It's getting chilly. Here's a little something to warm you up.

It was as dark as a movie theatre. She had forgotten bars, except for the pub up the street from their house, where they sometimes took the kids for french fries and burgers. This was not that kind of a place. You would never bring a kid in here.

The Silk Route, it was called. Deep plush divans were tucked into the corners. I’ll get used to the dark, Eliza thought, trying to keep her breathing steady. My eyes will adjust.

She twisted between the jumble of crowded tables, chairs draped with women’s coats and bags, thirty or forty faces floating in the air, animated, talking above glowing candle holders. the light flickering across those faces, men and women who looked soft, anonymously young. A jazzy, drunken buzz animated the air; the music was Arabic pop.

What if Shar didn’t come? And what were all these young people doing out on a Sunday night in early February? Didn’t they have to work in the morning?  She shrugged off her coat and stood up, swaying in the too-loud music. Aisha Aisha, ecoutez moi, Aisha Aisha t’en vas pas. She went toward the bar, feeling disoriented in this old world of young people. The red-haired bartender approached her with a grin on his fox-like face; tattoos encircled both his arms. Eliza thought he might be, at the outside, twenty-three. Twenty-five? She couldn’t tell their ages anymore, except younger than me. She ordered the most expensive wine they had on their chalkboard wine list, a shiraz, then turned to survey the avid faces again. Half of them were busy on their phones. Did they know they were there, at the crest of the hill? Their twenty-five or twenty-nine or thirty-two years would click over soon into thirty-five, forty. The dazzling rush down the other side of life would begin. They couldn’t see it coming. The joy and the fear was in not knowing how everything would change, and change again.

She steadied herself against the bar and lifted her glass. Put her lips to the edge. But did not drink. Someone had come up behind her. He was too close. He felt as tall as Andrew. Her husband. She half-turned, slowly, the wine glass still in her hand.

But it was Shar there, behind her. “Bonjour, ma belle amie,” she said. “Madame Fleur, comment ça va?”

Eliza turned around. Shar didn’t step away; they stood face to face. Eliza kissed her on the cheek, a hello peck to the Bonjour. When she drew back to kiss her on the other side, Shar moved forward and caught Eliza on the lips. The women kissed, to the surprise and delight of the bartender and a few people who happened to be ordering drinks. Four full lips. What else could they do, but invite tongues to join in? At such close quarters, what could the bartender and the customers do but watch? Then glance politely away. When the customers moved off, the bartender continued to stare with frank appreciation.

Eliza drew her head back and answered with a decent accent, “Ca va très bien. Et toi?”

“Waa-ooow,” Shar said, en français, which turned the retro wow into a word of sensual pleasure. She took a big theatrical step backward to look Eliza up and down—her black knit dress, her thigh-high boots, surreptitiously put on in the car—and said, “Yeah, I see you are well. Nice boots.” Then, taking a step closer, whispered, “And I think you must be very horny.”

Eliza fell up into the large, deep-lidded eyes. Actually, she had been wet since she left her house. No, it had started when she replied to Shar’s text. Ridiculous. It was like really bad erotica, the old Penthouse Forum: Eliza’s pussy was dripping wet. She put her hand on her forehead. Did she have a fever?

At home, this would be just another quiet Sunday night.

They went to sit down on the divan, facing each other. Suddenly it no longer seemed dark; Shar’s wrist and inner arm glowed pearlescent. The long hand spread open, with its knobby opposable thumb, always separate from the other fingers. Working with flowers, cutters, and glass made Eliza conscious of the extraordinary machines she used every day, two hands, ten fingers, hundreds of interlinked bones, woven tendons, the skein of fascia overcoating and connecting all, that net of skin inside the skin. Her hands were work-hard, her skin calloused.

Every hand should come with a label and a manual. Miraculous hand, treacherous hand. Press here. Go on, do it. You know you want to.

Go ahead. Blow up your life.

Who is thinking this? Both of them. Eliza touches the tip of her middle finger to the centre of Shar’s palm.. Shar’s long strong fingers close over Eliza’s. One palm presses greedily against the other palm, pushes, insists the hand is the body in miniature. Their hands writhe naked on the sofa, over and under, as their bodies hover above their hands, and their minds flicker through and around their bodies. At different moments the thought floats from one mind into the other until they are both thinking, like a Greek chorus:  I will have to lie about this.

