i. People

The lady across from me is wearing a long john top, the kind I used to wear as PJs when I was in high school, waffled grey with disconnected grey-blue stripes. Her long black and white homespun scarf partially doubles as a sweater, or a cloak. She’s wearing her toque indoors, despite the mild day: purple wool with a pink rim, topped with a perky navy blue pompom. I’m thinking she has bird in her ancestry, some ancient feathered dinosaur with a lean face tapering to a fine, sharp point, long skinny legs and hollow bones. If I were betting on who would be able to glide if thrown off a cliff, she’d be the main contender; so light she’d waft like a feather.




Photo by Mark A. Harrison


Muscles clenched
into a fist
wrapped around my spine
as if intending
to pull it out
through the flesh of my back

If only thoughts mattered
I could live a thousand lifetimes
I would be a mountain
pocked, scarred, eroded
wearing my damage like a testimony
to having lived
watching oceans grow and shrink;
I would be a phoenix
endlessly burning
all my sins turned to ashes
pulling myself, choking, back into the world
again and again;
I would be a river
carving out the earth
wearing down centuries
roaring torrent or sluggish as a snail;
still I would move, and move.

Without this fragile shell,
bound by bones & blood & sinew
I could converse with dark nebulae
wander the tracks of galaxies
discover what really happens
when you fall into a black hole;

But without these volatile chemicals
flowing through temperamental veins
tickling twitching, fragile nerves,
would I still feel delight at the birth of a star?
anticipation approaching the speed of light?
sorrow at the heat death of the universe?

Without these mundane aches and pains,
the constant nod and wink of death’s eventual shadow
would happiness taste as sweet?
Would we trade these perpetual growing pains
for an eternity without joy?

– T.H.

Passing Effect


Everything in a Box by Mark A. Harrison

Passing effect: The effect of passing through things
– Leaves, hair, branches, hearts –
Equal and opposite reactions;
We pretend that contact is only temporary,
that everything always
only passes by, and through
– and yet –
We all affect each other, even Jupiter’s tiny moons
affect the giant’s gravitational field.

Gravity: A force so weak, you can defeat it
with a fridge magnet, or a piece of tape;
by a hop, skip, jump, the push of single finger;
– and yet –
Even the weakest forces can surprise you
how they keep coming back
the persistence of the everyday;
You can jump up, but you’ll always land.

All these fleeting melodramas,
our brief starring moments on the bright-dark stage,
all the private riots, the secret rebellions,
a universe of stories unfolding, moment by moment,
inside the sacred prison, the infinite travelling picture show
invisible to everyone else;
one might call it
a kind of madness.

Flashing lights and sirens, a circling fruit fly, living speck of dust;
Do we weather the small annoyances in the name of compassion,
or wage instant meaningless destruction in the name of indifference?

Every time inspiration hits, the world is transformed
– and yet –
the persistence of the mundane is like gravity, like inertia,
the approaching fall, the curling of dead yellow leaves,
the sinking in of desiccated fruit, a hint in the air
of the coming cold, and the long, long sleep.

Orbits inevitably decay,
all returns to the earth, through fire, or drowning,
the final burnt traces sinking into the ocean, ashes falling like snow
winking gold & silver in the light of the setting sun.

Not all the mass times constant squared
in all the known universe
can give you more Time
…and yet…
Sometimes, in the suspension of the moment, we imagine
that this now is eternal,
the world moving past us, as we stand
on the brink of what is possible;
That little voice in the back of your mind,
whispering a subtle dare,
to take that one small step
out into the air;

And always, that one desperate, aching pit
in the darkest centre of your soul
that screams an affirmation
always straining against the barrier,
waiting for the day, when everything becomes clear
and we know at last
that flight is, finally,

– T.H.
(Selected excerpts, edited, from a freefall poem written in 2014)



Blue Twin by Mark A. Harrison


where the hollow of her arm
once held you safe
against all
the familiar demons
where comfortable wrinkles
once nuzzled your back
the antique linen, buttercup gold
now stretched taut, iron-straight
cold as stone and empty houses
by its emptiness refines
the very idea of loneliness
we are borrowers, only
love is never ours to keep
only to brush by, with a sigh
and a wish, like an exhaled breath
in a vacant room.

