Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Category: poetry

The Sick Boy


The Sick Boy

Jane Eaton Hamilton

from Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes, 2014


The spot inside the sick boy’s brain was

invisible, it burrowed there pale as a tuber,

stubborn and engorged. His hair lifted

from his scalp like angel fuzz; his eyes

gleamed and struck us. Dumb and

wanting, we watched him teeter to the lip of the

nest, his skin traced blue with veins. Fledgling,

we thought, and gathered our children closer, under

shivering arms. The sick boy wanted Christmas

cards and he got thousands, maybe millions,

a Guiness record in any case, cards enough

to fill warehouses, from everywhere

in the world. There was his father, his mother,

his sister and brother, and there were all those cards,

and there was his brain cancer, growing like

a nightmare’s garden, spreading like a bleach spot

into September and death. We almost

knew something dangerous that glowed

the way an umbilicus will; we almost

saw reflections of silver in the mirror, but then

we didn’t. We only saw ourselves, lustrous

as poster paints, our terrible good luck.

On Writing Across the Curriculum


magnolia: Jane Eaton Hamilton, unknown year

Instead of asking me to repeat myself, why don’t you challenge yourself to expand? I am not ever going to make myself smaller, my talents fewer, my range tiny, in order to garner your praise.

Half a Baby, a poem

Love will Burst

From Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes

Half A Baby


I’d been there

to photograph the woman’s belly, that tiny unyeasted loaf

that Lilliputian bump, that craving convexity that yearned towards

life but could not manage

and the baby’s father, who tucked his hand atop

the still-beating second heart of his wife

this firstborn son to this couple

who had believed they were charmed


I was also there when the night turned soft

a hush, only the three of us at 4 a.m., and something

tangible in the air, brushing our skins

tender as feathers whispering our arms, our necks



Don’t tell me how macabre

it was with my camera, its heavy clacking

We were there, three of us, then four

five briefly, then four, then three

and the night was more astonishing than

the love I feel for my daughters

the night was more blistering than divorce

and we loved each other


He was only 20 weeks, halfway to whole, half a baby

half a son, half way, pushing down and out

and when his miniature head finally crowned

showing a black whorl of hair

time shuddered a little before dripping off the clock

The child slid through his mother’s labouring cervix

no bigger than dust

He sank through her vagina gasping towards air

and parentage, slipping through the hot bleed

A nurse caught him, small in her palm

wrapped him in a green receiving blanket

his lips as round as a cherry as he started to breathe

and breathed


she passed him to his mother’s breasts and left us

his blue birth eyes jittered and opened

the lashes wet-clumped and his mother said

He has your ears

and her husband said He has your lips

he was covered in a web of blue veins

extra skin he never filled, protuberant bones

a dangling cord, vernix, merconium


It felt like silver rain

The parents named him Christopher Jerome, speaking his name

He convulsed, shivered his undersized death rattle, and stopped

And stopped


I talked to him, to them

There we are, there we go, brave boy

sweet boy, and in this rare and grieving moment

I tried to speak his silence

I’m just going to lift, I told him, and

photographed his hand, the size of a quarter, as if clasping

first his mother’s, then his father’s

Now, ChristopherJerome, I said, I said again, there now

His mother touched her sore hurting lips to his forehead



Don’t speak to me

Just don’t

Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme: Women and Water

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Water, its cleanliness and control, is one of the world’s most pressing problems. As climate change continues to wreak its havoc, water will become the most disputed and valuable resource. But where are we now? In Canada, with its generous supplies of water, a deplorable number of First Nations are still without water security. In more dry geographies, things are dire. In this collection of works from the long-lived Canadian Woman Studies, the discussion is all about water and the recognition of it as the source of life.

I am honoured to join my poem, E. Coli, Walkerton, with the voices of talented poets in protest and celebration of water.


The most excellent writer Karrie Higgins reviewed my book on Goodreads!

Love will Burst

It’s so great to have your work celebrated. Thanks, Karrie Higgins!


Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes, the poem


The eponymous poem from my last collection:

Love Will Burst Into a Thousand Shapes*: Frida Kahlo


The first time I married Diego

he could not lift the paintbrush

from my womb

I bled cadmium from interior spaces

yawning with pubic hair, seeds

cactus roots

cavernous with absence

feeding myself with the milk of Solanaceae

Demeter’s teats

spitting out sugary skeletons

instead of babies

slipping towards parthenogenesis


After I married Diego a second time

he wound necklaces of thorns around my throat

I bled alizaran crimson from soft flesh

feeding myself dead birds

Other women crowded around

masticating and cheering, but they were nothing

even my sister was nothing

(was I? Was I nothing? With my lovers?)


