Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Snow globe


Cruising down Richmond Street East
Wet white streets, tires kicking up snow

Dad points out the landmarks
Stores that used to be factories
Million-dollar homes that were once ghettos
Streets that he and my mother walked
Hand-in-hand as teenagers
A building on King Street, brickwork laid
Twenty years ago by him and my grandfather
Their touch, forever embedded in the cement
A commonplace kind of immortality

The drive stokes my appetite
I want to know this city, all of it
Be part of it in touch and spirit and memory
Hear the stories and legends and history
My city, a familiar book
Pages dog-eared, cover torn
Passages learned and spoken by heart.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Child-eyes wide


The open, unguarded door of the freight lift
Makes me a child again
Obedient feet planted firmly on the floor edge
Neck craned over, curious eyes flick about

The lift is creaky, grey wood
Bent with age and memory
Steel barred walls
Behind them, scratchy unfinished brick
The smell -- earthy, old
Trailing dark drop below
Incites a murder-mystery heartbeat

I’m too old to enter the gates of other worlds
But I still recognize them when I see them.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Anthem 2009


At lunch, my coworkers slump
Approaching January blocks out the sky like a storm
Casts shadow on their spirits
Once alight with Christmas zeal
Now they moan under the strain of
Credit card debt
Months of winter ahead
Starved for sunlight
Nothing left to look forward to but the spring

Any other year, the miseries
Would settle into my bones like a chill
But now I sigh, enchanted
White fur cape of dreams
Held close around my shoulders

This is my year
And I will sing out my song
The shivering, tenacious little bird
Who won’t fly south
No matter how the storm blows.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

And so begin the endless rhetorical questions


2 a.m. caffeine high
Makes me shaky, restless
Lonely in the quiet
Only the heavy breathing of sleepers
Train whistles, unearthed
When the daytime traffic stills

Do I sleep sounder
When you’re twenty minutes away
Instead of eight hours?

Will I feel any less alone
When you lay beside me
Distanced not in space
But in cold conscious state
Like life beside death?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lazy Tuesday


Two hours to kill
And no bosses to watch me kill them

Three-way sudoku speed racing
Singing, swear words intact
Flash games and YouTube videos
Feet up on the desk
Mouth full of chocolate

This is what white-collar dreams are made of.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow


Dad skims the weather reports
For Las Vegas, Malibu
Freak snowstorms in warm cities

In true Canadian fashion, he comments
On how wonderful it must be for them
To see real snow, many for the first time
Coating trees like icing sugar
Sparkling in the streets
Not a word about driving or drainpipes

Sure, we all complain about it
But there’s something about snowflakes
Caught in my eyelashes
That makes me feel beautiful
Despite my bulbous ski jacket
Ugly, practical boots

I am warm against the snow
Winter-blushed
Breathing out mist, like a spirit.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

South, CN Tower


I doddle near the bathroom window
The only place in this whole damn building
You can feel sunlight
See the CN Tower
Symbol and pride of the city
Big sentimental compass needle

On days when the fog and snow
Scramble the sky
We are as lost and weary
As any other city.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I got, got, got, got no time


My life plays along to the ticking
Of the metronome, count-down clock
Everything timed to the minute
Eights hours of sleep and one for lunch
Three-minute walk to catch the 7:20 bus
And get to work by nine

It still feels unnatural, wrong
Assigning time limits
To basic needs
Visits with friends
Conversations with family

I don’t own a wristwatch
Let alone my own time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Welcome home


I am the lighthouse keeper
Writing letters in my tower
Keeping company of potted plants
Dogs on short leashes
All of us settled, restless

You will make your riches
Save your lives
Chase your dreams
And I will jot each adventure down
In a bedtime storybook
Wear your pride in my smile
Plant my tiny seeds in familiar ground
And wait.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Grown-up


December is twinkling Christmas light flicker
Shopping malls heavy with heat and sound
Homemade card on the counter
And red ribbon curls under the tree
Senses so full it takes my breath away

As a child, the month stretched on
Vast, an endless desert
Days long and marked
One by one, with tiny chocolate squares
Pulled from a cardboard calendar
Excruciating, ultimately gratifying

Now the days blow under me
Dizzy from skipping rope
Struggle to keep my feet off the ground
Christmas sneaks up, a shock
I will cling to this in sluggish January:
Lights, grandmother's mashed potatoes
Faint cinnamon smell.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Five-minute friend


Jenna, the pretty bank teller
Remembers my name and always smiles
In between the flurry of stamping, counting
She asks thoughtful, personal questions
Tells me how light her Christmas shopping’s gotten
Since her family all moved back to China

She knows how many twenties and fifties I want
Is quick with a certified cheque
But she is more than bank statements and cash counting

She is not the little pen chained to the counter.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Balloon ride


Today I’m a hot air balloon
Something propels my spirit skyward
Corners of my mouth in tow
But what it is, I’ve forgotten

