Turnstone Press

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Excerpt

A Sense of Direction

 

Compass points

 

The music rattled
and shook the radio while
a crowd of people talked
I watched your eyes
like laser points
track me down
with a view
to paralyze

my mind wandered
to my afternoon bike ride
gusts of wind from the north
made mountains
of the plains

the sense of your lips
on mine a sudden diversion
of my attention
and I am surprised
with the newness of a world
that senses the gentle
caress of the wind

north is only north
you whispered
when you know
which way the river flows

Meet me at the church at midnight

dancin' in the heat of the
parking lot
dancing in the soft hazy
silvery air
we're dancing to the radio
billie jean from the car
music filters through the
nectar of the night
rumbles over us and bursts through
honeysuckle air

semi trailers bump and bruise
their bulk they bounce
a beat to match the bass
staccato note from the grind of the
distant train
brushes our bodies bumps
me into you
sparks form in the air
heavier now with pockets of cool
fireflies flicker now here now
distant
flashes of light in rhythm
to our dancing
painting the sky
close around us now
air vivified with the earth's sweet
sweat a current thick
we slink and slide inside
the summer's salt and
laugh wave
to the man in the moon
harvest moon
his full flat face
looking down
you laugh
looking up
the man in the moon sheds a lonely tear
lands on my cheek
you
brush it away
turn up the music
just so
we dance

Break & enter

The door is unlocked
so it can hardly be called a
break & enter

now you are here
sitting on the couch
feet on the table
you drop crumbs

so this is it
staring me in the face
love a presence
in my space

you water the plants
in my absence

your farts linger
in the air
smell of your sweat
tickles my nose
in the bedroom

I open the windows
in the coldest of winter

Sunday in July

I dip my toes into pools
of sun glowing in the grass
shadow serpents
tickle my soles

I tilt my head
into your chest
drift in the space between
the beats of your heart
steady as if
time could be tamed

clouds in the sky
now form into an owl
curl about and now
perhaps mittens or
an ice cream cone
melting
into the breeze

I fall asleep
my head resting just so
your fingers tapping a drum solo
in my hair
kittens' paws whisper
in the flower beds

when I wake
heat has pressed in
the clouds have thinned
sun dapples and dances
swaddles us in
these soft grasses

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Excerpt

The Child is Still Kin

 

 

Child's pose

Both hands spread to feel the floor,
the child I am is still kin to carpet,
tile, dust-drift beneath cupboards.

 

The child I am spreads forearms
along this coolness, taking in
how much the floor gives and resists.

 

She curls into her kneecaps, warm
familiars, pressing into the small
dark made by her greying head.

 

The tops of her feet flat against
the ground, the child I remain
makes herself hummock, hill, barrow

 

full of the self's jewels, small spine
a path from darkness to darkness,
arms twin tree roots cradled in earth.

 

If I can be brave

I love to lie on the rust-orange carpet by
the shiny floor that stops at the heat vents,
black slats like little venetian blinds.
I peer between them. Can I see the basement?
Can I hear Grandma and Grandpa talking?

 

 

I slide along the varnished floor in sock feet,
turn and creep down the basement stairs.
If I face it, the darkness, if I can be brave,
Grandma will give me a glass of 7UP
and scratch my back on the green and white
brocade couch and let me watch every last
minute of The Lawrence Welk Show.

 

Let me make it through the black basement
kitchen, then run into the living room. Lamps
will be on. Grandpa will smoke a pipe in his
brown leather chair. Grandma's hair will shine
in its perfect silver waves. Everything will
be safe, blanket-cozy, almost-bedtime good.

 

Un-sister

The un-sister who barely came to be
in this world stayed in God's mind
with the un-roses: red almond-shaped shadows.

 

I dream her idling about the un-garden
with all the un-born, bodiless smiles
painted on the airless atmosphere

 

of the vast un-place of the un-made,
faux perfection of the un-tried and un-spoken.
I hold up my hand of flesh, bathed

 

in particle waves of material light.
It cannot close around nothing.
We're always bearing handfuls of atoms.

 

Even when very still and thinking
of my un-living sister among the haze
of un-created flowers, matter sparks.

 

Light dances across synapses in the mind's
dark, where everything imagined
has its name, its own small electric body.