Press here. You know you want to.


Karen ConnellyComment
Bring David Connelly Home!!!!

May 20th. Saturday in Toronto. Sunday dead of night in Phuket, Thailand.

As some of you may know, my family have been involved in a tragedy . . . I am in the midst of negotiating, fundraising, phoning, crying, praying, meditating, and trying not to buy a pack ofcigarettes. David, my beautiful brother, went to Thailand a couple of months ago to reconcile with our dad and to restart his life. He was clean, he was healthy, he was ready to be reborn. And the reconciliation with our dad was amazing, and beautiful, and made everyone in the family far and near feel much happier and at peace with the old fella. We all got into a familial and forgiving mood; there were Skype calls, there was video chat, there was that big Connelly grin from the southern tip of Thailand--TWO big Connelly grins, as a matter of fact--and it was a blessed thing to witness. Within a week my father and my youngest brother were like adult children together, all the love of David's early years once again rekindled and shining out of the photos he posted nonstop on his Facebook page.

However. The gods wanted to make SURE he would begin his life anew so they decided to try to kill him first.  No rebirth without death, apparently, though normally the gods do not take things quite so literally. In an accident(during which the witnesses disappeared, the truck driver on the wrong side of the road was totally innocent and the Thai police, handling things with their usual professionalism, did not bother taking a statement from the first witness upon the scene) David's body was more or less shattered: fractured hips, pelvis, vertebrae, ribs; punctured lungs; dislocated shoulder. Followed by failing kidneys, shock, pneumonia, etc . . .

All terrifying compounded by the fact that David has A rh Negative blood: a very rare blood type in North America, but almost unheard of in Thailand. So our first couple of weeks involved an absolutely desperate hunt for blood donors just to keep him alive.

You can read all the gory details here:

Yet our gorgeous brother is still alive!!!!!!!! Can you believe it? Totally impossible, but there you go. This morning he was worried about taking a shower and getting his phone back! He cannot SPEAK--he's got a ventilator in his throat--but he is writing a lot of notes to my intrepid sister Mara.

That makes me laugh out loud.

If you can donate to our campaign to bring him home, please do. Any amount of money will be gratefully received. Any love, prayers, meditations on healing sent his way are also gratefully received.

May all beings be free from suffering!


You might change your life. Or someone else's ...

Dear friends,

Isn’t it wonderful to wake up in a cozy bed in a warm house on a winter morning, wishing only for snow? With a fresh baguette in the kitchen and a new jar of Bonne Maman jam on the counter. And honey! And butter!

That’s what I was thinking this morning as I listened to my child grumpily recite his times tables. Despite the fact that he swears like a sailor about 7x8, we are so lucky. The child healthy, the jam on his cheek, the smell of coffee wafting up from downstairs. Plus, it’s MONDAY.

I have always loved today because ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN THIS WEEK. Contrary to popular conception, Monday is the best day: we begin our lives all over again. I might get so much done. I might finish my book. I might do a back walkover. Like Rilke says in that great poem The Archaic Torso of Apollo, I might change my life! (He actually says “You must change your life” but it’s a poem. And he was another bossy romantic.)

Why is it so easy for me to be hopeful and almost impossible for so many others? I’ve been thinking about that question ever since I could articulate it. . . It’s a long conversation, especially when you’re waiting at the water tap in a refugee camp . . .

Palmerston Welcomes Refugees, a local neighbourhood group in north Annex/Seaton Village, Toronto, Canada, have  mobilized to find HOUSING, HOUSEWARES, FURNITURE, WINTER CLOTHES (basically, the beginnings of a livable life) for a second large Syrian refugee family, 5-8 people.

They are arriving soon and they need your help.

PWR are fundraising our second round of $46,400---we already have $10,000 of that so far. (The total needed for the two families is $92,800)

Sponsorship is so much work: the money is not the hardest part, but it’s extremely important.

(Anyone interested in renting out a 3 bedroom apartment for $1700/month? bedbug free? Let's talk!)



The link below will take you to the charity that is generously handling our charity paperwork for us. Our efforts are non-denominational. The donation button is at the bottom of this page:

T h a n k   y o u. Please share this widely—with friends, STUDENTS, family members, colleagues, and unsuspecting acquaintances . . . and even if it’s Tuesday or Wednesday.


