church history

father and children©papa osmubal

father and children©papa osmubal

church history*
brian vanderlip

A large family
dressed up tight
and smelling of shoe polish,
we filed into Sunday morning pews.
Full-barrelled sun in the windows,
powerful trails of perfume and
lavender powder, swish
of layered skirts.
As father called the lost
and defeated to repent,
we were allowed
to be too small
to suffer true defeat
or accomplish real repentance–
instead we got candies for our tongues
and as the sermon stretched
toward noon,
we could too
and lay our cheeks on mother’s lap
while father shouted.

*from What Happens to Memory, The Netherlandic Press, Canada, 1989

from a winter window

remnants of Eden©papa osmubal

remnants of Eden©papa osmubal


from a winter window*
brian vanderlip

A tangle of twig fingers
just outside the window,
a child’s cut-out neighbourhood,
scissors never quite steady,
crayon colours overlapping.
Every which-way from here
frail fences weave,
two-sided, drunken,
carving darkness,
dividing the spoils of
two thousand years,
these remnants of Eden,
these hollow lawns with hedges.

Last night the snow fell again,
first the light gauze
then thick white,
bandaging, padding, healing.
Today when I looked out
from this dark room
there were children
breaking trails
in white cathedrals.

*from What Happens to Memory, The Netherlandic Press, Canada, 1989

prayer: winter ’82

trying to love new fashions©papa osmubal

trying to love new fashions©papa osmubal


prayer: winter ’82*
brian vanderlip

Lost, dear Lord,
trying to love
new fashions,
one-eyed psychiatrists,
mirrored views, and
the sleek luster-

God grant me
religious preoccupations.

Reach me, Lord,
hold and
keep me.

*from What Happens to Memory, The Netherlandic Press, Canada, 1989


the hungry praise of bird©papa osmubal

the hungry praise of bird©papa osmubal


–brian vanderlip

Dawn is an unfolding,
a lifting up from nothing,
slow shadows unveiling
in the midst of curious
glowing fingers.

Between the dark and the light
the hungry praise of birds
mingles with surreal dreams–
out the eyes, a glory-weave
of leaves and sky and song,
a tapestry of waking.

Perhaps, if not right beside you
then inside you where ‘God-has-given’,
some beloved one sleeps peacefully
resting flesh of hope and dream
against your flesh–
the sound of two breaths
measured into unison,
a new music haunted with heartbeats,
the song going up and up.

Your palm drifts, mist-like on my wrist,
a touch like dawn unfolds.

* from What Happens to Memory, The Netherlandic Press, Canada, 1989

how to get happy

mcdonald's©papa osmubal

mcdonald's©papa osmubal

how to get happy*
brian vanderlip

‘found poem’ from a McDonald’s Restaurant place-mat

Here’s your start, hold your
thumb and first finger about
4 1/2 centimeter apart.

Bring thumb
and finger up so that they fit the
outside edges of your mouth.

Keep mouth in that position
and remove fingers.

cheek muscles, make the tops
of your cheeks go up.

your nose
and hold it that way.

Squint with your eyes

Move lips enough to say the
words ‘weasles eat cheese,’
quietly several times.

Now, keeping face in that
position, look up at the people
at the tables around you.
When they see your face, they
will smile or even laugh.

Laugh with them. You are happy.

*from What Happens to Memory , The Netherlandic Press, Canada, 1989


Brian Vanderlip is a Canadian poet. He was born in Cobourg, Ontario, where he received his public school education. He lived in Macau for 2 years when he worked at The International School of Macau. He also worked in Bangkok, Thailand as a translator and ESL tutor. He has published two books of poetry, The Undoing (1994) and What Happens to Memory (1989).