The horse is a cathedral

When I was tiny and afraid of everything,
I still wanted horses. The merry-go-round
was an embodied swirl of everything
inside me: roundness, heaviness, smooth
hooves, necks arched and settled into
elegant skulls with coal-of-fire eyes.

 

Even horses' nostrils opened and shut
with strength, with rushing intent. Across
their broad backs and taut haunches spread
the finery: false gold and silver, painted
brocade, lacquer-leather, riot of faux luxury.

 

A horse is a cathedral of a beast, its
central nave and side chapels buttressed
in holy proportions, its bell tower set
with eyes, its mane pennons streaming.
An assemblage of disks and spheres,
planes and pulleys, vivified into anti-

 

gravity glory: the pressure, the pound
of galloping, pulling away and away from
earth like pushed blood, heart's hoofbeats.
The first photographers captured the horse,
harnessed the heft, the muscular curl

of it in midair, four hooves hovering
in a knot above the ground: emblems,
heraldic angels, seraphim packed tight
into their bodies and sent down to run,
to make the dusty earth a pulsing drum.

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Excerpt

A Beginning Sky Report: at Night

 

Egotistical gaseous ghosts, trying on dresses: Northern Lights

neither impressionist nor expressionist. Though anger is

rarely bright nor happiness heavy together: an epiphany.

There will be a birth through it all as soon as impatience

appears unappreciative before longing, here, in the parody

of a pilgrimage the advertisement, encountering (truck stop: convenience store)

mild creativity, reaches

Dresses made of theatre curtains, shifting

old Gods trying to make a come-back like Classic movies

or clouds that came over from Europe, decadent tardy

apologies. Imagine they have brought songs,

foggy sycophants...They warn, but in using rhyme

give all away: how do we address the following longings--?

 

Let your butterfly-utter fly: wings,

abstract, lose a pillow fight for sky/ the victory

is for an emanating butter medallion

strung on high/ like a culminating fact...

 

The Gods watch our cars drive away, their inversion

of the stars, as we rush home to watch Canadian Idle.

Imagine how narcissus would feel in outer-space

--besides being unsure of when he was drowning--

 

And I am somehow certain that if he did drift it would be

exactly static, he would be such a perfect representative

of "us," thinking we are beyond all psychology, a new

disorder removed by a meltedsilverspoon scalpel, eaten by a

wealthy philistine, assuming it was a "growth" to fill the stomach

 

Like the dandelion of nostalgia, as when finally entered

a planetary atmosphere, it would not need to have "life" :

 

The thickness of the gases that suffocate, pillow-wielding murderers.

We would have abundant chemistry kit and it would be enough:

and for hope he knows beyond personification

that a fossil is not a momento mori it is more important

to imagine nature outracing all our technology a silent burr

in the terrible chill of the silk fabric of space / time: mutation

in the fortified seed.

Could not the gender of the Gods go off to an abstract war?

They must combat the voids, vast statues who shower in meteors.

The cherubic faces of planets: shields to which the Gods' intentionality

are alien fingers pointing, groping at hidden interiors

gasesous spills sensationalist wills if only telescopes were neighborhood

window sills.

If galaxies were only bloody, perversely, there is/was life out there?

This seems like the version of God that emerged in history

not refined by curiosity--yet, this is a projection steeped in irony.

 

But the stars have "reached the point" where our metaphors

need far greater sophistication: the stray satellite

will earn its rust badges, the dead ears of pure space.

Instead, consider the phrase of a literary physics its non-reality:

Mere/ age in (the) dis-trance (a child thinks this, looking out home window)

 

So that when we think of life, we imagine we are still moving...

Here on the prairie, we walk through the graveyard's

strange parallel happenstance, a crash test dummy's speed bumps

 

The retreat of space into its own victory yet, when we think of time

liberated from our own aging...a new sense of time emerges.

In the house, is a winding star-case:

The skylight in a child's castle ceiling opens to a combined space:

Forbid the bureaucrat of stars, stick it notes on making constellations

On-the-page-poet, but only briefly.

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Excerpt

How Far Can We Follow

Hague Ferry

The ferry's a hidden thing, only half believed in
until the road dives into the sudden valley.
Density of dogwood and chokecherry
to right and left, and a warning: Test Brakes.
We've left the upper world, gone down
to where the sky has borders.

