by Jordan Abel

copyright ©2016 Jordan Abel

if prayers were       tolerable
      if money13 shook like rattlers

trouble now     up     in the air
concerns over missing       knives

      after all if a fella dont shoot
no one man     can change him

because a man can be anybody
      except       little

even snakes are more vital
even bandages       wash away

Notes on the Poem

Words often travel a long way to be on the page before you, assembled as they are. Let's contemplate again how the poems of Jordan Abel's 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize winning collection Injun came to be, and appreciate again the power accrued in their journey to the page. As we've discussed before, Abel's source for the poetry of Injun was dozens of public domain western novels, published from 1840 to 1950. At the end of the collection, he reveals the process by which he built the work:
Injun was constructed entirely from a source text comprised of 91 public domain western novels with a total length of just over ten thousands pages. Using CTRL+F, I searched the source text for the word "injun," a query that returned 509 results. After separating out each of the sentences that contained the word, I ended up with 26 print pages. I then cut up each page into a section of a long poem. Sometimes I would cut up a page into three- to five-word clusters. Sometimes I would cut up a page without looking. Sometimes I would rearrange the pieces until something sounded right. Sometimes I would just write down how the pieces fell together. Injun and the accompanying materials are the result of these methods.
The 2017 judges cite with admiration what Abel's intense process boils down to and arrives at ...
"The fog of tedious over-dramatization clears and the open skies of discourse can be discerned. What does it mean to arrange hate to look like verse? What becomes of the ugly and meaningless? Words are restored to their constituent elements as countermovements in Abel’s hands, just as they are divested of their capacity for productive violence. The golden unity of language and its silvered overcoding erode, bringing to bear the ‘heard snatches of comment / going up from the river bank.’ To pixelize is to mobilize, not to disappear.”
That Abel sifted through the body of material that he did, contemplated it and responded to it with lines of such searing indelibility as "even snakes are more vital even bandages       wash away" testifies to the work's singular achievements.

from CHAPTER E, for René Crevel

by Christian Bök

copyright ©Christian Bök, 2001

Westerners revere the Greek legends. Versemen retell the represented events, the resplendent scenes, where, hellbent, the Greek freemen seek revenge whenever Helen, the new-wed empress, weeps. Restless, she deserts her fleece bed where, detested, her wedded regent sleeps. When she remembers Greece, her seceded demesne, she feels wretched, left here, bereft, her needs never met. She needs rest; nevertheless, her demented fevers render her sleepless (her sleeplessness enfeebles her). She needs help; nevertheless, her stressed nerves render her cheerless (her cheerlessness enfetters her).

Notes on the Poem

Let's marvel again at what Christian Bök achieves by applying rigorous restrictions to his work as he creates poetry. In other Poem of the Week selections, we've examined how abiding by specific rules and constraints as to how a poem is constructed have produced intriguing and moving results for poets such as P.K. Page, Don Paterson and Christian Bök himself. While Page and Paterson have worked with constraints in terms of the structure of their poems at the stanza and line levels, Bök has gone as far as restricting his word and even letter choices. In fact, he has even brought his work down to the literal cellular level, as described here. In that same article, Bök reveals what scares him as a writer:
"I often write poems through the use of procedural constraints that often court "the impossible," and, consequently, I fear that I might eventually set for myself a task that cannot in fact be done because the language itself cannot accommodate the rules that I have set for the outcome."
... and it would probably be fair to say this pushing of self-imposed bounds also exhilarates the poet, producing results fascinating for him and for his readers. Even the Harvard Business Review praises the use of constraints to foster innovation:
"According to the studies we reviewed, when there are no constraints on the creative process, complacency sets in, and people follow what psychologists call the path-of-least-resistance – they go for the most intuitive idea that comes to mind rather than investing in the development of better ideas. Constraints, in contrast, provide focus and a creative challenge that motivates people to search for and connect information from different sources to generate novel ideas for new products, services, or business processes."
When Bök was asked to create a piece using one-syllable words only, he concluded slyly with this: "I vow, from now on, to say just what I mean (no more!)—with no need for me to lean on the crutch of some cheap trick." Well, aren't we glad he didn't make that vow before he crafted "CHAPTER E, for René Crevel". The last two lines, with their gorgeous parallel structure and echoes ... "She needs rest; nevertheless, her demented fevers render her sleepless (her sleeplessness enfeebles her). She needs help; nevertheless, her stressed nerves render her cheerless (her cheerlessness enfetters her)." ... produced under the pressure from the constraints applied to the entire exercise, are diamonds.

