In the beginning

                                 word leapt from body
and never returned. Body said, you’re mine.
word said, I’m free. Page waited patiently,
knew word would want to lie down in time, would
fall in love with crisp white sheets, with making a mark.
Edge along the page, and lie

From The Shape of a Throat


Sugar         Images by Steven McCabe      from Poemimage   

slightly blur
Dust rises off the hot low veldt. Vast sugarcane estates: the only irrigated land. Wide lush green fields sprout a million tiny sprinklers. The cane is ready, burnt to make it easier to cut. Flame sweeps the fields, fierce as a forest fire. The air black soot, a flurry of ash falls miles away, drifts in doorways, a line of soot runs across the table in our classroom Monday morning, mirroring the crack in the roof’s peak.
How I love a dusting of sugar over a slab of chocolate cake, a script of raspberry sauce.
Give me brown sugar, white sugar, cubes and icing sugar, caster sugar, sugar daddy, sugar mummy, sugar baby, sugar bear, sugar-beet, sugar bowl, sugared and sugary, sugar plum fairy, Shake Sugaree.
Long, open cane trucks, chains along the sides, drive past the auto-wreck’s Jesus is Coming, into the refugee settlement, collect workers early in the morning, return them dirty, tired at day’s end. The cane cutters earn a little more, dressed in layers for protection, sooty as chimney sweeps. Our students tell us, Cane can cut you. Snake can get you in the cane.
spoon sum
Monthly rations: maize, beans, salt, sometimes dried fish, and a little sugar.
One more lump of sugar, please.
Simon learned English fast: homeland, refugee, truck. Hot and cold. Love and hate. Past, present, future. Simon cut cane. He told us of his last trip on the back of a cane truck. Returning to the settlement one black night, the truck broke down at the side of the road. People got out, lay down and slept, waiting for another truck. Simon watched a lorry full of oranges crash into the cane truck, knocking it over onto the sleeping workers, pinning the dead and injured to the ground. The sugary smell of oranges but none to eat. The truck carried on, cutting through the night taking the oranges safely to Durban.

intersect‘Sugar’ is from The Shape of a Throat. Huge thanks to Steven McCabe, the creator of Poemimage: Where text meets image. Where the visual intersects the literary. Images copyright Steven McCabe.


     The warblers wander  

Only yesterday I read why the warblers are disappearing from Germany.

                        Rosa Luxembourg, 1917

The warblers wander the tree-
tops, far from us dropping ice cream wrappers.

Our hypoallergenic dogs yap at squirrels. Yesterday
Wendy stood in High Park studying a grove of robins over-

wintering, wondering, Are there more this year? Early March
brings the wigeons back to Humber Bay. Make a joyful noise

unto the Lord. Keening. Le plus-que-parfait doesn’t help.
False economies of grammar ransacking hollow trees,

fallow land, thickets and shrubs. Took all the trees put them
in a tree museum
. Robin’s egg blue. Red-winged blackbird

tilts over slashed canvas.

From The Shape of a Throat
Written to resonate with with Wendy Weaver’s painting “For the Birds” as part of the annual collaboration between the Long Dash poetry group and the Women’s Art Association of Canada.

Excerpts of this poem and others set in Toronto can be found on the Toronto Public Library’s Toronto Poetry Map. Click on High Park, College Street and Parkdale to find Sheila’s work.




Take her drawings down from the wall. The negatives
remain: a pale rectangle where your daughter’s dragon
breathes flame, crayoned on scrap paper you framed, a square
where sun and cloud smile above a pirate ship and mermaids swim

with fish. In another city your daughter dreams of swimming,
eyelids flicker, car with no driver. You not there to stroke
her feet. She flings back her sheet, walks into rooms you haven’t
seen―sunlight on counter, doubloons, pieces of eight.

Wash faint dust lines from the wall, remove nail, trace
shapes’ shadows, move her blessed art to face your bed.
Bow and keel―what will be your figurehead, ablution,
serpent’s breath and mermaid’s tail.

 From Leveler, on-line journal. See editors response to this poem.











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