Today I bought organic flour

not for the good of the planet

but because I want pancakes —

pancakes and brownies and

peanut butter cookies — and,

there is not a spoonful of flour

to be had, except for the expensive,

kind-to-the-earth variety.

So with the privilege of a credit card

and money in the bank,

I bought organic flour today.


The whole country is baking bread

as though it will help to stave off

the virus. The whole nation’s rising up

making yeast from potatoes

(which I also bought, and not just

to help the farmers,

who are apparently drowning in them),

The whole world’s starting

sour dough starter, bubbling

almost patriotically on our counters.

but really it’s just a “we’re all in this together” meme

on Facebook,— or even a competition

(best looking, crustiest sour dough loaf!) —

except for those

who can’t afford

flour at $5 a kilo

who can’t afford

Internet, who can’t

afford to be all in this together.


If only our kitchen ferment

bubbled out on to the streets.

If only the whole world would rise up

like a loaf of bread and demand justice

for those whose mouths have not

tasted it their whole lives.

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,


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.


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)
from 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
lusty Lenten

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

this aspirin
this round worm
this bindi
this lamb


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


January 21 and 22, 2017

It’s a brand new year

The shape of things–

A new year at almost 50


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.





Elaine’s Wig

I found this story whilelooking for something else. Wrote it and forgot it. 2011


Elaine’s Wig

Elaine had lost her wig. It blew off her head as she gripped the crook of Stanley’s arm, on the way to the car after chemo. The wind was high, driving a warm, exhilarating rain into their faces. Though Stanley held their big umbrella in front of them with his other hand, the rain found its way like a worm, under their collars, their buttons and into their boots.

He’d stayed with her the whole time, as she sat in the reclining chair with the IV dripping into her veins, fast asleep. He read the paper or chatted to the people accompanying the other chemo patients, and to the patients themselves. He never asked them about their cancer, although they seemed open, even eager, to talk about it. Instead he talked sports, the news of the day, but no politics. Politics, religion and now cancer, were off limits. He didn’t want to upset anyone here, especially the sick people, in case it somehow disrupted that smooth drip of pure poison into them that was, perhaps, their last hope.

At least, it was Elaine’s last hope…or more accurately, it was Stanley’s. Elaine hadn’t wanted it. After they removed her left breast, and told her she needed chemo, she wanted to let go. She was tired, she said, but would do it to please Stanley. Still the more chemo she had, the more she seemed to weaken. Her skin was dry and tired looking, her energy much diminished. Her once robust body whittled away to nothing It wasn’t just the chemo or the cancer, Stanley thought. She was giving up. If he were the crying kind, he would have wept tears of anger and frustration. Instead he distracted himself with woodworking projects. He’d made a birdhouse the other day, and then another. He wondered, sheepishly, how many birdhouses the world really needed. He figured he could supply the town at least.

Elaine didn’t cry either, she simply faded. Stanley imagined that one day he’s wake up and the woman beside him would be as translucent as a jelly fish, and the next day she would have disappeared altogether.

When Elaine woke up she smiled sleepily at Stanley. “What day is it?” she asked. He knew she was joking. Gladness swelled in his throat, threatening to make him a dancing weeping fool. He smiled at her but she closed her eyes again, as though exhausted. Stanley’momentary joy crumbled. How could a woman who’d raised three children and worked hard every day of her life, be tired from simply telling a joke?

A young nurse came over with the second IV bag. “How’s she doing today?” she asked Stanley, in a loud, friendly voice. Elaine’s eyelids fluttered but she didn’t bother to open them. Stanley squeezed her hand. “She’s about done” he said. “Brown on both sides.” The nurse seemed delighted that he had a sense of humour. She laughed heartily, patting his hand and repeated the joke to her coworker.

When it was all over, it was early afternoon. Stanley helped Elaine into a wheelchair and they sat for awhile, nibbling on the cookies provided for the chemo patients. Stanley’s stomach gurgled and he thought longingly of takeout burger and fries, but he knew the smell of it would make Elaine nauseous. Anyway, there was a tuna casserole at home from one of the neighbours, who told Elaine they were going away and couldn’t eat it, but which Stanley knew was a gesture of concern.

He wheeled her into the elevator. Stanley had always loved being alone in the elevator with Elaine. On their third date, he had kissed her in an elevator like this, on their way up to her parents’ apartment where he would say goodbye to her and hello to her parents, who had watched from their living room window as his old Volkswagon pulled into the visitor’s parking lot, and Stanley opened the car door for Elaine, and walked her into the building right on her curfew. They wanted to know he was a gentleman, Elaine said with a laugh as he nuzzled her neck and fondled her breasts, all the way from the ground floor to the 9th.