Diego grabbed the sky

through the cavern in my chest

his arm a straight unbearable pole

and told me this was all the love

he had


Fair is fair; I didn’t have a heart at all anymore

just something swollen

a girl’s red castle of pain

wetly beating on sand


*Frida Kahlo, note to Diego Rivera

Breathing Underground

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Breathing Underground

Jane Eaton Hamilton, from “Body Rain”

You are making spaghetti sauce. There are no mushrooms in the crisper. You require mushrooms There are canned mushrooms in the pantry cupboard but you have just ·read that there are maggots in cans of mushrooms: twenty per can, per one hundred grams. This statistic startles you. You waffle, rationalizing that statistics can be made to say anything. You move to the pantry and open the cupboard. You climb and put your hands among the cans: you move peaches and green beans and tuna fish. You find three small cans of mushrooms, a total of sixty maggots, which for the four of you is fifteen apiece. You imagine watching the pasta covered in your spaghetti sauce curling around forks, larvae entering your son and daughter’s mouths, your husband’s mouth. The taste of canned mushrooms has always reminded you of rubber, nothing like the original, but perhaps this was not the taste of mushrooms after all, perhaps this was the taste of maggots. Maggots are things you’ve seldom seen. Twice in the garbage and once long ago your mother bought a piece of beef from the supermarket and turned it over to find it blue and crawling. She stood at the kitchen counter poking a knife at it saying Oh, oh. A few years back a sofa you’d left outside all winter had them bobbing like daffodil petals when you lifted the cushions. Your stomach heaved. Maggots are more disgusting even than slugs which are more real and slide across your walkways in the rain, black or mustard colored, sometimes with spots. you do not ever dream of slugs but occasionally you dream of maggots and coffins and the impossibility of breathing underground.

You open the three cans of mushrooms. You drain them. You throw the lids into the trash under the sink, carry the cans to the stove and place them beside the pot simmering on the burner, the glub and bubble of your spaghetti sauce. The smell of basil and oregano coddles your nose. You lift a can. Although you expect movement nothing moves. When you upend it, the mushrooms land on the sauce quivering normally. You watch them sink slowly out of sight and add the rest. Then you stir with a long-handled spoon.

Enough by Ellen Bass


sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2014

“No. It will never be enough.[…]

How could we be replete

with the flesh of ripe tomatoes, the unique

scent of their crushed leaves.”

From Ellen Bass’s poem “Enough” from the Academy of American Poets.


Contemporary Verse II: The Poetics of Queer


CVII had never brought out an all-LGBTQIA2 issue, but now they have! Featuring the work of these Canadian writers:

John Barton, Tamiko Beyer, Nicole Brossard, Randy Lee Cutler, Amber Dawn, Andrew Eastman, CE Gatchalian, Patrick Grace, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Maureen Hynes, Kyle Kushnir, Alex Leslie, Chandra Mayor, JJ Kegan McFadden, Doug Melnyk, Robin Metcalfe, Erin Mouré, Jim Nason, Billeh Nickerson, James B Nicola, Tomy “Teebs” Pico, Marika Prokosh, Rachel Rose, Andrea Routley, Marina Roy, jes sachse, Trish Salah, Kevin Shaw, Colin Smith, Bowen Smyth, Matthew Walsh, Betsy Warland, Daniel Zomparelli

My poem is Wish You Were Here

Saguaro, a poem about parenting teens

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My little thorn

you have grown on a thicker stalk

than I expected.


than I ever guessed you might.


You hurt me.

Nothing is as simple as that.

I hurt you too?


There are lotteries.

Your unlucky numbers tumble through

a bin of teenage years.

I never meant

to speak and so offend you,

to be a mother

to cringe from

and yet you say I am.


I remember before breasts and boys.

We were happy.

We lay together

in a moon crater,

swaddled and safe and bouncing.

Tall branched thistle

you were my baby,

my sweet girl,

the coup of all my days.


I am no longer

Precisely human in your eyes,

hardly divine,

only old and big.

You come to me with scorn

that rubs like sandpaper.


The trick is

to bear this jagged war

like labour.

The trick is to wear

protective gloves.

Wordpeace … it’s new

 IMG_2475painting: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2015


It is Canada Day, also known as Turtle Island Day. There is a Truth and Reconciliation Report, and we are glad, but no inquiry, still, on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

There’s a new litmag in town called Wordpeace from writer and editor Lori Derosiers. May we soon find peace in all corners of the world.

Lori included a poem of mine written during NaPoWri Mo in 2014. Turtle Island Day seems a good time to run it.

