Friday, July 31, 2009

Bloor bookstore

I take out cash to pay my library fines
but these bills are so hot they don’t even make it
into my pocket to smolder
before I must thrust them, flaming,
at the cashier of the used bookstore,
and blow on my charred fingers.

On the corner, three teenagers strum familiar songs.
I cast my change in their guitar case, sensing
the reuniting of myself in parallel dimensions
-- we are all here at this moment,
wandering Bloor Street with these big books
whose pages have attained self-realization,
being pencil-marked and well-turned.

Check out my latest post on LAID, Can we handle the truth?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Night run

Somewhere, the thoughts took a wrong turn
and now I find myself stuck
in the sharp brambles of a bad mood.

If I stay in this house, I’ll only snap my teeth
at beloved, well-meaning fingers
that reach to comfort, so I run
outside along the dark street
of a still-strange neighbourhood,
back straight like the fur of a frightened cat,
keys tucked between my knuckles like claws.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


On our lunch break, I show Hayley my secrets:
the treasures that only reveal themselves
to dwellers and wanderers.

Behind Richmond Street,
the black cat graffiti I stumbled upon years ago
while eating ice cream alone and meandering
alleyways, starting at small sounds.

The art galleries are all dark and shut
and the garden rooftop is too many stairs up.
We head to the basement bookstore
where we pretend to peruse expensive old books
so we can pet the two mangy cats
who lord over them.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Letter from the past

The mailbox is always full
as the wedding breaks on the horizon
and the response cards rain steadily in
like a spring flood.

I open the mail in order
from least to most surprising
and when I get to the tiny blue envelope
at the very back, the suspense
makes my fingers clumsy.

Friend, for once your visit is more recent
than your letter, which must have been lodged
for weeks in the gears of the mail machine.

A letter from the past makes me wonder
what the universe is hinting
about frame and time.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Fingers dancing well-rehearsed choreography
across the storm-coloured buttons
of my company phone, I try to sound calm
as Trisa shoves me and ruffles my hair.
I say, “One moment, Mrs. Jackson,”
and it comes out slurred, her knuckles
ground deep into my cheeks.

I hang up, threatening
to wrap her long hair around my fist and yank.

Alicia e-mails us all from the pageant
telling us to vote for her
and asking how the office is doing.

In her wrestling with the bound paper,
Trisa impales her finger on a staple
and I offer her a Batman band-aid,
wondering, in five years,
if I’ll still know any of these people
who I see more often than my own family.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Getaway girl

My boss asks, “Do you have your license?”
and ten minutes later I’m cruising Queen Street
with the windows down and the radio screaming
as papers-in-hand he wanders around
the tall, white government building
like a purposeful ant.

The sunshine soaks into my eyes like madness
and I lean out the window to grin and wave
at the bustling China Town crowd.
This is a good day -- let the radio play what it will.

I don’t know what kind of car this is
but it’s more expensive than any I’ll ever own
and my job is to keep it moving so I move it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


“I’m good, you?” I recite to the bike courier
as he opens his mouth to ask how I am.

I used to think small talk was inhuman,
meaningless pre-constructed conversation
that impeded any genuine connection.
Now, often foggy and broken, I find myself
disturbingly grateful for the template words
that let my brain sit in coveted idleness
for longer and longer intervals.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

At the shower, my grandmother gives me

a tin of her peanut butter cookies,
the recipe written out on plain lined paper
in her own immaculate cursive.

the beautiful star-shaped clock I always loved, pulled
from the wall of her own house. She had promised
to leave it to me when she died, but wanted
me to have it now for my house.

a poem she wrote for the occasion.
She stands up to read it aloud, her voice
riding the rhythm in strong, clear waves.
My mother glows with heightened pride.

a large plastic bin
of dish clothes, bowl covers, tea towels,
a dozen commonplace items that stir my heart
with telling of her earmark common sense.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Primal urge

At Castle Frank Station, the subway train
waits, humming leisurely to itself for several minutes
as the conductor repeats, “Please do not lean against the doors.
The train cannot move until you stop leaning on the door.”
The old Indian man near the door shifts and coughs,
all too aware that we are eyeing him
suspiciously, our jaws dripping.

In the end, the conductor herds us all off the cars like sheep
and we hover in restless crowds behind the yellow line.
But ho! I am no sheep -- being superiorly wise, I set out walking
for the Queen streetcar at Broadview Station,
heading in the wrong direction
West toward Sherbourne.

I pass a carved sign that reads NATURE TRAIL
and bid a jealous farewell to the me who, in her other dimension,
had the selfish, irresponsible courage
to skip work today
in favour of a change of scenery.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Eight-hour drive to Pennsylvania

1. Traffic

Katie wakes from her nap and asks, “Where are we?”
“Near Burlington,” I tell her, and she
nods her head and nods off once more.
Our car like a grain of sand in a desert,
we are small and irrelevant, waiting
in dead heat for the push of wind
that has forsaken us.

Andrew grows cramped and cross
in our steel box, and I am reminded
that humans are not so unlike wild things;
like horses, we crave movement
and long stretches of forced stillness
take talons to our calm.

An hour later, Katie wakes again, questioning.
“Near Burlington,” I tell her.

