Van Isle Poetry Collective Fall/Winter Issue 1

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Copyright Š 2020 is retained by each of the poets highlighted in this journal. All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the poets except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

A Word from the editor...

Welcome to Van Isle Poetry Collective’s debut issue. This wee literary journal began as a daydream one sunny day at Malaspina Galleries on Gabriola Island a few years back and has finally come to fruition as the publication you are reading today. Upon moving to Gabriola Island in 2016 from Northern British Columbia, I quickly saw that life and experiences in this beautiful province of ours varies regional as do the works of art that comes out of each place in our province and it inspired me to write, publish and curate experiences from this beautiful corner of British Columbia. So please, tuck yourself into a comfy position, pour a cup of tea, coffee, wine, whiskey...whatever your pleasure and read a selection of curated poetry from our beautiful islands of BC.


Untitled* I am going to town today past the wrappers of lost children over bridges of old peoples stories down the streets with orgied billboards I am going to town today following the line of sacred cows taunting wallets. I am going to town today to pick the best over the worst and amble through the temptress of having I am going to town today over laughing worshippers and crisp liars calling my name I am going to town today I will tell you not to follow. *no title submitted


Qualicum Sunset This evening’s sunset, though ethereal rose, is not unique—I’ve seen its like before emblazoning this shore; others eclipse it, robed and grandiose, descending suns which, as they disappear, draw a train across the polar ice for half a year— long, silken night that lets in astral rain. I see no Ellesmere, but islands smolder, anthracite to bank the sunset’s fire. As twilight's rays retire the ebb tide bares a sandbar like a shoulder and ingle-benches empty—seabird flocks seek nooks of calm; they search for marsh and carr with goodnight squawks as sea and sky close like a carmine clam. In another life I’d clamber Brooks Range talus or run the Sagavanirktok by canoe, my paddle breaking through a dusky, red aurora borealis. But this is my life and this fair coast, my home, and this setting sun deserves to be viewed, not with an eye to roam, but as if it were the first and only one.

West-Coast Run I'm flying the footpath that curves by the creek on the mulch of the maples of fall and the stumps of the old-growth, which stretched to the skies, and the stumps of the old-growth, their cut-outs like eyes, are staring as if they could watch us— but the hand-loggers felled them, from springboards they felled them by kerfing above where their boles were broad-butted; but the hand-loggers felled them, their boards in those notches; but the hand-loggers felled them. They died. Now over the boulders that shoulder the shore— an octopus still on the stones with its body sac slumped, with its suckers displayed, with its body sac slumped and its arms disarrayed in a tide-tangled twist on the gravel; this red devilfish, this dread devilfish— a mollusk with muscle for clutching its captives— this red devilfish, which the gulls will unravel, this red devilfish is no more.


West-Coast Run …. continued But there's life in this landscape and wings for the wind for the herring have silvered the seas and the Arctic-bound goose flocks have swallowed their spawn, and the Arctic-bound goose flocks will mill and move on and will nest on more northerly shoals: with immense susurrations, intense susurrations, their thousands are thronging, assembling and trembling; with immense susurrations, the multitude rolls; with immense susurrations, they rise. And I fly like that flock as I run on these rocks, as my lifetime is measured in miles, and I sing on the wind for the decades I've jogged, and I sing on the wind for the joys that I've logged and rejoice while the forests regrow; and I’ll run on this coast, on this life-and-death coast, till time, with its tentacles, twines round my tendons; and I’ll run on this coast in my mind when I slow, and I’ll run on this coast when I’m old.



Daybreak, Tofino The sand is of doeskin, the mizzle is bright for the sun is a lamp above sleepwalking mist, and the land intermingles with dimness—the night still lingers, asleep on the rainforest’s chest, but is slipping away a luminous gray from the hills and the headlands that hammock the bay as its forehead is kissed by the light. Each wave is an indigo ripple on slate which advances, glissando, a wraith from a wall of nothingness, makes the expanse undulate like the wandering remnant of some perfect squall, then swells to a ledge which is stropped to an edge by the whet of the wind, and collapses to sledge up the foreshore with all of its freight. In frothing white crescents they scallop the strand with dazzling magnesium fire in the haar and flare through the sea fog until they have fanned themselves out, then they ebb away leaving no scar as the veils of gray clear and the capes reappear and, a ghost in the background, the form of a deer manifests on the far doeskin sand.


