Montague & Capulet, a Status Update


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In universes parallel to this
unfair Verona where my love and I
through civil strife paid dear for our first kiss
exists a turbulence that draws us nigh.

A means deemed social summons Romeo
whose spirit lives undimmed. (No tragedy survives
the grave. This foremost must ye firmly know.)
“Make haste, sweet Jules, for here potential thrives!”

Through streets of vast Cybernia we tread
with buoyant step, engaging as our mood
arises with a range of lemon heads
whose visages are comical and crude.

The sad folk who divide we shan’t extol,
for death and love, you overthrow the troll.


Poems don’t appear often to me anymore, as I pursue different creative formats. So I’m grateful when sonnets come knocking in the company of iambs declaring boldly, “Here I am!” The meter, in this instance, could only be Shakespearean: abab cdcd efef gg.

© Elaine Stirling, 2018
The wonderful image comes from Pinterest, artist unknown.


Romance in the New Year


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~~a glosa~~

Give me your hand and we will dance;
give me your hand and you will love me.
Like a single flower we will be,
like a single flower, nothing more.

—“Give Me Your Hand” (“Dáme la Mano”) by Gabriela Mistral

I dreamed of a friend in an orange checkered suit,
garish, clashing patterns, layered shades of yolk.
He milled, a hydrant, awkward midst the artsy party crowd.
Mortified, I hissed: why are you here?
He brightened. I’ve looked everywhere!
I thought I’d lost my chance.
The places I frequent are thin in godless times;
to be Olympian, hope and patience teeter.
But enough of that. Do you like my pants?
Give me your hand and we will dance.

He drew the blinds and took me in his arms.
I do not know the steps, I whined, and shuffled stiff.
They’re easy, he replied, though I often wonder if
the laurels people hang on strife
and being an enduring wife or husband
have not muddied things a bit. You see,
I do not need a maid and trust
you’ve had enough of joyless handymen
who’d nail your freedom to a tree.
Give me your hand and you will love me.

In time, my limbs began to melt
and I misplaced embarrassment. He led,
not like a general or a cold front pushing through
but like the tall straight mast of a merchant
sailing ship, with goods fair traded
in his hold. I think that we shall be,
he whispered in my ear, a golden pair
well matched, unfolding like the petals
of a rose, unprecedent, named Liberty.
Like a single flower we will be.

We woke entangled in a king-size bed
in Tuscany beneath an arbour
woven with bay laurel and anemone.
It must be spring, I reasoned, peering
‘neath the sheets at what he’d brought.
A lot! We laughed from bed to floor
and rolled across to where our view
of self-created destiny was clear.
We’d risen, both, to all that we adore
like a single flower, and nothing more.

Happy New Year, one and all!


© Elaine Stirling, 2017
Image of Tuscan garden design by Tim Street-Porter
Translation of “Dame La Mano” by Elaine Stirling

Robertson, dear Robertson


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Photo taken by Dick Loek/Toronto Star in December 1990.

—being a visit of the spirited kind with the great Canadian man of letters, in the Dantean poetic form of terza rima


O Robertson, dear Robertson, I dast
not trouble thee in Paradise, Nirvana,
nor in Asgard’s halls if that’s where you now cast

your mighty nets of word and mirth. I wanna
seem as erudite and clever, Heaven knows,
as you, and not some whinging prima donna,

but as mercury subsides, the windy blows
of those who’d tarnish what is silver and sublime
of this great time are getting up my nose,

attempting to convince me it’s a crime
or mark of low intelligence to cheer
what’s goodly and expanding to a prime

of human understanding. With your clear
and unobstructed view of where we’re headed
and my obstinate refusal to adhere

to doom’s dark drivel, I am wedded
to the notion that together we might salvage
something priceless from the leaded

and corrupt events reported by the savage
and vindictive, by the weary and obstructive,
by the arguers whose logic seeks to ravage

all that’s mystical and unexplained. It’s relative,
I know, that yay and nay together must reside
in every possibility, but their order is subjective.

Am I right, or do I labour with false pride?


O mortal, winsome mortal, such delight
I take in finding you again with Thor’s great hammer
pitted ‘gainst depressives’ native right

to cringe beneath your cheerful yammer,
seeking common ground and seldom finding,
both of you reduced to wincing stammer.

Where is the proof? demands the grinding
intellect. I do not care, retorts the sprite
whose visage to the cynic is full blinding.

The passing fact, experienced, is right
but only in the moment to the blood and brains
of that to whom the truth gave light.

The gap between the witness who explains
her wonder with insistence to the rest
learns swiftly what it means to “take great pains”.

There is scant gain in it. You’re blessed,
make no mistake, but cursive souls
like yours who flow too easily ingest

the poisons of heredity. The holes
of graves preceding you contain no tales
worth digging up again. Their bells have tolled.

All life is made to vivify. What today fails,
ignored, tomorrow proudly shows her worth.
Who keeps their wit and chin up, paradise regales.

In this tendering season of light’s rebirth,
rest easy. Good abounds on Heaven and Earth!


© Elaine Stirling, 2017

Would it Kill You?


