Van Isle Poetry Collective Volume 2 Spring Edition
Edited by April Hilland Copyright © 2021 April Hilland All poets retain the rights to their poems in this publication. All rights reserved. www.vanislepoetrycollective.com i
A WORD FROM THE EDITOR FEATURED POETS SÉBASTIEN STREIT E. ANN BERENS LAURA ANN O’BRIEN KELLY B. MADDEN OZGE STEPHEN LEAH HURRELL BARRY HUNT BRODY STEPHEN ELIZABETH BOYD MICHELLE POIRIER BROWN MJ MACKAY PAUL STEPHEN DEREK R. SWALLOW E. ANN BERENS CATHY ALBRECTT DAVE GOULDEN GREG BLEE LAURA ANN O’BRIEN MARGARET MCKENZIE JENNIFER MOES JEFFREY FRIESEN GEOFF BATTIMELLI PAUL STEPHEN TERRANCE JAMES LAWRENCE J.W. COOPER FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER
A WORD FROM OUR EDITOR It is the last day of my Spring Break and as I sit here dreaming of warmer days ahead, there is a full-out spring storm battering many parts of Vancouver Island right now. I’m watching the tender petals of my crocuses being assailed by wind, rain, and now hail. I feel fortunate to be sitting by my fireplace fiddling with this issue of the Van Isle Poetry Collective’s journal for poetry. Although this is only our second issue, I am blown away by the submissions filling my inbox daily. I am so humbled by all of your talent and feel so blessed to be working on this project to share your voices. Please join me in celebrating this diverse talent from all parts of this region we call home, Vancouver Island, BC.
About April Hilland April is a teacher-librarian on Vancouver Island. She is a published children’s author and poet who thrives on sharing her passion for the written word.
SÉBASTIEN STREIT COMOX, BC A Wilting Flower in the month of may A wilting flower in the month of may Burnt a hole in the lone decrepit heart. Which yearns for love and drowns in its dismay.
As it succumbs to creeping jaws of death It grieves the pedals gathered round it’s stem, Fearing the inevitable last breath. So quick to fall upon the mourning earth, Birds cry out as terror rips at their soul. Seeds fell and hope was found for rebirth. Rising from nothing with burning desire The being surges with its taste of life And the forest is filled with untamed fire. Sébastien Streit is from the Comox Valley. He grew up internationally and moved back to the island a few years back. Seeing much of the world and its many cultures has helped him in appreciating the differences and similarities in our world. He writes poetry and composes music almost on a daily basis. He truly loves word play! The Comox Valley is a wonderful place to be. Spring has to be the best time of year here as the lush greens and singing birds provide much inspiration in his writings.
E. ANN BERENS COURTENAY, BC BEGINNINGS
Is there any true beginning? Do endings follow? Life is in constant motion. A child is born – what joy! Seeds are planted – we watch for them to sprout, grow, complete their cycle. Changes take place, triggering excitement as new thoughts come, imagination brings new possibilities. Hope revives as energy, enflamed by new beginnings, replaces fear with love and joy. Cycle of life continues. We have the will to find answers to dilemmas of our time. Ann Berens, was born in England in 1930, trained as an elementary school teacher, and emigrated to Canada in 1956. She lived in California for over 50 years before returning to Canada in 2012 to live near her children, when her husband died. Her poetry writing began in the USA and much of it came out of her spiritual search. She now loves living on this beautiful Vancouver Island, in Courtenay BC, as a permanent resident, having meanwhile become a U.S. citizen.
LAURA ANN O’BRIEN COMOX, BC LEAVING SEASONS A year turns over like a new leaf Old leaves of yesterday blowing in the wind Destined for death by living organism Leaving a rich medium for seeds to sprout and grow A space filled with life basking in light and hope
Flowers emerge pushing their heads through mulch Like swimmers aiming for the surface Neglected dead heads of the past season If not carried away or consumed slowly return to the earth Leaving traces of beauty and nectar on the landscape A queen bee leaves her hive with a swarm of souls, sky nomads Flying away from the safety of home to continue her reign of sweetness Over a colony vulnerable to viral and biological threats Seeking shelter in numbers and assigned duties Leaving combs of honey to share while they rest Plants reach for the sky in a race to leave their progeny Safe and secure to continue the cycle uninterrupted Universal time dims the switch and the greens rest and weep As the sun follows its perennial course Leaving darkness in different moments Winter berries and holly thrive as the rest falter A bare landscape creeps in taking diversity with it While the stars enjoy the limelight sparkling in the past A combination of hot and cold, light and dark Leaving their ancient glow in modern times for all seasons
Laura lives in Merville in the beautiful Comox Valley. She is a legal assistant by trade, a writer by heart and a dedicated conservationist. She is passionate about the natural world and how it is all connected.