– T.H.

Burn After Reading II: Re-entry


thing 1 by Mark A. Harrison

I.  All the poems I wrote before I met you

My pen is two bent wires
teasing free the catch
of a lock I’ve never seen
(no one knows what door it opens
but they say the pen’s the key)

my pen is nimble fingers
brushing raw wires together
to make a spark
a credit card sliding
between door jam and deadbolt
a thief in the night
who leaves more than she steals

my pen is a bootleg album
recorded on the road
at some backwoods festival
where it rained all weekend
where we swam
naked at night
and woke at dawn
to the sound
of birds singing
and wind in the trees

my words are
misshapen footprints
left in the mud
the patterns traced in
campfire circles
ashes still smouldering
embers that might
(if the wind is right)
set the whole damned forest

II. A practical guide for the end of the world

burn after reading:
stamped in red
on a plain brown envelope
scrawled in lipstick
on a paper napkin
written in henna
on the vulnerable skin
of an exposed wrist

take this knowledge
like your final breath
carve it deep
in your fragile bones
let it burrow down
into your heart’s core

then cast away
these ephemeral scraps
these temporary tattoos
these fragile imaginings

ignore the sirens
the whisper in your ear
the scratching at the door
the howling in the wind

stand firm, no flinching
as you watch it burn
the edges curling,
falling to ash

only remember
this one small thing:
everything ends; everything begins

(Both poems significantly edited / expanded 10.05.17, incl. new titles – T.H.)

Ten days later


Study in Frost by Mark A. Harrison

Fall is a tricky season to navigate. Capricious and sly, at once whimsical and treacherous, full of sharp things hidden under blankets of leaves, radiant days of crackling sunshine followed by dark night winds whispering portents of ice and snow – a reminder of unsettling impermanence.

Ten days later, she was still on her own;
I was fast asleep, a thousand miles away
dust floated, thick as rocks
in the belt of Orion.
He wondered,
do we really breathe this?
Two weeks later, she met the road,
covered in dust from
her latest encounter
with the laws of physics;
Mud clung to her thick soled boots
in her eyes, a light, hard
as scorn from a loved one;
She stomped on the pavement
once, twice
dust settled around her in a cloud.
I was eating breakfast,
looking out the eastern window,
the burnt toast flaking charcoal
onto tongue and lips and fingers,
And he said, in characteristic delay,
are you really going to eat that?
Three months later, she clawed her way
the final few feet to the
snow shrouded peak,
Looked down at the world in wonder
and forgot all she knew.
Everyone she had ever loved
vanished in an instant;
she let out her breath in a sigh
of great peace, contentment
and relief.
I was washing dishes
in the light of early evening;
cats bumped my legs,
crying for dinner
while he, sat watching television.
Hey, take a look at this, he said
but as I walked into the room
the walls began to fade,
the furniture grew clear as glass,
the cats became twin puffs of air
and flew out through the
crack in the kitchen window,
and he, and I, passed out
of her mind,
forgotten forever
in the sudden glimpse
of sunset kissed mountain peaks,
an eagle far below;
frost bitten toes
and a sense, finally, of a future
without a past.

– T.H. (2002)

Why I love poetry, in 150 words or less


Fusing – by Mark A. Harrison

This one is best read out loud. Like most poetry, really. Somewhere no one can hear you, if you’re shy.

hit and run ambient wordfall
pulled from sweetest nightmares
Pan’s premonition
of a darker age
seagreen waveforms
pulse in time to
silver scuba space jazz
as we fly through
quantum tunnels
chewed into the walls of
grandma death’s beechwood attic
Robinson Crusoe’s
roller coaster orbit
ain’t got nothin’ on this
pressed close together,
we tango along
impermanent lines
heaven’s gridwork
etched into our eyes
while a waxwork fawn
kicks up its heels at spilled sugar stars
sending sparks up from
silicon hooves
stained deep indigo blue
worlds spin in its wake
as words spin in mine
my fingers tiny gods
whole galaxies made and unmade
in the space of a few
staggered heartbeats
in the spaces between
a few