Tar Sands Hotel and Spa

Cede Poetry: The Script

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There’s a new kid in town, the poetry lit mag Cede. I have a poem in the first issue along with Patrick Lane, Heather Spears, Alice Major and many other Canadian poets. Have a look.

Cede Poetry

Half a Baby

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sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2014

I recorded a new poem for Sound Cloud this morning.  ‘Half a Baby’ from Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes.


Thinking about spring


painting: Jane Eaton Hamilton, acrylic on paper, 2014, Paris


I go outdoors into the corridors of plum and cherry blossoms, the florid wisterias with their dangling racemes, their whips you must cut back three times a season or they will eat your cat, your car, your house. Here on the street the magnolias lift their cups waiting for spring to pour itself down. I know what’s in there. I know they have crowns, Kinder egg treats, their surprises, their jesters’ hats with dangling gold bells. The air is tinted with scent of hyacinths: Carnegie, City of Harlem, China Pink, Woodstock. They grow ceraceous, stiff along their water-filled stalks, blossoms further apart or closer together depending on light conditions—in my garden with its parsimonious sunshine, they can only try hard, but they give off their kick of perfume, they string it out, they let me have it anyway. Spring is soft as cotton batten, and some moments it goes gaudy as a circus. Watch the chestnut leaf unfurl. Watch the Clematis coil around the stem. Watch the talented beak of the finch as it cracks a sunflower seed. Watch the spotted towhee peck, the variegated thrush as it hurries to hide itself. The sempiternitous sky carves its bowl of the possibilities up beyond the clouds where rockets shoot, where astronauts imagine, where Sally Ride rode her lesbianism into blue space, where Christa McAuliffe exploded when I still lived in the house with the climbing tree.

I kick off my shoes, pull at my socks. The crust of the earth is chilled under my feet, dark, but the wet flock of grass stalks, the brush-cut of green against my toes is a party, takes me into the scrum of childhood when lawns were made for kick-the-can and there was no Round-Up and the measure of a good summer was whether you got enough callouses that you could walk across sharp pebbles and how big a cannonball splash you could make. I spill my hand over a Kanzan cherry trunk, bark rigid and broken. I unwrap the perianth, the floral envelope. A whole bough is Kyoto in April, the Philosopher’s Path, the wandering maiko in their wooden shoes, pink kimonos and white faces, elaborate combs. The individual petals in my hands weigh less than air; weigh less than the eyelashes I brushed last weekend against my lover’s rose-pink cheek. The petals are translucent, pink, silky. I don’t lift my arms, but lifting my arms is what I mean, into the symphonic air.

One year, when I had greatly suffered, when my body was giving itself up, when I had lost all in the world there was to lose, except my life, and was losing that as surely as if I had a hole in my toe through which it drained, I heard a woman playing, on violin, Bach’s Violin Concerto No 1 in A minor, and I was drawn by the threads of music like a rat behind the Pied Piper of Hamelin, and I sank to a bench to listen, and was contrapuntally struck. Terror, relief. Pain, pleasure. Hatred, love. Sour, sweet. The labyrinth we all unwittingly walk, where everything horrible is eventually overwritten by beauty. Everything beautiful is eventually overwritten by horror.  And repeat.  I know this as a simple truth. This is ever reliable.

I was for the first time in a year of fear not trembling.

Instead of writing the composition, the way as a writer I was prone to do, or capturing the composition the way as a photographer and painter I was prone to do, somehow I became the composition indivisibly and then, just as mysteriously, I melded with air and breeze. I was still me, old and challenged and broken, and not me, too. I was as much the musician as I was her audience. The violinist drew her bow under an ornamental plum tree, white-blossomed, through which sunlight dappled and sky showed cerulean, and all of these things merged—Bach, the poise of her wrist, how hard she had worked to stand under this blossoming Vancouver tree on this too-cold spring day, the sunshine, my own sorrow and grief and sour-hearted blood mechanics—and I was saved. I had not been able to live, and now, via this merging of talent and music and blossom and chill, I could, again. Happiness filled me as if the hole in my foot had healed and instead had become a hole in my head, and the filling was as complete as the emptying. Where I had been but a shell, I plumped. My corpuscles danced. My mitochondria laughed.

A couple weeks ago, a friend hurt herself badly. Yesterday, there was a terrible home invasion, a harsh injury, on a street where I love people. Yesterday a friend wrote to say that even so people save themselves with minute beauty. I knew she was right. I have done this over and over and over again through my life, redemption (if you like, though I might call it retrieval, or restitution) through the communion wafer of nature, through the holy drink that is nature. People save themselves on buttercups under chins to say if they like butter. People save themselves with raccoon kits, bees’ wings, and bird babies in the eaves. These accidental evolutionary goodnesses. People save themselves with kittens, and lambs pronging in fields, and the slap of a horse’s mane on their hands as they ride barebacked through meadows. People save themselves with good cups of coffee or food.  People save themselves with tickles, with hand holding, just by meeting someone’s eyes. People save themselves with hikes or bicyling or long runs.  These spices of experience.  Fragments of mercy.