KELLY B. MADDEN COMOX, BC Bloom
Each pat of soil upon a seed is an earnest silent prayer that sprouted leaf will have the strength; reach up and through blackened lair each petal in blooming glory unfurling slow, a loving story may bring a breath to those unbreathing; reprieve in sharpest parts of grieving Allah, Flora, Abu, Jesus! please put your gentle hands under tender tiny, dangling roots loosen soil, urge out of darkness kiss softly their tender shoots each pat of soil upon a seed is now a begging gesture that we see milk of golden corn and bee’s delight in flower’s vesture Hashem, Buddha, Brahma, Chloris! set sun this way and summon rain let cool of hope into us pour and each soft petal remind us it was worth pushing through darkness for
KELLY B. MADDEN COMOX, BC Spring Sun
I do not need the rush of the drop from a high place such swooning is found in watching something hatch and the climb, the climb and scrabble up my musings tell me, is profoundly shifting but stillness in sunlight and new things, soon to come from below brown soil stir me I have heard too, that riding rapids alight the spirit but none, for me, send light as bright as first emerging bud or rows of green that will feed us all Kelly B. Madden writes fiction, poetry and children's stories. Her work has appeared in anthologies, Island Writer's Magazine, Reckoning 2 & 4, and elsewhere. Her first poetry collection, If I'd Known, will be released in early summer, 2021. She lives in the Comox Valley, BC
OZGE STEPHEN NANOOSE BAY, BC WINTER SOLSTICE There. The Skies broke open as predicted. Even the Creator itself, must go through transition to birth anew. We are one step closer now.
Pouring out, is the yin of the clouds and the Moon. Nature's way is the same, for humans, dogs, and Gods. The sacred fluids precedent the infant. There. Breathe deep into your hurt and sorrow. Time is of essence, damn your shame, self-pity, and anger. You must break open for life. This here, is the seed, engraved with our harvest. Nature's cyclical way of sprout to flower, flower to fruit, fruit to seed. This is our chance to circle whole. There. Let out that beautiful cry. I will feed you, milk from my breasts, and pomegranate from the tree. Welcome home, you are safe now.
Blessed be the dark, Blessed be this beginning.
Ozge Stephen is the mother of two earthlings, a first-generation immigrant from Turkey, acupuncturist and birth worker. She lives in beautiful Nanoose Bay, surrounded by the everyday magic of Mother Nature.
OZGE STEPHEN NANOOSE BAY, BC VISION
I finally lay my forehead, to the warmth of Mother Earth. I am praying, grieving and resting, all at once. The holy book says the soul weighs less than the feather of a bird. I believe it in this moment, because my body is heavy, but my soul is free. A ruby eyed pit viper slithers, through the heart protector on my Yin side. Coiled tight, coiled light, hissing, healing is possible. The medicine is in the poison, you ignorant human. Don't forget how you crawled, when they pulled the ground under your feet. Ignite the flicker deep in your womb, light fireworks with your birth hole. Stop being afraid. You are the medicine. A pigeon lands on my right arm. Pigeons are doves, did you know? Doves protected Muhammed, on Hira Mountain. Doves sang love songs on the cedar tree, while anxiety sat heavy on your throat. Remember,
you don't have to be made of steel and fuel to fly, tiny birds can fly high too. Remember your faith, prayer is strong medicine. Keep bringing your forehead to the ground, to grow wings. Mother, I want to be whole, I want to be me. Let me rest in the shadow of the yew tree. I shall be intoxicated on the berries, until a new me shoots out from my roots.
LEAH HURRELL BLACK CREEK, BC Spring Peepers Come out and sing with us Join our snow moon chorus Leave the shelter of the solemn fir where you have huddled in dark silence Dance and celebrate with us our single voices make a thunderous noise As we call out to each other to welcome the vernal equinox Dawn breaks and we have scattered memory of our song written on invisible filaments floating beneath the water surface When the swamp lantern pushes it hard shoots through the frosty dirt masses of transparent sacs become visible with the promise of spring
Leah Hurrell loves to immerse herself in nature; observing and learning about the flora and fauna that surrounds her. This passion is the foundation of her art, writing and photography. She lives in Black Creek with her husband and their horses.