– T.H.

paradise, lost and found


Photo by Mark A. Harrison

There was a line-up at our local pharmacy today, which led to much more waiting around than usual. Turns out that the delay worked in my favour. On the way home (a short three block walk), I got to see a monarch butterfly (rare in these parts lately) and three goldfinches, all nearly within touching distance. The sun came out from the clouds, the neighbourhood garden flowers seemed to grow ten times brighter, and all the compounded irritations and annoyances that had piled up during the day disappeared.

It brought back the memory of these two poems, one a snapshot from early childhood, the other an equally perfect moment from a B.C. trip in my early twenties. A reminder that paradise exists, not as an afterthought, but in those small moments of pure contentment.


on the curved stretch of unkempt beach
a thin, tow-headed child, squatting barefoot
pokes at seaweed with a stick
wrinkling her nose at the pungent salt-rot smell
the kelp bladders bloating in the sun
she picks up shells and pebbles with
the reverence of an artist
admires the iridescent sheen
of a fractured oyster shell
dropped by one of the wheeling gulls
toes and knees crusted with wet sand
wading ankle deep into the chill water
she holds the dry pebbles under
watching the secret colours emerge
a moment of discovery
on the shore of some far-off land
its name long forgotten, the details faded
save that one perfect moment
captured like a bead on a string


we step into the forest
armoured in layers
of cotton, nylon, bright
green and yellow raincoats
thick soled rubber boots
an old manual camera
slung around my neck
bounces against my chest
most of our journey
along the wooden plank paths
is done in silence
our ears open to the sounds
around us, wind and birds,
distant rushing water
there is a sorrow behind
the sacredness of this place
part of its sanctity lies in
it being one of the last
doomed, ultimately, to destruction
(we followed logging roads to get here)
we trail reverent hands along
fern fronds longer than we are tall
damp gnarled bark softened
by lush green moss
we crane our necks to stare
up at the trees that seem
to go on forever, their tips
lost in the fog, only the barest hint
of heavy grey sky far above
a permanent ache in my chest
I can’t seem to stop smiling
I think, whatever else happens
I stood here, in this place
before they took it all away
on the drive out, we see
two black bears, wandering the
wasteland of the clear-cut swath
a stone’s throw from heaven
they pay little attention to us
our compact Westfalia camper
must seem a mere toy
compared to the monsters
that daily tear the land asunder
I close my eyes, and think
of paradise, of moss under fingers
of air so clean you wonder
what you’ve been breathing all this time.

– T.H.

Stolen Voices


“Time”, Detail – Photo by Mark A. Harrison

An old one for today. I still like the imagery in this one, even if it is a twenty-something’s perspective on age and time. Things definitely look a little different on this side of forty.

Stolen Voices

I’ve only seen him old;
He walks in the park with a black umbrella,
feeds stale popcorn to the squirrels;
He must be old as mountains,
his youth a hot river of lava,
rushing through new born seas,
throwing up geysers of steam to come down rain;
His feet hit the puddles in rubber galoshes,
he walks in the park with his son’s dead friends,
dreams the same dream every night:
He’s walking up a hill
double-shadowed in the streetlights
under a fingernail sliver of moon;
the silhouette of a church,
a jagged hole in the deep blue twilit sky –
the closer he gets,
the less the shadow changes;
he is waiting for the features to emerge
like the face of an old friend,
but it only grows darker
save for a glimmering faintness, like distant stars;
Each night he’s just a bit closer
to stepping through.

I’ve only seen him old;
He claims to have made his peace with the world;
He says that paranoia is a form of vanity
and that too much luck will only kill you in the end;
He walks by the river with his son’s dead friends,
leaves fall on his hat like dust on cobwebs;
He whistles a tune from some old black and white movie,
ghosts gather hawthorn in his wake;
His feet are light as dandelion pollen
and barely touch the ground.

– T.H.