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tribute for Phyllis Webb

Image taken from Talonbook's profile of Phyllis Webb

 

for Lee, where have the poets gone Phyllis, Etel the wise the sager than us elders who rocked generations of poets into their worlds but always insisted that they do the following because we are ready they say this world they’ve taught us that leading is remembering the ones who ask are they still thinking about us did we at once gather them and hold them warm this November month tell them that nights echo thoughts of how much they are with us did we gather enough poems that tell them we still kind of need them in this world did we gather a light for them daily days when we are cold are not ready to see the places they’ve found and are travelling to be present for — November 14

 

for Steve where are the better years Collis, Diana where are the summers and more Hayes, comfortable rains forgetting another day Pauline Butling, where are the coffee tables and phone call Fred Wah, guests at the enjambments of people’s care Smaro Kamboureli stairs we say miss some people the further they are the longer we long to reach them maybe it’s a line break a breath this lifetime the rains blending with the mis-en-scene on the ferry ride over where are the forgotten letters times she called and you didn’t hear your ringer now ringing ringing her way back they know we need them the handful who’s been leaving us messages all our lives knowing we’d only find them after the rains travelling with Phyllis a day later departing knowing you’d be okay — November 11

 

for Steve rilling heart beat slower these roving winter mornings it’s okay to say you feel a poem that is different the winds today express the unfinished tempo of the song you can’t get yourself to write just yet see you’ve got watchful ones holding you too you’ve got the trees you watered at the roots swaying steady and tall — November 15

 

for Steve white pines frosted window won’t let in images of morning but sunlight until they melt bus loop bus drove by me me stop-signed at another curb ice crystals write squiggly lines where previous scratches on glass feel everything talked to Phyllis yesterday said we both enjoy the company of your friendship her your anchor your purpose for escape the city your work they are your two ends pulling on your Tswwassen heart keeping you steady youngest of seven siblings still feel everything — November 17

 

for Diana she sensed past the broken shell of her ear parts of us needed to break to feel less broken with each other here are her memories of you here are your friendships 40 years later the bowl collecting careful items stored storied it was never that place of solitude for her the garden of books sundial she gave away but her peopled things remind you she is here now still reminding Phyllis her people dialing the sun to her near — November 17

 

for Steve sun out this university is a cold-blooded animal co-regulates with the thermal body language of weather building us indoors shelters coffee lunch office hours still talking about her talking found poems of hers our co-regulation — November 18

 

for the anarchy anarchism left the tired body dreamers re / snow - tired for the hill frost the contained wanting wheels of skiddy winter un-nameable sun on snow ices the fragmented difference language of auto flows in any revolution the sun enters the room but light sometimes ends up on the floor struggles the common glimmerings of excusable pause twenty-five years thesis on silence while the body appends an un-failure toward the unwritable punctuations of early December distills the colours of plum revolution diamonds from a pattern piece one purple one red attach another making designs as I go loyalty to prince feminism exhaust capitalist continuation runs out the columns of cryptography inspiration tired the feminine heart ungoverned body space resolves to empire citied poetries the fauna and seaside terraces medium visions for the horizon that body in the living caesuras to reach in this life Canada Council grants on culture have winters of unexpiry dates high energy dreaming picked up on designs to be Kropotkin poem her once-contained caesura of forms contemplating “failures” of the “unfinished” horizon only in the Russia, Island, or France of this snow motioning earth life — November 19

 

for Steve tears salt the good fabric of her poppy scarf there is slow quiet mapped ribbon developments of our black ice future winters everywhere there is the mildness of unanticipated clemencies showing us care this salt remnant of her leaving melting the ground keeps us safe while you are driving for miles the heart pulses distances the mind cannot imagine to cross in a lifetime why am i crying grieving a person i’ve never met she was in a happy place far away salt spring island you her most faithful May Day visitor she is in a happy place far away still what salt crystals thaw the loss passing of one not really gone to me — November 20

 

for Lisa Richter from her i hope to be the poet and the taught whose lectures students recall ones of by the miniature-detailed feedback Phyllis she inscribed over peak ranges lines and punctuation her larger-than-world wisdoms they braced books ago the wiser older poet who opens her doors at the phone line’s flutter though she’s made island the solitary confinement of her unfinished art let’s hope younger generations will see our work unfinished refuse our poetries in the margins of their own world-making energized coalition there is room — November 20

 

for Steve seven days mark then eleven and the loving after eleven most things we love crew are still here with us it’s your birthday beginning of another seven years to forge a safe harbour in her wake to ember the summer revolutions of love and love and love poetry isn’t just in the song of the grieving but right now it sings the song of our most natural grieving Phyllis knows we’ve dreamt of her by the undercommons of the bridge’s every bodies of water that without her we are canoeing our balance on the unstable buoyed up maple logs of a stormy Monday passed but that the shell we brought for her is collecting water rimmed and before us still afloat for as long as we needed to sit and talk about her there is love in the dream Fred Pauline Smaro Diana sending her emails in the dream she’d left us her messages tomorrow hear you and hear Phyllis or was it here she wrote but the shell she kept levitated for us teased playfully to be carried away with wind of water if we didn’t keep her close — November 22

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Isabella Wang stands among sunflowers. She has brown skin, black hair and a white hat

 

 

Isabella Wang is the author of two poetry collections, On Forgetting a Language (Baseline Press, 2019) and Pebble Swing (Nightwood Editions, 2021). She is an Editor at Room magazine.