Spindrift: Wallace Stevens and Kafka in Ladysmith Harbour. The firs rise into a Lobachevskian* mist. Wave-wracked, wind-ripped spindrift Sprinkles my Wallace Stevens. “Perhaps,” he writes, “The truth depends on a walk around a lake.” Or a tide pool; mind mirrors. Reflection ripples, pages purl. My focus wavers between Stevens’ metre and the waves’ Cadence. I think of Kafka: “A book,” he averred, “Is an axe to smash the frozen sea within us.”

* Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky (1792-1856) was a Russian mathematician who postulated a non-Euclidian geometry. That is, he disputed Euclid’s dictum that parallel lines never meet. The mist is “Lobachevskian” because it shrouds the tops of the trees, thus preventing the viewer from determining whether or not the parallel lines of the trees ever meet.


A Hike up Stoney Hill The cedar hand, wind nodded, Caressed my arm and sought, It seemed, My company. For greeting or chastisement At my ungreen intrusion? Habit fit that path to pounding pace; Yet these verdant curtains May flail my fondness with fret That I fracture the filtered, falling shaft And sever The gleam Too rare in this soft scene.


had i the choice i’d choose to die sitting on my zafu with the smell of fir trees and the sound of a bumblebee foraging among wisteria blossoms drifting in through the window while i, poised on the lip of the Void, stare down the white wall before me.


I have noticed a pattern in the poems I write and finally I am seeing why Patterns of rivers and trees, footsteps and willows, dreams and blankets made from stars Fill my pages and swell my chest with ancestral memories But I also see apologies and no sense of myself. I see my words and songs ending up on a dusty shelf Because I prefer to hide in the dark afraid to shine For I have felt the sting of laughter For mispronouncing the language of my grandmother A woman I only knew as a baby and through my father’s sad memories. I have felt the sting from the ones who know who they are Remaining firm on their own path And cannot imagine why someone chooses another path Not seeing the oppression of the church and doing the math I see a pattern of me calling out to my warriors To stand up and stand beside us women And to my sisters for never holding out their hand A simple coffee, a simple smile, I understand is too difficult AIMEE CHALIFOUX NANAIMO

Patterns... When anger and jealousy stand in our way As we struggle through concrete walls, far from the land As much as I dislike Charles Darwin Survival of the fittest in this concrete world Has become naturally selecting to destroy our unity

Somewhere along the way I got in the crossfire In the middle where nobody belonged. Angry men and apathetic women Filled the cracks in the paths of my heart My Invisibility was what kept me apart From jumping in and paving my own way Shyness keeps me from the world today A new pattern of courage is alive in my soul As I start to conquer my fears It will take me some time, maybe even years To step away from the dark And allow myself to shine

To those who always saw me in the light and believed in me.



A blue canoe I sat on the shore and He left in a blue canoe I must’ve looked so small Against the endless sea I chose not to shout Because he would not hear And as the distance between us grew I praised the sand beneath my feet And felt my tears dry in the breeze Sitting with a quiet hope That when the waves grew too big For a little blue canoe And the depths seemed too vast For a heart to understand That he’d remember The warmth of the beach And he'd crave a place to land He would be so free Yet he’d be thinking of me

