August 23, 2017 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

CP photo



Penn Kemp



Poems for Jack Layton

(Canadian activist and leader of the New Democratic Party)





Once having known you

the certainty of seeing you

move always through our spirit

moves us to act, Jack! Sending

love to all you inspired and to

all those you still could!





Now it feels significant to let Jack free to dance

or rest in peace, after such a monumental fight.


Somehow I feel he has won the war; I feel him

triumphant.  As for the NDP, I have a vision of


not one leader rising to replace him, but a collective

of MPs riding the national swell of love for Jack…


Now Canadians in experiencing such devastating loss

will recognize his value and the values of his party.


At last.  This may be his greatest gift to us.  The time

has come not for another charismatic leader to see us


through but for the collective tribe to work in unity for






The Last Line is Yours


I dream Jack Layton is sitting up in bed

joyously celebrating his win, beaming,

radiant: his indomitable optimism seeing

him through cancer and out the other side.


I know the game’s over.  He understands

what we won’t till we too join him across

that last finishing line.  Wherever you are,


Jack, we love you.  Thank you for all you

won for us now that you are one with all.


His last line?  “And we’ll change the world.”






Up and At ‘Em,

for Jack,


Who is always hip!


Hip enough to lean left,

very left of centre and

perfectly well balanced.


Hip enough to call down

injustice when he sees it.


Hip enough to calm down

doubt and call out for all


those whose voices were

silenced in the Harper din


minority.  Hip enough to

know exactly when the next

election is called for.


Hip to the latest outrage

fraud too easily lent.


Hip enough to lead

opposition into power:


He would have been

our next Prime Minister.

In confidence.


When a hip poem is called for,

a hip poem responds,

comes out swinging.


Hip, Hip, Hooray!






Among Today’s Dead and Sorely Missed


So there’s Jack, standing at the gates with Jerry

Leiber, who co-wrote ‘Hound Dog,’ ‘Stand By Me,’

and ‘Jailhouse Rock’.  Sure hope Jack managed

to smuggle up his guitar.  Wonder which song

he’s singing first.  A duet I wish we could hear.

By this irreverent ditty, Jack would be chuffed.






At the partial eclipse of the sun



We looked down, put on the eclipse glasses and gazed

up at the fiery crescent behind an almost round of moon.

The air imperceptively less bright but imperturbable.


By interlacing both hands, you could see five crescents

between your fingers as well as in the shadows of trees.

I showed a woman in a burka the crescents, her symbol.


What dragon has nipped a mouthful of sun? What king

must fall? If only, Trump, if only, when shadows differ.






Penn Kemp

Penn Kemp is an activist Canadian poet, playwright and editor.  Her latest works are two plays celebrating local hero and explorer, Teresa Harris, produced in 2017 and published by Playwrights Guild of Canada. Recent books include Barbaric Cultural Practice (quattrobooks.ca/books/barbaric-cultural-practice/) and two anthologies edited, Women and Multimedia and Performing Women (http://poets.ca/feministcaucus/livingarchives/). See www.pennkemp.weebly.com.

Editor review

1 Comment

  1. Penn Kemp August 23, at 13:22

    Thanks as ever for publishing these topical poems so promptly!


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