from Verso 1.1.01

by Dionne Brand

copyright ©2018 Dionne Brand

From under the sea a liquid hand would turn a liquid page each eight seconds. This page would make its way to the shore and make its way back. Sometimes pens would wash up onto the beach, long stem-like organic styli. We called them pens; what tree or plant or reef they came from we did not know. But some days the beach at Guaya would be full of these styli just as some nights the beach would be full of blue crabs. Which reminds me now of García Márquez’s old man with wings but didn’t then as I did not know García Márquez then and our blue crabs had nothing to do with him; it is only now that the crabs in his story have overwhelmed my memory. It is only now that my blue night crabs have overwhelmed his story. Anyway we would take these pens and sign our names, and the names of those we loved, along the length of the beach. Of course these names rubbed out quickly and as fast as we could write them the surf consumed them. And later I learned those pens were Rhizophora mangle propagules.

What does this have to do with Borges? Nothing at all. I walked into the library and it was raining rain and my grandfather’s logs were there, and the wooden window was open. As soon as I opened the door, down the white steps came the deluge. If I could not read I would have drowned.

Now you are sounding like me, the clerk says. I am you, the author says.

Notes on the Poem

In the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted work The Blue Clerk, Dionne Brand examines in detail the act of writing through an extended and fascinating conversation between a poet (the author) and a clerk. As they share and dissect myriad observations, what do we as readers glean? The clerk is, in effect, the poet's functionary for cataloguing the observations and research that feed into and inform the poet's poetry. As such, the clerk covers a stunningly wide range of subject matter and approaches to the world around us all. The 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize judges capture that gorgeous immensity with crisp perfection in their citation:
“Dionne Brand’s The Blue Clerk is many things at once: a book-length ars poetica; an act of memory and reconfiguration; an extended meditation (one that moves at times directly, at others by a kind of philosophical osmosis) touching on the realms of history, politics, race and gender; an internal, consciously curated and interrogated dialogue that manages to create a space for all of these. Expansive, beautifully written, structurally compelling, and above all moving, The Blue Clerk is a book to be read (and re-read), not just for the pleasures of its language, but for the breadth of its vision, and the capaciousness of its thinking.”
With all that to potentially take in with each poem - and to potentially be intimidated by, we might add - it's wonderful that "the pleasures of its language" is enough at many junctures. This particular section opens so welcomingly ... "From under the sea a liquid hand would turn a liquid page each eight seconds. This page would make its way to the shore and make its way back." ... that we know it's more than acceptable to just relish the gorgeous words and dream-like imagery. We can circle back later (because, as the judges point out, we will re-read this) to find out that Rhizophora mangle propagules are both an invasive plant species and are also part of habitats for diverse ecosystems, which is intriguing information with which to emerge from this beautiful dream concocted by a clerk and a poet.

The poets reflect on their craft

by Di Brandt

copyright ©2003 Di Brandt

Some days like pulling teeth, rotten roots.
Staring down the barrel of the gun.
Shooting the town clock.
Forty days in the desert.
Fifty days in the desert, no food and water.
The devil sticking out his tongue.
Electric shock. Thunderbolt.
Heroin. Poison in the veins.
Angels beating their wings on your bared skull.
Who will believe you.
Moon in your hands, transparent, luminous.
Cursed by God.
Cursed by mothers, fathers, brothers, the bloody town hall.
Dogs limping on three paws.
The fourth one sawed off by a car wheel, careening.
The devil making faces.
Long red tongue, goats’ horns, trampling the streets of Ptuj,
announcing spring.
Licking licking. Cunt or wound.
Bad gas leaking from stones, earth fissures.
Nettles. Poison ivy. Bee sting.
Rotgut. Fungus on your toes.
Wild strawberries low to the ground, cheating the lawn mower.
A wall waiting for the wrecker’s ball.
Clear vodka. Ice.

