Poems from Nevertheless

Poem for Autumn

You came back to your life on a Saturday
by walking out into the pinkish-golden light.
The neighbourhood dogs smelled you for miles—
& came for you. Starting with a black Lab called Gus
who dove right into you—
A father pulled his boy’s hand across the road.
Everyone walking on leaves—Do you hear it?
The sound of things dying & splitting open—
Is this not everything we’re after? Each other.
A particular kind of sugar in the air.
The leaves on the oak trees the colour of tangerines.
Has it occurred to you that you know everything
you need to know to do the next thing that matters?
A black dog with a greying snout told me so.


Reveries of a Walker Walking Among Others

You have to be very keen and very alert to recognize the new manifestations of just one person.
—Thich Nhat Hanh, No Death, No Fear


At night I count
not the stars
but the freckles
on your head—


When I walk to the sea,
the tide rolling out
& in
is a feeling—


I see the sea of them:
on your forehead, face, elbows, arms, you
asleep on your hospice bed
your hair a white

bolt of lightning
childhood storms
cracking me open—


As for the feeling,
that everything is
always moving—



You asleep:
the body
I climbed onto
& claimed—


Sleep’s a sea
I want to be set
free in—


“When you died

it was like
a whole
library burned down—”


You: tiny, bobbing
black arrow pointing
this way & that—



When you left
the shape we took up


I see you in
our feet—


I hear you in
the crows’ abrupt
of code.


At night I leave
the house
with a leash & keys—

the dog meanders
alongside me.
We stop & stand

at the edge of the trees, squint
inside the blackness lit
up by the moon

& listen for you.


The Messenger

My name comes to me like an angel.

—Tomas Tranströmer, “The Name”


Your name comes to me like morning light wavering on the water

Like a plate of butter biscuits like butter

Like a bicycle in flight


Your name comes to me like the fuchsia shirt & shimmering copper pants

you put on after we woke up this morning before sunrise


& danced in your living room

& all the dreams of my childhood came back to me


Like the ravine we grew up in like the creek water that ran through it

Like rivulets popping out of rock

Like clay bursting open


The earth gives us so much:

This morning’s foggy walk through X̱wáýx̱way under cedars

The ocean water we dip our hands into

The salt on my fingers


The flock of Barrow’s goldeneye ducks who

flew together just above the water at Third Beach this morning

flying like dancers in unison


The coyote who appears before us who is part wolf

He looks at us like family

He looks out for us like family


At night, after we fall to sleep together

we come here like dancers

like wolves who are part coyote


In our dreams we clean up the microplastics

In our dreams we restore the reindeer

We travel north in solidarity


In our dreams the brown bodies the black bodies

the children in prison here and yonder go free—


In our dreams the ebullient silver bodies come back as salmon

The coral is beautiful again

In our dreams not all the birds return but

our home is the aviary is the apiary is the open sky—


Your name comes to me like the birch tree I climbed each day of my childhood

Like all the daytime reveries I was punished for

Reveries so delicious now that we’re free


When the children come they come as clowns

They come as pirates their booty is butterflies

They ride their ponies They wear crowns of peonies—


Your name comes to me like my father’s

gentleness speaking to us from the cedars


Like a black oystercatcher eating a limpet

Like a black oystercatcher whose red luminous beak

calls to us this morning against this backdrop of grey


Like a glass-bottomed boat

Like a pod of orcas swimming in the seas that need healing


Your name comes to me like an utterance

Like a half-conscious trip to the toilet in the middle of the night

Like the textures proffered by your testicles in my hand—


In another life we rode a starship together we rode a steamship

I wore a bonnet, briefly—

We eschewed the gold rush & the gold


In my dream you poured ambrosia over my head with a ladle

& I lasted


What I thought was wrong with me was not wrong

What you thought was wrong with you wasn’t wrong

Will you try to stay open to me like an egg?


You know of my body’s coldness you know my thin blood

Sometimes in our sleep you wrap my body in your body

Sometimes your heart’s a wavelength, the only arrhythmia of

the night—

Sometimes I dream you are catching a fish to feed us

Sometimes I feel the fire that belongs to us all


At night I dream you are braiding my hair

& the wolves come to keep us company

& their breath smells like fire like honey


Between my green eyes between your green eyes

so much moving in unison so much laughter

& fumbling & endless coconut butter—


Your name comes to me like the sound of pirate children playing in the boat

Like the first light of my girls like their pink faces like the vernix they wore like coats

Like the silence we swim in that sounds like love.

large bayan tree

Reconnecting With the World

Reconnecting to the world: Transformative practices for difficult times

Date: Saturday, March 21, 9am-5pm

Location:  The Salmonberry Room in the Stanley Park Dining Pavilion (2nd floor), X̱wáýx̱way, what is now Stanley Park in Vancouver, The traditional and unceded territory of the Musqueam, Tseil-Waututh and Squamish Nations.

