Leanne Shirtliffe is a writer who teaches literature and creative writing
in Calgary, Alberta (Canada). She spent eight years teaching in Asia,
and is now is working on a poetry collection at the intersection of
farming, feminism, and family. Her latest work appears in Stanchion,
VoidSpace, and One Art.

Twitter: @LShirtliffe
Instagram: @Leanne_Shirtliffe


The red dot is unapologetic, is
an ink spill, a stoplight, a teacher circling
circles, a period come at no-not-now,
a bullseye of blame.

Like a doorbell ringing after midnight,
voices hush to hear someone saying
something: a free cruise, a bill unpaid,
a follow-up with the radiologist,

a "call-me" with news better transported
by post, by horse, by semaphore, by not-at-all.
It's true that the dot disappears. It's true
that the clusters of scars don't. Pinpricks

of time are either lost or taken.
And people, people, too.

Dear Jane Yolen

I write to you not because
you published your 400th book
(but wow), not because
the words from How Do Dinosaurs
Eat Their Food?
have been stuck
in my head for seventeen years
(less wow), not because I too
have written picture books (maybe five?),
but because you begin each day
with a pen and a new poem.

That fact, dear Jane Yolen—that act—
is an audacious invite, an extended
hand that pulls me to dance
on the wobbly table in the smoky bar.
I can't, I think, letting go of your palm.
Someone my age? I don't know
the song, don't have the legs. Hell,
I don't even know if I'll be able to get down.
It's death by contractions.

Numbered Pencil Crayons

A 24-pack of Laurentiens reveals a landscape
that's familiar and foreign: a wintry cabin
on rolling hills so cold the snow is both #7 Peacock

Blue/Bleu Paon and #23 White/Blanche. I unfold
the double-wide, feel smooth possibilities, see
blank space offered for names and memories.

Grandma sits stately and small on the sprawling
chesterfield, #11 Chestnut/Marron, facing my mother,
#14 Soft Peach/Péche Rosée (originally Natural Flesh).

The picture window reveals their summer to-do list:
#3 Poppy Red/Rouge Pavot crabapples to pick, #15 Green/
Vert corn to hill, and canning to start, #9 Deep Green/Vert Foncé.

My cheek rests on her #2 Orange/Orange polyester
slacks, the raised center-seam an equatorial imprint.
Through her soft thighs, her voice is a murmur

of unripe wheat, #16 French Green/Vert de France.
She and Mama talk about Millie's sore knee. About
the price of wheat, a blend of #1 Deep Yellow/Jaune Foncé

and #21 Roan Red/Rouge Rouan (originally Indian Red).
About too may new hymns last Sunday. About Sex
in the Pan, #18 Blush Pink/Rose Beige. About

what will become of David, #17 Smoke Grey/Gris Fer.
These women, this mother and daughter, voice and salve
the wounds of their world, and I, blissfully forgotten save

Grandma's callused fingers smoothing my #20 Arizona
Topaz/Topaze Brulée hair, learn to crave the changing
colours of words and women's talk.

Early in the after times, I discover

my grandmother's recipe book, its painted linen cover hand-folded
like a prayer. In school-perfect penmanship the same brief
instructions repeat—Mix in the usual order!—like I know
what to do for
Silhouette Cake
Ribbon Cake
Dream Cake
tucked in partway: a recipe in black ink on the back
of a grain-elevator slip charting bushels hauled,
another on Armelle and Harold's 8 pm wedding invite,
followed by "Food for Gods" and "Waffles—makes only 5!", both
crossed out with convincing X's
and marginalia: oil stains, chocolate droplets in threes, notes like
Skimp on the vinegar
More butter in matrimony cake
Don't use the grinder
and attributions
McCall's, Ladies Home Journal, Winnipeg Free Press, and
Rikka, Norma, Helma, Edna,
Agnes, Phyllis, Janice, Millie,
and the penultimate page
Brine for curing ham
Dandruff remedy
Cure for hiccups (steep 1 tsp. of chamomile flowers in hot water and sip)
and benedictory parentheses, surrounding this:
Our last polio shot in Feb.

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