Poetry in English and Spanish at Santa Rabia Poetry

The Peruvian literary site Santa Rabia Poetry features five of my poems in English with Spanish translations by Colombian poet Maria Del Castillo Sucerquia. The set is called Scar Atlas.

Scar Atlas

My father leaned over the sink
to study his face in the mirror.
With a sterilized needle he probed,
prodded, nudged out a sliver
of bomb casing risen to the surface
years after he came home from war.

Field doctors had removed the larger bits,
phosphorus that glowed in the dark,
then smoothed on a sheet of skin
borrowed from his body lower down,
and when the patient regained his sight,
sent him back to the battle.

As he lay on the sofa watching TV,
his legs thrown across my lap, I traced
a route with my fingers on the map
of shrapnel scars that pitted his shins.

He watched in silence the scenes of war
staged as heroics on the small screen,
never spoke of his own, said only
that the scars no longer hurt.


Four poems by Colin Morton in Event magazine

Now in its 51st year of publication, West Coast literary magazine Event gave me a boost by publishing me with “six new poets” in the 1970s. I am just as pleased to be published by Event in 2023. Here are the new poems, which revisit my post-war Calgary upbringing and that time someone in England published my poems as his own. The first is a prose poem.

Arriving Late

I don’t remember what movie we saw or whether it played at the Capitol or Palace, only that my sister and I arrived late, walked in partway, and stayed for the next showing. When we reached the scene where we came in, I was ready to go but she wouldn’t leave. So I stood by myself at the bus stop downtown on a Saturday afternoon, 1959.

I couldn’t tell how old the man was, the one I’d learn to call a drunk. Shaky on his feet, he squatted beside me on the sidewalk, staring into my eyes, almost crying. He put his arms on my waist and asked me to hold him, so I reached out.

Next thing, a uniform stooped over me,. A second cop pulled the man up by the collar of his dirty coat, asking me if I knew him and did he hurt me. Frightened now, but innocent, I shook my head. More questions followed, but what stayed in my mind ‒ what I talked about later ‒ was my ride home in a police cruiser, radar on the dash, siren wailing when we stopped a speeding motorcycle.

These memories have stayed with me ever since, specific and unchanging. But something is missing from the story, something everyone else could see but I could not: the blood-red birthmark splashed across my face.

Of course the police had to check, but maybe the man on the sidewalk was no molester but the one passer-by who looked at me and cared. Run in for a show of kindness. Maybe he was a war vet, as all men seemed to be, and the sight of me brought him flashbacks of ruined towns, crying children.

I didn’t wonder about any of this then, nor afterward for many years. My memories, if fragmentary, were secure. It was the summer a neighbour’s new Edsel parked in front of our house, and when the squad car pulled up behind it, our front door stood open. My sister called out that I was late for supper, but cobs of corn were boiling on the stove.

Sunday Afternoons

Sunday afternoons my father sometimes slept till five,

weary from a week of work.

Weary too from his year at the front

of the war that defined our world.

A survivor, one of the victors, he earned his rest.

Other Sundays he would lie fully clothed on his bed

and smoke. If I passed the door he would call me,

have me lie down beside him. In silence

we lay, his arm around my shoulder, breathing slow.

I inhaled when he inhaled, exhaled when he did,

trying not to breathe his smoke.

For a few moments, a meditation, we breathed together

and after the time it might take to fall asleep

I would rise and quietly leave him

smoking, perhaps remembering.


One week in summer, disinherited tribes

were allowed to camp as their ancestors did

where the Bow and Elbow rivers meet

and wear regalia for once-banned rituals.

Inside the stockade of Stampede grounds

we watched in awe as boys our age

arrayed in feathers and coloured beads

stamped and whirled to pounding drums

near the arena where, last winter,

between periods of a hockey game,

we Scouts performed the Musical Ride

on skates, weaving patterns on the ice.

Clumsy black costumes hung from our shoulders

like bumper cars with wooden horses’ heads,

but our privilege fit so well

we hardly knew we wore it.


When my poems resurfaced

under another man’s name

I found second selves in cyberspace.