Coming together in these difficult and urgent times, we will cultivate courage and resilience, and renew our connections to ourselves, our human communities and all life on earth. A range of experiential practices support opening to the pain we carry for the imperiled state of our world, deepen our gratitude and respect for the gifts of life, and expand our ways of knowing. With strengthened clarity and purpose, we bring our unique gifts more fully into the service of life.

Facilitators: Maggie Ziegler and Olive Dempsey

Maggie Ziegler, MA, brings decades of experience as a facilitator, an educator and a psychotherapist specializing in trauma as well as a life-long commitment to participating in just and sustainable change locally and internationally. Most recently she has been working on community based peace projects in Rwanda and the Central African Republic. Maggie has been  facilitating Reconnecting to Life workshops for over twenty years and has trained extensively with Joanna Macy, the root teacher for this work.

Olive Dempsey is a facilitator, engagement strategist and coach, whose work supports the interconnected transformations within individuals, groups and communities. She has worked on social and environmental justice within non-profit organizations, labour unions and in the public sector. Her diverse background has deepened her belief that our inner and outer worlds are inextricably linked, in need of care and attention. She is a Certified Co-Active Coach, holds a certificate in Authentic Leadership from Naropa University and an MA in Environmental Education and Communication.

Maggie and Olive are a dynamic facilitation team and as settlers are committed to doing this work while walking a path of decolonization and reconciliation.

Fee: $120.00
Registration:  for details and e-transfer email Gillian Jerome at gillianjerome@hotmail.com
Financial assistance: Maggie Ziegler at ziegler.maggie@gmail.com
Full refund minus $20 admin fee until March 2nd.
50% refund until March 9th.

Please note that the workshop will be capped at 20 participants so best to register soon!

Apiary of Underclothes

This poem was first published in Geist 70 and now in the 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition.

After the beer parlour, we set off for the islands
drinking whiskey from Tupperware cups. We jimmied
the radio for baseball—Expos were up.
I didn’t know what day it was, or the year.
Finally, I thought, a good-sized man, and held the wheel.
Strands of silence floated up between us
like duck shit in the lake water. It happened
right when the days held ’til ten o’clock. Fireflies. June Bugs.
Every few miles we stuck our heads into the slipstream
to whet our eyeballs. Both of us taken
with the lights flickering on the dash. We felt
ghosts hovering over the scab of last year’s abominable fires.
Have you heard so and so’s having a baby? Well no.
Well yes. I hummed my favorite Bo Diddleys,
rattled off some names of local birds. Jays
scooped it finally. When the car stopped
furs of dandelions flew around us
& we hastened like they did
into that broom.

Farewell, My Sea

The morning the quake hit the city
I swore I’d ride full gallop into that sea
and never look back. I listened to Jay-Z, shoved
tiny nectarines into my satchel,
and fled West past the Prime Minister
who stood at the corner of 4th and Trutch
disguised as a Dutch milkmaid with rosy cheeks.
Kits beach was furious.
But I found my pony di Esperia
standing in my dory and so put myself
upon her and we rowed—
At Howe Sound a gang of dinghies
shepherded by muscular oilers slicked up around us.
In their faces the coast was a Shrinky Dink.
Dogs and cats galore were chucked and dunked
into the floatsam. The masked activists who had lain
their bodies down beneath bulldozers at Burnaby Mountain
flung themselves straight as arrows off the Sea-to-Sky cliffs.
Pony and I, in those first days, small in our boat,
shared our raisins and stale Triscuits with pirates
from Fort McMurray who stabbed each other up for their last rails.
All of the city’s private property was now public, but useless,
floating as it was, in shit. None of it, not the iPhones or Jaguars,
the Hunter boots or toy giraffes imported
from France, now bobbing maniacally in the water,
mattered. We shared stories and whatever raisins were left.
Alanis Obomsawin, sitting around our campfire beside Pauline Johnson,
asked what colour the sky was. St. Kateri Tekakwitha,
Ike and Tina, Joan of Arc, Marco Polo, Snuffaluffagus— they all came
galumphing back. Buffy St. Marie. Neil Young. Louis Riel.
We all sat around roasting raisins—
all of us intermittently
marooned on an unidentifiable Arctic island at Great Bear Lake. The sky?
We hadn’t looked at it.
Babies cried. Laura Secord handed out milkshakes.
Georgia O’Keefe stood as still as a petroglyph, entranced
by the horizon. We’d come too seldom
to the ocean. We were too busy with the 21st century.
But eternal return isn’t infinite. Not everyone comes back,
nothing lasts. My pony refused to do the dirty work
and her brackish eyes were glassy. On her way to the slaughterhouse,
years ago, standing in a dark box car, despondent, she felt the sudden
hospitality of a man’s arms around her neck.
Turns out those arms were Nietzsche’s, crash-test dummy,
beloved by thousands of boy students of philosophy
the world over, lover of blood and birds and horses. When, after more
Arctic transit, we moved from ice cap to ice cap and watched off
the coast of Greenland the final outburst of the tide
flower up and die, we stopped
so that Pony could peer into the oily face of the sea.

Published at New Poetry