Vallum Poem of the Week: "Commitment" by Alex Manley

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COMMITMENT

I’ve heard there are cultures that cover
…………………..reflective surfaces in the wake
of this kind of thing. Perhaps it was tempting
…………………..fate to go mirrorless above the sink,
or at least to take the old one (cheaply rococo) down
before I was ready to put the new one (spartan, stern) up.
In the interregnum of the self I sat an ersatz shiva.

I too had thought about it for years.
…………………..Decades, really. It’s funny
how we imagine ourselves boy or girl
most likely to, and then someone
…………………..else just goes and does it.
But you never go all limb-out and think
it’ll be your aunt, married, two kids.

Spring had been bragging
its imminent arrival that week;
…………………..I’d even flirted
with letting it in, had debated whether
to deny or grant the wind personhood
when I mistook its opening and closing
of my back balcony door for an intruder.

…………………..Does the wind not, like me,
…………………..I reasoned, change its mind
and pivot sometimes, to a worse direction,
…………………..seem to say things it doesn’t,
…………………..take on a particular sad tenor
…………………..in the winter gloaming, like
a wolf howling at nothing in particular?

At the spa, Saturday, we cycled through the water
like rainfall, evaporation, condensation—
steam room, hot tub, cold plunge, brushed metal
bottle tucked in the pocket of a white robe,
……………………….all the little droplets
……………………….that can be both inside
……………………….and outside of the body.

I thought you’d called from Copenhagen,
……………………….while my phone was locked
……………………….in the basement, no signal,
……………………….and I had to text , “Is every
thing okay.” But by then you were in Toronto already,
had flown back immediately when you heard, didn’t tell me
until you were on the right side of the Atlantic.

……………………….When the second call came through
we were on our way to a bar called Cold Room.
I was right; it was bad news. You might want
……………………….to sit down for this and then
it wasn’t my first, second, third, fourth, or even fifth
silent guess. I had tried, while you narrated,
……………………….to keep walking, but.

……………………….At the restaurant, later,
……………………….I drank two Laphroigs,
……………………….spooning in the rocks
……………………….myself, and thought about
the plans I’d made to buy a black suit—well, dark
grey, with faint checks—just to be prepared for the
……………………….next death. Tempting fate, again.

……………………….The next day a dark grey
street cat played hard-to-get with us,
rubbing against leafless bush branches,
traipsing through the thawing ice in a series
of strangers’ gardens. Death is like that, I thought—
……………………….slinking silent, then suddenly
……………………….wanting to be fed.

 

 

 

 

 

Alex Manley is a Montreal-based writer whose work has appeared in Maisonneuve MagazineThe Puritancarte blanche, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day feature, among others, and whose debut poetry collection, We Are All Just Animals & Plants, was published by Metatron Press in 2016.

 

To view other content published in this issue, 16:2 “Fear”, please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

 

 

 

 

Vallum Poem of the Week: "Jet Lag" by Michelle Poirier Brown

 

JET LAG

It’s not the time zones.
I eat at the right times.
Suffer insomnia
at the right times.
Am depressed
and lively
in keeping with past patterns.

It’s that, in the morning,
I am alone in a different place.
Haven’t re-habituated
to the compromises yet.
What needs to be given up
to have a cup of tea.

The What comes next?
is different here.

Which window
offers light?
What will I do with my mind
in the time I have
before anyone comes?

 

 

 

 

 

Michelle Poirier Brown is a Cree Métis poet from Manitoba, living in Lekwungen territory (Victoria, BC). Her poem “Wake,” published in PRISM international’s “Dreams” issue, won the Earle Birney Prize. Other poetry has appeared in CV2, Grain, and the anthologies Dis(s)ent and Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds.

