Before I Go



robert service cabin yukon

I’m settling, I’m settling
into the blues
and the slow
where the easy comes
and the wild things
there can be no paradise
for the low
the blown off
the bitter
or the skin-thin mean
no paradise
no garden place for them
whose noses poke
through broken screens
on porches where
the welcome mat was sold
at some cheap yard sale
years ago
and furnishings inside
what most of us once saw
as good times, party house
though none of us was really
all that happy, more like beetles
skittering and watching
for the shadow of the boot
afraid the day might come
when that big ugly footwear fit…
oh, damn, I lost my train,
where was I taking this?

—the furnishings, that’s right,
the trappings in this house
that seemed like home to me
amounts to little more now
than some broken springs
and gashes on a wall,
early scribblings unread
and stashed in corrugated boxes
thudding time with bats and rain
through rafters redesigned
by termites into sky lights

thank the blues
these mother loving, ever
faithful, forward strumming
blues, the only flow with grit
and heart enough to clear
the rear view mirror, show
me people, times, and places
not as pretty or as close
as they appear once more
once more, before I go


© Elaine Stirling, 2015

The image is of poet Robert W. Service’s cabin in the Yukon. I’m not sure who took the photo. Happily, the former home of one of our Canadian treasures is well tended.

May Flies




I’m sifting midges from my coffee,
husky-chows I’ve never met
are kicking sand across the pages
of the shipwrecked poem
I wrote yesterday, hoping on
this beige and torpid morn
to resurrect. One dog is deaf,
the other named for some
Greek god sniffs at my lips, hoping
I’ll expectorate the aromatic
mush of what remains
of pumpkin muffin
he believes far more
entitled to than me.

The coffee’s gone, the muffin et,
I haven’t wrote a sonnet yet.

Who knew that canine noses
could, like truffle pigs, root out,
capsize like raging blues the ships
of men with ambergris and blubber
on their minds, the early warning
signs of ghastly poetry?


© Elaine Stirling, 2015

May the Fourth


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Be with me now, the means
continuously given
by the millions
through a cilia of ease.
Relax and fan these veins
and arteries with great success
conjunctive to the leafing out
of tulip trees

and when the comedy
of what comes next exhausts
me, when I’m glued like fly strips
to the nearest tragedy, I could
recall what Baal Shem Tov
most loved to say—just blink,
my friend, it’s time enough
for Providence to lay
another basket
at your feet

if this be true—
if this, not that
for betterment of peace
of mind is all I need to choose,
what need have I of floodgates,
sentry walls or cable news?
The ground I walk upon
of all I’ve asked for
and forgotten heaves
and bucks in time—
we are an ocean, after all—
with nesting cormorants
whose chicks with narwhals
are convening to arrive
at optimal, sublime
orchestral entry points.

The fourth is with me now
and you, eternally, the way.


© Elaine Stirling, 2015
Photograph by author

The Marble Sleep


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~a glosa~

Voice of sport or rush of wings
It is a sound, it is a token
That the marble sleep is broken
And a change has passed on things.

“May Day”, Ralph Waldo Emerson


On this day of revolution
round a distant scarlet orb
the kiskadees of yellow breast
and uniforms of polished sword
light briefly in the quiet plot
where shipwreck, fever, fearsome things
recall me to mortality,
the only sure conspiracy.
From such as these my full hope springs
voice of sport or rush of wings.

I need not chase the waning dusk
nor linger at the splintering fence
that once divided us. This trust
like frangipani wafts unclothed
through dreams and fumbled wakenings,
gathering friends at the unspoken
well where dividends pay off
and debts dissolve, where vows
run free like colts, unbroken.
It is a sound, it is a token

anyone can change, upgrade
to new and better, old considerations
sink like iron hulls. What starved
me once, twice nourishes when I
but take a turn away from half-life,
overlook the contents of this shaken
cranium by ignoring little minds
who mope and claim to understand.
I know, whatever mood they woke in,
that the marble sleep is broken.

