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Fall 2007, Volume 24.1


Brian BurkePhoto of Brian Burke.

Brian Burke is a graduate of the writing programs at York University and the University of British Columbia (MFA), and has taught English Literature and Creative Writing at various universities and colleges. Recent publications include River Oak Review, The Nashwaak Review, and Red Rock Review. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


spying on my father as gardener

he spears bamboo poles into the soil
for shoots he knows will need support
& he watches as the tendrils coil & climb
    tapering slender spirals that thicken into stalk

deeper into spring
he covers tomato seedlings housed in frail balsa baskets
    they’ll burst through
covers them with transparent plastic umbrella tops
like mushroom caps
the stems snapped off

he watches his garden lean toward the sun
bend under rain
destruct under hail as he seeks the essential
    some fundamental law of seasons
which applies as much to backyard plots as to acres

he guards as leaves cluster round the base of a stem
    as if for matriarchal protection
bear cubs      he thinks      no difference
suckling in the early months
then leaving as we learn the art of leaving

he dreams one day he’ll refill his silos with grain
his barn with hay
that his children will return
forced to flee the barrenness of cities
    he envisions all the herbage once cured for fodder
the hay in lofts racks & ricks
the caution he stored for silage
the failed acreage & machinery owned by concrete banks

         he is the father of each leaf unfurling
& each step he takes across his garden
bears the imprint of a thousand thousand acres
plowed planted & reaped
crops of a hundred seasons

his are the roots binding to earth
    the harvests he fashions
make him no less a craftsman than any other artist
    the life’s work that has earned a retrospective
of the land he once tred upon & tilled
profiles of the many phases he long ago eclipsed


my daughter grips mornings

my daughter grips mornings
as a baby
grips her mother’s hair

so tight
mornings burst with more than possibility
I fear her day could exhaust itself before noon

my daughter
ablaze until evening dawns
with the horizon behind her blackening

& curling like frost-brittle leaves
grasps each last remnant of light
so tight


earthquake weather

                      birds are still
      or gone
                                   each lazy dog’s bark
cracks the hollow air
                           infrequent yips
         that fracture sleep along its faults
                                   until a chill silence
  announces a harrowing absence of cats

                   plates scrape
  dished out like geological cards
                       our bodies shift under sheets
      the tectonics of love
             waiting for the wood floor to warp
ready to waffle with the first waves of the earth


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