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~~a ringelreim~~

Would it kill you to say something nice?
Lean closer to sweetness than spice?
Since I know your full spectrum from meh through to hate,
I doubt, though I’d love, a good reason to wait
for a positive roll from your dice.

I have seen you relax once or twice,
though it seems to exact quite a price
to let up on fate. Would it kill you?

From me, you should not take advice.
I do not hold the knife that determines the slice
of the pie that you fear has already been ate,
but I do, as you see, have the power to grate,
to be cheesy, for once, would it kill you?


Author’s note: Ringelreims, a form of rondeau, have a tight rhyme scheme with the addition of a refrain, repeated three times. In this instance, the refrain, of course, is “would it kill you?”. That’s the serious poet’s explanation. My explanation for writing a ringelreim is that skipping down a sidewalk, as an adult, is frowned upon by the very grumps one is trying to escape. Ringelreims are the second best option.

© Elaine Stirling, 2017

Those Ever-Loving Windmills


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~~a villanelle~~

Tilting windmills on a sunny day
with rusty swords till something breaks
seems to me a waste of play.

The cranky knight must have his way
to soothe, I suppose, his chronic aches,
tilting windmills on a sunny day.

I’m trying hard to look away,
ignore the hissy fits and fakes.
Seems to me a waste of play

to criticize. I will not sway
them anyway, for heaven’s sake!
Tilting windmills on a sunny day

reduces me, turns skies to gray.
Contempt is such a bitter cake,
seems to me a waste of play,

though who am I to judge you? Hey,
your years of practice, perfect makes!
Tilting windmills on a sunny day
seems to me a waste of play.

Thank you, Miguel de Cervantes, for the analogy that never grows old.

© Elaine Stirling, 2017

Strombolian Etude


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~~a pantoum~~

I offer hail to Strombolian eruptions,
little stones that break no bones
making light of your incandescent cinders
split apart on tindered fields.

Little stones that break no bones,
oh, lapilli, when did I stop believing?
Split apart on tindered fields
I burn and sputter, no relief.

Oh, lapilli, when did I stop believing
in non-violent sporadic joy?
I burn and sputter, no relief
belching memes like lava bombs.

In non-violent sporadic joy,
making light of your incandescent cinders,
belching memes like lava bombs,
I offer hail to Strombolian eruptions!


Author’s note: Strombolian eruption refers to volcanic activity that is mildly explosive, sporadic, and fairly safe to observe. Lapilli, Latin for little stones, are shot into the air, along with other bits and pieces mentioned in this pantoum. The term comes from the volcanic island of Stromboli off the coast of Sicily.

© Elaine Stirling, 2017
Photographer, unknown




If I had words
I’d write a poem by the lake
on a yellow chair
while a dog
in coat of black
and white ran circles
round me, wet and shook—
if only past tense of the verb
were shaked.
It’s not.

Rhyming can be faked
though like intelligence
and smiles, only for a while
until it stinks.

Pretending has its place.
I do a lot of it,
but for the moment
I shall neither feign nor think.

I am content to sit here
and be laked.

© Elaine Stirling, 2017

The Last Articulate Man


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~~a sequence of form poems~~

1 – Triolet

To the last articulate man standing
I have put out a call.

I am dumbstruck, appalled by what people are handing
to the last articulate man standing.

Can he not see we have slowed to a crawl?
We cower in shadows, don’t say a damn thing

to the last articulate man standing.
I have put out a call.

2 – Pantoum

What do you want?
To die of old age in your sleep,
or to live in slow-motion despair
wearing grief like a bone in your throat?

To die of old age in your sleep
is a wish you’ve no right to impose on the rest.
Wearing grief like a bone in your throat,
you’re a cock in the wind on a roof

is a wish you’ve no right to impose. On the rest,
there’s really not much you can do
but spin & complain that the view stays the same.
If only you’d learn to declare

there’s really not much you can do
or to live in slow-motion. Despair…
If only you’d learn to declare,

3 – Rondeau (Ringelreim)

Baloney. It’s something you ate
as a kid on white bread. It was great
until you grew older
and facts made you bolder.
You started to choose what you put on your plate.

But the flavours, of late,
make you sick. So much hate
rolling over us all like a boulder. Baloney.

Everyone feels. That’s not up for debate,
unless you fall for the poisonous bait,
the allure of the outraged, the scolder
outwitting the scolded. You both feel colder
and blame it on fate. Baloney!

4 – Triolet

Gently now, there is no rush,
no race to find the answer.

Settle in, surrender to the blush,
gently. Now, there is no rush.

Your every step and fall’s a brush
with love. Eternal, flawless dancer,

gently now, there is no rush,
no race to find the answer.


© Elaine Stirling, 2017

The Man Has Left…


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~~for acb~~

The man has left us.
A partimen I’ll write
to prove our dialogue
has simply moved
to some new great
and richer plain
for us to meet
absent the vain.
You called them once—
or was it me?—
the borderlands
where Rumi plays,
and Sappho giddily
explains why only
fragments of her ecstasy
can reach this mortal soil.
you traveled well,
and now those tolling
bells of Chartres ring
for thee.

© Elaine Stirling, 2017