In the midst of a bull market …

I ran the table …

scored from mid-field …

spent a night with the Stones …

between campaigns for Palestine …

Then these chilling words.

Last seen wading into the ocean

in boxer shorts on Christmas Eve …

On site after site the headlines read

Local man missing, feared dead.

Poems online

Some of my poems have been appearing online recently, one at Bywords.ca (http://www.bywords.ca/) and three more on the Poetry Super Highway (https://www.poetrysuperhighway.com/psh/poetry-from-leslie-dianne-and-colin-morton/).

The Bywords poem might get lost in the shuffle, so you may read it here:


It’s under something it’s
behind something it’s in
the right place for something else.

No it’s on something it’s
in front of something it’s where
you don’t see it because you know it’s not there.

It’s your only one it’s
always there when you need it it
will come to you in a minute.

It’s on the tip of your tongue it’s
what you used to do with whozit you know
what you were talking about just no

Over on the Poetry Super Highway are three more poems. The first two, “Travelling” and “Nimrod,” take a sidewise view on desperate times for refugees, especially in the Middle East. This third poem looks back at a post-war childhood in Calgary.

Nose Hill Revisited

No horses graze above the city now.
Mint and sage, the prairie’s scent remains.
Abandoned cars we found as boys,
home to families of fox or skunk,
have long-since been hauled away.

I leave the gravel path,
follow deer trails into willow brake,
through damp coulee where spring runoff pools,
look out at mountains snow-capped in the sun,
or east toward the vague horizon,
the mirage I chased so far.

On the frontier of a growing city
poised between boom and bust,
we walked to schools named for Mounties
‒ Colonel Irvine, Colonel Macleod ‒
grew up itching for a fight
or challenge, enemy or rival.

We roamed hills known for eons
to hunters who left little trace.
Wrote our initials in fresh cement,
instant fossils of the post-war boom.

We’d do anything to matter
though we saw what it did to our dads.
We climbed a slope where we cast a long shadow,
shouted our names to the wind.

In person poetry readings are starting up again. My next will be July 1 in the park at Kingston ArtFest.

Erik Satie’s Gnossiennes on World Music Day

It’s music day every day in my household, thanks to my wife Mary Lee Bragg.

This poem appears in the new Community anthology from Gertrude’s Writing Room.

Satie’s Gnossiennes

Day one of the lockdown she said

she would play the Gnossiennes each day

until the plague passed over and real life resumed.

Now it’s nearing day four hundred

she’s quarantined and the ICUs are full

still the light play of fingers on the keyboard

brings a few moments’ peace to her day.

It’s spring again. She opens her window

and spreads the music’s calm composure

over the socially distanced street.

Colin Morton

P.S. On World Music Day 2022, COVID-19 goes on, and so does the music.

Video poems on YouTube

Since summer 2021 I have been collaborating with musician and producer Alrick Huebener on a series of video poems based on my writings. Works we have completed so far include:

Tinnitus <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUsWPn2wAHA>

The Weather <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWWRFcch_Uk>

At a Nameless Bend in the River <a href="http://<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0OQtz2G5vo&quot; data-type="URL" data-id="<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0OQtz2G5vo>

Alrick Huebener’s YouTube channel includes other video poems he has created with poets Claudia Radmore, Susan McMaster, and of course his musical collaborators.

Last Days

Train poetry journal as posted my four part poem “Last Days” on its blog.

The poem once had an epigraph quoting the American poet Robert Duncan, who wrote in the 1960s, “Again and again we enter the last days of our civilization.” Fittingly, I think, “Last Days” ends with a beginning.

Last Days


No one paid much mind at first.
A low murmur amid the hubbub.

When finally heard
alarms were late.

How do you stop a chain reaction
or keep calm with a fever?


Many have seen the end of the world
as they knew it.

Last days before that end
must be special days.

Those living them must be special too.
We’ve always known.


We do our best to be prepared
half-believe what our senses tell us.

Know one in the hand
for what it’s worth.

What’s left undone is yet to do
yet we did and did undo some things.


We returned home in the waning light
chastened yet braced for new beginnings

sure we knew the way ahead
and wouldn’t make the same mistakes again.

This was not the moment for doubt.
We were of one mind, never so dangerous.

