alley/bird/ally by Hiromi Goto
2020 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist
Hiromi Goto made the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist for alley/bird/ally.
You can read alley/bird/ally below.
This work contains strong language.
two in the bush none in my hand burst of wings chatter the day
into making is it odd that i think of you as the working class? i leave my apartment through
the back door my alley neighbours flit shrubs to fence
to telephone wire
a party line bursts faster than stones flung from a sling shita kiri 雀…
whose grandmother cut whose tongue? snip snip because it was too tight
cheep cheep she cried a story i read somewhere a time ago chirrup chur-ree
she's such a chatterbox now it all worked out for the best if she is hungry
let her eat the rice it's not easy this hard-scrabble life
there's no buying a condo in this city for the likes of us
let alone a house.
i hear before i see you a buzzing whrrrzing burr my eyes
are fifty-two years old you are tiny fierce how you winter
over these past frozen nights the food you rely on delivered
through plastic flowers we order take-out too tired
to cook a cell phone in one hand a spoon in the other
nourished just enough to get through the day counting
the hours until the first blooms.
when i lived in calgary i used to dream of cut flowers
inside my home every day if only i lived
on the west coast you cannot afford this bourgeois
longing but daylight lengthens and the flowers soon
blossom on tree, shrubs, in garden beds i will be out
with the birds to sup from them for free.
it's true i've called you flying monkeys when you wake me too early
raucous voice a jeer a laugh a bird-monkey warning i cannot tell your people
a part an important role, ecosystem, scavenger, rooftop squatter,
herring or western i can't say but never "seagulls," because birders will scoff don't you know they don't exist? only jonathon, by name, and he was a figment. christine found one injured downtown she crouched, picked them up the gull so much lighter than expected she flipped herself backwards, bird clutched tenderly against her chest
there's always salt along the shoreline where the ocean licks day and night aloft the gulls sail banking not in currencies but on air, riders of storms they circle higher and higher. their wings shimmer gold. dusk riding their plaintive cries. it's okay
to look back. the creator is kind.
you see everything my anarchist friends. fuck the bourgeoisie! food
not lawns! sod and moss plucked from yards flung up in clumps.
soil sails. how rich the fatty grubs. karasu, my oka-san sang,naze naku no? how sad the lullaby
sounds, when we are small, even though the mother crow loved her seven children so much.
how hungry we were.
neighborhood watch. warning caws you model loyalty and kinship for if one
crow then one hundred who needs batman when crow calls, one thousand
black wings held wide enough to hold back the skies they never cry
wolf. watch them gather. alone we are helpless. but together a fury
united! black iridescence. how you shine in this light.
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- Tickling the Scar by Matthew Hollett
- Learning to Count by Emily Riddle
- Adipose Glose by Andrea Scott
About Hiromi Goto
Hiromi Goto is a writer and editor who can't stop writing across genres. Her first novel, Chorus of Mushrooms, was published in 1994. Since then she's published numerous books — she is medium-old. Recently she moved from Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-waututh Territories to Lekwungen Territory where she can still be seen wearing her blue backpack and taking photographs of birds, trees, lizards and fungi. Her first graphic novel, Shadow Life, with artist Ann Xu, will be published in early 2021.
The poems' source of inspiration
"Sometimes stories fail me. Or I fail stories. Stories become impossible — to write and even to read them. But if I look out a window a bird flies across the sky. We often look for signs. Connections. Birds make possible. When there is no story left, there are birds. If a chickadee lands in your hand to select a seed, they will meet your eyes, once, before they fly away."
The winner of the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books and attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity. Four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their work published on CBC Books.