I am as dunderheaded as a person could be, but, yet, even so, even despite my flaws and weaknesses and losses, this reliable lift I feel because of the intricacy of a poppy unfolding crumpled petals, is there, is real, is find-able, is replicable, is mine for the looking. You won’t find it where I find it, because we are not the same person, but someday when the intricacy of terror and ruination lift, you will find it all the same–in a child’s giggle, a moon shadow, or in the way birch bark curls.

It is yours.




Méira Cook asks me questions about “allergy”


sketch Jane Eaton Hamilton 2006

I once wrote a long poem, “allergy,” about serial murderer Ted Bundy from his (imagined) mother’s perspective.  It was included in my first book of poetry from Brick Books called “Body Rain” in 1991.   The excellent poet Méira Cook, whose new book out from Brick Books this spring, 2015, is the intriguingly-titled “Monologue Dogs,” and I had a conversation about “allergy” last year:

Méira Cook/Jane Eaton Hamilton and allergy

Here is my conversation with Méira about her poem “Adam Father:”

Jane Eaton Hamilton/Méira Cook and Adam Father

Book of Kells: Contemporary Women Poets


sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2015

Here is a list of contemporary women poets compiled by Kelli Russell Agodon.  Work-in-progress.  But here we can find many authors whose work in which we will be happy to dip our toes.

Book of Kells



The Writer’s Studio at SFU reading series


Come here me read poetry at Cottage Bistro, Vancouver, March 5, 8-10 pm.  I am the featured reader, up last.  If lots of peeps from the community come, I promise I will read sexy bits.





Sketch by Jane Eaton Hamilton, Feb, 2014, Paris

From the churning algorithm of poetweet comes this ditty shaped of random past tweets (and it’ll make one for you, too!):

Adequate Writer Perseverance
by Jane Eaton Hamilton

Blackbird lands in your hand.
Writing 101
To fuck, kill or marry? and
On Editing

If I promise you twelve things?
LARB: On Joan Didion
Robinson/River Volta readings
Tonight/wine and cheese reception

Full Grown Batterers
The it’s-not-real feeling again.”
Landlords and their plumblers
You’re so vain
The harm our actions do to others.

Sedona, AZ


A poem from Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes Image: JEH: candles in a Quebec church

Sedona, Arizona

Nuns in white habits, swinging crosses

climbing red rocks

conversing in German, hands grasping sizzling rock

I imagined their lives at night

oppressive Phoenix heat

sweat blooming between breasts

ashen bloodless thighs

(the shock of springy hair, moist petals)

women in dark solitudes

rubbing hard beads


At the Frank Lloyd Wright church

candles flickered behind red vases hot with wishes

Please make Richard concede and sign all the papers
Please sell my house in AZ


You on the rocks getting further away


(loneliness is part of this story)

The outcroppings in the rocks you clung to were not even

as large as your nail beds

Contrails shredded clouds

A vortex Juniper spiraled above me

You spidered too small to see

I heard you shout my name from the apex of Bell Rock


At the church, a woman curled her hand around red vase

light through fingers

the way, at moments, women in love go transparent


Harsh sun on my skin

Rosaries swaying like clocks

In the churchyard, I put my hand through Jesus’s ribs

The body could refuse refuge, the body could refuse

time and lethargy. The body could refuse

anything that binds it to earth

A poem by Mac Ramsay


prickly pear, photo: Jane Eaton Hamilton 2013, Sedona

Life is a lot of fun sometimes, and one of them is when your poems get taught in high schools and then used to make something new (a la Amber Dawn’s glossas).  The italics are mine.  (I hasten to add that I did not participate in this project, so all of this belongs to Mac.)  Hasn’t he done a great job?

Ringworm (with Jane Eaton Hamilton)


I’m sick with the sea

Salty, sunkissed soliloquy

With white caps

Bold and in all caps


Her adoring eyes

Brooding for the skin she never gave


To understand charm

We learn potential like a language

Oh how a lover is a fist

Bruising only to instill belief that you are still tender


Sweet pea where are you?

Between a cup of coffee and freshly potted daffodils

You etched my name on your palms and were not sorry

Reminiscing with the smell of blood orange


You put an apple on my cheek

And told me not to drop it


By Mac Ramsay

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