A new poem by Greg Bell

The Taxidermist’s Wife

Like a sprung fish, caught;
that flash of skin
and you’re gutted, heart

thrashing in the stomach’s
shallow bed.
It can drag a man down.

Through radio wave
corridors and benthic haze,
past hook-eyed colleagues

dangling in caves.
Anglers, all of them –
slick, well-equipped,

they feign working late
to patiently prey.
That splash; high-

heeled, wheeling,
and faith fades.
Lands you here,

at the shoreline’s low ruche,
where you kneel,
reeling, eyeing the water

warily, while on it
your woman slips away.

A new poem by Donald McGrath

SORRY FOR THE SNOW

Like tourists who chose the wrong time to go
and got caught in the middle of a coup
more deadly than a coup de soleil,
it is stranded now, confined to islands
where the noise of human commerce fades away
and leaves it at the mercy of the weather.
Yet it still conspires to touch us,
bleeding mawkishly from vacant lots,
rejuvenating cracked leather shoes,
peering weakly over plywood walls
where riotous colours and the snowy striations
of torn posters drown out its pallid plea.
Heads raised in praise
of the sun’s bold new pulse,
are happy, happily vacant.
Our memory of snow
dissolves in watery squiggles
on our new pleasure domes, the eyes,
as we proceed drunkenly
down the squinting vistas.

A new poem by Jerry McGrath

Robin Crusoe’s Christmas

Christmas I observe from the crown
of a coconut tree, gazing down
upon a star-dressed strand,
a spyglass winking in my hand.

An ocelot appears, its patterned coat
bedazzles (no pearls adorn its throat).
It won’t say no to armadillo
or iguana for dinner.

Solitary, he swims at will; his past
recapitulated in the kill
of crab, rodent, bird and smaller beast,
his manners less than sterling at the feast,
which is but brief,
absent of longueur.

The northern tamandua shows up dressed
in fancy waistcoat and suspenders.
Nocturnal, he dines late, like a Spaniard
before his midnight plate.
Ants are his fare – a powerful proboscis
lifts off the stump or rock, the lid
to so much goodness
it once hid.

My friend, the collared peccary
is easily mistaken for a pig
– but fussier by far;
his preference for root and nut and prickly pear
speaks of his virtue and his mild air,
which attenuates the coarse impression of his coat
and snub-nosed snout and tusks
and musky gland – a noble fellow,
social, no less grand
for being taken for an omnivore.

Pleased am I to see my closer kin,
the capuchin, white-fronted, with whom I
sometimes share canopy and shade
and, from time to time, a puzzled silence,
mixture of brotherhood and fear.
Rank to him is central: some essence of the male
obtends my presence here.

I’m sure at times he studies the horizon
just as I, watchful for a sail to fetch me home.
But home is here these several Christmases.
My Bible and my goat are company of a kind,
the one Divine, the other somewhat less, marked
with a cloven hoof, though docile and pacific,
its eyes wells like mine.

Right now in York they’re roasting pork
and caroling in ale-house and in alley.
Poll, my parrot, meanwhile hangs aloft,
untroubled, above an emerald valley.

Remark of a Childless Man by Richard Outram

Encore Literary Magazine is extremely proud to have permission from the executors of the estate of the late Richard Outram to present work by one of Canada’s great poets. Poems by Outram will continue to be featured here, thus helping to keep alive the singular voice of, in the words of Alberto Manguel, “one of the finest poets in the English language.”


Remark of a Childless Man

Is an apostrophe, digressive, an aside
to someone absent. For about a day
we had an only daughter. Then she died.

My wife’s wet blood still stained her where she lay,
miraculous upon the housel-sheet,
a little life. Then she was whisked away.

She had such perfect curled and wrinkled feet
and tight-clenched fists and such an ancient face
and I could see her blue-veined temple beat.

We were informed such deaths are commonplace.
So I suppose it was. Some also said
kind Christian things concerning Faith and Grace

and shortly we were given in her stead
a little flask of ashes and a brief
Certificate that stated she was dead.

We were assured that time would salve our grief.
It has not. Some hold this given world
to be an illusion. A God beyond belief

might utter, had she lived how our chance-hurled
galaxy might otherwise have burned
throughout another universe unfurled

in fonder flame. But here we are. We learned
to mask our small loss; that there is no root
of consolation. True: she might have turned

to drink or drugs, become a prostitute;
or have been violated as a bride;
borne syphilitic morons to some brute;

or ended being slowly crucified
in some relentless God-forsaken way.
So. Lux est umbra Dei, I shall say.
We had an only daughter but she died.