A sheet-metal raft, four cars square.
An engine to propel, cable to guide
below the ceiling of canola fields.
The ferryman's silent, hardly seen:
the gesture of a single chain,
a signal to bring us on.

Lanigan Creek

Swaying on cattails, the blackbirds--
yellow-headed, red-winged--see it all:
their domain and one intruder.
I side-step down the bank, crouch low.
Blackbirds whistle. I wait.

Flickers of movement: footprints
dimple the surface of the stream.
Bubbles rise from mud, slivers of light
pierce green water. Mottled brown
shifts against brown. Red and blue
needles stitch the air. Coiled spires
of shells glide flat-footed,
infinitely slow.

Below the cattail skyline, time
becomes elastic. The silence hums.

Grass tickles my back. I am
invisible as a mountain.

Fort Carlton

Everyone knows it's a buffalo rubbing stone,
that boulder on top of the hill.
This is where the bison came
to scratch their behinds, massage
their woolly shoulders. Not rough like a tree,
but stronger. They could lean hard,
rub the itches out. Hey, look,
says one of the boys, the ground's
hollowed out all around it. That's from their hoofs.
You mean hooves, a girl corrects him.

We know about glaciers from school.
We know they left rocks in odd places. Erratics,
the book called them. Eccentrics.
Strangers amid the grass
and willows.

The rock is chest-high on us.
We hoist ourselves up, sit here in the sun.
We pick at the dark stuff clinging to it,
argue whether moss or lichen. Pretend to believe
these are hundred-year-old bits of hair
from the very last of the buffalo.

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Still Me

Still Me

A Golf Tragedy in 18 Parts
edition:Paperback
More Info
Excerpt

PROLOGUE

THE BACK YARD

MANITOBA - ONE HOLE - FALLWAY HOMES

Everything becomes impossibly still.

In this moment, time takes a breath and looks the other way, halting its goosestep toward the ultimate end. All there is, as I open my heart up and draw my weapon back, the blade rising above my right shoulder, is this tiny orb.

The moment before I impart myself onto the ball is a moment I can only find in golf.

Golf is nothing like life. Unlike the world, my golf ball is completely at the mercy of my intention. I approach, settle, think think think think, waggle, make sure, look away, then look back, and finally begin my backswing, loading all of the force I can load into that club, all the while staring at the ball so as to never change my focus.

When I finally reach the apex of my backswing, and if I'm doing it right, there's a moment where everything stands still. I forget my hands. I forget what's happening in my chest. My whole world is a white dimply sphere, and all the potential in the world about to rain down on it, from my hands, arms, shoulders, back. Heart.

My intent is pure, because it is at the height of potential. It isn't real yet. This is still the perfect shot, perfectly still, not yet faulty because it hasn't been born. There's no memory here to haunt this moment. No pain. Not yet. There is only the perfection of presence and potential.

Golf is the only way I know to control time. It happens in the millisecond of that focused backswing, right before the violence of intention. It also happens in a four-hour round, at the bottom of an extra-large bucket of range balls, or a short game practice session in my back yard. When I escape time, I escape memory. In that way, golf is an alchemy. A magick. I am a practicing magician. Not a salesman. A magician.

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Once Removed
Excerpt

 

One

 

They cut down twenty trees by the Co-op this week. Elms. They claimed they were diseased and marked each one with a red dot just hours before the Thiessen boys came with their chainsaws. The whole time I sat there in the truck with the engine idling and the radio tuned to the funeral announcements, waiting for Mr. Vogt to pound on the hood a couple times and say, "Na, Timothy, looks like you’re good to go." Then I hauled it all off to the dump to be burned.

 

It wasn’t a pleasant scene, all those trees coming down and the barren land left there afterwards, but I did have some reason to be optimistic. The last time a whole row of trees went down like this, there was a liquor store on the cleared lot within months. It’s our first one and, rumour has it, the busiest in rural Manitoba. Now we don’t have to sneak off to Ste. Adèle for booze. We can get our wine-in-a-box right here in Edenfeld. Another patch of elms was declared diseased to make way for a dollar store. Progress is progress. Katie and I have a beautiful mature tree in our backyard too, but thankfully it’s behind the house and therefore in an undesirable location for commercial enterprise. I worry about those tall ones on Wilshire, though. They’re oaks, remnants of a large stand that predates European settlement in this area. There’s a plaque nearby stating as much, which appears to have protected them from the ambitions of local land developers and/or mayors who also happen to be land developers.

