All the words you want

My website is changing… evolving… transforming!  from a little, hairy, yellow and black caterpillar into, um, a little yellow and black butterfly.  Soon, I hope, it will be unrecognizable. But it will still have my face. Yes, my face with antennae and 36 eyes or whatever. It will still be mine, and I hope you’ll stick around to witness the rebirth, and that you won’t stomp on me with your big human feet.

two poems for the day

(originally published in Open Heart Forgery, I think, and possibly on Facebook)

Wounding Ground

by Anna Quon

At the wounding ground,

wild poppies grow,

translucent,

above landmines

dug in years ago

like precious tubers.

The ghosts of hands and feet

scatter like salt

over the wounding ground.

No one remembers now

who is to blame for the one-legged child,

the blind dog, the bloody stump.

It was so long ago

that people hated one another.

the past is wispy as a cloud

over the wounding ground.

Warships

by Anna Quon

Warships are the colour of brains,

Without their convoluted beauty

Their decks are gritty as asphalt

Washed grey as cloud-covered sea

Nothing sticks. Not life, not dirt

Not death. Nothing here

Is made for people; even blood

Disappears, even sunlight..

America’s Sickheart

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Emma Lazarus

Your guest have arrived
but you’re less than delighted
these aren’t the ones you thought
you’d invited

You’re fuming i know
as you walk down the hall
still you’re smiling and trying
to swallow it all

It’s fondu tonight
(this great melting pot
a fountain of chocolate
volcanic and hot

Where your tired, your poor
your huddled masses
are fed like cake
to the wealthy classes)

You yearn to breathe free
but your bleached blond smile
is glued to your face like a
bathroom tile

The wretched refuse of their teeming shore
aren’t the ones you expected outside your door
crying for toothpaste, healthcare and justice
from cages you locked, under ICE auspices

America’s Sickheart,
The homeless knock to come in
but the word on the street
is “no room at the inn”
No room on the bench
no room on the curb
Your welcome mat’s flip side
Says “Do not disturb”

The lamp you lift up
gives no light to the lost.
Its to rout out illegals,
those tempest-tost
in storm-torn lands where
the winds are man-made.
Your golden door’s barred
to the poor and afraid.

America’s Sickheart,
you’re ready to banquet.
Your table your guest list
Your guard dog’s all set.
You called 911 on the brown kid who cried
for his mother and father, somewhere outside,
while he curls on the concrete
hungry and cold
for your friends to ignore
or berate if they’re bold

So swallow your courage,
your lies and dissenters—
an aperatifs normal
when your court one percenters.

So welcome, welcome
to your big dinner bash
those whose skin’s clearly white
whose breath smells like cash,
who turn with such grace
and loosen their ties
to the rest of humanity
while their own, simply dies.

This moon

This is the moon of worms
and sugar, of crows and crust and sap
the full bloom moon,
trickling, syrupy sweet
and saffron bright
into the street, at night.

This is the moon that
floods the path for snow drops,
their blind heads poking above
dead leaves and twigs
left by winter’s tidal drift.

This is the moon of dry skin
and the bull-headed crocus,
bursting from glassy ground like
clown-coloured sperm
to penetrate the frosted globe
of air, holding its mirror to this
cold-fingered
full-throated,
lusty Lenten
moon.

this girlishly chaste
and pulse-quickening moon,
this ancient, burnished
starlit lamp

this aspirin
this round worm
this bindi
this lamb

confetto!

this moon

Flying Home

Flying home

I am ready to die,

like my Grandma

Two million women

march below us,

holding up half the sky,

their shoes sparking

like New Year’s Eve fire crackers

The light reaches from one window

to the other

across the plane’s brief aisle.

Between the pews,

the glow of no smoking signs

and the seatbelts that contain us

We are an afterthought, we passengers

The planes real cargo is this

lambent space

The mind at the end

can be like this

A scattering of thoughts

in effortless suspension

over countless joyful graves

and pillars of suffering

But mostly

A brilliant emptiness

In flight toward absolute

nothingness.

January 21 and 22, 2017

It’s a brand new year

The shape of things–

A new year at almost 50

what’s

that thing

looming over

us in the polka dot

sky or behind closed

doors, the cigar-shaped

suppository  —  the relief

when it’s over the mamm-

ogram machine lifted from

the squashed breast like a

papal edict.   A new year

silhouetted against the

stars, missile stealthy

as their submarines

before      Engima

cracked   them

open as easy

a s  c a r d –

o m o m

p o d s

Nazis at home

 

Nazis at home

They’ve been marching
in their skin’s pale uniforms,
gleaming like boot black
in the torchlight.

At home, they plop
in their easy chairs,
foot sore and weary
and untie their bitter laces

soon they’ll hold their cheek
against the dark, not waiting
for kisses, but for the warm breath
that tells them there’s life

because their fear
winds around their
sleeping children
heavy as black lung

and they cannot hear
the heart beat
of their young
above their own

or distinguish them
from the tender camouflage
of shadow in the black -skinned
arms of night.

Hearing Voices

Not being a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, I haven’t received a copy of its member publication, Write, so have not had the chance to read the essays of the Indigenous writers featured in the Spring issue, or the contentious opinions of the former editor of that issue. The question however of how writers approach characters whose identities are not reflective of their own is one I have some thoughts about which I write about here.

I was once of the opinion that anyone should write any character they wanted to and could imagine, including writing from that character’s perspective. Later in life, I came to the opinion that writing from the point of view of any character not reflective of my identity and from a historically oppressed group was  a bad idea. There are a number of reasons for this but the one that I stand by most is that people who have been oppressed should be acknowledged as the experts of their experience,  and offered the space to exercise and share that expertise.

How does a writer from a historically oppressive group take away from the acknowledgement of the expertise of a writer from an oppressed group if they write from the perspective of a character from the oppressed group?

Some would say they don’t. Some would say that depending on how they write the character they may be contributing to cultural understanding and appreciation of diversity.

I guess my view on this is influenced by my experience of my own identity. I identify as a Mad, mix-raced and now middle-aged woman. In the area of mental health care there are many representations of people who are considered mentally ill. There are case studies, and  things I think of as pathological profiles with checklists of symptoms; I admit to cringing every time I hear a so-called expert– a psychiatrist for example– speak about that experience as if they know what it’s like –because, by definition,  they stand on the other side of the divide, unless they have experienced madness for themselves.

It is not wrong for psychiatrists to try to cross that divide by imagining and empathizing with my experience.  But if i am sitting right there, why would they do that, unless they value hearing their own voice over hearing mine, and over what my actual experience is?

Airspace is valuable and limited, and so is publishing space– column space,  and space in fiction publishers’ annual dockets.  I don’t think a psychiatrist should be given airtime about my experience over me, and I don’t think a writer from a historically oppressive group writing from the point of view of a character from an oppressed group should be given airtime over a writer who has had first hand experience of belonging to that group.

What I’m really arguing for  is my instinct that people need to be supported to tell their own stories if we really want a world that’s different than the one we live in now. Fiction is powerful.  That power belongs in the hands of the people who it’s about. “Nothing about us, without us” as the disability rights movement first said.

And thank you Jesse Wente for saying this.