A new poem by Ross McCague

LITTLE GIRL LOST
(A sketch from memory)

Sheaves of corn line the sky:
Desire forms that endless way for you.
The isolated circumstance of dating and dance
seems so simple and so perfect too,
Not everything can be singled out.
You wear a gold earring as a reminder
what it is to be a startling woman
in a plain-spoken world.
Up late, past the bedtime of the eastern kings:
The stability of a rectangular parlor,
Marriage should hold, sanity, and even love
like a quaint painting in a dusted frame.
What reminder there is of love is found in spring
then birth and rebirth runs the farm as much as men.
The county fair out on a squared field
designated for pies, pigs, pigtails and the arcing of the sun.
The engines throttle so but not those of state:
Did you ever swing out beneath the trees,
Lifting your spirit high and higher?
Apron tossed aside, dress askew,
Mimicking the motion of the overruling sun.
You must have seen children,
A man dreaming in a cocoon,
The future about to spread its overarching wings.
We still need to swing, lie out under those unfenced skies
to know what is, what isn’t, and what just might be.
Far above the rectangular states drawing out time
and lengthening the neatly polished graves,
I see an urban girl, head turned to one side,
A single earring pierced,
The chiaroscuro of a Vermeer:
The light from the window is such,
She might well be reading the finished script.

A new poem by Helen Addy

Single to Inverness

Inside the shell of the train, the sound
of nuts cracking, the phoneless looking out
at branches scraping the sides, a girl
covering her ears with her father’s hands.

Rain making fine cuts in the glass,
the sun is a broken plate, each cloud
shredded into lace, trees carved
for a second then healed.

In a tunnel, windows are black mirrors,
a woman burying her fingers knuckle-deep
in her boyfriend’s beard, the untouched
pocketing her lit face like a torch.

A new poem by Jerry McGrath

Tony’s Scrap Book

Today I went out in PJ’s
a warm flannel print with sheep
aboard. A parker overhung
my mostly blue sleepers,
breaking easily across a pair
of fleece-trimmed boots.

I went to Holy Oak and ordered coffee
and crossed my legs
and dandled an unlaced boot
over a growing pool of snow-melt.
I observed laptop islands
of light, their attendees slouched
towards screens, earbuds in.

All I’d brought to read was Tony’s Scrap Book.
In 1930 Tony Wons collected gems
of verse such as “Useful Feet” and
“Broken Veterans of Commercial Wars”
and “Is This Life?” which asks: “And is this life?
To wrestle every day with Fate
for that mean wage she hates to pay.”

Too big a question, perhaps, to be
attempted in PJ’s.

Tony was a radio man and these
rough gems came from his listeners
wanting to disperse humour and virtue
and pithy little plums of just-so stuff.
What might Tony have made of server farms
and entire republics of cats and dogs in every guise
of oddity and cuteness and obliquity of love?

Mourning the occasion yesterday, I wore
tie and vest and jacket and fresh shirt
to face the just-announced fact
you weren’t coming back.

A new poem by Ross McCague

ALL BELOW
Blessed infant lie here
born in faith and unwitting instinct
while a fine youth contemplates your mother:
The fullness of nature and flow of kindness.
Far back a castle compound, some authority
assembled for the measure of itself.
The river finds its way through
as grace and hope is wont to do.
Some celestial chance breaks in,
Lightning traces a vein in the sky;
Flashes open the scene in a painter’s eye.
All below is suddenly itself, in view:
The flowing hair of youth, the ample breast,
Shouldering out every last excuse.

A new poem by Donald McGrath

Champ des Possibles, or the Crying of Lot 2334609

Friends of the Champ des possibles crowd into the Arts Café
to make a case for keeping the “wild lot wild.” A local artiste
described as “a sort of Xena goddess”
by a member of the gardening ensemble Sprout Out Loud,
has planted sage, hosta, bee balm and red clover
to form a giant Roerich peace sign. It’s an upside down
cartoon-panda face: three dots inside
a kind of crop circle—just in case City Hall
ever gets a hankering to strafe or bomb
or, what’s worse, “develop,” this hallowed, fallow land.
The artiste has history on her side, she knows
that the pictogram instills a fierce love
of culture in bombardiers and makes
a pax cultura something you can “bank on”
in the midst of “war.” There’s so much
pent-up passion in this café that you just want
to open a window and let in some air.
A man stands up: “Think,” he says,
“of the city as a body. Now what part of that body
would you call le Champ?” He’d call it
—before anyone has a real chance to answer—an ear:
“because you can stand in there and, like, hear shit.”
A woman riffs off this: “I see it as not just an ear
but as an inner ear because the whole thing’s
all about balance, is it not?” Few seem
particularly to care that, in its last career,
le Champ was a CP Rail lot and is still
a rotter, sister, contaminated twenty turtles down.
A hundred willow sticks, inserted to drain off the pus,
were mowed down in the City’s blitz on ragweed—but never mind.
A cultural studies graduate opines: “To define
a place as wild is, by definition, to “un-wild it.”
And so it goes until the moderator calls
for special memories. O yes, there was that time
hipster cowboys took to boiling coffee
in a tin can mounted on a tripod
over a roaring blaze, and gave it out
in origami cups to passers-by.
But what I’d like to know is this: has no one seen
a grime-stiffened man, track marks down his arms,
rouse himself from a bush festooned with plastic bags
in a corner of this urbane Arcadia?

