Guest Poem by Steve Noyes

Steve Noyes is the author of six collections of poetry, the most recent of which are Rainbow Stage—Manchuria (Oolichan Books, 2011) and small data (Frog Hollow Press, 2014.) His long poem The Conveyor is forthcoming from the Alfred Gustav Press in 2023. A recent recipient of a Canada Council for the Arts grant, Steve is from Vancouver Island and now lives in Sheffield.


Low in the southern sky, a coppery glint,
Mars, planet of war. Across that distance
a memory sifts in, of the Juan de Fuca Strait
on a still evening, when an aircraft carrier,
the Ronald Reagan, half a mile long, slate-grey,
was sent by the Empire to demonstrate
its deathly reach, and the local serfs,
though nominally of another state,
brought their families to picnic within sight
of the Empire’s instrument, to hold hands
with their kids, to heft their babies, eat
hot-dogs and popcorn, as though that carrier
of missiles and superior armament
had made them merrier and somehow safe.

I was sad because they chose to celebrate
war itself, whose tiny reddish messenger
intensified as the sun declined behind
the Sooke hills; because the danger
they would wish on distant families,
the volcanic booms and lacerating shrapnel,
so easily dispensed by this slate-grey ship,
bristling with guns and neatly parked planes,
seemed to them so far away. Impossible,
they thought, for it to seriously appear
in their land. Perhaps they were even aware
of a future, complacent thrill, when,
swilling beer, they would tell grandkids about
a time before war was general everywhere.