BARRY HUNT NANAIMO, BC New Moon in Sagittarius
The New Moon is always about beginning, the energy of beginning, that green shoot breaking through the soil, rising up, the strength and courage to rise up, to continue rising up with only a vision in our hearts of what we might become, holding tight to this vision, renewing ourselves with this vision, growing stronger with this vision, becoming this vision of what we dreamed to be. This New Moon is also a solar eclipse, that rare and inspiring moment when the sun, the moon and the earth align, that moment when the moon shields the earth from the sun. Sit with me, reflect with me on this moment
when the moon shields the earth from the sun, this New Moon in Sagittarius. Reflect on what it might be telling us about a new direction and the role of the feminine within us all, the role of the feminine at this time, especially at this time, when we all are taking time to reflect on what we want to create for ourselves, for our communities, for the waters all around us, for our home, our mother, this loving earth, and for the air we breathe, the air that inspires us to be all that we dreamed to be. Barry Hunt lives in the Cedar area of the Nanaimo Regional District. He enjoys reading and writing poetry and now that he is retired, he is devoting more time to it. He finds that writing poetry is a wonderful way of connecting with the world around himself, connecting in a way that he finds deeply meaningful. He is very happy that his poem, New Moon in Sagittarius, has been selected for the Spring 2021 issue and he looks forward to meeting other poets and lovers of poetry in the community.
BRODY STEPHEN PARKSVILLE, BC
Brody Stephen is 27 years old, grew up on the island and has been here his whole life, he has ventured around but will always call this island his home. He is passionate about nature and exploring space both inner and outer, Eastern philosophy and reading. His favourite poets are Jim Morrison, Charles Bukowski, and T.S Eliot. He lives in Parksville.
ELIZABETH BOYD COURTENAY, BC The New One Plucked from the dark soil of dreams Stumbling to wakefulness I carry you in my arms, in my eyes, in my ears Each moment with you, child, a vast expanse engulfing me
At dawn I hear birds I’ve never known Are they birds or bats? Shadow wings flap against the faint light of day Traffic on the highway reminds me of childhood nights, the roar of the racetrack on the edge of town Memories are soundwaves travelling over space Daytime, we are jerky marionettes Swayed by the gravitational pull of money, time, need Urgently, we take photos, make memories, capsules of our life to be studied later Child, you are removed from the chaos Suspended among us Grasping we try to hold on, but you are starlight Come from a great distance, glittering, indifferent
ELIZABETH BOYD COMOX, BC Seeds Everything grows from a seed, my mother said, diagraming the ovaries, the uterus shaped like a ram’s skull drying in the desert
Ever the schoolteacher she had us push our fingers into the dirt Wait for it, miraculous growth A fragile shoot in a Styrofoam cup Inevitable wonder: did I create this? So too a baby grows planted deep in the womb where I feel it now: rage rooted way down low in that warm dark pit Anger has been growing from the seeds she gave me Sprouting dark stems, tendrils that reach up from my belly, curl around my esophagus in a strangle hold, choking the words from me What would I say to her anyway? Words too vile to be spoken, could I spit the seeds of that bitter fruit out like tiny sparks? Fear stops me Sparks catch, they might ignite a flame that grows out of control My little fire pales in comparison 17
to her fury: an inferno Better to swallow that weak ember Trim back the growing vine of anger Bury the seeds deep in the loamy soil of my gut, though they may yet spread a creeping foliage of darkness
Elizabeth Boyd's poetry has appeared in Grain Magazine and the anthology Alone but Not Alone: Poetry in Isolation. She balances work, family and writing from her home in the magnificent Comox Valley.
MICHELLE POIRIER BROWN VICTORIA, BC The Place They Now Begin The body is compliant with the rules. She points to her inchoate dewlaps, he raises his feet toward the ceiling, the skin on his thighs, draped crêpe. He bought her a bird feeder. Daily opens the kitchen window to fill it. She has seen her first finch and chickadee. Can identify now a dark-eyed junco in flight. Winter evenings, they jigsaw puzzle. Every week, he makes soup. He drives her to her appointments, errands they do on a walk. They manage their separate insomnias without blame, are considerate of pains when tender. She has been known to skip, just a little, not enough to draw eyes, down the sidewalk. Or hop in greeting when he emerges from his room. She is happy. Tentatively. Apprehensively. And he, too. A wisp emerging from a mystic teabag, a faint streak of clarity in his customary cup of dark liquid, his bleak resentment gone, replaced by a dark regret.
