The Pink Puppet Now Available as an Early Access

Posted: April 27, 2023 in Uncategorized

My book of Flash Fiction: The Pink Puppet now available as an early access from Mosaic Press. Click on the link:

Don't Hang Your Soul on That - Full Cover

Above is the full cover of my novel, Don’t Hang Your Soul on That from Guernica Editions Sept 1, 2021.

Here are links to the recent publications of my short stories and poems over the past year. I wish to thank all of the editors of the various magazines for believing in my writing: 


Line published August 2018 by Black Moss Press

Shimmer published August 2019 by Black Moss Press

Don’t Hang Your Soul on That Forthcoming Sept 1, 2021 from Guernica Editions

From God’s Angle – Forthcoming Sept 21, 2021 from Black Moss Press



Don’t Hang Your Soul on That published Sept 1, 2021 from Guernica Editions

From Don’t Hang Your Soul on That – Excerpts

Chapter 1 – published in June 2018 issue at: The Write Launch

Chapter 2 – forthcoming in August 2018 issue at: The Write Launch


FLASH FICTION From Pink Puppet – in the works:

Tale of Amber Eyes in Christmas 2019 issue (page 39) of Edify Fiction

Tale of the Letter In the Winter 2020 issue of Grain Magazine

NEW POEMS From – Morning Poems

Dark Sublime forthcoming in Canadian Literature

PROSE POEMS From – From God’s Angle

From God’s Angle published by Black Moss Press Sept 21, 2021

Delayed Neutrons in issue 209 – Winter 2019 of The Malahat Review

The Half-Life of Uranium-238  in Fall 2019 issue of  deLuge Journal

At the Gate and From God’s Angle in Event 50.2

Five Prose Poems including Covid-19 (March 3, 2020in a June 2020 issue of Crepe & Penn

Radioactive Isotopes in the Fall/Winter issue of Apeiron Review

Radiation is Everlasting in August 2020 issue 285 of The Fiddlehead

Bridge of Death forthcoming in Plume Poetry 9

Invisible Enemy, Zinc Coffins, Backroads at Poetry Month for Black Moss Press

A Piece of Rag Wrapped Gold III and The Days After the Disaster at Canadian Writers Abroad

A Piece of Rag Wrapped Gold I in the anthology The Beauty of Being Elsewhere.

Twinkle in The Dalhousie Review Volume 101.2



From Release – Short Story Collection

A Hint of SaltFall 2019 in Prairie Fire

Release Spring 2019 in Stoneboat Literary Journal

High Water – Spring 2019 in The Antigonish Review

KeepsakeFall 2018 in Zone 3: A Literary Journal

Interventions at Eclectica Magazine

Jogging Alone at Vanish: A Journal of Arts and Letters  (Links not working at this time)

Messy a novella at The Write Launch

Photographing Dreams at The Write Launch

Little Pink Houses at The Forge Literary Magazine

From Line now published by Black Moss Press

The Hurry at The Jellyfish Review

A Trick of the Brain at The Danforth Review



From Line now published by Black Moss Press

Reaching Light  at  Laurel Magazine

Moral Shadow in Canadian Literature

Rabbits Along the Highway in The Malahat Review

Spirited Away in Carousel Magazine

Love’s Greater Orbit at

Six Poems from Line in Offside Magazine

From Shimmerpublished August 2019 by Black Moss Press

Entanglement Theory, Hibernationand VIP Chair at Juniper: A Poetry Journal (in the Summer 2018 issue)

Mother and Die and Die Ballad in the Spring 2018 issue of Grain Magazine

In The Dark in the inaugural issue of March 2018 Mantra Review

Two Poems at Eclectica Magazine – Your Maker and Lorca’s Grave

Three Poems at The Write Launch – Including Don’t Hang Your Soul On That

Set Matters at Open: A Journal of Arts and Letters

On The Half Hour at The Penultimate Peanut

The Maker in the latest issue of  Plume Poetry Journal



Interview at The Forge Literary Magazine

Poetry Month 2020 Interview at Black Moss Press Blog

Two poems to mark 25 years since my father died

Posted: July 16, 2020 in Uncategorized

Here are two poems to mark 25 years since my father died on July 16, 1995. He would have turned 100 in August of 2020. So it goes. Both of these poems are in Line published by Black Moss Press in 2018.


