the poetry that matters

Alice Burdick

Alice Burdick lives and writes poetry in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia with her husband and daughter. Alice moved to Halifax in 2002 from Toronto, Ontario, where she was born and raised. She has also lived in Espanola, Vancouver, and on the Sechelt Peninsula in BC.


Burdick has been involved with the small press community in Canada since the early 1990’s, when she was co-editor, with Victor Coleman, of The Eternal Network. This very small ongoing imprint produced chapbooks, including several of her own works, such as Signs Like This, Fun Venue, and Voice of Interpreter. Her work has been published by other small presses in Canada, including: Proper Tales Press (a Time, My Lump in the Bed: Love Poems for George W. Bush); Letters Press (Covered); and BookThug (The Human About Us). It also has appeared in various magazines, such as Dig, What!magazine, subTerrain, fhole, This Magazine, and Who Torched Rancho Diablo?. From 1992-1995, Alice was assistant coordinator of the Toronto Small Press Fair. She has also done numerous readings over the years in many different venues, including the Ottawa International Writers Festival, The Scream in High Park in Toronto, and the Halifax Word on the Street.


Her most recent publication is Flutter (Mansfield Press, 2008). Her previous full-length collection, Simple Master, was published in 2002 by Pedlar Press.

Alice’s poems have appeared in Shift & Switch: New Canadian Poetry from The Mercury Press, Fall 2005. They’ve also turned up in Surreal Estate: 13 Canadian Poets Under the Influence, an anthology of surrealist Canadian poetry published by The Mercury Press, Fall 2004, and in Pissing Ice: An Anthology of ‘New’ Canadian Poets, published by BookThug, 2004.

Box of sand (from Flutter)


I draw your attention

to the drop in obedience,

you stinky follower of friendly treasures.


Why not drop

the glistening portrait

of insects and flowers?

Still life in a way, being life

that is still here, somehow.


How do you see this empire?

Nice teeth; the farmers walk

over the sidewalks, go crazy

with exercise. A fundamental trucker

stops in to have moisture.


You’ll find your grass melted back

into the bottles and tins of old-fashioned

insecticide. The way of all wire cloth.

Shake it, go ahead and move

the box of sand.


Don’t feel bad,

it’s just the road and its folks.

You know when you need to change needles,

and it’s so close, so deep into a project known

as forced hands. Every day it’s almost all right.


Wood covers the passageway of dust,

and that holds the molecules pretty.

As you surely can guess, it’s a mystery,

this corny tragedy. Eyes are not only

partly inside, they are partly outside and so

let things pass, or greed or crass

dimensions of tea and speedy neglect.


So amazing how quick it comes down.

The deaf hear selectively

but don’t exactly choose.

You never know what’ll make it.

You treasures make the boy’s hair go backwards.

Awkward as it sounds,

it’s the truth.




Highway Pentecostal Assembly (from Flutter)


Sure we like cotton.

It breathes like a mammal. No open,

we close back in five. Play something

that greets the chime: battle of the welcomes.


Slowpoke designation — that’s where

you should stop. Standing out of fences.

Remember how she couldn’t hear?


Serious unlike the popular,

humorous unlike the popular,

no gravity to worry about.


Tragic dawdling. The fear of muscles

dancing to no feet. Dangerous

cretins make long shirts that shadow

fresh bellies. Squash the cigarette

into the historical gutter.




Who wants to lose a tooth every day? (from Flutter)


Truculent seahorse,

you got caught.

Always waved in the wood box.

Held in place by sand and its glare,

its effect. A moving thing shakes the floor. Boy,

it’s an interview with dead flowers.


Daisies they be,

and so the water

is the impeccable killer.


She’s some forced songstress.

She helped me not know which path

is fake. I fell and the bike fell.

A track opened, the past fell

and streamed into the furrow.


Slip a dream and wake the old days,

a comfort for handsome slow dots.

If you say so;

if you say so.


Being old time ain’t natural.

Who will come to grab the bucket?

We’ll not laugh again

at the world’s slipped history.




Saint of the spot (from Flutter)


The sky is shaking up the water;

or water shakes the sky.


The pond shoots fish

up onto its banks, sick

of the man-made hole.

We were dropped here

like the carbon in your future.

Simply we grow large and eat the others,

in good time. Like you hold us

and scale our spirit, as it’s a carriage

for our meat. The shore is not so far.


