Reaching V is from Guernica Editions (2014). 

“Reaching V” occurs when geese find perfect formation–riding on air, sharing leadership, and honking encouragement on the journey.  These poems explore moments of epiphany, when, like a skein of geese, things align.  They investigage moments when supports crumble, and new patterns must emerge. They seek the spark in the ordinary, meaning in loss, and circle back to nature.


Whether exploring her own vulnerability as a mother and friend, or playfully delving into the mysteries of the quicksilver realms of science, philosophy and dreams, Kate Marshall-Flaherty’s luminous, refreshing poems are imbued with a sense of reverence and a hard-won faith that we can trust in our own wingspan.    – Donna Langevin, author of In The Cafe Du Monde 


Flaherty ‘s vivacious writing blends earthy zest, wholehearted generosity and rare compassion with artful aplomb. Her phrases leap, jostle and swerve as they graze the heights and probe the depths of experiences that become ours. Whether in childlike wonderment, familial devotion, or mature sorrow, she unfailingly gives us a poetry of discovery, that reveals the extraordinary in the commonplace, evokes the spiritual through the physical, and accesses worlds within worlds.    — Allan Briesmaster




You took me on my first portage

through Magnetawan and French River.

We packed trail mix, coffee, hunks of cheese,

matches and a map in plastic

flattened across the top of our pack.


I loved your canoe’s birch ribs.

You taught me to craft

j-strokes, slides and dips

with my smooth wooden paddle.

We lurched in gentle unison on the river,

watching the droplets make v-trails behind us.


I remembered school words: drumlin, esker, delta, fault,

and felt a deep relief within me

as I became part of the legend on this map.

I watched the contours become rock lift, cliff,

or a stand of leaning jack pines, remembering

the Group of Seven’s tree silhouettes.


I breathed in sulfur match-strike, wood-smoke

and damp watermarks on the map

we’d fold and unfold ’til some creases became slits

we could see the river through.

We caught the scent of bullfrog and sweat

as the sun baked our back-skins

and bounced off the river in bright sparkles.


When I feared we were lost

as one scraggly pine in rock island

looked like the next,

you pointed at the paper –

creased and grease-marked from travel –

and announce to the mighty Magnetawan:

“We are here.”


Goose, Plummeting



and you might see the farmer,

his pails set down, gazing up

at the arrowhead flight-pattern of geese –

the precision-point leader heading

two lines in his wake.


The farmer rubs his sore muscles,

tight from the pull of pails, and marvels

at the grace of wings, communal flight.

His shoulders drop as he watches the perfect point

glide through the sky.

He thinks the word wedge.


A random shot

rips the silence,

then he witnesses the spiralling down –


one goose plummeting from its place

like ripped tar paper,

a ragged valkyrie


before the bird smacks the stubbled field.


A second goose pulls

from formation, spears

down to the mark.


Now the taste of storm is in the air.


It leads the farmer to the field

with a crate, water, his wife’s wool blanket

for the grounded goose.


Her mate tenderly strokes

her splayed wing

with his beak.


The farmer cradles the wounded goose

in a sling of blanket

and carries her to the barn.

He looks back to nod at her partner,

who follows at a distance, blinking his bead eyes.


In a depression of hay,

her life-mate leans his curved neck onto her breast.


It will be only a day

until the she-goose expires.


After a night of nuzzling her dead body,

the goose flies away at dawn

to catch the draft of another V.


But years later the farmer still tells his wife:


“Every November

I swear that goose

pecks for a moment

at my barn window.”


Triptych for One Loon





Loon on lapping Georgian Bay,

past the salt docks and raked sand.


Suddenly there, the bird

has bobbed up further

from where it plunged – further

than imagined breath could be held.


Alone under the mid-day moon.





Loon stays under so long

you almost forget he descended at all.

You turn back to your book on the beach


and then, like nostalgia, he comes

far from where you expected

he could go.





Loon tilts his straight beak

and tucks his webbed feet for take-of –

flaps rhythmic wings that slap

down and up – loon and his wavy mirror-twin


a lean V trail.


Disturbed water.


                                  Reading, interrupted.