As metaphors go

1. None of us chanted

it was a straight, sooty summer

the summer we

electrocuted Fort McMurray


Former Murray

that summer none of us chanted

the fort

the fort

the fort is on fire


that summer we

stopped feeling the Bern

and trembled afore the trump.fern.o

and cheered on first responders

mobilized all hands, left and right ly



and it wasn’t even summer yet

it was barely even spring,

and the ground was even dryer

the fires even hotter

like they said they’d be


begging this question

amidst many more:

fire makes the leap

over river

over road

over highway and exodus;

fire makes the leap over everything, so

why can’t we?


fire makes the leap

even if we don’t, or won’t, or don’t.


The summer none of us chanted

and none of us sang;

but some of us spoke

and said





Otherwise, said my friend in Edmonton,

it’s been a gorgeous spring.


2. Points of view


in darkness

this poem like most poetry

falters and stumbles to find its way


where stumbling is falling

but still falling forward



to ask about causes

suggests no less compassion, love and concern

than those who swing talking points like cudgels


all the better to bludgeon us with


too soon

how awful

we will rebuild

we will not bend


we will fight fire on the beaches

we will fight fire on the run

we will fight fire with fire

like the fighters we are.




i will not submit

if only to submit to you that there’s something about the inescapable gravity

of riverbanks and dirt and the sweetness of a meadow’s grass;

where, breathing in

all honesty’s senses

the scent of fact

outweighs the deepest wish of fiction



perfectly timed reflections on causes


symptomatic handwringing every time


direct action

beats legislation

says hemingway

– or was that a character in a book

like i’m a character in a poem


.you sound so cold, Helen says, like you don’t care about the people there.


.it’s not respectful to be political at a time like this.

.we can’t prove a pattern from a single event.

.if you’re not with us you’re aginn us.


yes, you’re with the fire.


and there are things only poetry can figure out

for me at least

for us at most


different voices and worlds considered

scorned and trashed and left behind

and rediscovered and polished and made shiny again

strong and resilient and arising again


there are things only poetry can decipher

like how we truly feel

how we really feel


watching it burn moneyfuckers burn


there are things only poetry can balance and parse

i have no other way

to decipher the churn, measure my words

and offer them up

freely and considered

from a character in a poem


the poem has been drinking

the poem has been drinking

the poem has been drinking


not me.


where stumbling is falling

but still falling forward


3. As metaphors go…

David this is not a metaphor, it’s not a rhyme

it’s people and lives and hopes and dreams

it’s terror and flight and fear

and nothing rhymes with that.


.liberal dreams.

.conservative notions.

.social democratic fictions.

.still industrial potions.


they shoot horses don’t they

they deforest the land around each tar sand facility to make

fire breaks

for precisely this reason


that is not a metaphor, and this is not a poem


by contrast

i extend solidarity

while asking why cities are burning down

i am not confused

i am no more and no less compassionate as anybody else


in fact, on average, i would say that most people, at the end of the day, care the same amount

most people, at the end of the day, during the evening out of all things considered, when we’re resting our simple bones and searching for a true glimpse of our own hearts at the end of our long exhausting stupid stressful day, when we’re opening a bottle or lighting a joint; working out or working in; whatever we do to get a true glimpse of our own hearts for once

just for once

please world

just for one little

piece of




Helen is my editor. She looks up from the page

and says

this is not the time


not the time for politics


this is not poetical


i beg to differ


it’s always time

for telling the truth

it’s always time

for insight and


it’s always time

for validation



says Helen

this is not political (this is a tragedy)

leave politics out of it

you see how poems suffer for it


i say


let’s leave it to politicians

to tell us when it’s time to be political

(what could go wrong)

and good for industry to lend that helping hand

and sorry about all those trees and the birds and the bees


Helen, I say, you might have a face that launched some boats,

but you and your heart and your mind are being played


she scoffs and her retort comes mild insistent

economies change, and this will change things!


hmm, I say, this economy doesn’t change, not this one


and besides, if I say I feel


real bad

for the people, will that make it okay?

if i am immobilized by dumb etiquette in service to propriety, and

marginalized for begging to disagree

for begging your pardon

for even suggesting


that more suffering is on the way with every pipeline laid;

that every ounce of tar sands will bite you man;

that more suffering is here and getting hearer – with

every passing day

with every gusting wind

and the dry spark of fear – that

we’re just starting to sing

the blues?


Helen shrugs and repeats herself

This is how things change, she says


Not these things, I say, under my breath, secretly somewhat

wishing I could agree.


4. Control the elements/shitty Buddhist

so here’s my gift of twenty bucks to the Red Cross that is tax deductible,

and here’s my four-part offering that is not.


I click submit, and the Internet whirrs, and takes my cash

while I read the bottom of the acknowledgement page:

“When man finally learns to control the elements… When the winds will be quiet and the earth cannot be torn apart…When there will be no loneliness… no destitution… no war… When the last hungry man, woman or child is fed… Only then will there be no need for the Red Cross.”

So said Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Peace Prize winner

who plain forgot

controlling the elements was never anyone’s specialty.


it’s impossibly ironic, and perfect, and makes me think

the Red Cross will never be out of


so long as we are in business

in this way.


And the future looks bright

with its economic infernos gathering in plenary to discuss

new strategies and ways to leap

over ground and under ground

travelling by root and branch, carrying news.


And so in closing, we offer here

some other words

from another fire


why rise from the ashes without asking why we had to burn?


I’m a shitty buddhist trying/nottrying to be


but i know this much

insight without compassion makes you an asshole

compassion without insight makes you a rube


so when it comes to the present and the future:

don’t be an asshole

and don’t get played