Sonnet 1002 “Hymn To Ladysmith” There once was a town name after Lady Smith Perched on a rolling hill above the cliffs Where a coal baron used to load his sailing ships And to keep the hoi polloi who moiled underground in line And upon his whim depend had made them move from Extension And live on streets that ran up the hill to make his instant town With names of his favourite generals, Roberts and Kitchener et al Who’d beaten the Zulus and the Boers into colonial submission But now a century’s past and coal’s no longer quite in fashion And even clearcut firstgrowth has no more need of steam So all that’s left at Transfer Beach is black sand upon the shore that gleams And the shed that used to repair the engines that ran up every Island Valley Fell into disarray until it became for artists and (God Forbid) a poet’s haven Meanwhile Lady Smith’s town fell into post-industrial slumber Until Mayor Groan and Cluck Dapperton his second-in-command Spied a new source of revenue when up-Island they took a drive And invited developers from far and wide to subdivide Every inch of land south of the Old Town which had a view And soon had covered farmers’ fields with ticky-tack houses each worth a million With by-laws that feeding the swallows became Draconian Or neglecting to rake a maple leaf in fall would bring around an officer-of-the-law So Boomers in stately retirement could gaze at Chinese freighters in Oyster Bay. Though the green space the Council promised was just too attractive for kids to play ‘Cause “One third the cost of every lot first goes to the town And they have to pay us “$5,000 in property taxes every July!”


Sonnet 1002 “Hymn To Ladysmith” ...continued

Then Fortune smiled again and the town whose famous boast, “The Greatest Street In Canada” was where Dunsmuir’s slaves To buy his food once had to line up and wait Like manna descending from an Ottawa heaven got a $3,000,000 grant That moribund engine shed, the Council said, to renovate An artistic-and-cultural-indigenous-waterfront-hub to make Though the artists resident and the poet the premises had summarily to vacate And to an abandoned school were exiled back up the hill and out of sight The poet laureate thought it was all a bit too much And when the Council passed a motion denying his honorarium purely symbolic “Because”, in solemn conclave they declared, “We have to trim the budget!” He wrote this poem their urban vision to celebrate Since what’s left of Lady Smith, he prophecied Will soon be identical with every new Parksville or Qualicum Beach


Pipe Dreams I float outside through the open window, and look back. The painted ledge wears down, starfish sentries align. Stick sea-creatures they are, white fingered starfish, pipe cleaner thin. But I am again back in my bed, staring out the window. Floating. The view is the same. I see the same sentinels. My protectors. Dreams brought to artificial life, a taste of the sea, a memory, a fabrication to soothe my still active imagination. As a child, I live on the ocean. I rock in my cradle, perch on the outside engine, always humming, a slight motion as we slice into the fog, sluicing through the gentle waves, dropping anchor, being lifted into my mother’s arms,


Pipe Dreams...continued clamouring into the skiff, father rowing us to the shore. As the fog lifts, the sea life is revealed, the tide slowing, slipping out, the touch of purple starfish, the oysters, shucked, the roaring beach fire, the dream, always the same. The taste fires my heart. “Do we know?” I hear her ask. “It’s hard to tell. He seems…poised,” the Doctor says. “Poised! Yes, I like that,” she says. They leave. I smell the salt sea. I see the child that I am, lifting the stone, exposing the scurrying crabs. They fear me, yet I pose no threat. I walk beyond them, slipping on the wet rocks, the curtain ruffled, the sea taking me in.


More Than a Ripple Like a wave sliding out onto the sand, I’m being called home to that loving beach. Why would I ever want to stop it? Inside, I’m an ocean heading there now. Even though within, I sometimes fear crashing upon some lonely and desolate rocky shore. I can hear the Gulls, They sing to me now, like the Sirens of old, I know there will always come a time, when I slip back into those cold depths. The wonders of Atlantis swirl in the currents. Within that deep, like alchemy, blameless time reveals the healing elixir needed to fill that dark Gestation. But rather, I yearn to display my hidden mystic time Jewels, My smooth, bleached broken shells and worn glass, My myriads of beached thought-forms, living and dead.


More Than a Ripple...continued Often sensing distant shores, I always long for the beaches of my union, Oh, to slide once more, out into the sun. Inviting that star of beauty, to shine through me again. I stretch way out, wetting the warm sand, in one of my shallowest of waves. Such a place there is, within and without, where all waves are timely. Each bringing another eternal ocean-breath of reality, grounded and gorgeous!



November on the Estuary Fog folds over the dark mountains scoters surf icy waves a gull sucked up by wind suspends in grey light.

