Former Poet Laureate: Alan Hill (2017-2020)
To Our Indigenous Veterans
It is Time
Canada Day, New Westminster 2019
Hold this fire in your hands, this day of us.
Let it burn, purify.
Let it clean the spaces where we live
the gaps between us, where we are real
that cannot be seen.
Let our anthem carry your breath
straighten your tongue,
temper it into a truer intent
unleash the words of what we have achieved
let them lose onto the air.
It is time to share,
this good fortune, who we are
It is time to be ourselves, become us,
reconciled, in reconciliation
with what we have done, what we can become.
It is time to show our love in what we have achieved,
celebrate what we have won
through our work, enterprise, good government
It is time now to admit, that it was more than that
that there are stains, shadows,
there is a darkness we must face
there are people that have not come with us,
that we left behind
the dead, living, that we must learn to remember
that are here now, in this our home and native land,
where we must be reconciled, in reconciliation
For What Is Within Us
City of New Westminster, May Day Gala, 2019
To prod our dank, unwilling, thoughts into the sun
the tethered cattle of our passions into light
into air still smeared with Easters saints.
This dark interior mountain range of what we are
can finally begin to bud.
The vast and lonely shore of death denied once more.
Spring begins to linger like a restless teen
that is learning
to trace the contours of his fathers laugh
become his mothers calming hands
to wrestle off the carcass of the winter brute
pay homage to the bleak grey stones
the monuments of our people
dance under a trimming of stars
for a moment take the shadows of ourselves, the
doubts, the fears; slip out of them like skin.
Remembrance Day, November 2018
“The Battle of the Atlantic was not won by any Navy or any Air Force, it was won by the courage, fortitude and determination of the British and Allied Merchant Navy”
Rear Admiral Leonard W. Murray: Royal Canadian Navy.
the Atlantic, Artic freeze, the few brief moments before the ship blew, rolled over.
If you were down below, you knew it, you had no chance.
A door that would not open, gangway blocked spelled death.
Most accepted that, it was the bargain you had made.
You knew there would still be terror, you would still burn, call for your mother
when the boilers burst, the water forced your mouth.
It was 50/50 if your ship was hit. You knew it.
Sometimes, if you survived, got to the ocean alive, you were left.
Too dangerous for other ships to stop, rescue you, as if you were still human.
No blaze of glory, just a lonely, terrifying end.
There were no uniforms, no proper pay, the ships were often old
rusted hulks not fit for the job, converted great lake steamers
semi retired coast huggers.
It was that we had family, community, a bond across continents
brothers, sisters, that knew the same farm, factory, history.
There were people, our people
that we would not let starve, become victims, prisoners of power sniffing little tyrants
of a self-appointed master race.
We were one people then.
Our religions, ethnicities all pooled in strength to defeat a tyranny
welded, pressed with the same rivets, floated in the same kind of love
its broken fingered, imperial, imperfection:
Because our sailors died, served, sometimes partly survived
we are still one people. We are here, undefeated, ready.
Some Words for the Young
City of New Westminster, May Day Gala, 2018
This is more than the dance; this is being alive.
In your life, there will be hard times, disappointments, yet
you will always have this
every May for ever. Every time the sunlight comes again, that
life returns, the world is young once more.
This is something that is ours, yours.
Nobody can take it
anymore than they can steal the fuse
that forces the flower through the field
or they can pocket the heavy thatch of thickened blossom
or take the rain, invest it, live from the surplus labour of the clouds
claim light, air, as their own
or steal away how springtime hardens in your blood
coagulates your thoughts, pushes you out into the world
to be with others, friends, community, in the
parks and forests of tomorrow
in a ship less ocean, empty sky, with
the springtime that has laid its box of chocolates at your feet.
Poem Read for National Poetry Month Proclamation - March 2017
The King of Glenbrook North
First my parent’s garden
its Eden of children’s parties
perpetual summer ecosystem,
of sugared up boys
microclimate of budded hormones
punctured soccer balls.
Then the garden I tended as a student.
Industrial grade carrots,
cannonball sized cabbages
between which my fiancé Michelle
in her wedding dress, netted herself
in front of the unsteady flesh
of the neighbours fence-
her peasant’s hands, bony and white
from the lack of a ring
that even then, I knew, I
was to never acquire for her.
Then this garden I have now- small
a continent overcrowded with trees
Laburnum Pine Magnolia
pockets of Spring light
that only I have seen-
uncharted silences in the raspberry canes:
bordered by a pelt of rough cut lawn
shimmying itself shyly
towards the back of the house
to the edge of the known world.
Poem Read at the May Day Gala - May 24th 2017
May Day- New Westminster
This Maypole, middle world axis
for the earth to turn
lighthouse inside us, hormonal summer vision
bringer of buds, idolatry, difference
for us to wrap ourselves, pull the ribbons tight
climb back in the box of who we are.
Twist and turn, step around each other, avoid each other
each in our way, our role, individual, team
learning to be, to welcome it back
what is bigger than us, this god, or gods
law of nature. law of science
what it is we are, that we cannot know
maybe do not need to know
whatever that it is that gives us everything
owes us nothing
life in its cruelty, beauty, indifference, magnificence.
We watch our children dance
these ones that will replace us
each hand held to the next like a thirst in need of
Breath in their joy, charge on it
in the knowledge that they understand, know a little now
of what we are, where we come from
that whatever world they make
what we give them now will not be in vain
that in this dance
whichever way they run they will be back
meet in the middle, weaved, stitched, more complete.
Poem Written for Canada Day- July 2017 Canada Day
New Westminster, 2017
This City will not die.
The torn moon stitched tight
fire swept backwards into
the pocket of an Edwardian morning
river rooted around the sky into
a tree of smoke.
Our forefathers could hate
left the hard stumps of the excluded
They could also build
brought us the lung lines of our streets
the verdant foliage of the
schools, churches, temples, the
knife sharp shopping of our being
the fields and factories of tomorrow
palaces of the nine to five
hard shipping of Pacific
bleached, bloodied in Panama sun
sprinting from the River edge
multiplying in grids.
Own this history, what has been done
has yet to come
no barrel bombs or gas
the barbed wire from around the heart
then all that is left of us is love.
The Hunger Winter
Dedicated to Gert Heijkoop – Consulate General Vancouver
Kingdom of the Netherlands.
A mad man under Berlin
tap danced on his pyramid of skulls
his armies shifted, regiments paraded
peopled died -
the old, children, the ill
those that the utopians, the pure, master race
had no function for
who were not the right height, weight, colour
religion, shirt size
who spoke the wrong language.
People had to be murdered
for someone else’s fantasy of paradise.
Isn’t that always the way?
All we had left to give, us Canadians, British
was our children
Eighteen, twenty years old’s.
Men then, who would be kids to us now.
We sent them out with guns, tanks
food they swapped for flowers
with bullets, their lives
that they bartered for a country
to give it back to those that owned it.
In the slice of bread, spread of butter
there is a meal we will always share
a life we built together, will keep on building
not the world of jumped up little fascists
with their answers, uniformed corpses
just this acceptance of ourselves
honouring of who we want to be
hope we can be better in what we do
how we include, value, honour
There are some
that would simply call this love.
Alan Hill – Poet Laureate, City of New Westminster, November 11th, 2017.