 

To view other content published in this issue, 17:1 “Home”, please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

 

 

 

Vallum Poem of the Week: "Nobody" by Julie Eliopoulos

 

NOBODY

When they asked she told them in hot whispers,
breath of fire engine red, coals on the tip of her tongue,
into their ears she said, he was nobody,

but that wasn’t true. The man who stared
at his own hands thunderstruck, as if they belonged
to another, whose palms were lined with vermillion,

two short bleeding lifelines, was actually the only
one she ever kissed and would ever kiss again.
The man who twiddled fat thumbs in buses,

who haunted train stations with his uncanny
whistle, seated by a dark window, insignia on
his wrists—stars, crosses, sipping from a small

flask, looking worn down by anonymity, felt like
a bullet hole in the universe. He seemed on the verge
of extinction as she ruthlessly denied him.

 

 

 

 

 

Julie Eliopoulos spends her days teaching and some inspired evenings writing. Her poetry has appeared in CV2, EVENT, The Fiddlehead, Grain, The New Quarterly, Prairie Fire, The Puritan, Room and Vallum.

 

To view other content published in this issue, 11:1 “Thresholds”, please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

 

 

Vallum Poem of the Week: "Mile End" by Yusuf Saadi

 

 

 

MILE END

From Mount Royal the dead watch over the city:
perched on tombstones they hum vespers and chew
………………………………………………. on autumn leaves.

Down St-Denis the rush hour cortège
caravans past café patios where October
beer foams from pitchers; on St-Laurent sprawls
of vintage shops proffer fox fur, faded
denim jackets, military boots sans eyelets.
The dead thrift-hop and smell the souls
of sneakers or finger breast pockets of
corduroy blazers in search
of their old lives. They hunt in vinyl
record shops for songs they fell
in love to: Raymond Lévesque trances
and la gigue fiddle dances.
A construction crane in the distance,
a giant tonearm in the sky.

The chic—vibrant with colour—prowl
memory’s fabric for discounted gems, pull stories
from hangers, a rattle of coins on glass counters
and they vanish on ten-speed bicycles. The dead
follow their old scarves wrapped around cyclists’
necks and are whisked along St-Viateur
and Clark, or sit on handlebars
and fill with great élan. At night, they walk
hand in hand with dead chéris on old tryst strolls.
Riding La Ronde’s Ferris wheel in silence
and crossing bridges of reminiscence
to school mornings when they ironed sweaters
and wool cardigans, sewing back buttons
on reversible vests—a time before
their clothes were ironic
and it was cool to look poor as a poet.

Now the dead smile, and hitch a ride on the brim
of a hat or sleeve of a coat back to their graves.

 

 

 

 

Yusuf Saadi’s first collection is Pluviophile (Nightwood Editions). He previously won The Malahat Review‘s 2016 Far Horizons Award for Poetry and  Yusuf Saadi’s first collection is Pluviophile (Nightwood Editions). He previously won The Malahat Review‘s 2016 Far Horizons Award for Poetry and the 2016 Vallum Chapbook Award. At other times, his writing has appeared in literary journals including Brick, Best Canadian Poetry 2019, Best Canadian Poetry 2018, Canadian Notes & Queries, ARC, Grain, The Puritan, PRISM international, Prairie Fiire, and untethered. He holds an MA from the University of Victoria and currently resides in Montreal. 

 

 

 

 

To view other content published in this issue, 17:1 “Home”, please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

 

 

 

Vallum Poem of the Week: "Not Exactly Dawn" by Karen Enns

 

Not Exactly Dawn

At not exactly dawn
the numbness in the streets
holds the early click and shudder of sparrows
…………………………………at a distance.

The shortcut through the park is endless,
windows of the houses on the border
have drawn back into walls,

the last air breathed out of the city,
…………………………………or almost.

And the walk through the gate to the house
and through the garden,
past the apple tree and up the steps
by the trellis is imagined,
…………………………………or delayed, or both.

There is no way to know for certain.
The sense of coming light is paralyzed.