I breathe like you

with your rake and tools.

I’m never home, you creature

who needs to know.




We are the residents (from Flutter)


Conquer the crevice; the road

coils up and strikes the residents.

We live here and have nothing to say.

Our houses sit sly, and creep

us out when we sleep.


Burgundy thighs roll. Now’s much later

than before. We take a class

to embrace the inner businessman.

The spiritual side of torture.


We own our fortune,

it is so little.

We shadow our creature doubt,

feed it a love that grows stout,

and we go lean.


Sewing machine hides in the guise of table.

All our heads roll to one side,

and we hear this:

Do not read silence for silence.




How pleasant it is (from Flutter)


The church was built in one day.

But not the bodies.


The cemetery is on full-tilt alert.

It may accept us

as it’s not yet full.


Two crows eat a constant pull

to and from the melting ground.

People are speed-walking

so as not to see, but learn breath, or try.


Lean mean unconscious machines.




AA Shitting Poems (from Simple Master)


A big storm moving over, going by with a restaurant statement

struck out, shitting poems.  Sitting here, I can feel the weather

and hear the cat eat food from a dish.


Move me through its tunnel.

I’m “on the mark,” spattered with grease,

dough out of my nose.  So many people have words

and then use them, like that’s what they’re for.


Excuse me, but I don’t believe in watermarks

or stopgaps or infections that take an ear, a heart,

a whole body away.  Forest me for the trees.

Don’t molest truth or handicap its step.


A woman who can’t move so quickly on her feet

still has a network of nerves and blood and ideas to work with.

That’s what I say when her weight is thrown up.

in some situations, body weight is a medieval thing,

Torture and glory to fight your own butt.  I don’t know.

She spent time with her mind.  A big mind

so time became endless, each day timeless until that death notice.


I like a smooth walk through Disco Park.  I dislocated my wiggle there.

I got discarded there, near the fountains, where a bird shat,

and the tour bus got a flat tire or blew up, whichever sounds worse.

Some guy got the street into his speed, and moved with it, till it got too fast, and

he fell.


This clear day will come again.

It will repeat with care and light.

I will have a word with the day, later.

This dead day will come again, with clear light.



Fact (from Simple Master)


An apostrophe of faith

is asking what I believe,

what I want to know,

and the space within the question

left free for fear.  Or unconscious thought,

not remembered after the fact.




Myth format


The golden boy hunches in the gallery,

a fellow of the myth.  Explicit as a winged warrior,

mantra in the war chest.


Crouching in a cell, padded with some history.

Masonic pederasty, lost in a corridor.

Instant mysticism.  It’s a mysterious underworld

we all know is hanging out downstairs.

Calm balustrade,

high-lamped soma.

I feel something profound;

it’s a block of chambers in my sandal.


Stop trying to steal my kidneys.

How high now must I leap?



Nature at night is neat!


All day an order to repeal;

keeping mellow.  Money found me over

out on the path where the shrubs grew rabid.


If you knew the one who made it all go,

you wouldn’t avoid words.

It would be your walk, too,

or work on the eyes, a lash

till it doesn’t hurt.


Firefly lies down,

a light still going,

but no moving after the wind,

the motor, the wheels.



February digest


Tradition dictates

a three-quarter view

of happenstance.

Big voice into the hollow square.

Pants get bigger,

sweat smears vinyl.

Tradition dictates

frogs squat under water.

The pond loses ice

in small round shards.

Ships free air,

salt on the road

climbs our legs.

We walk like spoons

stuck in mud.


Gracious lemon juices

gambler’s blues.

Traditional text of

one woman in line,

holding out her candy,

torch of sugar.  She doesn’t eat light.

Trickle fire on the power line

made of wind and rodents.

Truckers turn wide,

buddy, it’s a long haul up into sleet.

Send me up in a sardine can.

Small me in the way of small babies,

spawn of delicious waves.


Armpit medium,

stench of grand passion.

Welterweight hopeful

grabs the pulley

and shades the bulb.

It’s easier to see hard edges

in strong and reverse light.

It’s sleep that makes medicine useful.

Shammy for the soft whale

heading up some sad narrows.

Ditch the space and bale water.

Mediate the ptarmigan,

delineate the potty mouth.

Sorrow in the pharmacy.


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