Lie in Wait


On a hot July day

men helped my father

weed the potato plants

that had come up in the back field

some of the men had hoes

others rakes

my father worked too

and my youngest uncle


I watched from the edge of the field

with my mother

she may have been

holding my hand.

With the other

I was shielding my eyes

from the direct sun

something moved

behind the men

a quick animal movement

and then a shimmering

in woolly heat


The men were friends of my father

and helped for a promise of autumn potatoes

each man bent in work

their backs bowled

there were at least

a half dozen of them

only one spoke French

they stopped later for whisky

passing the bottle between them

my mother made me turn

my back on them

and said that I shouldn’t watch



we didn’t go back to the house

but moved deeper into the shade

and farther away

from the men


My father wore a cap to keep

the sun off his head

none of the other men

wore hats

all had bushy heads of hair

when my father came over to talk to us

he was smoking

and smelled of whisky

he kissed my mother’s cheek

but she turned away

he rubbed my head


When the men got back to work

my mother took my hand

and we returned to the house

she opened all the windows

and left the door wide open

to cool it a bit

I lay on my bed feeling

the weight of the heat

on my chest

my brother wasn’t there

not sure where he was

at a friends maybe

or off playing in the bush

by himself

he did that often

my sister wasn’t there either

likely staying in town

with the Rose family


I never saw or heard

the men leave



at some point much later

my father staggered in


the only time

he sang was when he was drunk

he didn’t come in my room

or go to see my mother

he stayed in the kitchen

making kitchen noises

later he whistled

and lit a fire

opened a beer

and poured it into a glass

sat at the table to drink it

he got up at some point

to shut the front door

and the window by the stove

then sat at the table again

eventually my mother

came out of their room

and went to the kitchen

and I heard her start dinner


They didn’t say anything

they weren’t angry that was just

the way they were with each other



I only left my room

when my mother called me for dinner

we sat quietly at the table to eat

my father smiling a lot

my mother not smiling or talking


After dinner I went outside

to play in what was left of the sun

I decided then that we are all skittish animals



although I don’t know why I thought that

I also decided that like my father

I wouldn’t look for a God in any of it

my father only spoke about God

a few times that I remember

and when he did it was as though

he were talking about a deer

or moose

or fish

he’d encountered

and already killed

he said that there was a beauty

and balance to nature

it was my job to find it


He came out later to have a smoke

sat on a stump under a poplar

I sat on the swing out back

and watched the smoke

from his cigarette trail off

his shoulders slumped slightly in the heat

like they would be

all the time when he was seventy

sometimes he arched his back

likely to rid some ache

he watched me swing but didn’t come over to talk

when he finished his cigarette he dropped the butt

to the ground and stubbed it out with his foot

and then waved at me and went back inside


I never discovered what animal

I saw that day

and think now it was likely

a fox or weasel

an animal quicker than the eye

hurrying into the bush to lie in wait

that year my father harvested



a bumper crop of potatoes

filled dozens of

burlap sacks with them

enough for all the men who’d helped

plus plenty for us

we ate potatoes all that winter

he never planted them again.




A Trick of the Brain


I was at the kitchen sink when my father lit his hands on fire. It looked like a trick at first. But everything moved so quickly. First my father’s hands were on fire and then I was on fire. And then the kitchen was on fire. My father had mistakenly used gasoline instead of fuel oil to light the stove.

“Jesus,” my father said, although not religious man. Then, “Robert hold the door open,” which I did.

An October gust blew flames everywhere. He and I were on fire and shook from the cold.

“Jesus,” my father said again and I screamed.

My mother hurried my sister, brother and I out the bedroom window. Then she went back to help my father fight the flames with coats and blankets. And for a few minutes my sister, brother and I huddled together outside terrified that both our parents would perish in the fire. But they got the fire out. My father’s hands were badly burned, but he drove us twelve miles to the hospital in Kenora. He didn’t say anything all the way there. My mother was silent too. Us kids sobbed in the back seat.

He carried that guilt for many years.

I never held him responsible and thought him brave in fact. But I never told him that and now I wish that I had. He would have liked to hear that. Would have liked to know that it made me love him more.