Karen ConnellyComment
White Beggar Woman, or, Where I fail is where I begin

I started writing this update in April, tried again in May, and now find myself in August, once again, a failed blogger. But also a poet who read poetry in Tallinn, Estonia—Head Read, the best literary festival EVER—and a novelist who has finished the rewrites of her novel (her sex and house-cleaning novel, pub-date to be announced, called The Change Room), also a mother who has taken her kid cycling over 24 km of trestle bridges on the Kettle Valley Railway, and a happy teacher who talked, played, and laughed a lot in Wells, northern B.C., where I taught a memoir workshop in early July. Island Mountain Arts is an inspiring place to learn, eat, breathe, and make art. I actually finished my novel there, while my students were busy writing away in the afternoons. I hope to teach there again next summer; will keep you posted.

But I get ahead of myself. As usual. That’s what happens when you are a failed blogger, blogging once every six months instead once every week or two.

For those of you who followed the last time I was intensely and relentlessly online, I wanted to return to the theme of my furious postings here and on Facebook, and say a few words about the Cindy Gladue protest and vigil. That takes us back to April 2nd, when people across the country, led by long-time Indigenous activists and their allies, protested the non-verdict and abhorrent acquittal of the man responsible for Cindy Gladue’s death, the man who murdered her. The protests provided space for an unequivocal national moment of strong, clear attention, a resounding "No!" to the injustice so long inflicted on Indigenous women in Canada. It was especially powerful because it came with strong critiques from First Nations women about how the so-called justice system itself fails Indigenous people. The vigils included words from Cindy’s family and a sincere, loving appreciation for her life.

After the protest in Toronto, I lingered as long as possible, chatting with one of the drummers and watching the lone dancer dance. And dance. And dance. Tattooing the concrete with her presence. Taking up space. She just kept going, even after the drummers were done. Her dance became its own protest, there on the downtown concrete. I write about the protests, the ongoing war, and that dance here

I am not a full-time political activist: I am a writer who writes from a political, engaged state. Being a good writer requires solitude and separation from the heat of political activism. That’s something I learned in Burma and on the Thai-Burma border, among lifelong activists, revolutionaries, and dissidents. (And I write about that struggle and my own in Burmese Lessons, a love story) Part of me has always disliked the enforced quiet of the artist’s life; it means that I cannot always be yelling my head off at the injustices I see in my own country and in other parts of the world.

Besides, yelling my head off all the time leaves me headless. Or all mouth, which is not useful. Certainly when it comes to our relationships with Indigenous people, white people/settlers need to be quiet. We need to listen, to hear, to hang back, to make space. Moving respectfully is a learning experience. Trying to make space, to give voice, I asked an Indigenous activist if I could quote her online work for the Hazlitt piece I link to above.

My request made her angry; she lobbed accusations of plagiarism and untrustworthiness at me in emails, in public social media, and privately to her colleagues. She said that white women would not have cared at all about Cindy Gladue if she, the activist, had not written about the case. But I did not learn about Cindy’s tragic death from her writing; I learned about it from a friend, and a newspaper report. It was the sick violence done to Cindy Gladue herself that ‘made me care.’

To care (and to act out of care) is no feat, and should not be. When they were made aware of the details of the case, thousands of people across Canada showed care, expressed outrage, came to protests, wrote letters, wrote editorials and articles. Though the Solicitor General of Alberta wrote me a letter saying that public protest cannot influence the legal position of the Crown, on the very day of the national protest, the Crown Prosecutor's office announced that it would seek to retry Bradley Barton, the man who murdered Cindy Gladue.

Those weeks later, when faced with my critic's accusations, I explained politely in a follow-up email that I am not a plagiarist, and that because I have family members who’ve worked in or been closely involved with those in the street sex trade, I’ve often written about the vulnerabilities of sex workers. I've also published and spoken publicly, often, about the need for all Canadians to face the legacy of violence against Indigenous women, children, and men. Trying to make peace did not work. The activist called me a “white beggar woman” trying to steal Indigenous labour—and many other nasty things on social media. “Know your boundaries! Know your privilege!” she wrote, implying that knowing one’s boundaries and privilege means accepting wrongful accusation, name-calling, and general rudeness as a mode of communication. Some of her colleagues, and mine, without knowing anything about the substance of our exchange agree/d with her, and also castigated me online. I had some emails from strangers, charging me with racism cloaked as white-saviourism. I approached one of her colleagues for advice about how to deal with what had happened; she, too, told me I had a problem with boundaries, and refused any communication.