They have found their way to the last wedge of opportunity, have licked the place where they now begin, intend to eat only this till the end. Michelle Poirier Brown is an internationally published Cree Métis poet and performer, currently living in Lekwungen territory (Victoria, BC, Canada). Her poem “Wake” won PRISM international’s Earle Birney Prize in 2019. Other poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Arc, CV2, Grain, The Greensboro Review, Emrys Journal, Plenitude, Right Hand Pointing, and Vallum; as well as several chapbooks and anthologies. Her suite of poems, “The Length of a Day,” has been set to music for a Pacific Opera Victoria recital to be live-streamed in April 2021.
MJ MACKAY DENMAN ISLAND, BC Winter Fantasy 1995
I’m thinking about a fire again, about lighting one in my head It started with that storm last week I thought about how good it would feel to have the wind whistle around in there, but then I thought it would probably just whip everything around the sides and into the corners like so much litter in a playground So I thought I’d have a big bonfire (in the backyard) I’d invite the neighbours, get rid of all the books, magazines, newspapers, school bulletins, homework, drawings, paintings, projects (that castle my son made two years ago) I’d rip off all that stuff stuck to the refrigerator and throw in all our scarves, hats, mittens, (maybe not socks that still have mates) files, receipts, computer discs, all our food, (especially that rack of spices we never use) everything in the bathroom except for one roll of toilet paper And then I’d paint everything, you guessed it, (white) But I knew in the back of my mind I still wouldn’t feel right because what I need is not a fire in the back yard. I need a purge, 21
a thorough cleansing, a brain enema a clear cut, a fire in my head! It’ll burn up everything I can’t remember should remember have to remember and forget. Birthdays, for example, the location of my check book, whether or not the dog has had her rabies shots, how to write a villanelle, house insurance, the speed limit, where I put my glasses, the year end, my parents, Aunt Sheila, Uncle Jack, my sister, Natalia, to smile Burn the inside of my head right down to the ground til it sizzles til there’s absolutely nothing left to forget And I mean nothing. And then, then I’ll start fresh with a clean slate (virginal white) And this time I’ll be really careful about what goes in there. MJ Mackay lives on Denman Island. She has moved on to fantasies about a world where the environment is treated with loving respect and sociopaths are banned from positions of power.
PAUL STEPHEN NANOOSE BAY, BC Purple Equinox
I watched in awe as mornings purple light reflected off the mountain’s first snow. A young buck snorted two pillars of fog from his nose in my direction; it’s hard to say who was more impressed. The petals fell off the wild rose months ago, now they sit in amber glass jars on the shelf and in my heart. The dark of winter makes it easy to forget: everything is made of light and honey.
Paul Stephen was born and raised in Vancouver Island, and has recently moved back to beautiful Nanoose Bay to raise his two sons Cedar and Rowan. He finds continual inspiration watching his wife and his boys experience the same joy and beauty of Island life as he did as a child.
DEREK R. SWALLOW EAST SAANICH, BC Sea Tears
Gazing east across the Salish Sea Across the marine harbour a soft gust streams harsh words in your voice of wind on water in the wash of sand on pebble Crystal water acetal speckled bejeweling your golden ribbon stranded hair Breath cold a flow of banded air a sigh of brine and drifting diesel I try speaking but I am mute I find no words to bind your wounds my bedazzled sight blinded me to you Now I’m listening 24
Is it too late to save you? Is it too late to begin anew?
Derek is a poet, fictionist, photographer, teacher and a forty-year resident of East Saanich, WSÁNEĆ, on magnificent Vancouver Island. His poetry and short fiction appear in recent Vancouver Island publications, including Alone but Not Alone: Poetry in Isolation and a poetry/short fiction anthology Writing Rhapsody.
DEREK R. SWALLOW EAST SAANICH, BC The End’s Beginning
Banked against the wall a bundle of cast-off clothes? Maybe an old fabric cloak covering something familiar something fair? She calls me she wills me there Singing a silent song of loss drifting lyrics ringing clear I approach bewildered Then bewitched I reach to touch her sprawling form so young her almond eyes full open gleam in her lean graceful face Gently very gently 26
I stroke her umber hair so silky soft so frigid cold Why did you summon me? To mourn for you? To mourn for what you’ve lost? Inside my emotions whip and toss In the falling light I feel an urge to go I turn but abruptly stop In the dark two shining eyes I move back They move forward Entering my mind a rising light a mother’s child From the shadows a newborn stumbles I crouch Oh, little fawn what am I to do?
