Epistolary Poem (A Letter)


To the Man who Killed my Mother

There was always a sense of urgency about her,
as if there was so much love in the world,
you had to run fast enough or
you wouldn’t catch it. Ironic that
you threw her shoe out of a moving car.

She often trusted strangers; you weren’t
the only one who took advantage –
you were just the first. Funny,
how you closed doors, while you opened others.

I bet you don’t even remember the colour
of her hair, her eyes, or the many shades of
her screams. Did you hear the longing in them?
Did her name ever grace your lips
the way her kisses did?

I don’t blame you for what you did;
it’s all about genetics and chromosomes.
I’m just angry that she is no longer
herself, without your ink on her skin.

Do you cultivate flowers now,
instead of sexual identities?
Did your germination end with her – or was she just
a filament of sunshine?

Her funeral was farcical and oddly
beautiful. She was naked (tattoos bandaged),
shoes on both feet.

© 2017 Lisa Mulrooney

Between the Known and the Unknown


NaPoWriMo 2017 has suggested the following prompt for today:

“Write a poem that reflects on the nature of being in the middle of something.”

So, here goes . . .

in the knowing

Oblivion was pleasant, naive – and now –
only disquiet. Somewhere, a streetlight
burns out – and a fawn calls out for its mother.

Outside, it is raining; storms don’t exist
until they are named. In the knowing
and shadows, seen and unseen,
Anubis raises his hackles.

It is the time between: imagination toying,
skillfully coy paramour
of the man with the vanishing rabbit.
Delight in his secrets. Children always want
more – until blackened, the stage becomes
more than just a stage.

© 2017 Lisa Mulrooney


I have not participated in this year’s NaPoWriMo challenge to write a poem a day; however, I was intrigued by yesterday’s prompt to write a ghazal. Here’s what I came up with. It was much harder than I thought it would be!

Intertidal Ecology: A Love Poem

Goodbyes are hardest said in person, beside the ocean’s furrowing rhythm,
Tossing along notions of return, helpless vessel, in complicit billowing rhythm.

Rocky shelves, cursed by sailors, are exposed just prior to contact.
Candid inner sanctums echo a similar, sombre, crowing rhythm.

“Refrain, refrain.” Again and again, siren call and conscience meld:
Neither sanity nor drowning – both – provoke the heart’s flowing rhythm.

Awash in weeds and pummeled driftwood, bearing the scars of every tide,
I lay my head in your lap and listen to the ocean’s knowing rhythm.

We danced along with drifting continents, tidal shifts and evolution.
Though dying, we’re immortalized in this last rendition of life’s slowing rhythm.

© Lisa Mulrooney

Poetry Retreat

My family has just returned from a wonderful week long vacation to Vancouver Island. We stayed in Metchosin, just outside of Victoria, and during our stay, we got to visit some beautiful locations, including the Town of Sidney and the Village of Ganges (Salt Spring Island). These amazing places, rife in natural beauty and culture, got me thinking about going on a Poetry Retreat. How wonderful it would be to leave the hustle and bustle of everyday life behind, and find some wonderful spot like Sidney or Ganges to spend time in, solely for the purpose of studying poetry and being inspired to write more.

These thoughts led me to muse about creating my own “retreat,” customized especially for me, allowing time to take off my mom, wife and teacher hats, and exclusively don my poet’s hat.

I haven’t yet figured out what the retreat would entail (aside from a beautiful location – like the ocean or mountains), but I’m working on it and looking for input. How would I plan my days? How much time should I spend looking for inspiration, reading, writing? Which texts or exercises would I take along with me to facilitate the process? I’m open to suggestions!

I’m wondering if this book might help? I just noticed it in our local bookstore today (click on the image to link out to the book on Amazon):

Speaking of bookstores, I had the great pleasure of visiting a really interesting one in Sidney: The Haunted Bookshop.

And what a treasure I found there: a book that came from the personal library of Canadian Poet Phyllis Webb. Interestingly, she now resides on Salt Spring Island – and, today (April 8th) is her 90th birthday! The book: T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.


Haiku-A-Day: Part 1

“Haiku tends to focus on the immediate present, upon a mindful moment that captures the essence of meaningful living.”


In January, I discovered “National Haiku Writing Month” (www.nahaiwrimo.com), which encourages poets from around the world to commit to writing at least one haiku poem every day for the month of February.

The NaHaiWriMo Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NaHaiWriMo) and Twitter account (https://twitter.com/NaHaiWriMo) provide poets with a forum for sharing the results of their endeavours.

I decided to give it a go, and the result (so far) has been a huge sense of enlightenment!

I knew – or thought I knew – the basics of Haiku (17 syllables – 5 each for the first and third lines, 7 for the second line), but it turns out that there is actually A LOT more to Haiku than just that! In fact, the syllable count is far from being a hard and fast rule, and certainly does not define the structure of Haiku, contrary to what I thought I knew about the form. Perhaps even more important is the juxtaposition of images that creates a subtle expansion of meaning (accomplished in Japanese through a “cutting word” that serves to grammatically separate a haiku into two distinct parts). Also, in traditional Japanese Haiku, the time of year is signified through a “season word,” so those particular versions of the form are heavily dependent upon nature.

In English, a great many liberties have been and are being taken with Haiku. This flexibility has made Haiku very accessible to a wide range of writers and poets; however, as I have discovered over the past couple of weeks, it could take a lifetime to master the intricacies that create truly beautiful Haiku poems. After embarking upon a journey of discovery into this (underrated?) form, I am now certain it is worth the effort . . .

Haiku tends to focus on the immediate present, upon a mindful moment that captures the essence of meaningful living. A moment that could otherwise slip by unnoticed is effectively trapped and bottled by the poet. The mindful reader opens the lid and releases the thought (and its associated feelings) back into the world, leaving both reader and world changed by the transmission of that moment.

So far, this month, I have stuck to my commitment and written a Haiku each day. I have shared them on Twitter (https://twitter.com/lisamulrooney) and on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/NaHaiWriMo), but I thought I should share them here, gathered all together (like a little Haiku bouquet).


snowswirl day 1

whisps of white moisture
swirl on the icy breeze
refusing to settle


train day 2

tracks rumble in time
to a hypnotic beat:
sleep, train, sleep


horses day 3.jpg

so close that you inhale
my breath’s condensation –
two worlds colliding


spurned day 4.jpg

The chill air restrains,
after the burning torment
of a spurned advance.


baby day 5

she hums in her sleep
and the last letter drifts
to oblivion


grave day 6

a wrinkled hand
rests gently on a headstone
waiting patiently


embers day 7

Embers from the fire
fly like moths to the moon;
the stars are dancing.


aurora day 8

the wind holds secrets
we only hear at night;
aurora lights


prison day 9

Watch yourself watch
yourself, a bird’s-eye-view.
The clock is ticking.


trees day 10

The sun’s dying light
trickles into the shadows.
Dangerous thoughts pool.


snowflakes day 11

Perfection inhaled.
A child’s honest laughter
tastes like snowflakes.


toddler day 12.jpg

Galloping horses –
toddlers, tantrums and time.
Oh, to reign them in!


dog day 13

steady rise and fall
curled into a safety knot –
dog on a pillow


seagull day 14

seagulls squabble
over scraps and trash –
the sated take flight

If you have never written a Haiku, or you haven’t in a while, I challenge you to try it out. There are tons of great resources available online to help you in your journey, but I definitely recommend that you start here: http://www.nahaiwrimo.com

Happy Writing, Lisa



From Redditch to Redcliff

A poem addressing some of the misconceptions associated with “moving up in the world.”

I used a cut-up, collage technique (and an old encyclopedia) to construct this poem.

From Redditch to Redcliff

A life submerged, largely cloistered,
nocturnal, clinging to the ants and termites,
becomes alpha at the high water mark.

The son of former slaves building monastic homes
marked by prosperity and the naming of plants:
A centre of culture, harvested from the plump and rat-like.

A long, sticky tongue tears open nests
already badly damaged by the bombing of frequent storms.
Powerful, resigned, parallel rods strung with beads, inaugurated.

© Lisa Mulrooney


A lipogram (LIP-uh-gram) is a piece of writing that omits a certain letter or letters.

For more information on lipograms (and more), here’s an interesting site: http://phrontistery.info/lipogram.html

I recently took up the challenge of writing my own “univocalic” lipogram – a poem that contains only one of the five vowels (a-e-i-o-u). Here’s what I came up with . . .

Gin Kisses

His gin kisses fill my dim night
thick with chill mists, ill
bringing first his fights, his right
his fists – killing highs
this silly pill insists it fills

this night finds its trick
his will, my will dying
finding kissing sighs, bliss
thick with chill mists, stripping
birds in flight.

© Lisa Mulrooney

Tags on Towels

I recently completed my first MOOC or, for those not in the know, “massive open online course.” A MOOC is a FREE (or at least very affordable) course that is available online to a huge, often unlimited, number of participants. Since much of my work life has centred around improving and increasing access to higher education, I was excited about discovering MOOCs and even more excited to participate in one. The course that I took was entitled “Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop” offered by California Institute of the Arts.

While the course did not teach any poetic techniques that were unfamiliar to me, what it did do was refresh my memory and encourage me to flex my poetic muscles. I highly recommend the course to anyone, even though it may be focused slightly more toward beginning writers.

For more information on the course, click here.

Following is a poem that I worked on for the course . . .


Tags on Towels

Your sigh is a tag on a towel.
“Wash with like clothing”?
I have no clothing like towels – just towels.

It scratches and I keep meaning to cut it off
until the next time it scratches
my naked body, caressed and reminded
of its vulnerability.

Threadbare confidence, fraying, the damp
wet cleanliness clinging
in defiance, on the line
because “low heat” is impossible.

I ruined all my clothes once – with a towel.
Or was it the other way around?
They all came with labels I never read.

My clothes are new but I still use the same towels.
Debris clings to everything.  Little bits. Little tags
on towels – little sighs.


© Lisa Mulrooney

Be Careful What You Wish For

Inspiration shows up unexpectedly. While it probably isn’t always a good idea to rely on inspiration (at the expense of regular ol’ discipline and hard work), it’s still a good idea to capitalize upon it when it does show up!

The following poem came to me in a moment of sleepless frustration. Wishing my infant son would just stop crying, I pulled myself back from the moment and realized how awful it would be if he actually did stop crying – and never cried again. While the poem may seem negative, it really reflects a moment of profound gratitude.

In the space where poetry takes on a life of its own, this poem also explores the depths of desperation beyond the initial spark of inspiration that generated it.

Wishing Away

Just . . . ?”


And it stopped
and it stopped
and it all stopped.

As the nightmare began

with the sight
and the silence
and the still realization
of a stillness that could not be


What was,
was no longer . . .

A Tragedy.

©Lisa Mulrooney

Rilke and the Tension between Individuality and Tradition

I recently decided to re-read Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. It’s been a long time since I first read this work. At that time it was “required reading,” so you can guess how well that went over. Nowadays, I am a lot more interested in the wisdom that Rilke had to share about writing poetry.

The first letter speaks of the importance of cultivating an “individual style,” by looking inward rather than outward. Remaining true to the depths of your own soul, stresses Rilke, is more important than gaining approval from your peers, the public, magazine editors, or the keepers of literary tradition.

After I finished (re-)reading the first letter, I was inspired to write a poem about the almost palpable tension that exists for many writers who are caught between a desire to be experimental or innovative (developing a unique style) and a desire to be appropriately and relevantly situated upon the solid ground that was first foraged by those we recognize as great (even “canonical,” dare I say it) poets.

Here is the result of that inspiration:


between worlds
fingers, collapsing bridges
reach for solid ground
by tapping on the shoulders
of the living

deaf to husky voices
and the play of Shadows
old men hum their obituaries
free to release
and too humbled to resist

they brush boney hands aside
snapping puppet’s strings
careless in the chasm
between themselves
and evolution

manipulation misinterpreted
negatively, defines nothing
but a foolhardy Geppetto
and the mistakes of a puppet boy
whose freedom apes rebellion

© Lisa Mulrooney