Ossicles of what I used to hear with
crunch beneath my feet. Dissolved
to crude uranium, each grain of bone
and sand’s a universe, though not that
interesting. Bolder every day, I know
that Nature shakes but never shrinks,
and neither will she ask of me to be
the less for those who think affection’s
overdue. Joy subsumes our ancient sting,
and a change has passed on things.


© Elaine Stirling, 2015
Photograph by author

After the Tempest


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Prospero’s cave is under construction,
the tempest now passed, his circles undrawn.
What still remains of the bleak destruction,
small fires torch while the play carries on

in a tiring rhyme, the tyrant passes
what could have proved true, if only he’d chased
the cetaceous, the seedheads of grasses
sporting the dune, and scorning less the chaste.

I now own the deed to Prospero’s cave
that echoes with tones of his final speech.
With so few willing their peacetime to brave,
our rebuilding thrives well beyond storm’s reach.

Farewell, dark crucible! New alchemy
weds high seas to cool space amicably.


The caves of Bermuda are said to have inspired Shakespeare’s setting for “The Tempest”. An instant after I took this photo, a Bermudian emerged from the cave who would have made the perfect Prospero. I dedicate this happy memory to him.

© Elaine Stirling 2015

The Fundamental Lord




Let it be said
of no man
whose time has come
to repatriate
with ashes
or with blades of crushed
narcissus kept alive beyond
their expiration date
that he has need
of recollecting

no new armour
waits, the rust he gathers
in his bones
to make a home
for microbes and raw deals
has been lining the valise
for years of a richer man
who lives with no address
beneath a dead crow’s tongue

guardian of galaxies
steward of the unrefined
you need not fear
the smelter

of elemental gravity
that keep thoughts pinned
and flying in your face
like bats whose caves
are blasted to make way
for tourist lodges will restore
their rightful shape

as playing fields

of the lord
the fundamental lord
you are


© Elaine Stirling, 2015
The photograph was taken at the rear entrance of St. Peter’s Church, St. George, Bermuda.

Saturday Night at the Swizzle Inn


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I decided to let my fun begin
on a Saturday night at the Swizzle—
no! No, no, no, no!

I didn’t decide at the Swizzle Inn
on a Saturday night to do anything but
nurse a gingery rummy dark drink
of the house, slurp a chowder, a curry,
I couldn’t decide between fishy
or spicy…both sounded nice

but of one thing I must be
abundantly clear:
I had no intention of
knowing so dear
the commencement of fun
that had smoothly begun
with fresh mahi mahi
and Bermudian rum
chased by pale Indee ale
at a rustic wood table
beneath setting sun.

could a meal pale derision,
abolish all fear of enjoyment
perpetual, bring happiness near
enough to embrace and to tug
at my heart, and to view
on the sleeves of the good
folk around me?

well, I couldn’t have told you
what I now surely know,
how it all worked its way
into and under my sunburned
skin, which is how I began
to let the fun in on a Saturday
night at the Swizzle Inn…


to those with a penchant
for gossip and dirt,
I refuse to disclose
if I purchased the shirt—
but straight out I’ll tell you,
I’m happy to say, that I did
swagger out arm in arm
with great fun and exuberant
whim on a Saturday night
at the Swizzle Inn.


© Elaine Stirling, 2015
Photograph by author





We were companions of the soul who made
us in his image, zodiac complete,
the rays of his extension. You, his feet,
the thunder twins his arms, a barricade.

The treasurer who would betray his will
incensed us all; we rubbed each other raw
until the day a quarter of us saw
what he perceives. The vision haunts me still.

Now each of us a hub, a higher grade
of understanding deems that we should meet—
the journeyer and rock, far from replete
and yet inspired. The comfort of his shade

in early years felt such a bitter pill,
forgetting sacrifice is not the law.
We are not Abraham. That was our flaw
until we walked among the daffodils.

Happy Birthday, G!