Leaves worry the stark tree two red chairs on the green lawn flip upside down driftwood left from summer.

Dog curled tight on the braided rug clock a quiet metronome this day's not going anywhere then snow like floating lace.


An Offering This ocean air smells heady. The salt scrubs my lungs roughly But I wouldn’t trade it for the city. It cleanses and refreshes the soul. As no other substance on this Earth. Blow through this ephemeral being, And purge man’s fleeting but deadly desires. Mold me as the ocean shapes the rock Or wind the Arbutus tree. I don’t want the straight, hard lines of lumber But the winding, twisting strength of Madrona’s limbs Reaching out to embrace the waves just as they were made.


Compared i am so small compared to the mountains i am so little compared to the sea i am so tiny in comparison to the islands and i am so large compared to what i thought i’d be.


train tracks and trestles i am lost under train tracks and trestles, under tree tops and over bridges. i tightrope walk electricity wires and the birds flutter from my feet. i am far, far, away from my homeland. the air does not taste the same, the crows do not scream the same. i sleep with cedar rooting around me. a second shoe of mud grows around my toes as i go. i am wood burning fires in the winter, smoke piping up from the chimney. i, too, float up and disappear. i have been lost now for sixty years the national parks did not find me. i never made love with a compass, without pine needles under my back and steel grey storm clouds overhead. take me, stormy summer sky. love me, lonely winter mountains. keep me, anybody. i am as young as rings and trees and have so much to offer. i fly off with flocks of crows and you forget my name.


wild heart my heart is made up of a thousand lakes scraped into the earth these million years ago my body was made by glacier movements and oceans tearing away my topsoil my heart is tall with jack-pines and spruce my hair is wild, nested with song birds my lips painted pink with bright sunsets and sometimes i am enveloped by this world and other times it is what makes me feel as alive as i do right now


The Hidden Seed The hidden seed The one who is not seen It sits silent in power and holds it Waiting for the cue...the timing awaits the seeds release It will still not be seen The power is hidden used only to hold what already has began All are focused on what already have blossomed Unaware of the hidden seed Which holds it power Silently waiting Its cue to release

The Doe At Eve (Remembering Sir Walter Scott on an encounter with a suburban doe) The doe at eve was nibbling bark And garden blooms in gathering dark, I was walking, preoccupied, When the fur-clad ghost I haply spied, Now she stood while shadows stretched And in the mist a last bite fetched, While I passed but a yard away Surprised by this phantom at end of day. She cast her anxious eye my way And I paused, a last goodnight to say, But then she froze and her head raised high As we heard together a car draw nigh. An engine's baying bounced off buildings. Deer survive by flights and yieldings, Gliding off although not chased, Ruled by instincts old, fear-based, The doe sprang off to a copse of cover, A shadow herself, she merged with another. A city owlet saluted from above The graceful ungulate's deft fleet move, Where I stood now in the garden at dusk The doe seemed but a shade, a husk.


The Doe At Eve ...continued

Now a dog walks up the hill, He's on a leash but remembers the kill His distant ancestors might have made Had this been an old less urban glade, The hind moves deeper in the sylvan copse, Then quickly a further hedge she tops. In urban wilds she's made her lair But never trusted the safety there, 'Though never sure when she wasn't hunted Her ancestral fears have long been blunted, Anxieties that plagued fore-mothers Had seeped away, but she had others -Would urban soil by pavement hemmed in Support enough greenery to feed her kin? Her ribs showed clearly under the moon, If she's nursing fawns she must eat soon, But where are meadow, moss and moor? In city street-scapes the forage is poor. Her minor limp suggests a fall, A bad encounter with gate or wall, When she sprang perhaps by hounds confused, Crepuscular, seeing only when light's diffused. Silently I wish her well, and carry on walking the urban fell.