E. ANN BERENS COURTENAY, BC END OR BEGINNING?
He lay there still, just breathing waiting to die. Ninety odd years he‛s been around, active until these last few days. He‛d always been alert, concerned with what he had in mind. Dear man, I love him still, but I won‛t hold him to this life with prayers and anguish, no, he‛s had enough, he waits to go. Watching him fading day by day, it seems like birth, subtle changes happening slowly, but slowly. He holds my hand, I know he knows I‛m there. Sometimes tears trickle down his face, he looks so sad as if he‛s loath to leave the ones he loves, but knows he must. I share my tears with his and find relief. At birth we wait, a mother breathing deep, urging her infant out into the world. Nothing must hasten the event. And so with death, it happens in its own good time. All other things are set aside, this is the only task in mind, a loved one waiting close, just being there is all he needs, his body needs no fare. Dying of old age naturally, was beautiful. No pain, just peace in body, 28
soul and mind. Watching, waiting by his side helped me be ready for his end—or was it his beginning?
CATHY ALBRECTT DENMAN ISLAND, BC
I saw you on a distant staircase Counting raindrops on your fingers Catching them on a wink of your soul Every step you took both up and down Caressed the stairs. Your hat tickled a star Your shoulder tipped the moon. I saw you on a distant staircase Counting raindrops on your fingers
Cathy is a recycling artist on Denman Island which she has been active in for 30 years. She started writing poetry at 13 years of age and has continued at it mostly for my own enjoyment and to be delighted by the turn of phrase. She is retired now from her day job, visual merchandising set designer and then floral designer. She now writes, creates in her studio and coaxes plants in her garden.
DAVE GOULDEN NANAIMO, BC "The Island" Totem pole architect, stealer of light, powerful, virtuous, sentinel knight. Celestial carrier startled with fright, vital sun, Luna love, starry-eyed night. Trickster's morph, presto flower in flight, Raven's message, A hummer's requite. Whisper thank-you to blossoms so bright, rambler-rose, yellow-bells, foxglove in white. Exquisite flora, humankind hold tight.
Volcanic, insular, drifting so slow, glacial work of art, sculptural show. Climate shift, melting ice, rivulets flow, creek into river to ocean side go. Mountaintops painted softly in snow, alpine meadow a floral rainbow. Ancient forest immense giants grow, crystalline waterfalls caverns bestow. Miracle beaches, waves that crest and glow. Sail around Nootka, beautiful sound, generate power, windy cape bound. Wonderful wall dive, Dolphins' wry smile, Native lore, potlatch, Harmony Isle. Telegraph Station, havening bight, body rub gravel, Orcas' de-light. Overhead cruise ships, safely pass by, Ripple Rock twin peaks, razed to the sky. Northerly pioneers driven design, whaling gray, falling red, jigging a line. Building hope, raising joy, passions define, hinterland villages spirits combine. Mischief’s fares granted jungle shoreline, children's capture a growling feline. 32
Orchid's namesake, mount's powder divine, rails of steel, karst terrain, Golden Gate mine. Tough cougar lady, homestead now her shrine. Snowbirds' Great Maple, aerial fun, maritime creatures, second to none. Port of call, noon boom, heritage stroll, tubbers vie, sweet treat, city’s deep soul. Paradise islands, magical time, notable culture, rhythm and rhyme. Sightseers mecca, capital place, historic, high-tech, all to embrace. Eldest park, galleon, three sixty view, fabulous spectacle yonder, the blue. Captain, Chief, Governor thorny issue, Upana (oo-pah-nah), freighter run, vistas imbue. Skis bite hard, downhill, fossilized clue, valley’s bounty a tasteful menu. Marmot, miner, keen action rescue, tsunami, wild tyee, tales may be true. Festival twinkle, mural walk, stage cue. Salish Sea, Race Rocks, video stream, best of breach Humpback, bubble net team. Pacific's stormy, rugged west coast, nautical graveyard, treacherous host. Towering Sitka, torturous trail, resolute surfers, chasing their grail. Legacy hot spring, peaceful warm sigh, furry kelp keeper, Friendly Cove nigh. Royal cast, mighty king, yodelling loon, Alderlea, sweater bee, motor cars zoom. Malahat, rainmaker, driving monsoon, summit cam, serpentine, faces of doom. Autumn chum enter Nature's cocoon, bay way, seaside, a farmer's heirloom. Sunken garden, observe heaven's moon, bascule bridge, tea for two, romance in bloom. 33
Sooke harbour bistro, farewell toast too soon.