Elaine had been remarkably uninterested in the fact that she had lost a breast. “Good riddance,” she said at first, whereas Stanley bore the shock of the loss. He’d always loved her breasts, the soft harbour they made for his head when he fell asleep. Elaine was more concerned about people knowing she was sick. She couldn’t tolerate pity.

At the front door of the hospital, Elaine insisted on getting out of the wheelchair and walking to the car. He knew she didn’t want to leave the hospital as an invalid. Luckily he had found a free handicapped parking spot and on account of his prosthetic leg, he had the parking pass to go with it.

Elaine refused to wait for him to bring the car to the front door. “You’ll drive off without me,” she said, gripping his arm. She was just being stubborn but he was relieved. He knew how easy it was to stop doing for yourself in the face of tiredness and pain, and if you give in one day, the next day you’ll give in a little more, and that would be the end of you. When he lost his leg years ago, crushed by a dump truck on the building site where he was a new foreman, he’d been in a blue funk for days, believing somehow that his reason for living had been attached to the missing leg,. Elaine did her best to make him angry, taunting him for his foul mood as he sat in his wheelchair. He’d never been a violent man, but he swiped at her with his fist. She simply pushed her chair back. “Come and get me, you fat assed gimp,” she whispered meanly. It wasn’t physio that helped him recover, it was Elaine pissing him off.

As they stepped out of the hospital’s front doors, he opened the big umbrella in front of them. It sounded like someone was flinging pebbles, the rain was so hard. He hesitated a moment before stepping out from under the overhang. Elaine, however, tipped her face upward, as though to receive the sun. She’d always loved the rain. Her wig of grey curls was slightly askew, darkened by the watery onslaught.

They took a few steps toward the car, the wind tearing at the umbrella. With Elaine gripping his left arm he had no control over it. The gale ripped it from his hand. At the same moment Elaine’s wig, as wet as though she’d been swimming in it, slipped sideways over her ear, then fell completely away. Stanley watched it roll behind them like a tumbleweed.

Elaine put her hand to her patchy baldness. She looked like a young eagle chick, Stanley thought. The rain slicked her hair to her head, which, Stanley appreciated now as never before, was a beautiful shape, an elegant, even regal shape. She blinked in the rain, as though she couldn’t move.

A security guard was watching from the shelter of the overhang at the hospital entrance. He scooped up the wig and shook it, then handed it to Elaine with a solemn look. “Here you go ma’am.” The diehard smokers in the bus shelter on the sidewalk, one of them pushing an IV pole, looked too. Elaine put two hands up to cover her ears, as if someone had told her something so terrible she couldn’t bear to hear it.

Stanley wanted to hold her, to whisk her away from view. But instead he grunted, “Rain getting’ in?” She looked at him, stunned. “Rain getting’ in your ears?” he asked, as he gently propelled her by her elbow into the passenger seat of their car.

Elaine looked straight ahead of her. Stanley dumped himself into the driver’s seat, lifted his leg in, and slammed the door. “It could of been worse,” he said. He waited for her question, so he could utter the punch line, but she was too lost to humour him. “It could have been my leg,” he said to the air around them and started the engine.

Stanley drove them home, windshield wipers going so fast they almost seemed a parody of themselves. He took Elaine’s elbow, got her settled on the couch with pillows and blankets, taking the wet wig from her hand. She fell asleep right away, mindlessly, gratefully, he thought. It occurred to him that she wouldn’t see the end of the year, that their time was coming to an end and he knew finally that there was nothing he could do to stop it. He kissed her fingers and turned on the television.



sitting with


If you sit with grief

and hold its hands

in yours, they will be cold,

it’s true, but they won’t

steal you from yourself.

If you sit with sorrow,

and hold it to your heart,

you will ache

but it will not take you with it

when it lets you go.

If you sit with hope

it floats above you

til you choose it

grasping its tail and pulling it

on to your shoulder.

and then it is yours,

for its lifetime, as long as it lasts.

Feed it, scratch it under the chin

and  let it roam free.

It may bring you a pebble,

a treasure, a fruit

and when sorrow and grief

come calling,

it will sit on your shoulder

eating pistachios

looking at them with bright eyes

until they know

it’s  time to go.