Back to Where I Began Walking slowly in the forest Going nowhere I come back to myself. The urge to accomplish and complete things falls away like old leaves I stop and drift inside And listen to the liquid melody of a stream And observe the beads of water on a leaf Magnifying their structure and reflecting light from above. The voices of people disturb this spell With all their explanations and intentions The trees stand silent and tall Limbs outstretched Leaves and needles drinking the nectar of the sun Their roots rise like serpents tails Then dig deep and spread into the loam Ferns burst forth in fountains Mushrooms huddle to the ground Plants push forth buds Waiting patiently to bloom. And somehow my feet have brought be back Back to where I have begun.


clandestinely i visit past and future trees a familiar fir emerges from the congregation moss coruscates, radiant in rain and hides imperious scars

gruesome neon obstructed by wise and furrowed bark blurs into eerie, cutting clarity sinks my leery, lead soul: No tres pass no trees pass not repass no très passé no tress past no trespass No. fresh with emptiness the sore space in my ribcage fills and froths with mingling mirth and mad ness, the sort of madness

that is feared and must be corralled and contained within the sterile walls of an asylum in the not so distant, not so sane past

where men in white coats frequently pretended (and continue to pretend) to own those budding, bleeding bodies which could not—cannot—in fact, be owned


Subsumption In wildest fantasy Push back salal branch; step into never-ending green gloaming Disappear among kinnikinnick, lichen and fern Tread pillow-soft path; leaf-crumble underfoot Tree crown branches creak and rub— Soughing against wind, blown in from storm-whipped seas Surrounded by time and space, peace in the wandering Surrender of self to an all-encompassing world hidden from view Trudging forest trails muddy with run-off, pools trickling into streams Roots abound, pushing through rock, tangling feet Careful consideration, poles in constant motion, measuring risk A handhold, a jump Fear has no meaning here Rocked in the womb of earth, held close to perpetual rhythm This is my known world, a place of refuge. Slime, mold, smut and wort—complicated web, linking life to death Recumbent giants, returning to earth Remnants of desecration, hillsides barren once Moldering stumps now bedecked in finery—tight moss cloches, elegant lace of huckleberry. On a ridge, looking down, down, down Wafts sweet scent signature of dry foliage—impossible to pinpoint provenance Later, deep in underbrush, damp and dank, air redolent of musty earth Inhale—capture peculiar and particular odours; skank of skunk cabbage, ozone drifting in from sea Subsumed—pulled by deepest desires to walk on, forever.


Spring has arrived. Sun glints off the tops of clouds, piled in meringue mounds over the mountains of Vancouver Island’s spine. Driven by the wind, cottonwood fluff dances and darts in the breeze, collects in drifts along country lanes and backwoods trails. In dappled forest shade, maple leaves glow vibrant fluorescent green, elegant orange tiger lilies balance precariously on long slender stalks and bleeding heart flowers slowly turn to seed. The creek trickles slowly over gravel beds, mud exposed much too early for the season, a forlorn skunk cabbage clinging to its edges. Perched on the edge of a neighbour’s beachfront deck, the mainland hidden in haze, we spy a gathering of whale watching boats and scan the horizon for familiar fins, listen carefully for a breathy exhalation signalling the passage of sleek orcas.


Green Tangle Into the wild wet green tangle place of refuge and solace nature's certain grace in uncertain times walking meditation

where sunny yellow skunk cabbage springs from mud turkey tail fungus bathes in puddle of light tender wisps of spider web caress my face tenacious lodgepole pine clings to cliff and neverending moss undulates over rock and boulder, trunk and twig peace


Rain on the West Coast Inspired by Arthur Lismer’s painting ‘Rain in the North Country’ What you think is the wind is the rain roaring. What you think is pain, In fact, is. The shape of things change: Viscous strokes of cloud sweep Across the sky, Racing ravines smear Concrete streets. Outlines blur Shadows bleed What colour remains glows more, bold: the pounding scarlet of cedar the deep green, waxy sheen of salal, the riches of rot become riveting. The birds hush-up, puffled and ruffed in their roosts. Rain on the West Coast falls in three kinds: bone-cloaking mist; hurtling, horizontal howls; benevolence. Always benevolence