Hmm. In a way, she is right. I DO have a problem with boundaries. That problem has often led me to live outside of them, around them, against them, and almost entirely without them. Not morally or legally, but in the sense that I reject the Western notion that we, as humans, are hopelessly disconnected, boundaried into separation from each other, from the Other, from the natural world, from Holiness, or God, or the Goddess. I do not believe in the boundaries that are constantly being thrust down our throats even as citizens in a sort-of democracy in the free world. That we are separate and lost to each other, to this earth, is the Great Hoax, the cause of every kind of war and many sorts of pettiness, too. Granted, sometimes we cannot understand each other. So what? Not understanding and not knowing my boundaries has led me to learn, to love and to experience being wildly alive in this world, across many borders—linguistic, cultural, sexual, religious, political.

Months later, after that unhappy, painful exchange, where am I? Do I know my boundaries? And my privilege? Though the activist’s words were delivered in anger, I also took her accusations seriously, because white people are notoriously stupid about what it means to be non-white. We do forget our privilege; I’ve spent much of my life trying not to be forgetful. Damn, I thought, after all this political and personal work, trying to be human, am I really a white beggar woman? Just stealing, no, begging from those I wish to honour? Am I going backwards?

White beggar woman. Hmm. These are incredibly loaded words, brilliantly subverted. Such a complex, rich insult. Insult? Begging. Panhandling. White beggar woman. It makes me think of all the beggars and panhandlers I know and have known. (Agatha! Jerry!) Some are dead now; some have moved on to warmer climes. Ron is still here, the old (white) junkie for whom I regularly buy cheesies and chocolate milk and yogurt. (White food, too!) It makes me think of the old Jewish injunction that beggars give us a sacred opportunity to be generous. In ancient Greece, too, the beggar was often a holy person or a hero, disguised. Odysseus himself pretends to be a beggar when he finally goes home to Ithaca. But that’s not the point. The point is, the gods reward those who are kind to beggars.

Who am I, as I turn my own face to history? There are beggars, too, in Come Cold River.

Search for answer, I turned to that book, my own personal history book, Come, Cold River, a collection of poetry I worked on for a decade.

It took me a long time to find a publisher for the collection. Poetry that engages social justice themes is seen in Canada as out-of-date; if you can understand the words, if you are down-to-earth, if you don’t reference Foucault or a chainsaw, you must be writing confessional women's pap. Editors repeatedly told me that "They don’t publish this stuff." I most enjoyed: "Hasn't this all been said before?" Poems that sing and sometimes howl the truth about violence against women and children; plain words about street sex workers, and the heinous violence we allow them to face on our streets, with our men; poems about the women of Vancouver’s downtown east side, the lost, beloved ones. Poems about my own turbulent, addicted, angry family. (It’s a good family, by the way. Good-humoured people, still crashing along, making jokes, making a goddamn mess. I have gotten over any longed-for fairtytale ending: it will never be all better. Look at this world. I love my family. It's a book of love poems, really.)

Come Cold River is also an imperfect book. Its imperfections are possibly the most useful thing about it. The way it tries. The flaws teach us the most; they teach us what we need to learn. Where I fail is where I begin. So I thank my angry critic, who did not want me to quote her words. She lent me something better; her outrage, her disgust. A Metis friend, a lawyer who has worked on land claims cases across Canada and is a living encyclopedia of legal history and wisdom, told me that if you still stick your head up in this particular storm, you must get struck by lightning. This storm is fueled by pain, rage, injustice beyond comprehension---as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and their reports show us.

(The TRC is a group of Indigenous people telling the truth about the violence and genocidal intent of Canada’s residential school system, and by extension, of the Canadian government. Both the commission and the extraordinary reports it produced—which are available online above—are funded by Indigenous people themselves, not by the Government of Canada.)  

A Buddhist teaching counsels that we must thank those who condemn us publicly, bow to them as to important sages. However I failed, whatever raw nerve I touched that is storm-linked to the wounded heart of one woman, of her people, of many peoples, of theirs lands, of the true, still-being-written histories—that is where I begin, at that tender, pulsing, fiercely alive place. I move from there, more humbly, more gently, astonished, sometimes, by who we are. And stumbling. I am grateful to my teachers, however they arrive.