For years I thought everything was held together. Whole. But now I see it’s always coming apart, never finished or complete. Chaos breeds more chaos and only the small details are orderly. Molecules, particles, yet they too burst out of control make fire, wind, and rain. Become dangerous one moment or veer off at some odd angle. Fire is caused by one molecule being attracted to another.

Later at the hospital we were sent to different rooms for treatment. Only my father and mother went home, his hands and her legs bandaged. He went to work in the next day.  Every evening for the next two weeks he visited me in the hospital. He sat in the chair beside my bed. He’d already figured a way to hold a cigarette despite the bandages.

He said little between puffs but always rubbed my head with his bandaged hand before he left. When I think of my love for him I think of those visits and how we didn’t speak and yet we were as close as we’d ever be.

A love poem from Shimmer to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone:


Organic Love

Love is made of soil
Clay, wind, rock, and bone
The way an apple
Rounds and ripens to pulp and juice
So love ripens

At an apple orchard
You pick one
And offer it to me
And I pick another and offer it to you
Love deepens
Is round and ripe

Remembering My Mother on her 93rd birthday

Posted: September 18, 2019 in Uncategorized

Remembering my mother today on what would have been her 93rd birthday. Here is a poem from Shimmer to honour her:

(For Hazel Hilles Sept 18, 1926 to Jan 20, 2012)

Mother these hardened days
Without you cast long shadows
Water causes the most damage
And yet it holds me
In ways nothing else can
Time spills over
Nothing to hold it back
You spent weeks alone each summer
Dad putting up highway signs
In Sioux Lookout or Dryden
No phone only the radio
And TV for company
Your children off in cities
The world too big

For outstretched arms

For the end of poetry month here is the poem Lorca’s Grave from my new book Shimmer that will be published in the Fall of 2019 from Black Moss Press (it’s 50th year of publishing). This poem also originally appeared in Eclectica Magazine.


Lorca’s Grave         


I think of a worm

Inching toward light

And the euphoria of

That first puncture of air

Lorca the lover

Stands in a field

Amongst working oxen

Poems plucked

From the heat of animals


For Lorca writing poems

Means walking up a steep hill

And resting at the railing

Of the important house there

Sin opens a rose


He wears a bow tie

And flannel suit despite the August heat

In one hand he carries a notebook

Behind the house are more hills

And he walks into those

Away from the olive fields

Says love is a shadow


Weeks later

He’s arrested

Driven into those same hills

Forced to stand

In the car’s headlights

No one hears the gunshot

Except for a sleeping ox

That raises its head at the noise

But doesn’t hurry away



Here is a new poem from Line published b Black Moss Press in 2018:




Time zigzagged for my mother

Like jazz on a sax

She was born poor

Had six sisters and three brothers

Her family eked by

Her father a religious man

Thought God pugnacious

And taciturn

A torturer at times

A dangler of easy promises

Her mother

Played Mozart on the piano

Tiptoed about the house

In the middle of the night

Sat sometimes for hours

At the piano without playing a note


My mother ran away to the city

Wrote a few letters home that’s all

Fell in love

Married my father

Love never the making

But what the heart lets

Stay buried

She played the piano too

And prayed for hours

An amalgam of the house

Where she grew up

Where music had to fight noise

And then a sister would

Throw open the door

Let in the wind and snow

Rush in

Her father standing

In the doorway

Coat pulled tight about him

On his way to feed the pigs


All her sisters left home

Because of love

Their beliefs a product

Of radios and chewing gum

My mother took her time getting to me

And later my brother and sister

Her body resisting

All of us sketchy

Time a kernel

From which life grows

Even those deeds

The good hold fast

I said goodbye to her

A final time on the phone

And then looked for the moon

In the half doused sky

But saw only blinking lights

In the street below

The present pressed

Too firmly into place.

Here is a prose piece from Calling the Wild, published by Black Moss Press.

This is for the memory of my brother, Brian Austin Hilles, who would have turned 64 today, Sept 9, 2017

Calling The Wild Cover

Ghost Lake


Ghost Lake was a mythical lake that only a few people, including my father, claimed to have seen. When my father was twelve or thirteen, Royal took him to see it. Local legend was that only good people could see the lake and that a bad person would walk right into it and be halfway across before they realized it was there. Most of them drowned.