Dave Goulden grew up in Yorkshire, England, immigrated to Canada He enjoys the process of writing poetry, researching the subject matter, observing real life events and drawing from personal past experiences. The pertinent resources are given a sympathetic sifting, and then mixed with the poetic narrative that flows with rhythm and rhyme, wrapped in a complimentary melody and infused with genuine soul. He lives in “The Harbour City” of Nanaimo with his very understanding and supportive wife.
GREG BLEE GABRIOLA ISLAND, BC housecleaning
if the opposite of profundity is clutter & jive then i must be the shallowest man alive just look at this desk impersonating a landslide, that toilet tsunami of green fuzz, those clothes in drifts cross the floor, the packs of rabid dust bunny prowling ’neath the bed i am deplorable, a swine, i think— & turn my back on the mewling chaos & head out the door & find a forest for walking in where the furniture’s all crooked & the carpet’s dead leaves & the drapes tattered fir & nothing hangs remotely straight & paint-green moss is spattered everywhere & somebody’s lunch lies mouldering on a log & somebody else shat on a rock & the floor is not just dirty, it is dirt— but everything nonetheless just stands around like there’s no bloody great list of chores to be done then i go back home & fling open the door & wade back into the shamble sea 35
& shriek o hallelujah hey, this is how it’s meant to be! & knock “tidy” off my list & move on to “poetry” Greg Blee is rediscovering poetry, writing and cultural non-profits after a dry stint in municipal politics. He relocated from Tofino to Gabriola Island two years ago.
LAURA ANN O’BRIEN COURTENAY, BC FORMS OF FREEDOM
A baby who exits a once comfortable womb in an often bloody and urgent fashion Quickly adjusts to the strange bright world of Earth Eyes wide, lungs and limbs active Celebrating escape from the growing confines of its fleshy first home Freedom Its mother often enduring the worst pain of her existence Surrendering to nature’s life force the last of her energy Ending a nine-month journey of physical and spiritual growth Celebrating the miraculous miniature human and the return of dominion over her own body Freedom The toddler who touches everything in its path Such innate passion for discovery, resistant to attempts to enforce exploratory limits Temper tantrums in defiance of restrictions to mobility and will The child escapes the confines of its people and society every chance it gets Celebrating, running reckless in pursuit of adventure and knowledge Freedom A river flowing freely at its own pace gathering water drifting down from sky and streams Growing in size and velocity depending on moisture and temperature Determined to reach the lowest point quickly and unimpeded Celebrating its prowess of overcoming obstacles and realizing its goal in ocean currents Freedom A huge concrete structure blocking a vibrant waterway Choking off its very oxygen in the industrial quest for ultimate dominance over nature’s forces
Erected mostly by men and their machines in a feat as challenging as creating the pyramids Providing power and financial stability to human families at the expense of fish, bears, eagles and more Freedom, for some An ocean of swirls covering the globe, giant salty bathtubs of abundance Flowing around rocks, islands, capes, continents, moving in a moon dance of tides Ebbing in retreat to reveal sandy and rocky fields of life, crawling, digging, pinching, pecking A web of food feeding birds, humans and its own creatures allowing growth to flourish Freedom A garden growing with guidance, planted on purpose or springing naturally from seeds carried on wind and wings Plants appearing lifeless through the low light of winter weather, sheltering from the cold Buds burst forth as sun and air temperature rise in the sky An annual miracle providing energy for living and food for focused thought Freedom A seedling turns to sapling yearning for space to grow, rising upwards with each hour filled with light Growing arms to hug the universe, roots to support itself and reach out to neighbours Families of cedars and Garry oaks each with companions in forest or field Shrubs and conifers standing green forever, beacons of life through the mist and clouds Freedom Fantastical forests, silent armies of peaceful pacifists standing guard over sacred ground Intersected by streams and rivers, natural humidifiers misting needles as water moves and trees stand tall
Conifers constantly breathing, expelling life-giving oxygen and pheromones into the atmosphere while the deciduous contribute seasonally their share Including vibrant underground colonies among their roots while the salmon cycle fertilizes each fall a woodland allowed to mature into its diversity and greatness Freedom Laura lives in Merville in the beautiful Comox Valley. She is a legal assistant by trade, a writer by heart and a dedicated conservationist. She is passionate about the natural world and how it is all connected.