Notes on the Poem

With surprising poetic sleight of hand, Di Brandt builds several layers of sardonic wit and irony using outmoded expressions and clichés in "The poets reflect on their craft", a poem from her 2004 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection Now You Care. Let's explore to what end she applies them. Not only does Brandt unleash a torrent of mean, stale expressions in this poem, she seems to dig deep for ugly ones, such as: "Some days like pulling teeth, rotten roots. Staring down the barrel of the gun." The one about the dogs is maybe a little more original, but it and many other references are still truly nasty. Anton C. Zijderveld, a Dutch sociologist, has pondered the function of cliché in his treatise On Clichés (referenced here):
“A cliché is a traditional form of human expression (in words, thoughts, emotions, gestures, acts) which – due to repetitive use in social life – has lost its original, often ingenious heuristic power. Although it thus fails positively to contribute meaning to social interactions and communication, it does function socially, since it manages to stimulate behavior (cognition, emotion, volition, action), while it avoids reflection on meanings.”
So then, how are we to respond to this cascade of hideous woe? It looks like writer and reviewer Michael Dennis has found the clue:
"There is what Don McKay calls "poetic intention" to the beauty and ugliness, joy and suffering, of everything around you." Di Brandt, You pray for the rare flower to appear
The irony? Take a peek back at the title. Perhaps she's criticizing her peers, but there's probably an equally good chance Brandt is reflecting ruefully and with displeasure on her own work. The additional irony? Buried amidst all the angry, unpleasant clichés are glimmers of beauty and hope: "Moon in your hands, transparent, luminous." "Wild strawberries low to the ground, cheating the lawn mower." "Clear vodka. Ice." Yes, even that last line has appeal, if you want to see it as a boost to the spirit or a toast to new possibilities rather than a gesture of despair. The narrator has reflected on her craft and has decided to stick with it.

The Scarecrow Wears a Wire

by Paul Farley

copyright ©Paul Farley 2006

The scarecrow wears a wire in the top field.
At sundown, the audiophilic farmer
who bugged his pasture unpicks the concealed
mics from his lapels. He’s by the fire

later, listening back to the great day,
though to the untrained ear there’s nothing much
doing: a booming breeze, a wasp or bee
trying its empty button-hole, a stitch

of wrensong now and then. But he listens late
and nods off to the creak of the spinal pole
and the rumble of his tractor pulling beets
in the bottom field, which cuts out. In a while

somebody will approach over ploughed earth
in caked Frankenstein boots. There’ll be a noise
of tearing, and he’ll flap awake by the hearth
grown cold, waking the house with broken cries.

Notes on the Poem

"His work engages with the commonplace and the overlooked ..." is just part of why the 2007 Griffin Poetry Prize judges were drawn to Paul Farley's poetry collection Tramp in Flames. What they go on to observe about Farley's work is what made the poem "The Scarecrow Wears a Wire" singular then ... and perhaps even more so now, several years later. The 2007 Griffin Poetry Prize judges go on to praise Farley's scrutiny in Tramp in Flames of "... the absurd and the catastrophic, the scientific and the mythic, in ways that make us stop and think again about what it is to be living in this particular world, at this particular moment in our history." The notion of a farmer - "audiophilic", no less - equipping his scarecrow to eavesdrop on the field he is guarding is rather amusing. What the scarecrow hears is, on one hand, pretty small and mundane and on the other, achingly exquisite and extraordinary. Especially lovely is: "a wasp or bee trying its empty button-hole, a stitch of wrensong now and then." It's both hilarious and wrenching when the farmer's "listening back to the great day" ends so abruptly. How has the meaning of this poem changed or deepened from when it was peering out at and listening to the world midway through the first decade of this millennium? How is it now pertinent in perhaps new ways now, at the end of the second decade of this millennium? The encouragement to listen closely to the little things still resonates ... but are there more questions about who is listening, using what kinds of tools in what kinds of milieus? Who, in fact, is the scarecrow, who is the farmer, and what will jolt us and make us "flap awake" ...? Farley's poem is still making us stop and think about what it is "to be living in this particular world, at this particular moment in our history", isn't it?

from Snowline

by Donato Mancini

copyright ©2017 by Donato Mancini

“Forty days of snow are registered in the Paris archives of 1435, the trees died and the birds …

Mais où sont les neiges d’antan? (1461 François Villon)




But where is the last yeares snow? (1653)




Tell me, if ye know; What is come of last year’s snow? (1835)




Where is fled the south wind’s snow? (1835)




But where are the snows of yester-year? (1869)




But where is the last year’s snow? (1877)




But what is become of last year’s snow? (1899)




But – where are the last year’s snows? (1900)




But where indeed is last year’s snow? (1900)




Where are the snows of yesteryear? (1900)