A new poem by Ewan Whyte

On a Yuan Temple Wall Painting in the Met

Faded to diaphanous lines through blotches of colour,
the giant rising Buddha, tame behind the museum rail,

is still static joy within all former recognition.
The surrounding painted figures in procession

representing the constellations and order, juxtaposed
to the movement and noise of today’s crowds

are reminders of the presence of ancient speech,
of elicited voices and the gesture of voice.

You are here, but your cosmos travels on, always
marching further away from us. Further through us

past colours and lines pointing to something
still always here, seemingly unlimited to fact.

A new poem by Stacey Madden

Collide

The drops have been squeezed in
Now rub your eyes.
The flash bulb burns your sofa,
It’s all candy bright.
The night wants to control you,
Let it in.
Throw your soul and wallet
Out with sin.
Drink until you’re sober –
You can’t fly!
Tears will pool and fall out
Of your eyes.

Stars that burn and flash are dying
In the sky.
Your enemies have won you friends
Now they’re all right.
Beauty’s overrated,
Now death is too.
Live to do the things that you could
Never do.
Pain and laughter dance
When they collide!
Tears will pool and fall out
Of your eyes.

Fighting battles is just another
Way to hide.
Things we cherish most are neither
Yours nor mine.
Tie your feet together,
Walk a mile.
Kill your gentle lover
With a smile.
Scratch the walls and sing, babe,
Please don’t cry!
Tears still pool and fall out
Of your eyes.

A new poem by Ewan Whyte

Bag Woman Singing Into a Carrot

Turning down the street,
passing “leering” Louis’s Cafe,

your songs a crosshatching to
footsteps, talking pedestrians,

and street sounds. You are lovely
as always with your thickly

matted red hair, unwashed clothes
and cheap cloth hat placed

on the ground before you. You sing
cheesy Cyndi Lauper songs

a cappella into the large carrot you
hold as an imaginary microphone.

Today a group of teenage girls
sneer openly at you, but you sing on.

Every time I see you, I give you
some change, perhaps in thanks

for your cheerful presence and
however conscious humour.

And also for your carrots, which
you have not been merciful toward.

Vocations by Richard Outram

Encore Literary Magazine is extremely proud to have permission from the executors of the estate of the late Richard Outram to present work by one of Canada’s great poets. Poems by Outram will continue to be featured here, thus helping to keep alive the singular voice of, in the words of Alberto Manguel, “one of the finest poets in the English language.”

Vocations

Assassins, certain to be caught
But certain of at least one shot,
Obliterate all other thought.

Torturers who come to budge
Faith like mountains, bear no grudge:
Never question, never judge.

Hunters hungry for the kill
And scenting blood and panic still
Discipline rapacious will.

Cuckolds, husbanding their pain,
Swear they will not care again,
Once the paramour is slain.

None of us, not you, not I,
Thus instructed in the lie,
Ever needs to learn to die.

Yet even as we learn to thrive
On death, the better to survive,
Truly, Love, we come alive:

To test the vast substantial thought
And Prayer of Spenser, being taught
‘… the merveiles by thy mercie wrought.’;

Or echo Milton’s echo sent
To choir the blinding Doves’s descent,
That we might see all passion spent;

Or watch a monstrous Shakespeare gauge
Upon an inward kindled stage,
Lear’s irrevocable rage

And the Arcadian marriage feast,
Where we are celebrants at least,
Transfiguring the twoback beast;

Or worship, ardent with Jack Donne,
Lest Maidenhoodwink Three in One,
To sacramentalize the Pun;

Or with deft, gentle Herbert take
Up paradox and praise, to slake
A poet’s thirst for sweet Christ’s sake;

Or witness Blake with Angel Sword
And naked Babe in One accord,
Emend himself with Holy Word;

And human, radiant, embrace,
Assume and suffer, face to Face,
Our own Annihilation, Grace.

A new poem by Michael Glover

The Sacred Grove

Up and down the sacred grove,
Seeing nothing, craving much,
Still they walk – they cannot but.
The sacred grove has bound their feet.

The sacred grove has bound their feet.
Their eyes see only what they see -
A desert, surging at their backs.
They can’t go on. And yet they must.

They can’t go on. And yet they must.
Still they walk – they cannot but -
A crowd too numberless to count,
Bound wrist to wrist, joined foot to foot.