Karen Connelly Comments
April 1st update: Voices for Cindy Gladue: Protests and Vigils on April 2

People across Canada and beyond Canada have responded to the social media and letter-writing campaign demanding justice for Cindy Gladue. Indigenous, Metis, sex-worker advocacy groups, women's groups, social justice organizations and ordinary citizens are joining protests on the ground in cities across Canada, coast to coast. This is the first time that people across the country will come together to protest the particular and the systemic mistreatment of and racism against Indigenous people. We will gather to honour and remember Cindy Gladue in the full awareness that Cindy is not the only victim. There have been powerful editorials in the Globe, Winnipeg Free Press, at @KweToday, on, on activists' and writers' blogs nationwide. Scroll down to my earlier post to access the addresses for the Crown Prosecutor's office and the Solicitor General's office in Alberta: write to them, still, demanding a retrial. Write to your local newspapers and send emails to your local and national CBC and other media stations, asking them to cover this case and all it means.

Come to a protest if you can, or send others in your stead. Protests alone are not enough to change things. But your voice, her voice, his voice, our voices help to lift and shift the silence and apathy around violence and racism against Indigenous peoples--especially against women and sex-workers.

Sex-workers deserve better from all of us. Too many people believe that sex-workers get killed because they are working in a dangerous profession. Cab drivers and police-people also work in dangerous professions: when they are murdered, we don't say they deserved it, and should have been secretaries instead. It is time, after several thousand years, to stop whore- blaming. It is time to educate ourselves about the women and men who sell sex and a few hours of their time in exchange for money. That is the equation--s/he does the agreed-upon sex act, spends the time and gets the money. The equation does not equal rape, nor murder, nor torture, nor degradation. Sex workers do NOT sell their bodies. Their bodies belong to them always. Why do sex workers get hurt and killed? Because criminals, usually men, hurt and kill them. Bill C-36, a legal bill meant to 'protect' people in the sex trade only attempts to control women (and men and trans people) and to deprive them of the ability to organize and protect themselves and each other.

But back to PEOPLE making some refreshing and much needed angry noise. Protests and prayers, too, will be, are being said, publicly and privately for Cindy, for her family, for all the missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

Heartfelt gratitude to everyone putting time and energy into the protests, particularly to those who will continue to care and to work for the well-being of Indigenous and Metis people even after the protests are over. Who is that? It could be all of us.

Check Facebook invitation pages for new protests close to you . . .

VICTORIA makes this a coast-to-coast day of solidarity with Indigenous people in Canada.

Victoria, Thursday, April 2 at noon:

Vancouver Thursday April 2 at 10:30

In Edmonton on  Thursday April 2, at noon :

in Calgary, on Thursday April 2, at noon

in Lethbridge, on Thursday April 2 at noon

in St. Paul, Alberta on Thursday April 2 at noon

in Lac LaBiche on Thursday April 2 from 1-2

in Regina,on Thursday April 2 at 12 noon

in Saskatoon on Thursday April 2 at 12 noon   

in Kenora, ON, on Thursday April 2 at 12 noon

in Ottawa, on Thursday April 2 at 6 pm

in Toronto, on Thursday April 2 at 12 noon at 720 BAY STREET

in Peterborough on Thursday April 2 at 4 pm  

in Sudbury on Thursday April 2 at 12 noon 

check Facebook for a new Sarnia location

in St. John's, Newfoundland on Thursday April 2 at 12 noon

in Iqaluit, Nunavut!!!! on Thursday April 2 at 12 noon



Cindy Gladue was murdered four years ago in Edmonton, Alberta.

No, she was "accidentally" yet brutally violated by Bradley Barton. Just an accident, a mistake, that caused her to bleed to death. I am sorry for restating these details; they are upsetting.  She was so violently penetrated with something--his hand? or a knife, as the Crown Prosecutor maintained?--that an 11 centimetre tear opened inside her. Bradley Barton didn't know he did this. Right. Without knowing he had hurt her, he fell asleep after she went to the bathroom. The next morning, he left his hotel room with a bag, returned without the bag, and decided he should call 911. Initially he maintained that he didn't even know Cindy; that she was a stranger. Then he admitted that they had had sex--because there was security camera footage of them together two nights in a row--then he maintained that it was all just a sad mistake and the mostly male, no-people-of-colour-no-Indigenous-people AGREED WITH HIM. Bradley Barton, like so many other men who hurt, torture and kill Indigenous women, is free. Cindy Gladue died a horrifically violent death and her family--she was both a mother and a daughter--will suffer this appalling injustice for the rest of their lives.