Notes on the Poem

Let's marvel at another example of how Donato Mancini creates simple but striking assemblages of words on the page. This excerpt from the poem "Snowline" is from Mancini's 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection Same Diff. A previous rendition of the poem stood alone in its own chapbook published in 2015. In a previous Poem of the Week by Mancini - an excerpt from "Where do you feel?" - we noted the generous line spacing that is perhaps one of his signature modes of presentation, which gives a poem's lines surprising heft, weight and impact. In the notes for that poem excerpt, we commented on how the words are arranged and cascade down the page. As the effect is deployed in "Snowline", the Griffin Poetry Prize judges remarked on how Mancini's "strong design impulse" causes the words to "snow down the pages". How particularly perfect as the poem turns over and over and over again variations on the line “Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?” from "Ballade des dames du temps jadis" ("Ballade of Ladies of Time Gone By") is a poem by François Villon published in the late 1400s. To achieve his almost mantra-like contemplation of evolution and change over time, Mancini collected numerous translations of Villon’s line, from 1653 to 2014, and then whittled down that collection to forty. The number in the final poem echoes the "Forty days of snow" in the poem's epigraph, but could also be referencing the magical and significant number associated with legends such as the forty thieves, or with the many biblical references to "forty days and forty nights". The description of the chapbook version of "Snowline" offers more ideas about the inspiration sparking Mancini's fascinating exercise in subtle repetition and variation. We've added an updated link to these insights:
Taking a cue from Caroline Bergvall’s “Via,” but deviating from it in significant ways, snowline traces how Villon’s line has changed and yet stubbornly stayed the same over six hundred years. It is a meditative and pointedly nostalgiac book: You will grow older as you read it, and the world around you will continue to melt into air.

A Cup of Tea with Issa

by David W. McFadden

copyright ©Poems copyright David W. McFadden 2007

I’ve never seen a raindrop fall on a frog’s head but you have. You say the frog wiped away the water with his wrist and that’s good enough for me.
   Ever since I first heard it fifteen years ago your poem on the death of your son has been flitting in and out of my mind. And now I see there are two versions, the first having been revised on the later death of your daughter, in 1819, of smallpox. And now I want you to know that I hope you’ve been reunited with your sons and your daughters and your wives and your father, and that I prefer the first version.
   The sun has dropped behind the mountains and the tiny cars on the long winding road way over on the other side of the lake have their lights on. And a sense of amazement springs up, amazement that we live in a world where the sun continually rises and sets.
   The Marasmius oreades (delicious when fried with bacon) have formed a fairy ring in the shape of a giant number 3 in the courtyard lawn, reminding me of the time I saw three motorcycles parked diagonally at the curb in front of 111 Brucedale Avenue.
   In October you can look at the sides of the mountains and see the patterns made by the deciduous trees which have become bright yellow or orange among the coniferous which have remained dark green. Sometimes it seems like a territorial war up there but the conflict between the two types of trees is probably more in my mind than on the slopes.
   This morning the sky is blue but the tops of the mountains cling to thick giant puffs of pink and grey cloud. A small white cloud rises from the surface of the lake and tries to reach the big ones up above but by the time it gets halfway there it has almost completely disappeared.
   It’s pleasant to be so unhurried that you can see even the slowest-moving clouds moving. A part of me says I should be ashamed of myself but you know the more time you waste the more you get. It’s like money.
   On a rainy windy October moring a grey Volkswagen sits at the side of the road. It’s covered with hundreds of small wet yellow leaves plastered on the trunk, on the hood, on the roof – in a strangely satisfying pattern. Was it the rain and the wind or was it a subtle and patient artist with a pot of glue? Of course it was the wind and the rain and of course it’s a hackneyed idea. But for a moment I wonder. As you would have.
   It’s pleasant to have a cup of tea and think of you, Issa, and to think of others in the twentieth century having a cup of tea and thinking of you, Issa.