Colin Morton

Train poetry journal will include three other poems of mine in their next print journal, on sale across Canada.

Four poems on aging

The Canadian magazine The Typescript is honouring Robert Kroetsch with a selection of poems on getting old and older. Here is my contribution, poems called Lost, Senior Swim, CPR Practice, and Visitation. Do visit the other Canadian poets’ contributions to The Typescript’s feature.


It’s under something it’s
behind something it’s in
the right place for something else.

No it’s on something it’s
in front of something it’s where
you don’t see it because you know it’s not there.

It’s your only one it’s
always there when you need it it
will come to you in a minute.

It’s on the tip of your tongue it’s
what you used to do with whozit you know
what you were talking about just now.

It isn’t coming back it’s
as if it never was as if it’s
not what you thought it is at all.

Colin Morton

New poems by Colin Morton

Two excellent Canadian literary magazines found room for my work on their pages this winter.

I recommend you check them out, and to get an idea of the kind of work they print, you could start by reading my poems here.

Prism international, based in Vancouver, includes my “Tinnitus” in its new issue:


I read John Cage and, in a silent room,
listened to the low thrum of blood in my veins,
the hiss of nerves in my head.
Proprioception I called it, after Olson.

For years I believed what I heard
was the microbiome of my inner ear –
cells living out their lives in there –
and I wondered about this thing called me.

How much of me is a population
of microbes doing I don’t know what
to or for me, living and dying
as I say these words?

Now I accent the first syllable,
call it tinnitus, as if that’s an explanation.
I told the doctor, I guess there’s little I can do.
You can complain, he said.

Waterloo, Ontario magazine The New Quarterly includes two of my poems, and I have written a blog post about one of them for the TNQ blog. Here are the poems.

Dark Flower

What fresh hellebore is this that flowers
deep purple, deeper than its shallow
sunny fellows?
How deep
to flower in winter, face frost
and snow, to know when to bow,
how not to break.
Burgundy bloom,
have you a tincture for me and my fellows?
A word to the wayward perhaps?
Or a charm to scare the devil
out of any who cross us?
Would you at least come live with me
and be my dark midwinter comfort?

Please forgive my forwardness.
You are, and that’s enough for me.


Wind in the branches
Whispering waves

How much of our poetry is

the abalone bed for
a single small pearl

found on a petal
or a rainy street

on the crest of a breaker
in the beak of a raptor

in the depths of the sea
or the eye socket of a skull

If you could see its gleam
without the setting

you’d be left without
a poem to learn

It would turn in your mind
like a moon

Online reading September 17

The Single Onion reading series and Shelf Life Books in Calgary are hosting a reading by Colin Morton, Mary Lee Bragg, Nisha Patel, and Annie Sorbie on Thursday, September 17, at 7pm Calgary time (MDT). Hope you can listen in. If my reading interests you, or my wife Mary Lee Bragg’s, you can order our books directly from me at colinmorton@sympatico.ca.

Here’s a link to the Facebook event. Click interested

Topic: Single Onion #168

Time: Sep 17, 2020 07:00 PM Edmonton

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 854 3737 3225

Passcode: 173698

Updating the Address Book

A new poem of mine is online this month at Bywords.ca

It captures a bit of the loneliness and isolation that many of us are feeling in lockdown.

Updating the Address Book

So many listings scratched out

and replaced with newer ones.

Here’s another out of date,

we haven’t been in touch for years.

When we met he lived in old town,

two rooms of a red brick house

leaning toward the St. Lawrence.

He made me tea, and I wondered

if it was safe amid hanging wires

for speakers and an over-worked fan.

One table housed kettle, toaster,

laptop and printer. A bungee

cord held the fridge door shut,

and a girlfriend slept in the other room.

Each place I’ve seen him since

has been a replay of that scene.

Disorder so thorough it must

begin inside, grow soulward with age,

unless saved by some great love.

Or maybe I’m wrong, after all,

you see what you expect to see.

Maybe that first time in Montreal

gave me a label to hang on him,

and maybe the label has faded now.

I may have read it wrong from the start,

it has happened before.

I wish I could see him now.