According to my father, Ghost Lake was five miles north of Royal’s farm and was only about a 1/4 mile across, but so deep it didn’t have a bottom. Toss a stone in it and the stone would fall forever. The lake was so plentiful with pickerel and lake trout that fishing was as easy as dipping in a hand. The water was so clear he watched large schools of pickerel dodging each other only inches below the surface.

When my brother and I were teenagers, we spent a summer in search of Ghost Lake. Nearly every morning, we’d pack a lunch and walk due north as my father instructed. No matter what route we took, in no time we’d reach water. We swam in a dozen different lakes over that summer. But none of them had the mystically clear water of Ghost Lake. These were lakes full of tadpoles and bottomed by leeches. Any fish in those waters was bound to be God-awful ugly bottom feeders. Catfish or suckers

When we’d had enough of swimming, we’d circle the lake in search of berry patches. Wild strawberries and raspberries in early July, blueberries later. We’d eat our fill before returning home with hands dyed red or stained purple.

It was while we were picking blueberries one afternoon in early August that I thought I saw water shimmering between the trees. When I went to investigate, I saw another lake through the spruce boughs, a little more north of where we’d normally stopped. I left the blueberries to my brother and set off to explore on my own.

At the first, I lost sight of the lake, but I climbed a nearby poplar and it came back into view. This time I fixed on its location and continued in that direction. From the tree, it appeared not to be far, but I as I walked, it didn’t get any closer, and I wondered if it was a bigger lake than I first thought.

Finally, after I’d been walking for about half an hour, I reached it. The lake was the right size to be Ghost Lake, but its water was filthy brown. I knelt down to test the water and it was icy cold.

Just then, I heard a scream and turned in time to see my brother charging straight at me. He must have been tracking me the whole time. He pushed me into the water, clothes and all. I screamed and grabbed at the bank but couldn’t pull myself out. Asshole. I shouted at him and called him other names too as he stood smiling down at me. That is when I felt them. Little nudges at first against my leg and then they become more urgent, and when I felt around I realized that hundreds of fish surrounded me.

Help! I yelled at my brother who must have seen the terror in my eyes because he dropped to his knees and quickly pulled me out.

Jesus, what did you do that for? I swatted at him but he was too busy looking in the water to notice.

Look, he said, fascination in his voice.

I joined him at the bank and the water was roiling from the tails of huge silver fish. My brother reached in, pulled one out, and tossed it on the bank. It must have weight five pounds.

The fish lay gasping on the ground. It had an ugly head with large deformed eyes. Maybe the lack of light caused the eyes to mutate. I kicked it further up the bank over earth, which smelled strongly of dead fish. Half decayed or stripped carcasses were scattered everywhere. Bears had feasted here recently. The thought of that made we want to head home, but when I turned back to the lake my brother had stripped and jumped into the water and was trashing around to keep the fish away. His feet struck something on the bottom and he gave out a yell. He struggled for a moment and then hoisted out a rusted bumper. He searched around some more in the water for car parts and ended up throwing another fish up onto the bank before getting out.

My brother wrapped up the larger of the two fish and put in his pack and then we left for home. When my father saw the fish he said it was some strange kind of trout he’d never seen before. We called them Ghost fish because of the way their colours camouflaged them and made them hard to see in the water.

My brother and I were curious about the bumper of the car. How did that get in there? My brother asked.

At first, my father didn’t believe us and thought we were making it up.

Maybe there was a road there a long time ago, before the war, and it has since grown over. My father finally said. There used to be all kinds of roads out here before the highway.

I wondered how many other cars were rusting away on the bottom of that lake. I wondered too if they had something do with the fish being so deformed. My brother and I decided to call it Rusty Lake although years later I learned its proper name was Puma Lake.

My brother and I never did find Ghost Lake and by the end of summer, I started to wonder if Ghost Lake wasn’t just another of my father’s drunken stories that he kept telling because he wanted them to be true and if he told them often enough they might be.

An older poem from Nothing Vanishes. To remember my father who died 22 years ago today on July 16, 1995. He died the year before this book came out although most of the poems in it including this one were written before he died.