Notes on the Poem

We will always miss David McFadden's wondering, curious, whimsical voice. We are grateful he left us so much, such as Why Are You So Sad?, the 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted work from which we've selected "A Cup of Tea with Issa" for this week's Poem of the Week. We're pretty sure these are the words of Kobayashi Issa that McFadden's narrator is contemplating:
Dew evaporates and all our world is dew… so dear, so fresh, so fleeting
(See more reflections on Issa's poem here.) The poem's narrator uses his contemplations of Issa as a gentle springboard into all sorts of beautiful observations about the world around him. What he sees and how he sees it is simpatico with an equally beautiful observation poet and editor Stuart Ross made about McFadden as he paid tribute to him in 2018:
"There's something about Dave that's just sort of the quiet, suburban fellow telling this story and then, yeah, somehow you find yourself being drawn into something that's magical or bewildering or surreal."
The narrator in "A Cup of Tea with Issa" does indeed tiptoe along the edges of the magical, from the lights of the cars at dusk, to the mushrooms forming a fairy ring, to the "territorial war" of the colours of the trees in October to how in the world a car came to be covered in hundreds of brilliant little leaves ... All of what McFadden notes through his narrator is truly "so dear, so fresh, so fleeting", isn't it?

Passing and Violence

by Natalie Shapero

What pride I feel in America stems from our anthem
being the toughest one to sing. The high segment
with the red burn of the rocket: only a few
can reach. Watching a stranger parallel park, I pray
she abrades her neighbor. Watching football, I need
to see a man die. I need to see the intractable passing

and violence. Of the cruelty ringing the Earth,
I am a portion. I never said he was a bad man, only
a larger portion. He wreaked harm on us for years
and then one day he began to die. I watched as science
shattered his body to wrest the disease out, stopping
just short of his failure. Failure, the word
he favored over death. Me, I favored nothing over
death. I held him like a brother. I knew him as an error
of God, dropped at the doorstep of our age, and what
could we do but save him? I began to suspect so many
of machinations. How my parents had summoned me
into this world, but then when I arrived,

they were not here. My whole being was a set-up.
They called me over to sit alone with the weather
and soot, unfettered. They said I had differences to be
resolved. After attempting the anthem, upwards of fifty
percent remark, I should have started lower or I should
have chosen something else instead
. Uneasy lies the head.

Notes on the Poem

Not only have we learned and felt much through Natalie Shapero's direct words in selections (such as this poem and this poem) from her 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection Hard Child, but we can also learn and feel through what she withholds in a piece. As the 2018 judges astuted observed:
"[Shapero] teaches us how to retain the self without disappearing into the object we behold. She holds herself at various distances from the thing considered. She drives us toward a view and back again. This is how to write a lyric poem.”
Griffin Poetry Prize winner Dionne Brand has given considerable thought to the concept of withholding in one's work. (Her Ossuaries won the prize in 2011, and her latest collection The Blue Clerk was shortlisted in 2019.) She reflects on the concept in a recent interview, and offers some perspectives couched relative to the form of The Blue Clerk, where two key figures collaborate and at times conflict to produce work: "the clerk is the part of you that attends to your surroundings, and makes note of it. The author is the one, or the part of you, that makes the decisions of what to do with that." The results for Brand were: "a process of attending very, very carefully, and hopefully with a kind of honesty, to what was left out, to what was withheld, and to the reasons that they were withheld." In "Passing and Violence", Shapero clearly attends to details, many of them disturbing ... "Watching football, I need to see a man die. I need to see the intractable passing and violence." if at times obscure ... "They called me over to sit alone with the weather and soot, unfettered." She is definitely withholding something in all she has itemized and, at times bluntly and viciously, revealed. Her revelatory process is also framed by ruminations on people attempting to sing the challenging US national anthem. What does that represent? At any rate, what we imagine has been withheld invests what has been presented - troubling and mysterious - with perhaps even more power. As she considers people tackling the daunting anthem - often spectacularly unsuccessfully - then circling back to the regret attending those attempts, Shapero does "drive us toward a view and back again." It leaves us wondering if that regret refers to other much more devastating things than a song sung poorly. "Uneasy lies the head" ... indeed.

from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Border Dog (Not Collie)

by Michael Hofmann, translated from the German written by Durs Grünbein

copyright ©2005 by Durs Grunbein / Translation and preface copyright © 2005 by Michael Hofmann


Being a dog is an empty car park at noon.
“Nothing but trouble …” and seasickness on land.
Being a dog is that and that, taking instruction from garbage heaps,
A knuckle sandwich for dinner, mud orgasms.
Being a dog is whatever happens next, randomness
The mother of boredom and incomprehension.
Being a dog is being up against a bigger opponent
Time, which does you in with endless chain-links.
So much of too-much in a tiny space …
Being a dog is a ride on the ghost train of language,
Which keeps throwing clever obstructions your way.
Being a dog is having to when you don’t want to, wanting to
When you can’t, and always somebody watching.
Being a dog?
It’s the bad smell attaching to your words.

