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Poesy for posterity

St. Albert's poet laureate made a virtual and poetic presentation to city council on Monday, issuing a challenge to all in celebration of National Poetry Month.
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A POETIC PRESENTATION

It’s Okay to Cry Everything Holy

By Zach Polis

I’m not sure

what kind of

kindness you need

right now.


The Asteroid is coming.


The Asteroid is coming

in particles small enough

we might not notice when it arrives.

Waiting, I suppose —

it’s something to do,

isn’t it?


I know.

Most days I forget my name too.

I can’t remember before...

Before — this.

What was before?


The Asteroid is coming.

So which way now?

Who will be brave enough

to run out for milk?

There’s already so much

I am not invincible to.


It’s okay to cry with the birds.

It’s okay to cry everything holy.

You are not alone in history.

You are not alone in this.


Change is quick.

It’s a comedic routine —

bending with the trees,

trying

to hold

still

in the wind,

trying

not

to ache.

The forest aches with you,

together, in all your stillness.

You are not alone in this.

You are not alone in history.

The Asteroid is coming.

So which way now?


I would like to know what happens next.


I’m not sure

what kind of

kindness you need

right now,

but find it.


Take all of this,


and pulverize it

into a salve,

some sort of relief.


Stillness is a salve. Netflix is a salve. Waiting is a salve. Missing the part of me that is you is a salve. Doing nothing is a salve. Avoiding doorknobs and crowds is a salve. Holding your breath in Costco is a salve. Crying for your ancestors is a salve. Staying at home is a salve. Dr. Hinshaw is a salve. Bleach is a salve. Lysol is a salve. Soap is a salve. A good scrub is a salve. A limit of 2 is a salve. A limit of 6 feet is a salve. One way grocery aisles is a salve. Nature, in all its expanse, is a salve. All your towering books and tea is a salve. Google Hangouts is a salve. FaceTime is a salve. Every emoji sent is a salve. This poem too. This mortar and pestle is a salve. Stillness is a salve. What you are doing is a salve. What you are doing is enough.


You are not alone in this.

You are not alone in history.

It’s okay to cry with the birds.

It’s okay to cry everything holy.


When the going gets tough, the tough get going to the nearest notepad to scribble out some verse in iambic pentameter, haiku, or other creative structures. That’s the subtext for St. Albert poet laureate Zach Polis’ challenge to one and all in celebration of National Poetry Month.

“It's basically just to have some sort of a quick weekly challenge of basically reflecting on the strange times we're in and making it relatable and accessible in a way that anyone can do it,” said Polis, after making a presentation via streaming online video to St. Albert city council on Monday.

The city’s inaugural poet laureate is now in his last month at his post. He’s making the most of the time he has left by bringing forth more written art into the world.

The quickest way to accomplish that: spurring the public to write briefly and repeatedly on a weekly challenge that he will throw down like a friendly gauntlet on posts to be found on the St. Albert Public Library’s social media outlets.

This week’s challenge: tell us something new you learned about your friends, and do so in one sentence. People can respond by replying to @stalbertpubliclibrary on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

It’s meant to be short and sweet, Polis continued, so that there are fewer barriers to entry for people who wouldn’t otherwise have considered rhyming as a pastime.

The hope is that, by the end of the month, people can assemble what they've written into a fully-fledged work with unexpected results to reflect on.

Of course, poetry in the age of COVID-19 can offer up a deeper, more meaningful purpose as well. These are unprecedented times, he explained, and as such any written records automatically have heightened importance to world history.

“Any note taking or writing or reflection is a good thing for historians because essentially, we're providing a historical document for people in the future to understand this experience that we're going through,” he continued, suggesting that reflective writing is also an excellent way to keep oneself grounded during such turbulent periods.

“It's no surprise that writing has always served that role of checking in with your emotions and being able to share it in a way with other people.”

In that regard, he agreed poetry is an essential service to oneself and to humankind.


Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.
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