Carol Shillibeer

from the margins

we may have matching scars
     but we have very different memories 

you asked me : why do I shiver on such a hot day 
     it's the unseen pictographs below water
     in the river up ahead—old drowned campsites 
     filled with human lethe-glyphs

on this 21st century water a woman walked 
     carrying her troubles – she died near here 
     240 years ago – and there was another, 
     born here not long after
     a bird all of straight feathers 
     now grounded and mud
     a fossil that may one day be

& this_graffiti_left raw_cuts to exposed basalt
     her adornment, 18th century 
     Native American tattoos 
     _the earth is my body

my aunties caution: do not tell men of history, 
     do not point your wants at little girls, 
     instead adhere to material reality

speak_learn well_the material rosary: 
     asters, bindweed, daisies, 
     dandelions, ragwort, 
     wild rose, columbine

my aunties caution: kneel (if you're glad)
     to the plant not the sky, saying
     in the old sweat lodge the willow rots
     but the stones just wedge deeper

basalt hides in time : time is felt 
     at the limits of what the body can sense 
     & the mind cannot afford to process

the only dualities that matter : 
          an animal tracks; a plant patterns
     the shrew dreams 
          of seeds; and dark safe places

even so where the puppy's skull is buried 
     there are no pale orchids blooming

& (forewarn) the ice dam still breathes 
     along the margins of its widening crack: 
          signs are loose under the water


After a wildly productive life as an alchemist, Carol Shillibeer retired to read tarot, stalk Hierocholoë odorata in the lands west of the Pacific cordillera, and consider the implications of post-human materialism. Marginally more information (including her publication list) can be found at