Maybe it’s my name
Scrawled on an envelope in familiar writing
Maybe it’s Christmas chocolate sugar-high
Random coworker giggle-fest
Looming lunch with a loved one
Or just Friday afternoon

From this height, my worries
Are little specks on the pavement
Up, up and away.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Girls night out


Straining my ears to hear my boss’s words
Over the thump-thump-thump of my headache
Skin stretched tight and dry over my face
And long skirt held at my waist with a paperclip
Really the short dress I wore last night

Vague memories of overpriced cocktails
A fancy club on Bloor Street
Full of iron-hair push-up bra women
And suit-and-tie business types
Men so tall they seem like another species
All bopping unrhythmically around the dance floor
Like only stuffy, rich white people can
The after work crowd, all calling in sick today

I buy a round of drinks for my girls
They scream each time the song changes
Wake up to crisp white hotel linens
And empty pockets
Ten hours until I can sleep again
And ten minutes until work starts

Oh, the things we do in the name of
Friendship and spontaneity
I'll kick myself today and tomorrow
But someday I will look back
And be content with my youth.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Teodora


Teo with her smile alight
Come to make the morning bright
Yellow sweater, rosy cheeks
A hint of accent when she speaks

Grinning a mischievous smile
When the boss is off to trial
She visits me to breathe, relax
I lure her out with nuts and snacks

Teo with her quirky tales
When the conversation fails
Dancing like a joyful rover
When the day is nearly over

Sighing with her mouth turned down
When she’s gotten pushed around
Now she leaves for peace of mind
Miss her, we who stay behind

She gives us gifts to say goodbye
A note that makes Alicia cry
Keep in touch, I won’t forget her
Let her know me ever better.

For Teo, who likes rhyming poems and who will be greatly missed.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Downtown in December


Downtown has always been a summer friend
Bid farewell to when the days
Grow short with my time
Kensington Sundays long passed
And all those sidewalk patios closed

Still, there are joys for new eyes
Daring cyclists glide on a wake of slush
Cookie-cutter pigeon footprints in the snow
And the snooty Queen Street fashionistas
Surrendered to ski jackets and winter boots.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Humanity

This poem has been taken down for submission to a publication. Apologies for the inconvenience.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

House hunting


Talking to the realtor
Andrew says, "It costs a bit to get someone
To come in and inspect the house
But it's worth every penny"
Strongly, casually
As though he learned from experience
Instead of from the lips of his father

Sometimes I catch him
Spouting off facts and opinions
Something he heard five minutes ago
Committed to memory, source forgotten
He breathes out the words
And they become his own

It used to make my eyes roll
I thought it was the ego-flogging
Gold-star boasting
In which I occasionally, self-loathingly indulge
But love is learning
To see someone through the glass
Without catching your own reflection

He's no peacock
Just frightened in strange surroundings
Subconsciously rehearsed statements
Spoken confidently in his own voice
Lend a sense of control
Make-believe familiarity
The little sip of denial
That gets us all through the day.

Sometimes love is just nodding your head
And pretending not to notice.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Strange company


Waiting for the Queen streetcar
I find myself in the company
Of a one-legged man with a bicycle
Amplifier in a gym bag swung over one shoulder
His guitar case tips into the street and he screams
I prop it against the shelter glass for him
Slurring and excitable
He's either drunk or crazy or both.

Eyes blazing and unsteady
He complains in his scratchy, mumbling voice
About how it's too cold to play today
How long and painful his commute home is
How the Asian guy behind me is blocking his view
Prolonged small talk
No more or less awkward and commonplace
Than it ever is.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Games of chance and elimination

This poem has been taken down for submission to a publication. Apologies for the inconvenience.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Smile


Lake Ontario whips up the cold wind
And blasts me in the face with it
At the corner of Richmond and John
Shoulders to my ears
Scowl at the damned public security camera
Orwell's lessons well-remembered

A stranger crosses the street
He grins at me and says, "Smile
It's not so bad"
And I'm smiling, involuntarily
Before he finishes his sentence
Friendly strangers get me, every time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Letters

This poem has been taken down for submission to a publication. Apologies for the inconvenience.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Movie nerd


Laughter spilling out into the hallway
Alexis edits her film school projects
Clips of her best friends
Dressed up as cat people
Picking their noses, pig-tailed
Faces bearded with hair clippings and Vaseline
Her strange sense of humour is little beads
Strung on the storylines around her smile
These things form the three-minute movies
That line my sister’s bookshelf
And my mother’s heart.

Hunting through my closet
For the ingredients of a punk-rock celebrity
Spike up my short hair
Sport the only short plaid kilt I couldn’t part with
Because today I get to be somebody else.

Mary sings “Boom Operator”
To the tune of “Smooth Operator”
As the mic tests begin
Katie makes me beautiful with her eye shadow
And Alexis makes us all three-minute movie stars.