MARGARET MCKENZIE COMOX, BC Perspective
Stand atop a chair take a look around Step back a moment a mote of dust sparkles in a shaft of winter sun strikes the glass turtle on the window sill rainbows paint the ceiling and with sudden clarity expose symmetry overlooked in a different light. Is that a lady bug in the corner? Outside my door into a day of grass that glistens white. I shift: sound of a jackhammer attack on the neighbour's driveway becomes two men at workthey earn a living piece by piece of conglomerate tossed into the contractor bin. Hum of the leaf-blower morphs into a golf foursome out for an early morning constitutional. Dog barks across the road I silently threaten to report it41
I shift: he only wishes out of that fenced in backyard, no owner home to ruffle his coat. Sunlight whispers across the tops of frosted branches reaches into deep corners begins a conversation.
Born in Comox, Margaret has lived in the United States and Australia before returning to Comox in 1988. In retirement she operates the Silver Bowerbird Gallery and Studio in Courtenay where she hosts events, workshops and art classes. Margaret began writing poetry in High School. She has discovered that helping others explore their creative potential through art and poetry brings her the greatest satisfaction.
MARGARET MCKENZIE COMOX, BC Time of the New Moon
Hidden moon, dark face obscured from our gaze. What happens there behind earth’s dark shadow? Silent. Stirring up emotions Stripping away perception Confusing by absence Causing a loss of direction Creating lack of determination. Influencing so many actions. At the nadir of clarity Darkens pathways to destinations Stumbling, no illumination Staggering in the shadows Swaying between feelings Nothing is clear. Decisions impossible. Oh! Then somehow Opens up to new beginnings Closes out prior plans. Stay still, Wait to make the next advance Evaluate all aspects Success will come with patience. Hidden moon everything awaits your next phase, Cautious, tentative - No bold Rubicon tonight.
JENNIFER MOES NANAIMO, BC Call of the Wind The Day is bleak and dreary, I settle into my treasured corner of the couch Mesmerized by the landscape Riveted by the wind The wind Mighty, magical, menacing Everchanging, dynamic substance Imagine Imagine being whisked away Invited to unfamiliar places Force my existence into the unknown A journey of self-reflection I observe in wonderment Yield to its’ captivating charm Allow it to wipe clean insecurities and imperfections Reckless abandonment Sense it’s fierce confidence Discern it’s slippery whisper Tossed franticly about as A leaf Captured in a violent gale Never fearful of its’ bold power It’s chaotic passion Adapt with fervour Every direction a possibility This wild unsettled force grips me Heart pumping to the melody of the sky I surrender to Whatever direction I am compelled Whether shadowy nights Whether Brilliant days In all its’ daring boldness The wind 45
Leaves me fearless, courageous, intoxicated I am part of its’ fabric I am not frightened. Jennifer has always been an Island girl. She spent her childhood in Port Alberni and now resides in Nanaimo. She is a wife and mother to four incredible kids. Besides enjoying putting pen to paper, she finds much joy at her job as a nurse at NRGH.
JEFFREY FRIESEN GABRIOLA ISLAND, BC Theia
Through giants and heavens quasars even time Collision random flying hot debris Our mother spins while dust unites above In orbit now the force pulls seas below Pools fill and empty they will never know The crab lives here not just in midnight’s sky And stars are brightest early afternoon Beginning ending one rock turns to light
Jeff enjoys exploring remote corners of Vancouver Island and BC. He likes to watch the stars on a clear night and see Mount Baker on a clear day.