 

 

 

 

 

Karen Enns is the author of three books of poetry: Cloud Physics, which won the Raymond Souster Award in 2018, Ordinary Hours, and That Other Beauty, nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award. Her poetry has appeared in many Canadian literary journals. She teaches piano and works as an editor in Victoria, BC.

 

To view other content published in this issue, 16:2 “Fear”, please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

 

Vallum Poem of the Week: "How to Spill and Be Spilled" by P Sazani

 

How to Spill and Be Spilled

1.

Tender weather: ………………………… What towers turning. What syllables of
heat. Press sound into me. …   …..If a pile is a spectacle. ……..  …..How a
column walks, how distance aches—if friction. …     …….If my limbs make
promises. Dear aloof and looming. Tear me. ….     …..Show me how to be
fifteen miles away from myself.

2.

How you drop pieces of yourself. How every creek every pool. …………..To
want to be a building. Or some swamp. ……………………What hands I would
need to grip you. Say, the field where I learned to read. How you run out
of the faucet and over.

How you carry your daughters around and drop them.

3.

An object is a thing you can put your mouth on. …………..Say, how far, how
loud. Say, …..how blue. If reaching is dangerous. ………………. If you draw a
line in the dust..please, take P into and away. .Show .me .how. to .swell.
Or press me into and up the hillside. …………………Put my mouth against the
ground and say, but if I’m afraid of porosity. ………………….. The terror of an
undone center. …………………….. How to put your mouth on a sound. How to
touch a swarm—a vacuum of language. If you kneel I will kneel too.

4.

Soak me in it. ………….. The throat opened to a cooed question. The throat,
repeated, loses its meaning. ……………. ……….. How to leak into each other.
Say,. ..What fields bloom to be my bouquet? ……..What bodies arrange
themselves in my hands? ……… Press sound into me, ……….. say, There is
power in symmetry. Lie.…………. If fruit rots and fertilizes.………… If a cup
my .grandmother .drank. from..then .a rag .your daughter will chew.
If passive. ………………. Rain on me. ……………… Say, sad sorry throat, or—
If I spit on my palms, rub on your lawn. Would you feel it, on your skin?

 

 

 

 

 

 

P Sazani is a writer, artist, and teacher in Los Angeles. Working mostly with sentences and mostly in the speculative mode, she writes about the agency of matter, the instability of language, and the queerness of weather systems. With Sam Creely she edits DanceNotes, a chapbook series that publishes experiments in dance notation. She is currently finishing a fellowship at CalArts. 

 

To view other content published in this issue, 16:2 “Fear”, please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

Vallum Poem of the Week: "Losing the Game" by Brent Cassan

 

Losing the Game

…….A vanished name for a human face might still strike
a tiny spark at the back of the brain, a tingling reminder that it
sounds like pestle or jostle, a name far from being as gentle as
smooth or suave. Then a split-second recall for its sound
vanishes into swirling silver cloud, to a spot where I can’t
command my mind to snatch even an echo of its ephemeral
voice. Still, old labels for lost lovers may come back like ants
to honey, perhaps sounding like a lively Mm in the throat, a
murmur gently softening as it eases through the nasal cavities.
She used to sip martinis so avidly, almost addictively, that flow
of slightly oily liquid across speckles of ice, jazzing a voice that
once tried to sell our gang a dazzling variety of Ponzi schemes.
She was a dog walker and a lot of fun.
…….I search for bright side effects, rummage through my
mind for a spotlight clue, nicely sequined and properly placed.
Could this be it! Perhaps I’ve found gold as evening descends,
with the pageantry beginning once moonlight falls, as day-sky
implodes, far in where our elves keep such appellations,
historically hot, bubbling and loud. I place just enough oomph
on the initial Germanic syllable to make the quizmaster grin
from ear to ear, but there are no Bravos or Hurrahs. The trophy
clatters to the floor, and I am left alone as our ship blasts off for
Venus.

