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Monday, October 31, 2011



By John Stiles

     “That cat ain’t no bigger than a speck.” The boy said and the ol bub from the mill who found him laughed; the cats’ ears drew flat; the antenae of observation and wariness are keener in cats than in even the most sensitive of men. The big lummox of a man laughed and put the cat down.

     "That’s what we`ll have to call him then,” said the man and the little boy picked him up and claimed him as his own. “Speck. It’s got a good ring to it.”

     ”C’mere Speck.” The little boy said and he put a bowl of milk down on the floor for it. 

     The cat wasn’t stupid and it had a feeling that it was never going to see the two deaf white sisters again (they had grey spots on their heads and someone had called them bird droppings, not a tone of endearment!) He  knew he would never again see the orange one claimed by the man with the bow legs who came into the barn for milk or the black one with the yellow eyes. It was probably floating in a bag in the river; black ones were cursed, doomed even in the cat world; they skulked along ditches, sat under shrubs, were targets for boys with rocks, farmers with mean streaks.

      He was not sentimental to think this way of his siblings or to guess whom his father might have been. The tatty one with the long coat, the big, wolf spider-faced shy one that lived up in the pulp wood and scrapped with the females who picked through the dead chickens outside the chicken barn. He would never wonder if his father was the sleek one that lived in the farmers house down by the orchard, lazy and a little dopy, whom the females seemed to like.

      Never mind this little kitten first named Speck and now Mo’ was a survivor; He knew his place in the world of man and beasts.

Published originally in "Michael Jackson Edition" of  Trespass Magazine in the United Kingdom in 2009.    It is part of a novel in progress.

John Stiles

 John Stiles is originally from the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. He currently lives in London with his wife. He is the author of Scouts are Cancelled and the novel,  Taking the Stairs. 


I was reminded of this poem I wrote in 2010 on adoption.  It may resonate with those who have adopted children or have been adopted themselves.

SUSAN’S  MOTHER                                                           

Sixteen years old
That’s all she was
When pain and sorrow
Came to call

No more than a child herself
Caught up in uncertain times
Nazi Germany gobbling Europe
England threatened, our boys gone.

Moments of passion
Tingled with anxiety, grief
Fear of separation, death
Life changed, a seed was sown.

Long months without a word
Slender body changed
Morning sickness
Shock, anger amongst family.

In shame, she was sent away
To hide from folks around
Until her time would come
She would be with Aunt Jayne.

The day of reckoning came
When the child was born
No friends, relatives gathering
To welcome the little one

Instead, the new Mom left
Bereft of newborn child
Sorrowing heart, aching void
Scarred for life- always wondering


Sunday, October 30, 2011


The Things I Carry

Know that I am a survivor
of sorts.

All I want or need
zippers into four pockets:
the curved spaces of
this canvas knapsack which cleaves
to my back.

Look and you will find
precious little.
These scraps of cloth, falling
loose like skin.
Slapped clean on stone,
they are finest gossamer,
their colours recoiling from
the sky's blind glare.
Holes that were socks,
the lace of underthings,
sandals I flip-flop on
down malarial halls,
where a bald bulb rattles,
loses against the night.

I have my weapons, too.
A blood-red Victorinox,
its stainless blade smeared with goat
cheese, cactus pear. This web of
netting, floating over my bed
now like cloud, whose smallest wounds
I have stitched and stitched again.

Not least,
these blank, blue-lined books.
Tucked between the leaves:
shells, sand, a desert wind, details for
stories I will never set down.

Hidden better still are
the notes I translate into
currencies with meanings I have learned
to appreciate. This moulded passport
bearing stamps, a number,
the black-and-white photograph
of a girl I once knew.

By Karen Shenfeld

Karen Shenfeld

Karen Shenfeld is a poet, journalist, editor, and filmmaker living in Toronto. She has
published three books of poetry with Guernica Editions: The Law of Return (which won
the Canadian Jewish Book Award for poetry in 2001), The Fertile Crescent, and, most
recently, My Father’s Hands Spoke in Yiddish. Her freelance articles have appeared in
major Canadian magazines, including Saturday Night and Toronto Life. Her personal
documentary, Il Giardino, The Gardens of Little Italy, was screened at the 2007 Planet in
Focus International Film and Video Festival. She is currently at work on a fourth book of
poetry and two new documentary films.

Friday, October 21, 2011



Your cat has particular manners, ways
developed for her own purposes. A voice
that leaps from articulate whisper to
bone-scraping howl in less than a second.
Hiding places that will change just as fast
as you can discover them. She has need
for constant warmth; on cold days she cocoons
among blankets, in the sun she stretches
out full length on her back.
                                    And you have wiles
in common with your cat. Your body too
stretches to capture my warmth, slips away
from cool indifference. The place you hide
changes with the moon’s phases. Tentative,
my hand reaches to seek your approval.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


for Norma

When we embrace
our bodies
quickened with passion
with unbearable need
we possess all time
in one pure instant.

When we sit quietly
in the same room
reading       or listening
to Stan Getz
that moment
holds all time.

When we sleep
our bodies lightly touching
as first light
enters our bedroom
on autumn’s wings
we embrace all time.

Time exists
by our love
like the crocus
opening to the sun’s touch
a single breath that abides
as long as love.


Sunday, October 16, 2011


There Once Was a Cat                       

There once was a cat who was big and fat
his belly wobbled from front to back
his paws on her waxed floor made tracks
to show his mistress where he was at.

No hiding place for this naughty cat
who tried to hide beneath the big chair
in hopes to escape a painful whack
this poor old cat who was big and fat.

His mistress had two chins which would wiggle
as she walked her whole being would jiggle
when Mister Cat would stretch, she would giggle
Lift him up, squeeze him hard and snuggle.

