feet, ground
into new earth, rich wet soil

The wolves have eaten the heart of the forest
to keep it safe, while their sisters
the coyotes danced in celebration

A great black spruce, thick, slender
cast her arms out, umbelliferous
her circle of influence filled with footprints

When the saws came, they destroyed
the shelter she had created, tearing resinous flesh
for the fools couldn’t see that she is a mother

Birth happened in her boughs, and death
of so many small creatures; her seeds were manna,
her embrace taught survival

the land won’t forget what happened here
for the stories are written indelibly in the patterns
of the grouse’s tail, in the whiskers of the fox


Rachel Westfall
January 20, 2009


A sister poem: The Woods

An attempt to make a difference, by some small people with very big hearts: Help Save Takhini Woods

Sunday, January 18, 2009

January thaw

The snowbanks are shrinking, their curves
reduced to anorexic hip-bones and elbows,
and they shouldn’t be,
not yet. The dripping sound
coming from the roof doesn’t sing
a joyful ballad for the crocuses,
but a lament for small field creatures
left homeless as their shelters
melt away.

I take advantage of the thaw
by shovelling away mounds
of wet dog dung, then by chopping wood,
bare-handed. The chopping block
is too near the bird feeder
and a chickadee scolds me raucously,
a tiny, indignant, bold-feathered sprite.
I obediently stack my wood: resinous, damp
and retreat to the house.

It is calm inside, almost vacant.
Though this is only a false spring, already
you’ve grown quiet, shifty; already
I see you shouldering towards the door.
The curtains billow their sad song
of air and dust, while the sun casts
its strange, pale winter light into the kitchen,
deep-kissing the window-prisms
as it brushes by.


Rachel Westfall
January 18, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I've been interviewed by Kat!

One of the wonderful things about the Blogosphere is the way networks and interconnections form spontaneously. To help us all get to know one another, bloggers have been interviewing one another. I've just had the good fortune to be interviewed by Kathleen Mortensen of Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes in one of her Fireside Chats. Please check out her blog, if you haven't already; she is a talented, creative, funny poet and blogger!

My interview follows; then it's my turn to interview any other bloggers who would like to be interviewed by me. :-) Let me know if you'd like to be interviewed by me; the rules are at the bottom of this post. The questions will be unique for each interview.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Kat: 1. What key principles do you try to instil in your children?

Me: 1. Be thoughtful, not impulsive. 2. Be considerate, conscientious, and true to your values. 3. Develop yourself; discover what inspires you, and go do it!

Kat: 2. What is your favourite plant?

Me: It is very hard for me to pick favourites, because so many plants have been a memorable presence in my life. Inside my home, two of my favourites are the lizard vine that has been with me for over a decade, always robustly filling whatever window I place it in, and the banana tree my son grew from seed. These are fun plants, the banana tree in a sunny kind of way, and the lizard vine in a creepy, Amazon rain-forest full of stinging ants, bird-eating spiders and poison frogs kind of way.

Outdoors, it is individual trees that my mind strays towards when I try to think of my favourites. There is the sapling birch that I planted 2 summers ago, which is growing enthusiastically beside my house. There is the giant maple at crab beach by Mt. Douglas Park in Saanich, with its huge arms creating a canopy of the most wonderful green light; I remember the pleasure of sitting on the swing and staring up into that tree. There is the Douglas-fir tree at the bottom of my childhood yard in Quesnel, and the amazing strawberry blite that volunteered beneath it, year after year.

Kat: 3.Who do you consider your greatest poetic influences?

Me: My greatest early influence was the grade school program which introduced me to different styles of poetry, year after year. I remember certain poems we read in school and how they moved me. One poem that we read in an anthology made me feel such sadness, I relive the feeling when I think of the poem, though I can’t remember the words or the author. The poem was called Elegy for Jog, and it was written in honour of a dog who had died.

I am also influenced by the poetry I read to my children. Dennis Lee’s The Cat and the Wizard is one of my favourites, and my daughter has a wonderful book of poems by various authors called A Pocketful of Stars.

As a young adult, I bought a used copy of Al Purdy’s collected poems. His work has certainly had a profound effect on me. My friend Jeffrey Mackie has influenced me with his perseverance at writing poetry, and his sporadically emailed poems. Other poets whose work I have encountered and collected on the way never cease to amaze me; Joy Harjo stands out as one of my favourites.

These days, my greatest influence comes from the network of blogs and the incredible support, creativity, and poetic conversations that take place in Blogland. What a wonderful, bizarre thing has emerged here!

Kat: 4.Where were you born and raised?

Me: Ah, an easy one! I was born in Vancouver, and my family moved to Quesnel, BC when I was 3. I lived there until I was 16.

Quesnel is a fairly typical Northern BC mill town, with a boom-and-bust economy that depends heavily on forestry. These sorts of towns can be defined by the number of pulp mills they have, and how badly they smell of pulp mill farts. There once was a girl from Quesnel, the town with the horrible smell… Quesnel also has the distinction of having extraordinarily high cancer rates.


Kat: 5. If you had to be a MAN from history, who would it be?

Me: I’d want to be Vladimir Horowitz, if only to play the piano the way he did.







* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Here are the instructions if you wish to be interviewed by me:

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me".

2. I will respond by e-mailing you five questions (I get to pick the questions)

3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

I will post a list of those who have agreed to an interview so everyone can follow along.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Here are the bloggers who I have interviewed. Please check out their blogs to see the wonderful things they have created!

Jozien Keijzer @Keeper of Wild Places

Kyddryn @Shade and Sweetwater

Pauline @ Art and My Life

Thursday, January 15, 2009

goodnight, goodnight

white wave
swallows
moon-snails of thought
ravenously
chasing the spiral
ever down
to its beginning.

black crow
holds
pieces of
the night sky
together
with his embrace
chest glistening
with countless stars.

red quilt
settles
around your shoulders
softly
its patches of blue
and cream flannel
murmuring
a promise
of wildberry dreams.


