Three poems by Jane Eaton Hamilton

War Photograph


He is so absolutely perfect, this boy who is probably seven

with his hands behind his head in the universal

gesture of the fat cat, as if gathering a force of happiness

so beneficent he can barely contain it

His eyes, though, are anything but mongerers of satiety

have seen things, are looking for something horrible

around the corner, the day, the village, the future

The boy’s back arches; his ribs push out insistently, terrible whole bones

his skin cinches in.  His skin, so far, is holding

but he knows his skin could rip like cotton

like Velcro, like the fast slap of a machete

like the shirt of the boy standing next to him, who gazes reverently up, touching the older boy’s right thigh as if he is all he has ever dreamed toward

The big boy’s right leg, exploded below the knee, below which a bag hangs down

in a sort of exclamatory comma, is raised, but it’s impossible to say why, what impulse moved his muscle, his tendons to lift up as if in dancer’s delight

(as if in the rapture of innocence)

as if in joy



Morning News: Syria

for AnneMarie Pegg

(after Marilyn Hacker)


Women and children who have no part

of war dragged in, cavewomen for hate

This mother sleeps children in her refugee tent

In the night, is quiet when men splatter

her buttocks, her breasts


In the morning, as snow whines

her children clamour food, empty as breasts

Outside the tent, gunfire; chaos, cries

Fuel tank explosion; fireball of screams

the sky weeping black tears


There is no restoring what is lost

in flame and smoke (might makes right)

She runs towards the MSF clinic

shouting my daughter, my daughter

holding the baby, a candle aloft

yelling blow



E. Coli


Water scours the pots.  Water relieves heat waves

We drank from a sweating pitcher

The body is 90% water

On that hot afternoon your ankles swelled, and then–

When I said I loved you

I was telling you that I once floated happily in your water


Water falls from the skies

Through hell and high water

Water rises cataclysmically

Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water

Water freezes at 0 degrees C

Water plunges over rocks and down hillsides

You’re in hot water

Water is the biggest international resource

Water is a solvent

Oil is immiscible in water

Water is tasteless and odourless

In Tanzania, children run to Jeeps begging for water

There is not enough water

People are dying of thirst

In Haiti, the water is malarial

Women carry water jugs on their heads for miles

You take to mah jongg like a duck takes to water

Many creatures swim in water

Water is a simple pleasure in a shower

You are wet behind the ears

Noodles boil in water

A child can live three days without water

Salt water is 71% of the globe

Water boils at 68 degrees C

Still water runs deep

Water is a chemical compound with the formula H2O

Water can be solid or vaporous

Hydrology is its study


I would have told you

Blood is thicker than water

if you hadn’t been too sick

I would have said I’m sorry

Water is what I cried

when they wheeled you away


About the Author:

Jane Eaton Hamilton is the author of seven books of fiction and poetry. Her poetry volume ‘Love Will Burst Into a Thousand Shapes’ is coming out fall 2014. Her chapbook, ‘Going Santa Fe,’ won the League of Canadian Poets Poetry Capbook Award. She has published in the NY Times, Seventeen magazine, Salon and many other places. Jane is also a photographer and visual artist and was a litigant in Canada’s same-sex marriage case. She lives in Vancouver.  

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