Last Words To A Father

There can be none, only a short wave or certain smile that comes again when you are asleep or talking to your daughter, her head tossed a particular way. On some Saturday or Sunday you will call home and there will be no answer only a long ringing in your ear, and as you put down the receiver the words will form again at the back of your mind, and you will think of a particular color or taste, and you will open your mouth as if to speak but you will step forward instead and look into your hands as if they held something beautiful, and as you do you will begin to cry, and from across the room a thin pale smoke will drift as if your father has just finished smoking one of his strong cigarettes. You will stare at the empty chair. The house quiet on a quiet street. Off in the distance a dog will bark at someone. The world will become so faint that you will begin to see behind it the face of your father and his eyes. How did they get there?

Here is a new poem from my book Line (coming April 2018) to remember my father who died 21 years ago today.

Dad by Rock 1940sMy Dad on Smith Farm 1940sPicture 001


This precarious perch
our one go
the row of lights
blinding at times
but around them only dark
a hedgerow of rhododendrons
spiked intent
behind the facade
a child plays with spark plugs
the timing of my father’s engine
the grin godly
mischief how it all leaps ahead
the timing belt on his truck
could snap sends stars
scattering into the night
no one draws near
all wrongs not righted
but propped up somehow
every creature
complete with some sort of spine
or other mechanism
for explaining
that the perch is gained
but once and not for that long
the moving parts always different
if my father looks now to one side
as a bear or beaver
hurries in the underbrush
down the way a creek swells its banks
the birch and poplars around
greedy for all that water
roots pushed so deep
they hit rock and progress sideways

my father parks
on the other side of the creek
carries a 30/30 rifle on his shoulder
finds a rock to settle
disturbs the moss and sits
waits for a deer
there are few noises
now and then
the huff of wind
leaves flutter
or to his right a bird of some sort
calls once
a squirrel chatters
then bounds between trees
all this movement
how it all keeps
spinning out of control
if not brought here
then how
does it come to be?
all of it a lurch of some sort
explained only in some
unravelling prayer
it is autumn
my father the deer hunter
wears running shoes
red checkered hat
pushed back exposing forehead
glasses scratched
teeth mostly gone
he holds the rife a steady aim
he was once stars
and will be stars again
and is stars now
but that day he
is all of us
ashamed holding fast
telling the truth
in his head
he craves a cigarette
but stays focused
hears the deer
to his right
advancing toward the creek
for water
each animal
needing precisely what
the earth serves up
even my father here
moments from killing the deer
sees how everything he needs
has been provided
all of it working fine
before laws
before the amassing of wealth
before that nimble thing
called history
that prepared argument
even a god would shun
if one were asserted into place
the precarious perch
even my father
then only a decade or so
from being dead too
he has known this bush
since a boy and now
hunts it as an old man
the deer too has a journey
that took it to this
very creek
its head a truthful place too
even if my father has no sense
of what its thoughts might be
later after my father
pulls the trigger
and approaches the still warm body
it is all familiar to him
as he cuts into flesh
hands bloodied
he learned this chore
years ago
the meat inside
only a ghost of something older
the wind at his back
another of those negotiations
he knows
later he washes his hands in the creek
carries the carcass to his stone boat
drags it back to his truck
parked between spruces
lifts one end of the deer
onto the tailgate
then the other
pushes across that metal scrape

on the drive home
he could check on the dead deer
in his rear view mirror
but doesn’t
his thoughts race
past the point of words
when he signals
for his road
there are no oncoming cars
but waits a moment before turning
as though there were
can’t explain that
now or later
when I ask him about it
all he says
is that it was his last deer
that there wasn’t as much meat
on it as there used to be
that’s his argument with god
I know that even if he doesn’t say
it takes a very long time
to gain what a life holds
and then it is all lost again
the final exhale
erasing it all
then he is still my father
even if all that made him
is mostly shut off

that day though with the last deer
he sits on the tailgate for a few moments
after loading the deer
sniffs the air
catches hints of spruce needles mixed
with the sourness of fallen leaves
he doesn’t reflect on the deer’s life
or his own or what brought them both
here today
mostly his mind empties of thought
the moment not really requiring thought
only the necessities of being
breath, balance, movement, pause
attention or at least attending
eventually he gets in the truck
and drives away
his hands perched on the steering wheel
grip firmly and he aims his truck
down the highway
the dead deer in the back
not the only thing he
is transporting with him