And Words Are All I Have

top photo of newsletter

And onwards.

Gilead 2
We should all be feminists.
~~ Beyonce

vintage women
These are dark and disheartening days for all women. And for those men who realize that without reproductive freedom women are reduced once again to the level of chattel. Mere vessels for the continuation of the species.

I am deeply disheartened with the Roe dismantling. Alito’s “Dobbs” opinion overturning Roe is judicial activism . This is not constitutionalism, or even politics. It is religious fundamentalism, using legal theory as a fig-leaf. And returning this to the States is the biggest hoax of all. Already in a matter of two days eight states have outlawed abortion for any reason. Even rape or incest.

It will be a debacle for women facing unwanted and/or unsafe pregnancy, especially those in poverty. We marched on Yonge Street in the 70’s for reproductive rights and once again they are in peril. Perhaps not in Canada – not at this moment. But the political winds are fickle ones, as you know. And with each election here all can once again be up for grabs. Witness what happened with the stacking of the Supreme Court just as Trump had promised his voters. It was the carrot that put him in power.

And what does this decision say to our daughters and their daughters? And sons. That women are, summarily, incapable of making the best decisions for their own lives and futures, that the state will step in and take over. Once again.

It is a slap in the face of all women, under the dissembling guise of caring for the unborn. It is in essence putting women back in our place.

FYI - for Canadians, and for all my readers, Here is the statement to the media last week by Joyce Arthur, Executive Director of Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada:

“The news that the US Supreme Court has overturned Roe v Wade is deeply upsetting. What a profound violation of fundamental human rights! We need to channel our feelings of outrage into action. Let’s stand in solidarity with US activists fighting for reproductive justice, but also take action here at home. How can we help Americans coming to Canada for abortions when we don’t even have enough access ourselves? That’s especially the case for the most marginalized, including Indigenous, transgender, 2SLGBTQI+, immigrant, and youth communities. Now is the time for both BC and the federal government to fund an expansion of SRH and abortion care and train more providers.”

We encourage everyone to reach out to your MLA and MP to ensure that SRH is an issue they are prepared to address and fund.
Sponsoring organizations and campaigns:
  • Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada
  • AccessBC Campaign for free prescription contraception
  • BC Humanist Association
  • Options for Sexual Health
  • UBC Social Justice Centre
Insert Just Listen with prologue in Poems 2021

Life is short, find your fire, and fan it with everything you’ve got.
Call out your passions,
demand they take center stage,
and don’t fall away.

~~ Tyler Knott Gregson

Jia Tolentino in the New Yorker on June 24. 2022, says it succinctly here:

“Anyone who can get pregnant must now face the reality that half of the country is in the hands of legislators who believe that your personhood and autonomy are conditional—who believe that, if you are impregnated by another person, under any circumstance, you have a legal and moral duty to undergo pregnancy, delivery, and, in all likelihood, two decades or more of caregiving, no matter the permanent and potentially devastating consequences for your body, your heart, your mind, your family, your ability to put food on the table, your plans, your aspirations, your life.”

“Making an informed choice regarding your own body shouldn’t be controversial.”

Tucker Carlson, Fox News, on the right to not vaccinate:

A tiny upside in all of this –

Fox News hosts may have cheered the death of Roe v. Wade, but the channel’s biggest star inadvertently helped to raise cash for groups that help people access abortions. On Saturday, a non-fungible token, or NFT, made from an image of Tucker Carlson on his show sold for 12 eth, or around $14,500, with the proceeds of the sale set to be given to various groups including Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights. The digital token’s artist creator, Jenny Holzer, used a screen image of Carlson speaking on his show about vaccination last year above a chyron that read: “Making an informed choice regarding your own body shouldn’t be controversial.”

And wonderful advice from Garrison Keillor in the face of it all…

If you’re depressed by the state of things, skip the news and take a walk beside a large body of water and look at the stars and the moon. The newscaster will say, “Good evening” and then give you fifty-seven reasons why it’s not. Give yourself a break.

The Gang of Six is heading for 1845 and I doubt they’ll get to Prohibition before they fade into the sunset and go down in the WWTT chapter of history (What Were They Thinking). The Six couldn’t find abortion mentioned in the Constitution so they dumped Roe but maybe when they go to their physician to deal with their gloominess, they’ll find a medical originalist with a bucket of leeches who’ll bleed them white and administer powerful purgatives until they’re considerably lighter, and thus they will regain their senses and so will we.

Meanwhile, remind yourself that other people have thrived under wretched governors so don’t be discouraged. The Duke of Saxe-Weimar threw Bach in jail for daring to think he had individual rights. Dante was sent into exile and he wrote the Inferno so he could put the politician Argenti into the Fifth Circle of Hell. Dostoevsky joined a liberal study group for which, in 1849, he was thrown into prison and sentenced to death by firing squad, and was third in line to be executed when a pardon arrived. He lit out for Paris, London, Berlin, and figured out how to survive, writing Crime and Punishment in serial installments for magazines, avoiding politics. While cruelty is in power, do what Mozart did. Exercise your gifts. Create beautiful things. Wolfgang stayed clear of emperors and did his work and he lives on today and the emperors are just moldy names on marble slabs covered with pigeon droppings. If you can’t write The Marriage of Figaro, write your own marriage and make it a work of art.