2. Weather

Tiny fists of rain strike our windshield, blurring
the world like ripples on the skin of a pond.
We strain our eyes for the pale-faced markers
warning of the seam between road and cliff.
Ahead, a truck lit up bright like a carnival;
We claim it for our beacon and follow it
along the turns, thread behind needle.
Only when lightning flashes like the shining scales
of a fish can we see the mountains, looming
huge and black as the belly of storm clouds.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Protest letters

In the old filing cabinet I painted pink
is a green hanging folder, labeled
with letters from correspondents of
“the Right Honourable” so-and-so
reading Dear Mr. and Ms. Valued Voter,
thank you for your letter regarding
        the bullshit Conference Board IP reports
        police internet snoop bills C-46 and C-47
        illegal illuminated tri-vision billboard at Yonge/Gerrard
        acceptable levels of tritium in Ontario drinking water
        the federal government’s environmental thumb-twiddling

My childhood Dear Diaries are replaced
with Prime Ministers, Premiers, Mayors,
MPs, MPPS, City Councillors,
Community Boards and Ministers
numerous as the saints.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Performance anxiety at the Revival

Don’t you judge me! I’m not on stage,
the band is on stage, so watch them
and let me do as I will. It’s fine
that your idea of fun is screaming lyrics,
shaking your ass, fingers on the stage edge,
the world’s best fans all waving their hands,
but I don’t want to be a groupie
or an audience participant. I don’t want
the attention. I don’t want
to clap my hands in time to the beat
or sing call and answer; it all just feels forced.
I don’t want to fake this orgasm.

This is directed at no one in particular. Seriously.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Killing time in Berczy Park

Mary and I play a strange game:
if that red building beside the TD Tower
were to fall over right now
could it hit us?

Let's see, if the building has fifty stories
and each stories is approximately ten feet
(because ten feet makes easy math)
that would be five hundred feet
– which is half a kilometre!

No, wait, now we're in the metric system.
How many feet in a metre?

The game takes a long time
and the elfish white-haired man
on the bench beside us
stares off into the distance
and pretends – or tries – not to listen.

Okay, remember the one-hundred metre races
in track and field, in elementary school,
where I wore my knee-high pink socks?
How many one-hundred metre races
would make up that building?

Mary says one,
I say the whole damn track,
and the white-haired man says nothing,
perhaps knowing the fallen building
wouldn't cover much
past Yonge Street.

Summerlicious - Hot House Cafe

we sigh over smoked risotto
we cry over goat cheese bake
we're high on tiramisu
we die at rib eye steak

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Not a morning person

Andrew wakes up five minutes before the alarm
and gets up to disarm it. He rouses me
by parting the thick curtains, and I groan
and take over his side of the bed.
He starts the kettle and brushes his teeth
while I fall back asleep.

I wake again, this time to the hum of his electric razor
scraping stubble, aimed too high on his face.
My shoulders follow my hips follow my feet
out of bed in one rolling, fluid motion,
and then I am standing, whining, stomping
to the shower, housecoat clutched to my chest
with crossed, contrary arms.

Despite broken faucets and bad water pressure,
the hot water coaxes me to some wakefulness, and now
Andrew can lay his head in the lion’s mouth
and the lion won’t bite.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The question

The question untangled itself
from the rest of the article’s text,
hopped down from my computer screen
and has followed me around ever since,
        Would you rather have loyal friends
        or interesting friends?

As I child, I blindly chose loyalty
– on principle, I thought.
Now I wonder if it wasn’t more
about safety
and comfort
and the immense gratification
of believing you’re the interesting one.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The clothes I bought at 17

Within minutes of stepping out my front door
I feel strangers’ eyes and licks of rain
against my legs
and wish I’d worn a longer dress.

Shoulders like earrings
and elbows like a belt,
I pass windy alleyways,
heavily garbed mothers and daughters,
greasy men smoking in front of bars.
I tug at my dress and wonder if it
hasn’t shrunk
in insidious increments
over six years.

As posted on LAID

Monday, July 6, 2009

On the road with my sister

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

Friday, July 3, 2009

Panorama, Canada Day eve

Your ugly grey running shoes
clash against cream leather couches
on the fifty-first floor lounge
that serves us ten-dollar cocktails
and tiny gourmet pizzas.
The only thing it seems to go with is
my faded Toronto Public Library bag,
flung behind the long, sheer curtains.

We fuzz our brains with tequila shots
and even so we find some quiet space
within our mismatched party, who say they like
the LEDs that now coat the CN Tower. We can see it
pulsing, transitioning colours to the south,
and you brashly declare:
         “No, whoever thought that was a good idea
           is a fucking idiot.”

I can’t but laugh. Even in a group,
one look or smile is the key
to our own private VIP room.

I have now written 200 poems since the creation of this blog. How crazy is that??

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fuck the wedding machine

This gift registry is useless
and it’s beginning to antagonize
my senses of style and practicality.

I don’t need pots or clocks
or scented candles like I need
a new roof and a patch
on the guilt leaking from the hole
where my family used to be.

I don’t want cookie cutter drapes
and crisp, contemporary bedspreads,
nor the glossy gleam of catalogue clippings.
I want the kind of warmth in my house
that only comes from a hot young furnace
and the rich, secret past
of every spoon and bedspread.