Poetic Licence: "Any Time From Now" by Fiona Tinwei Lam

Welcome to Poetic Licence – a weekly poetry forum, hosted by us, featuring words by local poets. This week? Poet and continuing studies teacher Fiona Tinwei Lam.

Any Time From Now

(as quoted by South Korea’s foreign minister in the New York Times)

When I was 8, I planned to build a bunker
in the basement closet until the Cold War thawed.
I’d squeeze between rackets and rainboots,
stockpile toilet paper, band-aids, scotch tape,
Halloween leftovers.

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Now, decades later, look where we are.
Chasms in the heavens,
ice-caps warmed to slush,
seagulls choked with Lego,
island nations submerged like sandcastles
amid gyre-galaxies of swirling plastic trash.

Broken wellheads vomit black over wetlands,
polar bears amble on sidewalks.
Cyclones bigger than any Wizard can fix
whirl us up and out of Oz.
We can’t turn our heads away fast enough
so we bury them instead.

“Any time from now,” they say
the missiles will fly.
Satellite and naval missile defences on Watchcon-2.
Next level, war. Wipe out “Imperialist and Puppet Traitors”
and the rest of us in between.
Bellicose threats whiz through time zones,
foam up in our dreams in a million mushroom clouds.

But today, my son went to school.
It was pizza day, bowling day,
no-excuse words spelling day.
Front page news: a colour photo of an earthquake drill.
The children smile. The Premier poses,
one manicured pre-electoral hand
pointing out toward a future
just beyond oblivion.

Fiona Tinwei Lam has authored two poetry books and a children’s book, and edited The Bright Well: Contemporary Canadian Poems about Facing Cancer. Her poems have appeared on BC buses and her video poems have been screened internationally. She is currently is a teacher/mentor at SFU Continuing Studies. fionalam.net

To submit your own poetry to Poetic Licence, email editor@westender.com with Poetry Column in the subject line. Include your poem, full name, contact details and bio. Only those selected for the column will be contacted.

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