© Elaine Stirling, 2015

The Inadequate God


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casting stones





The ad read, For Sale: casting stones, a pair.
They contain the magic of what remains
of the inadequate god their prophet
praised and stalked to prove he is everywhere.

I bought the stones and gave them names,
set them on a shelf and then forgot it
till my fortunes fell and the dwindling share
of a joy I’d known turned to shooting pains.

Relief was all I sought. Desperate,
I threw my stones in anger, didn’t care
so long as someone paid, until the strain
proved god is useless and mankind crooked.

I make my living now by casting stones.
Feeling inadequate? You’re not alone.


© Elaine Stirling, 2015

The Morning Tree: A Glosa


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apples_jillwagnerartdotcom_pastel painting

A tree of blood moistens the morning
where the new mother groans.
Her voice leaves crystals in the wound
and a diagram of bone in the window.

Meanwhile the coming light holds steady
and overtakes blank limits of fable that forget
the tumult of veins in its flight
toward the turbid cool of the apple.

–“Adam”, from Federico Garcia Lorca’s Primeras Canciones, 1922


The drop of ink that falls
absorbed between the fibers
of a parchment bed no pen
of yours or mine can resurrect
is spreading. Footprints of tar
pace a figure eight, delineating
nakedness that none of us can see
except in vaguely worded fantasies.
Debris across the mountain feels like warning;
a tree of blood moistens the morning

while I am still senseless
and too sensitive, I can refrain
from driving home some vagrant
point of fact no one has invited,
least of all that dead bore couple,
habit and experience. Phones
attached to hips are gathering
lone gods of randomness in droves.
Beggars with no credit offer loans
where the new mother groans

labouring to no avail, you’d think,
would set off some alarm—what child
is this? But no one’s claiming fatherhood,
and that fat bastard capital forgets
to keep his mouth closed when he chews.
What trickles from his chin is spooned
into tubes, shot straight into the veins
of pretenders to Cassandra, whose Trojan
never breaks and is still well tuned.
Her voice leaves crystals in the wound

that rub against synthetic outrage
waiting for its moment—that will never
come—of sweet approval. What tendency
is this to sprinkle vinegar upon a neighbour’s
olive grove that looks to be abandoned?
No succulent upon a fence can grow
when roots are parched of laissez-faire.
We subatomic dancers hate rehearsal,
swiftly leave behind our sold-out show
and a diagram of bone in the window.

So what did the rich man say
to the ferryman? I’ll be damned!
Only he wasn’t and still the river
foams in hopes that someone might
approach her self-creation
in a feathered cape with dignity.
Sir Walter and the puddle knew
Good Bess was on her way. All others
in the fractious crowd stayed petty.
Meanwhile the coming light holds steady

and the errant ink grows jittery
for having glimpsed the perfect
quill in V-formation flying over
Parry Sound. What if I dry
and flake apart before we two
can prove the world is wet?
The goose without a fleeting honk
flies on. She does not give her tail lightly.
Eggs of gold each day she brings to market
and overtakes blank limits of fable that forget.

Two things depreciate at the moment
of purchase: the second is worry.
Grinding mandibles on behalf of another
foretells a long decline toward mush
and not much else. No imagination
will fling you out of Eden. Paths of right
and wrong confuse the tenant farmer,
not the lord who views all he surveys
with potential, green and bright,
the tumult of veins in its flight.

Oh, sweet desire, now that you know
my name, let’s draw the canopy against
drunk beetles banging on their broken
schemes. Not all shells are suitable
for dyeing, though every word, I’m told,
will find its violin and grapple
for the pitch it hears in dreams
of paradise, giving way to the refugee,
nourished in his flight by sunlight’s dapple
toward the turbid cool of the apple.


This glosa borrows the first two stanzas of Garcia Lorca’s poem, “Adan”. The original Spanish can be found here. I’ve published a book of glosas, Dead to Rights, with an accompanying novella, Dead Edit Redo, which you can find here.

© Elaine Stirling, 2015
Translation by Elaine Stirling, © 2015
Image: pastel painting by Jill Wagner from


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