Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tuesday poem #321 : Ruth Daniell : Corpse Flower

In July 2018, a specimen nicknamed Uncle Fester at Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver became the first Amorphophallus titanium plant to publicly bloom in BC.

Vancouver is giddy tonight; in the botanical conservatory
the corpse flower is finally blooming. The deep green exterior

of the spathe is opening to reveal its dark red interior
and its spadix of flowers: the largest flower in the world.

I’ve been following the story for days. It makes me happy
that so many people have been waiting for a flower,

I think it’s funny that the flower has been named Uncle Fester
and is sure to smell terribly once it’s bloomed.

Many things make me happy these days. My baby daughter
most of all. Before I put her to bed I held her and remembered,

as I often do, how badly I wanted her. How I waited
for a baby and now she is here and she is, just a little bit,

only here because I waited. Tonight I kissed her nose
and I remembered, too, the corpse flower in the city

where I used to live, all the people waiting for it
to bloom, and I thought about all the crazy things

that flora and fauna do to be more than themselves.
The Amorphophallus titanium is not a self-pollinator;

it can only reproduce if
beetles and other insects help.
It needs someone else to shuttle pollen between plants,

to trick flesh flies, or small nocturnal carrion beetles
searching for freshly-dead meat to lay their eggs in.

In order to reproduce the plant must mimic death:
the chemistry of the bloom raises its temperature

to over 36C, human body temperature. Its colour
is vibrant and red. And, of course, there’s its odour:

decomposing flesh. I guess reproduction is always
a little bit gross, life is always closer to death

than we first imagine. The doctors rubbed my daughter’s
tiny body to encourage her to take her first breath:

first she was a grey colour and then she brightened into
a newborn pink, and cried, and they gave her back to me.

It wasn’t ever an emergency: it’s just how things go,
sometimes, and it’s okay. They gave her back to me.

Ruth Daniell is an award-winning writer whose poems have appeared in Arc Poetry Magazine, Grain, Room magazine, Qwerty, The Antigonish Review and Event. The recipient of the 2013 Young Buck Poetry Prize with CV2 and the winner of the 2016 Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse Contest with The New Quarterly, Daniell is also the editor of Boobs: Women Explore What It Means to Have Breasts (Caitlin Press, 2016) and the author of The Brightest Thing (Caitlin Press, 2019). She holds a bachelor of arts degree (honours) in English literature and writing from the University of Victoria and a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. She lives with her family in Kelowna, BC.

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tuesday poem #320 : Emma Bolden : AMERICAN BEATITUDES

In the city in which I works best
there is no you. Understand that

understanding means an opening
where there should be a wall. If you build

a bridge it’ll just be broken
once a foot becomes steps. The signal

we saw in faraway smoke said
the need for help is a warning

that the helper will soon become
the one in need. Gold is gold

because we put a limit on the number
of hands that can hold it. How could you

disgrace this nation built on the backs bent under
the weight of the forest that felled them?

If a thousand tulips insist on their colors,
the field of green will still be green. Still,

out of the many, one is the only pronoun
we can find room for. The point of every

dollar we’ve earned is to prove to ourselves
our own favor. And God is the green who favors

our greens. O, say. We light by our own gun
the scope from which we’ll never escape.

Emma Bolden is the author of three full-length collections of poetry House Is An Enigma (Southeast Missouri State University Press), medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press, 2016) and Maleficae (GenPop Books, 2013) – and four chapbooks. The recipient of a 2017 Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA, her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, The Best Small Fictions, and such journals as theMississippi Review, The Rumpus, StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, New Madrid, TriQuarterly, the Indiana ReviewShenandoah, the Greensboro Review, andThe Journal. She currently serves as Associate Editor-in-Chief for Tupelo Quarterly. You can find out more at EmmaBolden.com.

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Tuesday poem #319 : Kirby : Sunday School

There is no half-measure
to praise

or grief

speaking tongues
at the tip of your cock,


KIRBY’s earlier chapbooks include Simple Enough, Cock & Soul, Bob’s boy, The world is fucked and sometimes beautiful, and most recently, SHE'S HAVING A DORIS DAY (knife | fork | book, 2017). They also appear in Matrix Magazine, National Poetry Month.ca and The Rusty Toque (Pushcart Nominee). Their full-length debut, THIS IS WHERE I GET OFF is newly out from Permanent Sleep Press. Kirby is the owner/publisher of knife | fork | book

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Tuesday poem #318 : Jen Sookfong Lee : Chinatown, 1981

You are small and standing in the small park off Gore Avenue. Down the hill you can see Chinatown unrolling before you, fading at the edges. It’s the streets that are not-quite Chinatown, not-quite Skid Row, that fascinate you, that you squint to see more clearly. There are no walls, no borders, only a porous, invisible line. Even at five years old, you know of here and there, us and them, but the in-between is something else, a netherworld where no one belongs, or where everyone belongs. You do not know how to tell the difference.

You walk with your mother down Hastings toward the pawn shop, the big one with a wide, lit sign like a movie theatre’s, where the words change every week: gold chains army knives discount bridal. On the corner, your mother runs into an old friend who sailed to Canada on the same boat twenty years earlier, both young women who were coming to marry men they had not met. They talk of sons and daughters, rising bus fares, and the man they know who drives a cab and gambles away all his wife’s money. You edge away until your feet have crossed the worn weather strip and you are in the pawn shop. The smell is old, like the smell of your grandmother’s knitted vest, dust and wool and traces of skin, the miniscule flakes embedded in spaces too small to be seen. You run your hands over the glass display cases, stopping at the pocket watches and brooches, the little, shiny things that you imagine would be heavy in your closed fist. The art hangs haphazardly. A seascape in watercolours next to stiff, blonde children in an oil portrait next to an owl knitted in macramé. Perched on a shelf, a ventriloquist’s dummy, mouth hanging open. A cheongsam gleaming green in the dim.

A man behind the counter is weighing a pile of gold jewellery, looping necklaces into neat circles, separating the rings with big jade stones and diamonds from the rest. Even you know that is wedding jewellery, the kind your mother keeps in a four-tiered box in her bedroom, the kind she is supposed to keep in case she needs to run away from your father, the kind she can sell if she finds herself without a husband and with children to feed. You look. There is no Chinese woman in the shop, but you know she must be sad, somewhere counting her money, calculating how much rent she can afford, how many packages of instant noodles, before she must find a job, a daycare, a new husband.

Through the picture window, you see your mother looking for you, her body turning in circles. You run out and, when she grabs your arm, she shouts, You scared me, where were you, don’t you ever do that again, and you wish you could tell her you had found the exact place where Chinatown and not-Chinatown meet, where everyone’s lives leave evidence behind, where people sell their talismans for cash because they are running away or trying to stay or stopping for a moment to lift the weight of their pasts, but you don’t, you don’t, because her panic is receding and now she is angry, so you say, I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking.

She pulls you through an alley, where the seagulls call to each other from the power lines above. They know, don’t they, where the people hide, where they discard the precious objects that can be sold or trashed or eaten. You hurry with your mother to the car and you will drive away, fast in the rain now falling, Chinatown like a ghost, falling further and further behind.

Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised in Vancouver’s East Side, and she now lives with her son in North Burnaby. Her books include The Conjoined, nominated for International Dublin Literary Award and a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, The Better Mother, a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award, The End of East, and Gentlemen of the Shade. Jen cohosts the Can’t Lit podcast, appears regularly as a contributor on The Next Chapter on CBC Radio One, and teaches fiction at The Writers’ Studio with Simon Fraser University.

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan