The Keys of the Piano

The Keys of the Piano
Kim Goldberg

The keys of the piano at the annual
extinction concert were built from bones
of vanished species—each pallid slab
a different absence in the ravelling
weft. And the people wept

as the unholy keen rose
from the cliffside amphitheatre slicing
the summer sky above the sea, clashing
chords formulated by features of
mineral density rather than
scalar math, battling the crash
of wave, the wail of gull, a thunder of
harmonics too ecstatic or demonic
to withstand. It began with a rat

back in 2016. The mosaic-
tailed rat endemic to Bramble Cay
in the Great Barrier Reef: declared the first
mammalian casualty of climate change.
And the people blinked

but recovered. Just a rat
on a small coral island barely above
sea level. Who can understand the genius
of a mind that sees music and immortality
in a cadaver? As a grad student, she flew

to Papua New Guinea and hired a boat
to collect a satchel of remains that became
the first key in the first piano in the first
annual extinction concert all those years
ago. Tonight beside the sea

spray of salt upon her aging cheek
co-mingling with greying hair, ancient
reverberations, tonal beats on an evolutionary
scale, pale skeletons defying time, space
the slow descent of civilization.

* * *

“The Keys of the Piano” first appeared in the international climate poetry anthology A Change in Climate, released December 11, 2017.  The book is available for purchase via Amazon UK.

Print edition:
Kindle edition:

For this anthology, poems on climate change were submitted from around the world, and 20 were chosen for the book. All profits from this book will be used to support the Environmental Justice Foundation, who investigate and expose environmental and human rights abuses through film and photography. By purchasing this book, you are helping to support their Climate Campaign, which is centred on fighting for the rights of climate refugees.

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For years
I shut my bedroom
window to sleep so the percussion
of the city did not fetter my
not penetrate my dreamy
slump with rev of
engine, shouted
goodbyes, dumpster lid
banging shut

with more days done
than coming, I throw the window
wide so the noisy slurry
does not
pass me by

* * *

~Kim Goldberg

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Photos from Submarine Dead Ahead (Re)Launch

A few photos from the recent re-launching of my 1991 book, Submarine Dead Ahead! Waging Peace in America’s Nuclear Colony (Harbour Publishing), about the work and vision of a local peace group in the 1980s, the Nanoose Conversion Campaign. 

Including photos of the familiar bright yellow “Warning” signs that went up in windows throughout the central Vancouver Island region whenever one of the US Navy’s nuclear submarines or warships was in port at the Nanoose underwater weapons testing facility at Nanoose Bay. And also a photo of the fabulous six-foot-tall banner of submarine and peace camp of tipis, painted by Gabriola artist Paul Grignon back in 1986 for the People’s Inquiry into CFMETR (Canadian Forces Maritime and Experimental Test Ranges at Nanoose Bay).

Thanks to the Nanaimo chapter of WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) for organizing the re-launch of this book and the lively discussion that followed about peace activism then and now.

Copies of the book are available locally from WILPF for those in Nanaimo (phone: 250-753-3015). Or from Harbour Publishing:

Peace out!









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Book (Re)Launch: Submarine Dead Ahead

Please join me on November 9th for the re-launch of my 1991 book Submarine Dead Ahead: Waging Peace in America’s Nuclear Colony, documenting the work and vision of the historic and flamboyant local peace group, the Nanoose Conversion Campaign (NCC).

Date: Thursday, November 9, 2017
Time: 2:00 pm
Place: Nanaimo Harbourfront Library (90 Commercial Street, Nanaimo, BC)

I’ll be reading and signing books with all proceeds going to WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom).

The NCC occupied a peace camp of tipis and later a peace house on the shores of Nanoose Bay in the 1980s. Through their creative direct actions and campaigning, the group drew public attention to the US nuclear-powered and nuclear weapons-capable warships that were using the underwater weapons testing range at Nanoose and travelling through our local waters. I was a freelance reporter at the time, covering the peace group’s many demonstrations. At one point, I realized the story, and the larger public health issues at stake, warranted more than ten column inches in a newspaper. So I wrote a book.

Former members of the Nanoose Conversion Campaign will be in attendance at the re-launch. This will be a very relevant afternoon, given Canada’s refusal in September to sign and ratify The UN Treaty on Nuclear Weapons Prohibition.

Everyone welcome. Bring your friends! Free admission. Light refreshments available.

