Photo by the author.

This is my annual Valentine’s Day tradition,
Gathering in a church, called to order by
Drums and songs and smudge.

Marshals don their vests and
We take to the street

Marching for those missing and murdered
Marching so they are not forgotten

Through the years I have met
Mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts
Daughters, nieces
All bound by their grief

We sing and drum and chant
We return to the church for stew and bannock,
For stories of those departed
To the spirit world
Where one day we all
Will be reunited.

Originally published in the chapbook Inner City Beat (June 2017). I also provided the photographs for the chapbook. You can download a full colour PDF of the book here.

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A cloudy sky with two crosses on top of a church roof.
Photo by the author.

I bought a Bible in a dollar store,
so how dare you question my faith.

King James sat on his throne in shrink wrap
tucked between notebooks and
pencil cases and stationery.

These rice paper-thin pages
with flaking gold trim
made its way into my basket.

Checking out, the clerk did not blink
as she passed the testaments into plastic,
the thin cardboard binding, bending,
later giving way to my fingers flipping
to a proverb of forgiveness and a
psalm of gratitude.

The price tag was a bargain for eternity,
or until age and disintegration take their toll,
whichever comes first.

Originally published in the September 2011 issue of the print and online literary journal Eclectic Flash.

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Pine tree with hoar frost, with other trees in the background.
Photo by the author.

He said sweaters suit me,
these aged, ragged, knotty garments
reflecting years of turmoil
masked as maturity.

A closet of memories
hang from rusty hooks.

Perhaps I should invest in
cashmere, silk, or wool lest these
acrylic relics wear thin.

Still, I appreciated the compliment
and let him touch my winter-dry hair
kissing with static the fabric
he so admired.

Originally published in the October 2011 edition of the poetry quarterly Full of Crow.

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Snow on a riverbank with a bare tree in the foreground.
Photo by the author.

I gave him a scarf, three silver dollars,
a scrapbook, and an empty journal.
He gave me chocolate, six roses,
two orgasms; later,
a heart full of regret.
We traded one closet for the other,
exchanging clothing like some exchange vows.
Four memories of love’s declarations;
three spontaneous embraces; after some time
two lives broken:
one on either side.
We lay prone, the clouds descending from their
upwards realm
onto the mundane surface of our lives.

Originally published in in issue 30 (January 2011) of Red Fez.

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Lime green sticky note on a light post saying, “You are strong.”
Photo by the author.

Fading evidence of
errors and accidents
pepper my skin, while

under the surface:
subcutaneous marks
hardened by healing,
thick with protection

emerge through
calculated words and actions,
crafted to avoid explanations,
crafted to meet expectations.

These scars are not contagious;
they are gifts of tangible memory:
mistakes, lessons, adventures,

owing visibility to no one.

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Close up of the cover of a book of Talmud with raised Hebrew lettering.
Photo by the author.

morning ritual:
open the app,
get to the page,
stare at words
in a language I never learned

reading the translation where

ancient rabbis argue the minutiae
of festivals, feasts, life passages
unravelling the halacha that bound the
limits of my childhood

yet learning is an act of resistance
for those of my gender

wrestling with these texts
the whole way through is
a commitment of seven years

longer than many marriages
but i’ll get to that book later

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Paula E. Kirman

Paula E. Kirman

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A writer, editor, photographer, filmmaker, musician, digital storyteller, and community organizer in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She/Her. wordspicturesmusic.com