  

 

 

 

 

 

Brent Cassan spent thirty-two years involved with EFL in Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Japan. He is retired with fingers still in the universe of poetry, and in his second love—the stock market. Recent contributions include American Railroading: a Basic Research Bibliography; two books of poems titled Texas on My Mind, and History of China, as well as items in three issues of Vallum, and one in both Grain and The Prairie Journal.

 

To view other content published in this issue, 15:1 “Memory and Loss”, please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

Vallum Poem of the Week: "It’s Winter the Gods Love" by Jane Munro

 

 

 

It’s Winter the Gods Love

high and wind-swept
where rivers begin and snow
whirls like Sarasvati circling

Brahma, his lust
growing five faces
to keep ten eyes on her

but that comes after mountains
moon, sun, an ocean of stars
after darkness and light differ

in winter, the gods shed headgear
and garlands, sandals and spears, limbs
and vendettas—they shed names

honed to weightlessness, they flare
and drift, rise, buckle, fold—explode
from a hierarchical operatic cast

the thinned weave of their turning
sparkles and floats—holds a delta’s silt
lifts with snow geese, falls on peaks

darkness in winter nights
ruthlessly itself—in winter days
light frayed through ice crystals

dogs the sun
before collecting again
in moon’s gaze

 

 

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Jane Munro’s sixth poetry collection Blue Sonoma (Brick Books) won the 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize. This poem is from her new collection Glass Float (Brick Books, spring 2020). https://www.brickbooks.ca/books/glass-float/

A member of the collaborative poetry group Yoko’s Dogs, Munro’s taught Creative Writing at several universities in BC, given many informal writing workshops, and read her poetry to audiences across Canada. She has also given readings in Ireland, the USA, Italy, India and Egypt.

In 2012, Munro moved back to Vancouver—where she grew up and raised her children—after spending twenty years living rurally on the coast of Vancouver Island. https://www.janemunro.com/

 

To view other content published in this issue, 13:1, please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

 

Vallum Poem of the Week: "Tokyo Cinema" by natalie hanna

 

tokyo cinema

tonight i want to hear no sound
that is not your heart
or your sated sigh
as i hold you
in the
dark
surrounded
by strangers
and kiss the skin
that holds your sadness

why have we never
been so tender and so quiet?

even once-fine machines
will break their gears
mumur down into stillness

the soundless scene
in every film
builds tension

let’s dissolve into
silken inner elbows
unwrapped collarbones
and the texture of a cheek
as perceived by calm fingers

  

 

 

natalie hanna is a queer, feminist, lawyer of Middle Eastern-descent. She runs battleaxe press (poetry). Her work appears with above/ground press, In/Words magazine, shreeking violet, phafours press, Hussy, poemeleon, Canthius, the League of Canadian Poets, etc. She received an Honourable Mention in Arc Poetry Magazine’s 2019 Diana Brebner Prize. www.nhannawriting.wordpress.com

 

To view other content published in this issue, 17:1, please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.

Vallum Poem of the Week: "Waiting for What and When" by Aaron Williams

Waiting For What and When

Soon, a day will come
when I will look in the mirror and not know who I am
not recall how I got that scar above my eye
stare at photos, unable to place names on faces

Already, I am opening drawers filled with rings of
keys to doors in buildings that have been demolished

Daily, I pass structures haunted by long kisses from lovers
whose lips have long abandoned me

Today, I pulled the cord on the bus, stood up
stood out standing still like a stilled life
and did not think at all

I smiled, charmingly
they like me more when I smile

Aaron Williams placed his poems in shoeboxes until his recent 60th birthday celebration in Montreal— where he discovered Vallum. This
issue contains his first published poem. He is founder of the 7th Grade
Poetry Foundation, editor of its six student poetry anthologies, and a Washington University in St. Louis graduate.

To view other content published in this issue, 15:1, please visit Vallum’s website.

Vallum magazine is also available in digital format. Featuring additional content such as: AUDIO and VIDEO recordings of selected poets, further poems, interviews, essays, and MORE! Visit our website for details.