A song for Rain The rain it falls upon my face Refreshing me I slow my pace The gift of life is in the air It’s springing up it’s everywhere I see the plants as they prepare To catch the rain out of the air With outstretched leaves they seem to be Like peddlers on the streets we see The rain like coins we give away Help them survive another day This gift it comes from up above A gift so sweet it’s filled with love As natures’ arms reach to caress It shares it all no selfishness Nature grows as rains do fall Bulbs spring up and trees grow tall The rain that falls out of the skies Runs down my cheek flows past my eyes It does not blur what’s there to see The worlds alive in front of me I look at rain a new way now I look so deep and wonder how They wish for rain to go away I wish for rain on everyday


Brides of the Sea (Ode to two young girls) Partially formed mermaids Oceanic without curves trailing seaweed veils, skin of the sea, from small bare shoulders unable yet to carry the weight of the world. My heart calls out‌ be Brides of the Sea ride the swells surrender to the crest the trough, the holy trinity Earth, Moon, Sea No paper hearts No man-made veils Love, Honor, Obey all that isn’t spoken, One deep dive Body, Heart, Soul


"October morning" Above the shadows orange light glows on droopy hemlock tips Higher still ducks flap in erratic flight lit in gold from below against clear white blue sky Son snores unselfconsciously in the next room door open Last night's wind makes a final push against shedding cedars I sit sigh bask grateful for this October morning that demands nothing


In the photo, he stands in front of the tree. She, the tree, is on her side. Fallen, like those in Flanders field after the war waged through. The analogy is not gratuitous: the year the image was taken was not long after the Great War, the war to end all wars. But wars never end. The tree is a cedar. We know this by the way her inner being is hollowed out. She is a causality of war. Back then civilization demanded growth, and trees were not only in the way but they were needed to fuel the unlimited demand. Collateral damage? Only in polite company. The man in the picture is my grandfather. He logged up in Theodosia Inlet in the 1920s when the area was ripe with old- growth forests: cedar, fir, hemlock. I never met this man. He died when I was three. What I mean to say is that while I lived with this man I never got to know him, dementia had won over by the time I was born. His brain cells went to war with each other, or something like that—war never does, never did, make sense. The dead are loaded onto trucks, grand trucks these are, one tree per flatbed, one corpse per stretcher. In the picture she is at least two metres in diameter she monopolizes the truck as would a soldier in full combat gear and is taken away. The wounded remain. The wounded: children, seedlings of a lost generation. How is it for those left behind when the soldiers are gone? What lives can be lived when they stand, alone now, scarred from tow lines and axes; lingering mustard gas and land mines; diesel spills; polluted waterways; depleted uranium; burned out buildings; loss of limbs, security and home; and memories. No one to teach them, shield and protect them from cold winter winds; guide their roots deep into the ground and instill in them a knowledge of what to remember and what to let go. the wounded remain ... how do they stand?


Morning Can you hear it? The morning hum. The sound of a fragile life, a Heartbeat felt . The birds are singing, they are taking guide. Listen carefully they know the light… Can you hear it? The silent streets. The trees stand still , no sound of feet. Can you hear it? The whispers of trees, .Listen carefully, you will find it….. it’s in the morning breeze.

Skylight tanka (celebrating our new skylight, handily situated above the day-bed) my daybed lies under the skylight I am an expert on that small piece of sky that it frames high winds— at the blink of an eye-lid a new set of clouds moves swiftly across the skylight restless skyscape, restless me the sun rises high above the solitary pine . . . I decide to lie and watch it labour across the sky grey skylight grey trees viewed through it grey me looking at all this greyness today the clouds are many-layered . . . as a child I would lie and wonder if God lived above the highest


Skylight tanka ‌ the sun explodes on the skylight . . . I get distracted by the smears my bad cleaning have left across the glass

a turkey vulture chases an eagle across our skylight is there no end to chasing and being chased in this world? the rain shattering down the skylight the tall pine breaks into a thousand shimmers through the skylight the sky is grey-still this strange lethargy after a poem is done The rising sun breaks through the skylight I shut my eyes to its blare and to the blare of life NAOMI BETH WAKAN NANAIMO

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