 

I asked Mr. Vogt about the land by the Co-op, if he knew what was happening to it, but all he said was, "Mayor’s orders," and he left the rest to my imagination. I’m not sure that was a good idea, because I can envision some pretty awful things cropping up on that lot. Probably another donut shop with inadequate drive-through space. Mr. Vogt says it’s better not to ask too many questions.

 

Edenfeld prides itself on our aggressive disease prevention program, which requires the swift removal of trees that are past their prime and buildings that, in Mr. Vogt’s words, "attract vermin if left to their own devices." These are the very same trees and buildings that other towns might try to preserve for environmental or historical reasons. According to the sign on the highway, Edenfeld was founded in 1876, but good luck finding anything older than about 1990. There are some exceptions, of course, but the Parks and Rec department is rapidly making them a thing of the past.

 

Once things seemed under control at the Co-op, Mr. Vogt tasked me with picking the dandelions at BLT Wiens Memorial Park. BLT Wiens is actually still alive and still our mayor, but the town figured it would be more economical to include the word "Memorial" right away rather than waiting to add it in later. I was told to pick the weeds by hand, and with the three Thiessens busy felling the last of the trees, the job was mine alone. Chemical herbicides are banned in our province, a recent law that greatly upset Edenfeld politicians who feel that "weeding is a strictly civic matter." BLT explained all this in an angry memo that, for some reason, also specified that we couldn’t even use citrus juice to kill the weeds, but I think that had less to do with the environmental impact and more to do with maintaining our thriving local potluck scene, which has always relied on an ample supply of lemon meringue pie, among other varieties. The new weeding process is much more labour-intensive—such that the mayor’s eponymous park is the only one in town that receives this level of attention.

 

Mr. Vogt said I should bring my chainsaw.

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Lunatic Engine
Excerpt

Bodies That Stay Atop Water

or don't
move without it or
move
without remembering or
remember
when movement didn't rely on
memory
moves
water and bodies
to write books about water and memory
moves
this body from city and science
and our bodies to the bush and its bodies
and its past and its
god
it is
so many bodies so much memory
moving like water or so much
water moving over bodies
of memory bodies moving within bodies
that stay within memory or
move atop
it or

 

fuck it
baby

let's just start this let's just
get married against our mothers' wishes and have
miscarriages and have kids and be good mothers and
fathers and get jobs and buy houses and buy cats and
bury cats and bury mothers and ignore signs and deny
sorrows and
see who
floats and who
doesn't

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Tree of Life, The
Excerpt

The Road

 

We laced our hiking boots, grabbed poles,
stowed maps and bottled water in our backpacks.
A flag at half-mast made us pause, not halt.
A siren screamed. Our children asked:
Where are we going? Can we bring the dog?
We slammed the door, shielded our eyes
against the ascending sun.

 

 

At any point in time, in one hemisphere or the other,
a significant percentage of our planet's more than
seven billion people are on the move, travelling on
air, land, water, in an overcrowded Zodiac, firm
or flimsy aircraft, flat on the wind-buffeted top of
a container. They walk on washed-out roads, on
burning sand, on bleeding feet, cross tangled jungles,
climb mountain trails, bearing the unbearable weight
of a piece of bread, coins for something to buy,
someone to buy off. Children too sick or too little
must be carried on top of the weight of fear: that the
overburdened boat will capsize in the ocean swell,
pirates will climb on board, the plane will stray into
forbidden airspace and mysteriously disintegrate,
the train will be derailed, strength will fail. At the
border, there will be a wall.

 

We climbed the narrow trail. Streams of clear water trickled down
from pools we could not see. We sang travelling songs, told stories
about youth and love and bravery. Higher up, the air was thin.
Circling silently, the raptors waited for our steps to falter.
Clouds covered the sun.
Our children were hungry.

We came down from the mountain, entered a forest.
Sunlight filtered through shimmering aspen leaves,
the forest floor gold-dappled. We crossed a river
and arrived at the desert, the land of thirst. Our eyes burned.
Dust filled our mouths. Under our feet, sand shifted.
In this Lenten landscape our children cried for water.
We looked around for palm trees and acacia.
Where are the cypress trees? we wondered.
Where is the tree of life?

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