GEOFF BATTIMELLI COMOX, BC The leaf
I was born in springtime high up in a tree A small green bud opened up, and suddenly there was me I absorbed warm Sunshine beaming down to me on rays I drank the water from the rainfall on other stormy days I hung on tight in high wind on some really crazy days And I survived those insects, who chose leaves on which to graze By summer what a wonderful sight, our lovely big tree made We offered writers and readers below some cool and grateful shade When eventually the fall nights began to darken and to cool Our colours changed to show again the beauty of it all Now I began to turn from deep greens into reds then to orange, eventually to bright yellow And people came to visit to take pictures from below Eventually the frosts came and some of us began to fall Then lay below a blanket made of leaves, and soon that fateful day will come, when I will join them all I hang on tight because I really do not want to die And it now gets much harder, as the cold winds start to fly When I can no longer hold on, comes the last and final day I must let go my parent tree, and now gently float away In just a fleeting moment I softly land, to join my friends below We are now scattered all around, by the winter winds that blow 48
Now on the ground we feel exposed, but we still please because The children come to pile us up, to dance, and play with us As night arrive with frosty cold, we continue to decay So when the rain and wind begins, I know, I’m fast fading away Then once again there comes along that one last sunny day And a family with children come, just one last time to play Then a lucky happenstance occurs, a small girl chooses me to take and show her dad She asks him can I keep this leaf, I think it’s feeling sad When he agrees she takes it for her Mom to have a look Her Mother says let’s take it home and press it in a book And that’s the story of how my life continued, and I went on to be Inside a book upon a shelf where that little girl placed me A book of trees, with stories and with many illustrations A place where I still live today after many generations Geoff is 74 years old and lives in the beautiful Comox Valley. He retired three years ago and started writing as a way discover a different side of himself. He now rides his bike, (not E), or walks every day, it turns out that the rhythm of such movement often comes out in his writing as poetry. He likes to see life from a different perspective and sometimes this brings out poems that may also appeal to children, as he thinks this one might.
PAUL STEPHEN NANOOSE BAY, BC New Moon
For one thing, the new moon taught me that the world keeps turning. Think Yeats’ gyre, think grebes going south,
think samsara and breath. Though we all felt the pause of six/feet/apart nothing stops, nothing starts. Fresh bread is fresh bread whether it's eaten or not, and the sound of the water is louder when you listen for the meaning; when you learn that language is so much more than organized form. It's hard to see the stars beside the shining moon, though and you'll burn your cheeks when you come home to the fire
if you are trapped out in the cold for too long. Paul Stephen was born and raised in Vancouver Island, and has recently moved back to beautiful Nanoose Bay to raise his two sons Cedar and Rowan. He finds continual inspiration watching his wife and his boys experience the same joy and beauty of Island life as he did as a child.
TERRANCE JAMES COMOX, BC Berried treasure
Red huckleberries, miniature baubles of semi-sweet freshness decorate seasonal high bushes growing from earth, stumps, nurse logs. Introducing a hiker's delight I bend the branches for grandsons as thumbs and forefingers adeptly pluck each prize. The six-year-old inhales berries bites, squishes, and swallows while picking more. At four his brother smiles widely, mouth agape to display accumulated treasure before he chomps, sucks, savours, and drools.
Terrance James is a retired educator, and grandparent, who resides in the Comox Valley. He writes poetry, biography, and local history. He is a member to the Comox Valley Writers Society.
LAWRENCE J.W. COOPER COMOX, BC A Place to Call Home
For too long now I have been in search of a place to call home. I have lived in many houses but I have never found a place where I feel I belong. Childhood, fatherless, crowded, the fifth of five shacks, fodder for the bulldozer, fodder for fire fighters’ practice fires. a solitary sentinel surviving to guard against homelessness. Ten bodies occupying five hundred feet squared. Two bedrooms, three bodies each, with four on the living room floor. No space to breathe. Hours on the street, fodder for the demons to plant seeds of despair.
Anguish buried in the circuits of my amazing brain, my gift from the gods, I set to work to leave the past behind. Toil and trouble, enchantments of the marriage and moiling for gold. 53
From adventurous shack in a college town to a country trailer in the woods, to a castle by the sea. Seventeen houses in twenty-five years, five provinces, three continents, houses, houses, and more houses but never a place called home. Growing babies, planting seed for more stress, scoring career goals for more toil and trouble and more houses to live in. In and out again, never there to make a house a home. Little ones growing up unnoticed, leaving and losing touch. The touch lost, love died. Alone in a big house that was not a home, losing all – wealth, peace, and pride, set adrift desolate towards a familiar shore, floating, houseless, homeless again. But once more, buoyed by a beautiful brain that harbors the desire for more, I dare to dream one more dream, to begin one more beginning, one more chance to seek sanctity absolution for the forgiveness of sins. I have been washed ashore, here,
to create a new dream
on the last island of hope, the silver shores of Costa Rica, to plant a rose garden, in a place I can finally call home.
Lawrence J. W. Cooper is the poet laureate of the Comox Valley. Lawrence is a published author. He has published three books of poetry. His latest book, Enchanted with Life, is a collection of poems based on living a life that he truly loves to live in beautiful Fanny Bay on Baynes sound where the sea meets the mountains and the mountains meet the sky.
A collection of curated poems from the Vancouver Island Region of British Columbia, Canada.