This gross miscarriage of justice has had almost no comment at all in the Canadian Press. Three days after the verdict, neither the Globe and Mail nor the National Post carried a single mention of it, and no print editorial was published about the racist overtones throughout the trial, during which Cindy's preserved, wounded vagina was used as evidence to show the severity of her trauma. So, here you go Canada, the vagina was on trial. An Indigenous sex-worker's vagina was on trial. Not the white man who violated it. The Indigenous body was judged guilty, obviously, sentenced to more abuse, more degradation, more injustice.

This verdict is an abomination. It sickens me. It proves, again, that our country is soaked in the blood and tears of Indigenous men, women, and children. Colonial genocide continues--in our courts, in our 'law' enforcement structures, in our streets, in our history, in the millions of dead buffalo, in the photographs of the starving People of the Plains, in the poisoned waters and air and land that we stole from The Peoples who have always lived here. We need to recognize that fact: this is a war. Another acquittal (as Robert Pickton's earlier attempted murder charges were also 'stayed' so he could continue killing women, most of them Indigenous) simply proves what is already clear. This is a war. I stand in solidarity with my Indigenous brothers and sisters. @CindyGladue  @JusticeforCindyGladue. #MMIW

HERE IS A CHANCE, FRIENDS, FOR YOUR WORDS TO COUNT. Share this widely. I challenge people to care enough about this to WRITE IT DOWN and SEND IT IN THE MAIL if at all possible.

The Crown Prosecutor Carole Godfrey has only 26 days left to initiate an appeal for a retrial. If I've understood process correctly, the appeal will have to be approved by the Honourable Justice Minister and Solicitor General Jonathan Denis. Please write to them both. Jonathan Denis is also an MLA in Calgary.  Call and ESPECIALLY WRITE ON PAPER AND SEND EXPRESS to the Crown Prosecutor Carole Godfrey to respectfully request that she initiate an appeal to retry Bradley Barton for the original charges of second-degree murder.

The grounds for appeal: the gross miscarriage of justice; bias on a jury with few women and no people of colour. Express your moral outrage that Bradley Barton is free while Cindy Gladue was left, by him, to bleed to death.

Crown Prosecutor Carole Godfrey

6th Floor, J.E. Brownlee Building 10365 – 97th Street Edmonton, AB T5J 3W7

Telephone: 780-422-1111 (her personal ph. is 780 427 6105 but the mailbox is full)

Fax: 780-422-9756 E-mail: and try: 

Call AND WRITE ON PAPER AND SEND EXPRESS to the Alberta Justice Minister and Solicitor General Jonathan Denis expressing your moral outrage, grave concern for public safety and the miscarriage of justice for Cindy Gladue, her family, and for us, her fellow citizens, in the verdict of not guilty for Bradley Barton, the man who clearly is responsible for her death.

Honourable Jonathan Denis QC MLA Minister of Justice and Solicitor General

3rd floor, Bowker Building,

9833 - 109 Street. Edmonton, Alberta

T5K 2E8,

Phone: 780-427-2339 Fax: 780-422-6621 

the "Justice Minister" is on Twitter: @MinisterJono  Tweet him every day as many times as you can. Let's get this gross miscarriage of justice in the news.  Emails are something but this is small chance to make your written, printed word count. Letters written on paper are still more meaningful than emails. Email AND send letters. And talk about what this means. Write a letter to the editor of the Edmonton Journal, the Calgary Herald, The Globe and the Post. Enough. Enough. This is 2015. What country do we live in? The violence of colonization must end. Stop killing Indigenous girls and women and letting their murderers walk.

In the Okanagan . . .

I'll be doing a reading at Pulp Fiction, in Kelowna, BC.

Friday, Feb. 20 at 7 pm
1598 Pandosy Street 


Outside the house,

the stream cannot stop talking, rushes through

endless words, trees, rocks.

The doe leaps startled

from her bed

but does not bound away.

