Three Poems by Richard-Yves Sitoski

Letter from a Detention Centre Along the Mexican Border

take the thing which disturbs you most
& show it some sympathy
the monster under your bed
needs to eat too

show us some sympathy
you take us for criminals
but we need to eat too
so get over ancestral hatreds

you take us for criminals
we are the thing which disturbs you most
but ancestral hatreds
are the monster in your bed

& you’re not disturbed in the least
that it needs to eat too
this monster in your bed
which knows no sympathy

for it will eat you too
till there’s bones on your mattress
& if we show you sympathy
maybe that’s what disturbs you most


The Problem of Free Will in a Town Beset by White Supremacist Propaganda

Does sky rest on Earth or is Earth tacked to sky?
How long is a morning, a morning like this as pale as
unripened raspberries? Can birds make fools
of themselves unless they sing like nobody’s listening?
There’s nothing good on Netflix these days and
you can’t find a decent cup of joe in this town
for less than three bucks. Why? I have more questions
about the sky but I’ll keep them to myself because
that’s cosmology. I have more questions about coffee
and TV but I know the answers. But my questions
about people are something else. We’re not birds to do things
because they’re natural, singing songs we haven’t learned
but are in us. Are we? If we taste a raspberry, can we not
say to ourselves it isn’t ripe and decide based on that
if we want to keep eating? We have some choice
in the matter, do we not? Otherwise it’s all just atoms ‘n’ shit
or some such Lucretian mumbo-jumbo. (I remember a time
when my mom wouldn’t leave my dad because
she was afraid of him, but that’s different – all she had
was a diet of unripened raspberries and you can’t live
without food.) But what about those who sing off-key
because everyone is listening, knowing we won’t
like the melody? What does Lucretius say about them?
Buddha? Kant? It’s all a mess when neo-Nazis
lay wreaths at memorials honouring men who died
fighting Nazis. You get the picture. How can you
not be pessimistic about the random bouncing of atoms
in a world that knows no logic? Is hatred deliberate
or do you just pick it up? And if hate is your default
can you be taught to love? Can any of this be done
consciously? I know little of the matter, aspiring as I do
to be a bird, to move as a bird does through a sky not tacked
to Earth. Birds don’t care about the price of coffee
or what’s on Netflix. Birds fly through the pale morning
not knowing confusion or despair. But they are not
ignorant. They are in fact perfect. Perfect in knowing
precisely how to pick ripened raspberries, and that this is good.

Undocumented Arrivals

purple loosestrife grows in ditches, irrigation canals and standing water,

dominating wetlands and choking out native species.

it is as run-of-the-mill as divorce.

zebra mussels filter out phytoplankton, destroying the food chain

and leaving water clear and sterile as alcohol.

they are as ubiquitous as deathbed regrets.

since the introduction of emerald ash borers,

every single tree of the 22 species of ash is at risk.

the borers are as widespread as hubris.

phragmites are as everyday as bad things justified by anger.

sea lampreys are as tedious as capitalism.

gypsy moths are as inevitable as grief.

and if you think of all this when you read that a ghanaian

has lost every finger to frostbite on an all-night trudge

in running shoes through kilometers of waist-deep snow

your opinion is more destructive and common

than any of these.


Richard-Yves Sitoski is a spoken word artist, poet and songwriter from the sleepy burg of Owen Sound, Ontario, with numerous journal publications, two books (brownfields and Downmarket Oldies FM Station Blues), and a CD (Word Salad) to his credit. When not writing, he makes disturbing sounds with guitars and is a committee member of the Words Aloud Festival of Spoken Word and Storytelling, one of Ontario’s premier literary festivals. You can find him at or on Facebook.

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