For those not in Nanaimo, the book is available from Harbour Publishing:

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Kim Goldberg

Somewhere beyond silent streets
and woodlands, beyond upheaved
graveyards, empty schools, dry spillways, vacant
hibernaculums for little brown bats
beyond the last larval foodplant for the last
western tiger swallowtail
an old woman sits by the sea untangling
the nets of each life she can dream.
Her cabin above the tideline is filled with books
from the Time Before but little else.
She cooks over a burn barrel beside her shack
stokes it with driftwood and whatever tumbles
ashore. Once an old door made a landing, then
a desk still intact. She grills any scrap of flesh
the sea hacks up—bull kelp, moon
jellies, three-eyed eels. Eats them with succulent
stems of glasswort growing in the sand.
When evening comes, she flings each newly
sorted net upon the ocean like a bedsheet
for each is a piece of the planetary
genome. She is waiting for the nets to find
one another, to reconnect end-to-
end, spiral beneath the waves. Replicate.
But each net returns alone, an enfolded mass
of knots, bone, chitinous exoskeletons, bloated
elongate bodies of the unknown.

*  *  *

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Some Loves

Some Loves
Kim Goldberg

We enter the elfin wood along trillium way
barely a deer trail with rotting planks spanning rivulets
and mucky divides. We wobble-walk across, twisting
our way deeper into the moss-hung fairy glade
flanked by sword fern and once white petals
gone purple with age. You are taking me
to see the jewel—a thing so unusual
its location must be shielded from the world. You tease
the mystery and my mind leaps
to Fellini’s Satyricon where the albino hermaphrodite
diety is borne across the desert in a litter with velvet
curtains. And my mind leaps again
to John Hurt in The Elephant Man, for difference is both
worshipped and reviled. A pileated woodpecker heralds
our arrival with its wuck wuck wuck call overhead. I gaze up
just in time to glimpse its scarlet crest disappear
behind a monumental fir. At our feet
is the wonder: a four-petaled trillium known
(I am about to learn) as a quadrillium. A cone drops
nearby. The duff stirs. Deer mouse
or sprite? An invitation, or is the wildwood
arming itself? We return
to our car. A photo will be uploaded to Facebook
with no geo-locating information. It will get many likes
and some loves.

*  *  *

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Alchemical Reaction

Alchemical Reaction
(Villanelle for Earth Day 2017)
Kim Goldberg

To drink a potion is to believe
flower, wing, tail can bring the change
we seek. All we hold will have to be released.

Has the vulture overhead come for me?
Or just another case of premature migration?
To drink a potion is to believe

there is a codex, a list of interlocking secrets
binding earth to sky, rain to sea, heart to brain.
We seek all that we hold. We have not been released.

A gull may never know for whom it keens.
The answer is ablated within a crashing wave.
To think of motion is to believe

the water shrew has risen to be Jesus
for she can walk on water every day.
We seek. We hold. We have to be released.

Shhhhhh is the sound of our liver, grove of emerald green.
Shhhhhh is the sound of rushing birds bringing the change
we seek. All we hold will have to be released
to drink the potion. To believe.

* * *

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Kim Goldberg

A large ground beetle lumbers across pavement
his earthworm parcel twitching and flailing
like a flag in a hailstorm. The beetle wobbles
from the jerky weight of suppressed
freedom until the pair, locked as they are in each other’s
timelines by chitinous jaws, arrives at the threshold
cleaving two worlds—one mindless and gray
one a wild tangle of imagination.

And we think we know the outcome
of this narrative: a win, a loss, a sacrifice
a continuance. Victory
is in the eye, says quantum physics.
We convene panels and symposia to analyze
the intersectional oppressions of colonial
re-enactments played out in our tattered streets
and weedy byways. We birth
new twitter hashtags to announce the arrival
of our insight. We learn the meaning of
syncretism and why this isn’t

that. We push our trembling minds
into every pedagogical slit and smokestack
but we forget to let our palms and knees simply
drop to the earth. For anything can occur
when the back end of a beetle burdened with a twisting
sack of rebellion vanishes into a shield of heartbeats
feral and green.

*  *  *


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The Next Garden

The Next Garden
Kim Goldberg

Reading Sam Hamill’s Habitation
in my unkempt garden as the sun crests
the roof-line, I watch you descend into the scraggle
of forgotten stalks—brittle, spent, gone
to seed. Last night on Facebook, Sam said
he would like to be in love again,
would like to have a traveling companion to escape
the USA. There were several takers.
I pondered the narrative for the half-life
of beryllium-14 (which is 4.84 seconds). It seems
I don’t do love anymore, at least not
with human beings. Your vermillion blaze

bobs above the weedy grail of each desiccated
umbel, erasing my undone chores and botanical
remorse. I forget the day’s plans, the incomplete
tax return, the emerging parsley and strawberry leaves
that need the ground cleared of leftover corpses
who were so carefully loved and tended. Once.