Notes on the Poem

Michael Hofmann translates and brings alive anew many vivid phrases, images and sensations in this excerpt from German poet Durs Grunbein's poem "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Border Dog (Not Collie)". Would it be fair to assume that the intense cumulative effect of this poem accurately reflects the sentiments Grunbein strove to convey in the original, which is possibly inspired by his early upbringing in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall? Let's revisit this poem and consider this question again. Grunbein, with Hofmann translating, uses a confined and probably abused dog as a central metaphor for the narrator's feelings of frustration and powerlessness at being severely constrained. "[A]n empty car park at noon" is a lonely, barren, lifeless place. "[S]easickness on land" suggests disorientation, queasiness and even a sense of betrayal, not feeling stable or secure when you believe you should be able to trust your surroundings. "A knuckle sandwich for dinner" captures both violence and deprivation ... and it gets more bewildering and oppressive with each successive line. The phrase "endless chain-links" is likely both metaphorical and literal, in the world in which Grunbein lived until Germany was reunified when he was 27. Interestingly, one analogy is leavened with a trace of ambiguity that actually makes it almost hopeful compared to all the others: "Being a dog is whatever happens next" Never knowing what happens next, subject to fate's vagaries and the cruelties of an unrelenting oppressor ... yes, but could this also suggest that the dog and/or Grunbein was living in and for the moment? Does this perhaps give a clue to how Grunbein personally survived the tyranny that informed his early upbringing? Enjoy this collection of pieces about Durs Grunbein and his poetry collection Ashes for Breakfast (from which this poem excerpt is taken). You'll find here some interesting insights into the poet and his translator, whose potent collaboration has made a work powerful in not one, but two languages.

sister from the future

by Leslie Greentree

copyright ©2003, Leslie Greentree

she left for Australia a couple of years ago
with five hundred bucks and a backpack
she picked fruit    drove truck    tended bar
did a stint washing paintbrushes for an artist
eventually posing for him while his wife baked gingersnaps
her gift is that the wife didn’t mind
couldn’t blame her husband for wanting to sketch
the beautiful sister    was a bit in love herself

she called us Christmas Day
I held the phone between ear and shoulder
as I peeled potatoes and checked the turkey
it was Boxing Day in Melbourne
how Star Trek I said
I was laughing until my husband rolled his eyes
and then I stopped
chopped the potatoes with short hard strokes

I thought how fitting it was
to speak to the beautiful sister from the future
I asked her for an inside tip    tomorrow’s lottery numbers
thought maybe I would throw these fucking potatoes
in the garbage or better yet just leave them
on the counter to brown and rot
walk out the door jump on a plane
get the hell out of here

Notes on the Poem

Isn't it interesting when a poem provokes an unrelated thought that ends up being kind of related after all? Follow along with your humble Poem of the Week taker of notes and see how that happened with "sister from the future" from Leslie Greentree's 2004 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection go-go dancing for Elvis. Greentree's narrator is preparing dinner on December 25th / Christmas Day (in Canada, we assume) when she receives a phone call from her sister, who is in Australia and already enjoying the next day, December 26th / Boxing Day. (Boxing Day is observed in the United Kingdom and in countries historically connected to the UK.) In essence, Greentree's narrator is living in the present, but in her sister's past, but her sister is living in the narrator's future. Star Trek, indeed! Not only is the sister calling from the future, but it sure sounds like she's been having fun and making adventures out of what would be mundane if she wasn't out there in Australia, in the future. The future sounds perfect, in fact - doesn't it? That's when this Poem of the Week taker of notes starting thinking about verb tenses, as one does. The future perfect, to be precise: a verb tense used for actions that will be completed before some other point in the future. Neither the present nor the future seem perfect in the narrator's tense (see what we did there?) kitchen ... "I was laughing until my husband rolled his eyes and then I stopped chopped the potatoes with short hard strokes" followed quite vehemently by ... "thought maybe I would throw these fucking potatoes in the garbage" That "would" gives pause, however. Will she or won't she throw those potatoes - and everything they symbolize - in the garbage? This thorough breakdown of "will" and "would" - not to mention the coupling with "maybe" - suggests that the disgusted disposal of the potatoes might be hypothetical and might not really happen. But that tentative "would" is followed by further mounting anger, so maybe (maybe!) the potential and blithe optimism of the future in which her sister basks gives this narrator the will (the noun, but also the verb!) to toss away her tense present.