Gay Incantations

by Billy-Ray Belcourt

copyright ©2017 by Billy-Ray Belcourt



i fall into the opening between subject and object
and call it a condition of possibility.
when i speak only the ceiling listens.
sometimes it moans.
if i have a name
let it be the sound his lips make.
there is no word in my language for this.
sometimes my kookum begins to cry
and a world falls out.
grieve is the name i give to myself.
i carve it into the bed frame.
i am make-believe.
this is an archive.
it hurts to be a story.
i am the boundary between reality and fiction.
it is a ghost town.
you dreamt me out of existence.
you are at once a map to nowhere and everywhere.
yesterday was an optical illusion.
i kiss a stranger and give him a middle name.
i call this love.
it lasts for exactly twenty minutes.
i chase after that feeling.
which is to say:
i want to almost not exist.
almost is the closest i can get to the sky.
heaven is a wormhole.
i first found it in another man’s armpit.
last night i gave birth to a woman and named her becoming.
she is four cree girls between the ages of 10 and 14 from northern saskatchewan.
we are a home movie
i threw out by accident.
all that is left is the signified.
people die that way.

Anniversary

by Karen Solie

copyright ©Karen Solie 2001



It was the summer some rank fever weed
sunk her bitch hooks in, sowed my skin
to itch and ooze, that we shared a bed
for the first time. It’s not so bad,
you said, looking for a clean place
to put your hands while I stuck to the sheets
and stunk up the room with creams
and salves. You didn’t cringe,
(though in those days my back was often turned)
took your showers at the usual time, rose,
a bank of muscled cloud above
my poisoned field, and blew cool
across the mess. I said, eyes shining
with antihistamines, that you were potent
as a rare bird sighting, twenty on the sidewalk,
straight flush. It was only falling
into sleep that your body twitched away
from mine, a little more each time
I’d scratch, and I knew then we were made
for each other, that you lie as well as me,
my faithful drug, my perfect match.

Food For Risen Bodies – I

by Michael Symmons Roberts

copyright ©Michael Symmons Roberts, 2004



A rare dish is right for those who
have lain bandaged in a tomb for weeks:

quince and quail to demonstrate
that fruit and birds still grow on trees,

eels to show that fish still needle streams.
Rarer still, some blind white crabs,

not bleached but blank, from such
a depth of ocean that the sun would drown

if it approached them. Two-thirds
of the earth is sea; and two-thirds of that sea

-away from currents, coasts and reefs –
is lifeless, colourless, pure weight.

from I Imagine a Poet

by Khaled Mattawa, translating from the Arabic by Adonis

copyright ©2010 by Yale University



A salute to Jacques Berque

I imagine his voice as the sound of a tambourine,
that the tambourine is broken in his throat,
that his throat is a fire named God.

I imagine a poet
into whose innards history pours
drenching his words and pooling at his feet,
a poet who rains blood that some hoist as a banner made of sky.

Ten What

by Natalie Shapero

copyright ©2017 by Natalie Shapero



The camera adds ten what, I can’t remember.
But the threat’s enough to make me stay

away. I don’t want any more of what I have.
I don’t want another spider plant. I don’t

want another lover. Especially I don’t want
another clock, except insofar as each of us

is a clock, all hammers and counting
down. And yes, I know by heart the list

of lifetimes. A worker bee will die before
a camel. A fox will die before a pilot whale.

A pocket watch will die before the clock inside
the crocodile—I think of this often, but never

tell my lover, as I do not tell him that,
upstairs, a moth is pinned by the window

sash. I make no plans to free it. Everyone says
the baby looks like me, but I can’t see it.

An awkward lyric

by Denise Riley

copyright ©Denise Riley, 2016



It sits with itself in its arms. Out of
the depth of its shame it starts singing
a hymn of pure shame, surging in the throat.
To hold a true note could be everything.
Getting the hang of itself would undo it.

Wave

by Don Paterson

copyright ©2015 by Don Paterson



For months I’d moved across the open water
like a wheel under its skin, a frictionless
and by then almost wholly abstract matter
with nothing in my head beyond the bliss
of my own breaking, how the long foreshore
would hear my full confession, and I’d drain
into the shale till I was filtered pure.
There was no way to tell on that bare plain
but I felt my power run down with the miles
and by the time I saw the scattered sails,
the painted front and children on the pier
I was nothing but a fold in her blue gown
and knew I was already in the clear.
I hit the beach and swept away the town.

Citation for Matthew Rohrer’s “A Green Light”

by the 2005 Griffin Poetry Prize judges



With jumpy verve, Rohrer’s green-lit poems lay bare an anxiety of influence, social and linguistic, and present us the sideways view of the world of a young American not able to assume the mantle of hero, not able to be ‘the adorable boy’. In the midst of what could be, in other hands, wreckage or hopelessness, Rohrer’s poems run up the banner of hopefulness, create complete poems out of incomplete thoughts. Rohrer has an enchanting willingness to look outward, a willingness not to grasp the world using old means which have failed us, even if no new means present themselves ready-made – no wonder jumpiness is in our very condition. There is, too, a current of sadness that his lines and words buck even as they convey; yet the grief they carry does not bear us downward. This is a book with an edge, a book of brash clamour and hard-earned joy.

Altarpiece

by Clayton Eshleman, translating from the Spanish by César Vallejo

copyright ©2007 The Regents of the University of California



   I tell myself: at last I have escaped the noise;
no one sees me on my way to the sacred nave.
Tall shadows attend,
and Darío who passes with lyre in mourning.

   With innumerable steps the gentle Muse emerges,
and my eyes go to her, like chicks to corn.
Ethereal tulles and sleeping titmice harass her,
while the blackbird of life dreams in her hand.

   My God, you are merciful, for you have bestowed this nave,
where these blue sorcerers perform their duties.
Darío of celestial Americas! They are so much
like you! And from your braids they make their hair shirts.

   Like souls seeking burials of absurd gold,
those wayward archpriests of the heart,
probe deeper, and appear … and addressing us from afar,
bewail the monotonous suicide of God!