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dust or fire

What is left of us when we are gone?

In this assured debut collection, Alyda Faber examines the ties that bind us to one another and to the Earth we inhabit. Her unflinching gaze explores the imperfections of our fleeting existence, our ambitions, our relationships, our flawed humanity. In these quiet, sometimes unsettling poems, she documents the search for home, the longing to belong, to love, and to be loved. She also turns to the ways love can curve toward pain: how we carelessly hurt one another, yet find the grace to forgive and carry on.

“To open the pages of Alyda Faber’s Dust or Fire is to embark on a questing journey into the fragmentary elusiveness of family history, the threatened survival of Frisian — the language of Friesland — and the precariousness of life itself. Along the way, the reader is repeatedly left breathless by the shimmering images and the intricately clever metaphoric wordplay Faber wields in her remarkably accomplished debut poetry collection.”

— Ruth Roach Pierson, author of Realignment

“Family and its aftermath, how to honour the devastation and save the girl? Circling around her parents’ meeting in a Frisian train station, Alyda Faber, at turns austere and lyric, elliptical and direct, zeroes in on love and fear until the atom splits. She gifts us with some of the best writing about family by a Canadian poet in many years.”

— John Barton, author of Polari


This e-book contains poetry. Before the invention of writing and books, and long before the harnessing of electricity, poetry roamed the earth. Poetry adapted to the book and welcomed the electric light (with which it could be read longer hours). Poetry is still uneasy about the recent invention of the e-book and does not always respond well to the dynamic environment an e-book reader offers.

To set your poetry at ease, and to ensure the best possible reading experience, we recommend the following settings for your e-book reader:

  • Different typefaces (fonts) can change the length of lines and the relationships between characters on the rendered page. If you can change the typeface on your reading device, choose one that you find pleasing to the eye, but we recommend the following for the best results: for Apple iPad (iBooks), use Original or Charter; for Kobo devices or apps, use the Publisher Default, Amasis, or Baskerville; for Kindle devices or apps, use Baskerville, if it is available.
  • Set the font size as small as you can comfortably read; ideally it will be one of the 3 or 4 smallest font sizes on most apps and devices.
  • Use portrait (vertical) mode.
  • Use the narrowest line spacing and the widest margins available.
  • If you can adjust the text alignment, use the publisher default or left justification.
  • If you use a Kobo device or tablet app, turn “Kobo Styling” off.

You will find the ideal settings for your device if you experiment on a poem with long lines and observe where the lines break and the visual shape of the poem starts to change as the text enlarges. If you follow these general guidelines, you should find the poems presented as the poets meant them to be read.

Enjoy your new e-book.

Goose Lane Editions

title page

In memory of my mother and father,
Jacoba Faber Houtsma and Pieter Faber.

That flesh is but the glass, which holds the dust

That measures all our time

— George Herbert, “Church Monuments”


Unsaying Poems


Hy mei it net lije dat de sinne yn it wetter skynt.

I had the misfortune

to be raised in a snake family

the father all jaws and stomach

long-nosed for frog hunting.

Like the despot

of a small country

his name is whispered,

his teeth grind every tongue.

Try to own a small corner

the nose finds its way in.

And the father-enigma drops

la jalousie down on my soul again —

he doesn’t want the sun

to shine on the water.

Cactus Essay

Byn it dy om de knibbel, dan slacht it dy net om it hert.


On bright grass, the dead squirrel like a fur-cup,

its rib unfurls out of a minute red sea.

My mother lies in the hills, box-sealed from pain.

Out of my vision, now she lingers in my throat.

In an Ontario gothic farmhouse, my mother remade

Dutch windows she left behind. Succulents tangled

in dusty friendliness. One winter she grew cacti from seed,

wood heat and morning sun warming cloudy tents.

If she’d met my father’s family before the wedding

she wouldn’t have married him, my mother often said,

but never told us of the conference of three,

Would you like to know how the story ends?

Buy "Dust or Fire" in your preferred e-book store and continue reading:


Apple Books




Enjoy your reading!