Bound wrist to wrist, joined foot to foot,
Saying little, thinking much,
Still they walk – they cannot but,
Treading an earth too seldom touched.

A new poem by Jerry McGrath

With Milne

We walked among the Milnes,
where even indoors it’s wintry,
while out a milliner has feathered
the land in cruciferous fancies,
mustard-and-pickle rimmed,
and russet stands march down
slick black hills, in retreat from
sunset to hearth and home.

Mr. Milne never married,
said the guide to a cross-legged tribe
of tender youth, deepening the mystery
in their upswept eyes.

These pictures prompted you
to remember to come over and
carry off a small work painted by
a former friend, a troubled woman
with an affinity for sunsets, suffocating
clouds and fading shoe-strings of light.

You’d paid for it, it was yours,
I confirmed, a little too raw
and loud for the junior crowd.
Heads turned. We looked about
as if we’d each lost something
to different corners of the room.

We waited for the youngsters
to depart. Please, I said, can we
divide the loot a little later?

A new poem by M.A. Schaffner

Coco de Mer

Floating out to sea, one can’t say the Earth
clings much to substance. Skinks and geckos ride
on rafts improvised from discarded fronds.
Traffic patterns change daily. Nesting sites

provide a constant source of nourishment
for scavengers, but I feel like calling
in sick today. Those creatures may exist
nowhere else in that combination

but some days even science makes me want
to nap at my tortoise of a desk.
My soul feels heavy because I’m alive.
The male organ is so enormous it

supports its own ecosystem. The seeds
beneath the husks suggest the pudenda
of Neolithic Venuses. But they
do not float until they’ve started to rot.

A new poem by Anne Compton

Encore Literary Magazine is very proud to be hosting a reading tomorrow featuring Governor General’s Literary Award-winning poet, critic, editor and anthologist Anne Compton. On Monday May 20, 7pm at Kaza- Maza in Montreal, Anne will be joined by fellow poet, critic, editor, translator and anthologist Evan Jones. “Onion” is previously unpublished.

Onion

Weighs more than it looks: Should do, my father says, bent among
October rows. I’ve come the yellow corridors to be with him.

Like a star compacted by gravity – that dense.
Nebula of particles, fused and lit. Unus, its Latin name.

Best dug at first frost: Hard, though, to be rid of the soil specks
in the outer sheath. Iron flavour in the winter sandwich.

Graded by flesh colour and as to keeping – storage or straightaway.

The Vidalia, in pale-coloured skin, similar to all things fresh –
sweetest forthwith. Thick-skinned storage, a deeper flavour.

Decades gone, he could be starlight, could be what’s
encrypted in cells. My cells. Information’s never lost.

Heaven from earth, according to him. Readable parchment –
in layers – had we the cipher to decode it. Circle by circle.

At the root-end, there are tear-producing compounds,
where it gripped earth. This is true of all temporary things.

About this part, turn aside at the last.

A new poem by Evan Jones

The joy for me is to be in the middle of writing a poem, which is a strange sort of joy, I know. There is no relief at the end—only the knowledge that I’ve got to start thinking about a new poem and all the worries that brings with it. When will it come? How will I recognise it? What if there isn’t another poem? But then time passes and there is. Sometimes it’s weeks, sometimes years. I’m not in a hurry. “Poetry isn’t a horserace,” Daryl Hine used to say to me.  —From an interview with Evan Jones in Maisonneuve, November 30, 2012


A Black-headed Gull Dives for Fish at Dun Laoghaire

                for John McAuliffe

I can see him, John, I can! His velocity is unmatched.
He is shivving the water, a black incision in the ocean’s back.
He braves the waves, breaches the beaches,
collects the kids on time and has dinner ready for his wife.
Wait. No. His wife makes dinner.
He doesn’t have time but to be a bird.
And when he turns up empty-beaked, wind-blown,
so caught up, well, what can we do but track his every move.
Ah, but the lake and the pond, the river and the creek, the ocean
and the sea are all for drowning, you say.
You’re not wrong. But he’s not just another bird.
And the fish today are sparkling.

A new poem by M.A. Schaffner

Product Safety

A lack of clarity facilitates
streamlining. Only when we know what’s gone
do the outsourced return to haunt us.
The pen never quivers as the sword, but

strikes when and where it wants the relative
harmony of silence. Take this gas station:
the sullen immigrant in the booth flips

channels like burgers and barely needs a life
for this kind of living. Further along
the tenth generation checks into detox
with the same odds of begging Mohawks
off their scalps. And why should they have good ones?

Whatever we say now of death by torture,
it was a way to slow things down. Time was
you built a longhouse for the whole clan. Then
it was little cabins for the family. Now

it’s an extra large room for the giant screen,
and no questions asked because it would be
both unpatriotic and a little too clear
to take what you want without wanting more.