Spotlight series #89 : Alice Burdick

rob mclennan
4 min readSep 4, 2023

Curated by Canadian writer, editor and publisher rob mclennan, the “spotlight” series appears the first Monday of every month.


Everything means something, but it doesn’t mean the something needs forcing.


The bed book

The bed book, the mice on shelves diving
into the faculty. Women sit and women write.
The background doesn’t change. Water
is carbonated or flat, like the delivery.
Mitts are built right onto the handles.
I saw a quiet harbour.
It was the snow that dumped
the hush. A patron sat staring fixed
beyond my ear. Her thoughts if visible would still be coded -
a zigzagged wire of light
bursting juicy on its route.
The farm is down icy roads, nothing new.
A coyote is exhausted, and sleeps
in an abandoned grocery cart.
Bridge beside a bridge,
other bridges then in order.
Melt butter right onto burnt skin.
A roseate flush in the atmosphere.
Dial the number, whatever that means.
Our communication is definitely not a circle.
No way into the hutch but with a pointed finger.
Two men crawl in my consciousness.
I took a test for chimp acuity.
I got 100% but that’s only on paper.
In the forest, every leaf is paper.
A growling book leaps to the floor. A growl is a promise
to understand better. Unions make sense,
but that guy is just rooting for teams
in the varsity of denial. Denial ain’t just a liver in vodka.
The developing story is at the ass
end of comprehension. One step beyond
the feet that stepped before. Outrageous
curses at rescue units trying to pass through
the tunnel. Three lanes do not allow it.
Senseless claiming of space in lieu of possible fate.
On the lookout for pattern — a gate of barbed wire,
chicken wire, the most painful entrance. Light has its own ideas
in big space. Recordings of birds and traffic,
piped in, beyond ears. An encompassing
available illumination. The writing is on the factory wall.
Eyes in these places are slightly displaced.
Peripheral perpetual vision beyond the intended
presentation. Perception is that continuing thing.
Vagueness is your lot, a false assertion. Mine
is a vast underwhelming depth charge.
Floorboards creak, heels of a bouncing child
smash down from above. That
was a successful quesadilla.
I like the idea of beginning
in the middle. Then please,
don’t worry about the fog.
Aureola? Or corona?
What is the light
that carries us all?
What is the light that embalms?

Spiced ham street party

We pull the tab and a party rolls out
into the street. red carpet or long tongue.
We shut down alleyways and remove our shirts,
bounce meaty bellies off each other, dance.

Each spring we dance the past, remembrance day
for the eternal pink slab. Don’t forget that spice
is like space out there, sparkling specks, like speck,
ham on eyes. Porking destiny. Eat it with a big gulp
of sour grapes. Glisten sun, down fatty window panes.
It is square. It is a can that stacks. Put it in the hold
of warships, put it in the bunker.

The best way to prepare for the apocalypse is to lasso
the pantry. Imagine the taste of cold war meat. Imagine
that. The hard ham of dollhouses, chipping teeth.
Develop your project more, ham, to be considered
for the grant. Form wings to fly closer to the heat
lamps. Fly the fondue pot to the edge of the volcano.

Lush fire rolls down our lips. We paraglide through clouds
near ancient mountains. I can’t believe I keep going,
but belief doesn’t matter. What crawls over the shadowed
tins in the cave? Are they snakes or lizards? Why no feet,
all long belly? What’s it like at the ham factory?
Does the wage help people live? I chew the edges
of my open palms, not far from cottage loafs.

People call their cottages camps here. Gun racks
tip into infamy. More bunker than lean-to.
When fish had legs they got more done.
Seven million cans are consumed each year.
I stand with the unwanted and persistent.
Put the messages into a folder that is dissolved
into infinity. A can of ham is a handy weapon.
Keep it in your handbags, ladies, keep it next
to your bed. To be sure is no assurance,
for sure. Tissue is a hard thing to absorb.
Our bodies take everything in, then dispose
of the everything, gradually.

Alice Burdick lives and writes poetry, essays, and cookbooks in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. She is the author of one book of selected poems: Deportment, 2018, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, and four full-length poetry collections: Book of Short Sentences, 2016, Mansfield Press; Holler, 2012, Mansfield Press; Flutter, 2008, Mansfield Press; and Simple Master, 2002, Pedlar Press. Her practice often includes collaboration. Most recently her poetry has appeared in Woodlight, a series of films created by Hear Here Productions from art director and percussionist Erin Donovan, along with Susanne Chui.