Our pact, although forged without words,
is secure in our mismatched hearts (mine is larger
perhaps from too much wanting). And when you transcend
to the next garden, I am on
your wing.

* * *

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The Beaver Lodichai

The Beaver Lodichai

by Kim Goldberg


beaver-8b12cx1The beaver Lodichai was the most celebrated chap in the marsh. His glossy pelt rippled in the sun as he clambered ashore to chip away at young alder trunks.

Everyone wanted to be seen as his friend. To that end, much name-dropping ensued. Creatures were forever saying “Last week, Lodichai told me…” and “When I was having lunch with Lodichai yesterday…”

Lodichai’s lodge parties were legendary. He had the best music, served the most exquisite willow-leaf roll-ups, and was—to put it politely—quite popular with the ladies of all species.

One morning, as the marsh awoke with its chorus of peeps and trills, it quickly became apparent that Lodichai’s lodge had collapsed. Coots and grebes and all available mink rushed over to help. They tried to pull Lodichai from the tangle of interlocking branches but could not extricate him from above or beneath. He was, as fate would have it, trapped in a cage of his own making.

The mink were able to clear enough twigs and debris from the top to give him a breathing outlet. Marsh occupants began bringing him things to eat, although none could match Lodichai’s culinary sophistication.

barred-owl1-8b10csat10x1Various creatures were sitting it out on the shore or in branches overhead. They watched the rescue mission impassively, twitching no whisker or ear tuft to rise to Lodichai’s aid. And then the rumours began.

From the fringes of the marsh, the most outlandish claims started to circulate. If gossip is to be believed, it seems Lodichai had the unfortunate habit of urinating where he shouldn’t.

A spotted towhee found urine-drenched birdseed on the trail. The chickadees told him Lodichai had come along and given the seed a squirt or two. A fetching red-legged frog said she lost an entire egg mass last season due to Lodichai’s shenanigans (which was doubly unfortunate, considering species’ threatened status).

An anise swallowtail butterfly claimed all the lomatium along the trail had been soured with Lodichai’s urine and could no longer suffice as a larval food plant.

dscn2383-15b20cx1sat15Lodichai was even accused of taking aim at a downy woodpecker’s nest cavity five feet off the ground—and acquiring the target, so to speak.

The allegations mounted but were largely ignored because of Lodichai’s contribution to the marsh: his parties, his beauty, his generosity. Oh yes, and his mind. Let’s not forget that! Where would this marsh be without Lodichai?

And why on earth would Lodichai do these preposterous things? The answer, countered the aggrieved, was because he could.

A non-profit organization was formed to find a way to extract Lodichai from his predicament and rebuild his lodge. It was called SOUL—Save Our Unerring Lodichai. The most prominent creatures in the marsh added their names to the membership roster, which was posted in the main parking lot.

fdscn3392-cropx1sat-10lit-5The creatures on the sidelines, growing in number daily, were horrified to find their friends, mentors, and even heroes on the membership list. Especially after what the pumpkin-seed sunfish had disclosed about Lodichai. (When a beaver’s tail smacks the water, it is not something you want to be beneath.)

A counter-organization was formed called SOULLESS—Stop Offering Up Lies, Listen to Every Song and Silence.

SOULLESS demanded that SOUL disband or at least take down the wretched membership list on display for all to see. This prompted more marsh creatures to add their names to SOUL, regardless of what they thought of Lodichai’s alleged conduct, just to prove they couldn’t be bossed or suppressed.

cattails2-sat10x30By this point, major media were covering the story with headlines about “Marsh Civil War” and “The Collapse of Marsh Culture” and “L’affaire Lodichai”. There was discussion of building a wall down the centre of the marsh. That might have proceeded had it not been for the fact that the only one who actually knew how to build such a wall was Lodichai himself.

However, even without a physical wall, the marsh has now become two solitudes. The SOUL supporters have staked out the eastern half of the water and shoreline, while SOULLESS advocates have claimed the west.

Lodichai, meanwhile, is still snared in his watery cage and is said to have lost weight due to the blandness of his diet.


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