She halts you

with black eyes

two arrowheads that split

the narrow target

of your mind


Karen ConnellyComment
If you really care about violence against women

talk about it, write about it, sing about it -- especially when no one else is doing so

donate generously to a women's shelter, money or clothes or time

try not to hit or scream at your own kids

commit to mentoring a woman or man, a girl or boy at risk (of whatever: risk of poverty, risk of violence, risk of a crappy school, risk of stressed out home-life, risk of mental illness, alienation, etc. there are people like that in every neighbourhood in Canada--or just four streets over)

volunteer in a community centre, esp in a lower-income neighbourhood

be a Big Brother or a Big Sister

foster a child from the Children's Aid Society

adopt a child from the Children's Aid Society


All the coverage on Jian Ghomeshi is tiring. I also find it hypocritical. Here we have a famous person; let us focus our rage on him; he can be our poison container. Citizens, did you just figure it out? Was last week the first time you imagined a man punching a woman in the head? We live with this kind of violence against women every single day; we just turn our eyes away because that is the easiest thing to do. (Witness all those who 'knew' about Jian and did nothing. Well. There are many who know and we still do nothing. We.) If people really care about violence against women, they can act instead of ranting and raging on Facebook. I also feel tired of the many people who denigrate and verbally abuse Ghomeshi. At one time, he was probably an abused child; these behaviours do not come out of nowhere. That is not an excuse; that is a fact. Violence is TRANSGENERATIONAL.

December 6 will be here soon. Let's meet at a vigil.


Review from Prism Magazine

“Come Cold River” by Karen Connelly

Posted on November 3, 2-

by Esther Griffin

When Come Cold River opens with the image of a poem as “another goddamn pervert/whetting his steel blade/against granite,”  I know this collection is going to slice open truths and expose painful landscapes. While many of the themes are dark, chilling even, Come Cold River is beautiful in its raw honesty.

Come Cold River takes its readers on a journey through old haunts, in and out of shadows. These poems show us dark alleys, barren roads, and broken homes, where women are diminished, grown skeletal, even reduced to a knuckle bone underfoot. I’ll admit, in her first section, Home for Good, some poems are so unsettling that Connelly had to tug me along by the hand. But her skillful revealing of these landscapes drew me in, and soon I longed to run my fingers through the cold river water with her.

In her poignant poem, “Enough,” Connelly unburies the women murdered by Pickton, not as skeletal remains, but as 68 fleshy women: mothers and daughters. She lifts them to the light of the page and honours their names. The poem captures the horror of the delayed investigation/slow news reveal in juxtaposition to the women’s first and last names. We feel the injustice of “how quickly/a woman disappears/under wet hooves/under police reports/lost/misfiled/and ignored.” (55) After finishing this poem, my thoughts echoed back to the final line of the poem “Home for Good:”

Oh Canada, what do you really mean?
How can I sing you
without lying?

This question resonates through the entire collection.

The poem that stayed with me the longest was from Awake, the second, quieter and more sensual section of the book. The poem, “Children,” is a conversation between a woman and her not-yet-born children who are arguing to be born:

Nothing deters these ones:
not this great slaughterhouse
Earth, not the bad genetics,
not even sullen poverty.

These innocent souls still “regard the newspaper without fear” (71) and don’t understand the truth about the world they want to be born into. After everything Connelly has shown us in Come Cold River, we empathize with the woman when she insists that these children are better off with the starlight as sustenance.

In the final section of the book, The Last Shelter, the poems delve further into memory. Even when an old home has been demolished, and Connelly raises the question, “What is the use of a people’s history?” (96) the Bow River remains constant. As a strong symbol for family history, mythology, and loss, Connelly also shows the river as a catalyst for forgiveness.

On Connelly’s acknowledgements page, she wrote that when her book was initially rejected for publishing, someone commented, “Haven’t we all heard these stories before? What new emotion or perspective can we find here regarding the murder and abuse of these women and children?” Connelly responded that she will never stop thinking about these critical questions. And when you read her book, neither will you.

Connelly offers her readers nothing but new emotions and perspectives. We witness abuse from a conflicted child’s perspective, hear a woman’s howl as closed wounds are re-opened and cleaned, and feel the vibration of an abuser’s footsteps on the front steps as he returns home. After reading “Enough,” we hold all the women’s names in our arms. Some of these perspectives are hard to hold, to bear witness to, but they should never be left buried without a voice.

Esther Griffin teaches English Literature and Creative Writing at Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario. Her poetry and fiction have been published in various anthologies, and she is currently pursuing her Optional Residency MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.


Karen ConnellyComment