Mistress and cat, friends forever
sharing a beautiful life together.


Saturday, October 15, 2011


Occupation Day.
I am not standing
in the eye
of a hurricane
not standing
where the shit goes to
when the city flushes
not standing
in my new shoes
in the wading pool
where an infant drowns
not standing
with my African son
swapping family stories
in different languages
not standing
on the threshold
as the sun lights you like a girl
pools your departing footfalls
not standing
where we shall next meet
a wire cage
lives locked in ether
I am still standing
as a building
as a street
as a helmet
knocked to the ground
October 15, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Night Taxi

taxi-taxi I heard in the night
across the street a man
pointed to stop near

no gift bags or boxes
nor in the Christmas spirit

directions given
I wished a Merry Christmas
he cried in wail and thanked me
he recognized me, but I differed

he referred to years before
in a POW camp
soldiers at a barrack door
in stale stench he cowered
it’s his time for execution
their time for entertainment

one unarmed soldier
Canadians they stated
the war is over for you
return home free

coaxed outside
to see a tearful dance
of those in disbelief

his town bombed flat
Canada was his choice

tonight in kind words
brought back memories
of other Canadian boys

Sunday, October 9, 2011



     My face is orange and white.  I have green eyes.  I’m ready for action.  I walk, as quietly as a tiger, as I advance on the human figure lying on the green sofa. 

     One leap is all it takes.  He stirs and grunts in his sleep. I’m the dominant one. He’s at my mercy lying there. I lean forward, my whiskers softly brush his nostrils.  Hairy hands swat at me as he grunts and tries to turn.

     “Sphinx get off me!” Matthew’s gruff voice growls.I ignore him.  After all, I am the dominant one. I dip my face down again so my whispers touch his nose this time. That really upset him.  That should make him get up and pay some attention to me!

      “Sphinx, come over here.” Her gentle, sweet voice tempts me to come and cuddle with her. For her, I would do almost anything. She’s always kind to me. If I am to describe her to you, here’s how I would do it. Soft, gentle, not very tall, but taller than I am, brown hair tied in a pony tail, and a round face with laughter lines around her mouth.  Her blue eyes light up when she sees Matthew or I come into the room. She loves to read and listen to classical music. 

     My other human, Matthew is tall.  He must be at least six foot and he towers over Laura and I.  I call him the “Gentle Giant”. He’s as round as he is tall, has black hair and brown eyes.  Matthew is funny, when he falls asleep on the sofa, he snores.  What a weird sound that is!

     When it comes to giving attention to me, Laura does this the best.  I don’t have to butt her arm or rub against her leg to get her to notice me.  In fact, sometimes she pats me so much that I fear that I will get a bald spot.

     I like both of my pets very much.  For humans, they are the best!

     Can you believe that some humans think black cats are bad luck? Some even have the audacity to say that black cats ride with witches on brooms. Now I ask you, don’t you think that’s a silly idea?

     I’m one of the lucky cats.  I have a roof over my head, food in my dish and water in my bowl and I never need to scrounge in garbage pails to find my food.

    There is no little human in the picture yet.  I do dread that if that ever happens.  I don’t want to be replaced in their affection!  I hate it when their niece and nephew come to visit. I try and hide, but little hands reach in to my hiding place and yank me out. I arch my back and look as frightening as I can. You’d think they would get the hint and leave me alone.  I’m always glad when they go home.

     Another time, if fact, last week before the “event”, I saw them kissing and snuggling together on the sofa.  I tried to pretend that I was not watching but, of course, I was They left the sitting room  rather hurriedly, almost glued together.  Humans are such strange creatures!

     I hear noises coming from where their bedroom but I choose to ignore it, as I stretch out on my cat bed ready to snooze. One last stretch, and I’m off to dreamland where I am king of the cats, everybody bowing to me. I am served the most delicious morsels as I sit on my throne amongst my adoring subjects.  All females of course! This must be what cat heaven feels like!

     From far away, I hear a crackling sound.  My sixth sense wakes me up. My orange ears perk up.  I look for the source of the noise and I see a glow in the corner beside the sofa.

     It’s getting bigger and bigger and the crackling is getting louder and louder.
 I must awake my pets.  The door is closed.  What shall I do? 

     BANG, BANG, BANG as I plunge against the resisting door.  Again and again, I bang against the door. My meows and the bangs should wake up the dead!  Why won’t they hear me?  I’m getting hot and the glow is getting bigger.” 

     “SPHINX, GO AWAY,” bellowed the gruff voice of Matthew.

     I keep on banging and yowling as I try to alert them to the danger of the growing glow.  Why hadn’t that thing in the ceiling gone off, like it always does when Laura cooks?

     Heavy foots steps meet my ears, as Matthew flings open the door.  I race back and forth, meowing for him to follow me into the sitting room.  He finally gets the point in his half awake state. 

     “LAURA, LAURA, wake up!  Both of us race into the bedroom.  She is just lying there, dead to the world.  She must not have heard my attempt to warn them. I lick her face, usually that wakes her up.  Matthew calls her name and tugs her up to an upright position. 

     “Please let me sleep”, Laura mutters in a slurred voice. Her chubby arm flings itself around my neck.  Now I’m a prisoner.  I need to wriggle out of there pronto!

     “Wack,” the sound of it echoes in the bedroom, as Matthew tries to rouse his wife from the effects of the sleeping pill.

     Her feet drag on the ceramic foyer floor . He half drags her out into the carpeted hallway and pulls the fire alarm. 

     I was not quick enough to beat the automatic closure of the heavy door.   Smoke and flames leap at me as I yowl for help. This is the last I remember before the smoke got  me.  Will I be remembered as a hero?