Rachel Westfall
January 15, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Air

Breathe, open

Her arms stretch,
mimicking clipped wings,
stiff and tired, reawakening
for the spring thaw brings
a memory of what it is like
to be unburdened, for the heart to hold
fresh, red contents
in one half; blue
and tired in the other

Her back, bare
waits, sighing
for a new hand to slide across it,
possessive, masculine
for the spring thaw means
breakup, when the ice
shudders and groans
on the river


Rachel Westfall
January 14, 2009


This one is inspired by the Northern tradition/ urban legend that people switch beds & partners at breakup. I haven't seen it in action much, but it's part of the local story fabric here, much like the idea of having a "squeeze for the winter." The poem was also inspired by the melting snow and the sniff of spring, as we've gone from the minus thirties to about three degrees Celcius in a matter of just a few days. I'm sure the warm weather will be short-lived, so maybe everyone ought to stick with their current partners for now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Colour therapy

I can see
from how your nose
does twitch and flip
like hinged metal
to a magnet

that yellow
is a very special colour
to you.


Rachel Westfall
January 13, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

For Zack

There’s an empty place
where you were. The magpie

laughs at my confusion
as I habitually step over and around

your favourite spot, where you lay
all day, every day, untroubled

by the heavy foot traffic
around you.

It wasn’t always that way; you once
were a great escape artist, capable

of opening gates with your great
black snout, of flipping the lid

off the compost bins giving all your fellow canines
free access to the trough.

You once were legend, delighting children
with your schoolyard visits, timed with the recess bell.

You once were the bear on the path
that sent skiers’ and cyclists’

hearts into their throats, adrenaline surging
in that moment before they recognized your domesticity.

And yet, you once had bones so heavy
and joints grinding, misaligned.

I dream that you have become bird,
bones hollow, movement unhindered

and you soar, finally having won
through infinite patience, release.


Rachel Westfall
January 12, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Breathing Poetry

One of my poems, One day, has been featured on a new poetry site, Breathing Poetry.

The site is featuring a new poem every day, so I know I will be checking back often to see what treasures they have found.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Full moon

I have never seen as incredible a moon as I saw early this morning, caught in the trees. I was out clearing the snow from the bird feeder, but this moon sent me scurrying back into the house for my camera. I didn't even feel the cold on my bare fingers as I attempted to capture the magic in an image, even though the thermometer read -35C.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Poetry Challenge of the week: Rhyming couplets!

Alright, me hearties, it's time for another poetic challenge! Rhyming couplets are so simple, yet so fun. Don't be afraid to take the stage; I'd love to see what you can come up with!

This wee poem was inspired by my very own freckle-dog, who you can see slobbering on my glasses in my profile picture. And yes, I'm sure there will be many more to come... both rhyming couplets and slobberings.

My sweetheart is freckled, her snout is so bold,
Her tail's like the pom-pom that cheerleaders hold.

If she does goose me, oh yes I will shriek!
The kids will be laughing about it all week.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Underneath it all

In those early days

you tossed out beautiful words
rich with promise, and they hung in the air
for a moment like so many celebration plates

before careening to the ground
and smashing there.

Somewhere among all these cheerful
shards of crockery upon which you dance
lie our dreams, tattered and forgotten

as an empty shirt, cast off hastily
by hurried lovers as they slid
fumbling out of the room


Rachel Westfall
January 7, 2009

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tell me

How you make phantoms with words,
how you weave new hope sparking the heart
to open, rich as a mountain flower

Phantoms are made, not born
but they have children of their own
Grief, Regret, Deprivation
born out of moments of promise
thrown out carelessly, playfully?
only to be snatched back
in all seriousness

How ruined is the heart that has been toyed with,
how wild grows the garden
that was seeded then left untended?


Rachel Westfall
January 6, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

what if

a lover would pick up my spark,
carry it, and return it to me
as a bold bright flame

while a partner would nurture my spark
filling with love and amazement
as it birthed creativity

a lover would mirror, magnify,
delight in, respond with
the spiral of energy between us

while a partner would hold, honour
support, encourage
the ongoing metamorphosis that life is

and not condemn, never

what if
you are the lover I want
but not the partner I need?


Rachel Westfall
January 6, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Twin stories

There is a place with a fresh running stream where you once could wash away infertility. Women used to go there, bathe, sit amongst the trees, and think. When they returned to their people, they would be ready to conceive. This place is under the belly of the city, now. For several nights running, a modern-day woman dreamed of this place, of going under the mud and staying there, healing. It was around this time her daughter came to her, unexpectedly.

On the dirty streets under a bridge, two cats sat; thin, stunted. One was mature, the other a baby still. Their fur was the thinnest and coarsest ever seen on a cat. Longing to connect with someone, anyone, a backpacker made her first and only Malaysian purchase of flesh- a meat pie- for the cats. When she brought it to them, they scattered, suspicious, in the way of cats who have lived by their wits, eating the giant cockroaches, hapless rodents and mounds of garbage that make up this world-class city.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

that feeling

when she was small she was
haunted by the image of
an adult male, faceless but a warm
presence, coming to the door arms
loaded with groceries, voice warm
body warm, and her mother
would smile and laugh then, looking
ten years younger around the eyes
and he would stay

he would stay, so she knew
as she got older that he

could not have been real

she used to slash but now she
gets inked instead, a rose garden
growing slowly up one sleeve, across
her back and down the other arm

it’s a slow flaying but the sensation
almost does the trick


Rachel Westfall
January 1, 2009