I can't imagine a more eloquent or true description of friendship than the one here by the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran, written for a youth who asked him about the essence of friendship.
Lovely way to start a Sunday.

Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside. For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.
When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “aye.”
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared,
with joy that is unacclaimed.

I love places people have left. Given up on. I feel like that about people as well. This abandoned barn and property is up the road from me and I have written many a fine poem there, perched on a perfectly sized crate I found. The light hits the rafters and dances. But the dances forever change as the day moves on.

With photo of car abandoned in Pictures


You are the ice cream sandwich connoisseur of your generation.

Blessed are your floral shorteralls, your deeply pink fanny pack with 
travel-size lint roller just in case.

Level of splendiferous in your outfit: 200.

Types of invisible pain stemming from adolescent disasters in classrooms, locker rooms, & quite often Toyota Camrys: at least 10,000.

You are not a jigglypuff, not yet a wigglytuff.

Reporters & fathers call your generation “the worst.”

Which really means “queer kids who could go online & learn that queer doesn’t have to mean disaster.”

Or dead.

Instead, queer means, splendiferously, you.

& you means someone who knows that common flavors for ice cream 
sandwiches in Singapore include red bean, yam, & honeydew.

Your powers are great, are growing.

One day you will create an online personality quiz that also freshens the breath.

The next day you will tell your father, You were wrong to say that I had to change.

To make me promise I would. To make me promise.

& promise.

pro choice 3

Below, a lovely letter I received from a Colombian child about her work and mine. A friend teaches there and used my books as poem studies. Most inspiring news ever to learn I may have inspired a child to write her own thoughts down.

Best business idea of the week:

If you pay me $50 I will show up at your funeral wearing all back, underneath a black umbrella, and stand at a discreet distance from your graveside so people will assume you had a dark and mysterious secret.

letter from Colombian child about my poetry.

A deceptively simple poem. The very best kind.


The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

~~ Naomi Shihab Nye


As Father's Day approaches...

I once asked my father when I was a young girl what books he would enjoy that I might buy him for special occasions.

He didn’t miss a beat before responding, “Stories of the sea; Anything about the sea.”

He had shipped out on a merchant marine vessel from Glasgow when he was 17, and only left the sea in his early 30’s after he and my mother had their first child.

Whenever I saw him lost in thought I always assumed he was ruminating on those adventurous years. I remember his counselling me:

“Go and have a life, lassie.”

It is advice I took to heart.

Thank you, Father. You showed me the window to a wider world. Y0u made me yearn to uncover, its mysteries, its wonders, and its infinite possibilities.

“We’ve got covid, then a wedding, then covid, then a vacation, then covid.”

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Michael O'Donnell didn't return home from the Vietnam War, but his poetry did. Alum Daniel Weiss was so taken by O'Donnell's work that he spent the last decade-plus learning about its author.

This is from an essay by Bret McCabe, himself a vet, published Spring of 2020.

Helicopter pilot Michael O'Donnell could hover near the ground for only a short time before returning to the sky. On the afternoon of March 24, 1970, O'Donnell had guided his Huey below the dense foliage of Cambodia's mountainous northeast region to retrieve an eight-man reconnaissance patrol that had been inserted to gain information on the size and movements of enemy forces but encountered gunfire early on. Three days into a planned five-day patrol, they needed to be evacuated.

O'Donnell, a 24-year-old from suburban Milwaukee, was part of the helicopter rescue mission involving two unarmed transports and four gunships that were dispatched from an airbase in Vietnam's central highlands. After lingering at 1,500 feet, waiting for the recon team to reach the extraction point, one transport had to return to base to refuel. The transport was on its way back when the recon team radioed that it couldn't hold out much longer. O'Donnell dropped his helicopter into a windy canyon and through a small opening in the canopy, lowered his craft to just above the ground. The recon patrol emerged from the jungle with enemy fire trailing after them. It took about four agonizingly long minutes for all eight men to board, a little longer than the average pop song.

After ascending about 200 feet, O'Donnell radioed to air command, "I've got all eight, I'm coming out," right before his helicopter burst into flames, likely struck by a ground-based rocket. The pilot, his three-man crew, and the recon patrol were officially declared missing in action in 1970. O'Donnell wouldn't be declared dead until February 7, 1978. His remains were discovered in 1995 but not officially identified until February 15, 2001. And on August 16, 2001, he was interred at Arlington National Cemetery, which was created as a final resting place for soldiers on land seized from a plantation owner after the Civil War. O'Donnell left behind his wife, his parents, a sister, his best friend and music partner, and a collection of 19 poems, some of which he included in his letters to friends, discovered in his footlocker after his death.

One of those 19 retrieved pieces, printed below, O'Donnell had mailed to his friend Marcus Sullivan in 1970. Sullivan served as a combat engineer in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, and they wrote each other throughout their training and tours. O'Donnell's daily missions transporting the dead and wounded back from the front lines were taking their toll.

If you are able,
save them a place
inside of you
and save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can
no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say
you loved them,
though you may
or may not have always.
Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own. And in that time
when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes
you left behind.


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The Music of Leaving, my collection of poetry, is available to order.
Order directly online — for both Canada and U.S. orders — from Amazon, Brunswick and Demeter.
The Music of Leaving - Tricia McCallum

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