Monday, August 31, 2009

Starting out

There are tiny pieces of story
strolling around inside my head,
greeting each other like neighbours
on a well-kept street.

I know them only by faces, not names,
but they smile friendly at me and I suspect
shortly I will overcome my shyness
and introduce myself.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Copyright consultation, Toronto

"Hello, my name is Shayla and I am not a lawyer
or an employee of Sony or Universal or Warner Music,
which apparently makes me a minority in this room
where we listen to the star-maker machinery rust and creak
and call it a town hall meeting.

We lowly individuals of the Canadian public
don’t have the cash to stack the rows with extra mouths,
but we have a song you don’t want to produce
and it goes We don’t want you, middlemen,
you who only claim what others create, you parasites,
you scavengers who peck at the carcass of culture,
you fat squirrels who gobble the seeds we would have
go to singing birds.
Would you produce our song
for ninety-eight cents of every dollar someone pays
to hear it, sing it?

Mister Minister, this room is filled with angry old people
spouting old ideas and old solutions. We all care
about the future of music, writing, art, but laws
that criminalize millions and are unenforceable
are surely bad--”

The lawyers drag me back from the mic
while the Warner Music president grins and sues me
for plagiarizing Joni Mitchell.

To anyone who takes an interest in the upcoming copyright law reform: please make your opinion known in an online submission to the Canadian government.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Grown timid

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


It’s only in the last few years I’ve begun to regret
little things: never making an effort in French class
or math class and now even if I learn I’ll never speak
without an accent or comprehend quantum physics.

My mother asks me a thousand tiny wedding questions:
who’s going to videotape the ceremony and am I going
to keep the benediction in and who is it important to have
photographed and how am I going to do my hair and makeup?

I make an effort, not because it matters to me now
but because she says it will matter someday.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Grandma calls me up

Grandma calls me up to see how I’m doing
and to request a country song for the reception
-- a sappy, twangy one she and my grandpa
like to slow dance to.

She reminds me
it’s going to be her birthday this Saturday,
tells me about her upcoming trip to Hawaii
and comments with pride
that Grandpa’s the only grandfather left
for all the first grandchildren.

She asks if I’m getting cold feet.
I can’t tell her about my weekend,
and even if I could, she wouldn’t understand
how pot, sex, South Park and conversation
(repeated, in that order)
can just feel right, sometimes
can be a scene of love, too, sometimes.

So I just say, “No, Grandma.
No cold feet.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

Career issues

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

Friday, August 21, 2009

The house began to pitch

1. On the bus

The sky blackens with wintry haste,
though the wind pants with August heat.
Bright flashes in West unnerve me --
The teeth of a lightning’s fork are not
the ends of a rainbow; they touch down

2. In the street

Two blocks before my stop, the rain comes,
not falling but charging, striking its tiny fists.
A man flashes me a sympathetic smile
as I pull the cord and step out into the storm.
My flimsy umbrella bucks in the wind
like a bull, and when the thunder cracks above,
I drop it in terror and run.

3. In the cab

A kind man calls me a cab
and lets me wait for it inside his store.
The cabbie puts on news radio and even between
traffic and weather together on the ones,
all they talk about is the rain, funnel clouds
over the downtown core, reports of
tornadoes in Vaughan.

Tornadoes. Like sharks and dinosaurs,
they are to me both phobia and fixation.
I keep my eyes on the yellowing clouds,
searching, hoping, dreading, singing to myself:
The house began to pitch,
The kitchen took a slitch…

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Inspiration v. Inertia

While thinking about an old friend, the scene of
a story comes to me like a rumour
wrapped around a kernel of truth.
I write a sentence of it and then give up, discouraged
by a multitude of unanswered questions
and the stiff muscles of my mind.

Later, lying in bed, I tell you this
and as you ask the questions, the answers
step promptly out of my mouth
as though they'd been standing there
in the shadows the whole time, ripening,
and I wonder how many stories
I may have let go
to rot.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

lonely on my desert island

sometimes I’m tempted to believe
if I could just do away with all the
      (naggers      busybodies      control freaks
            workaholics      money grubbers      polluters
                  religious fundamentalists      celebrity gossipers
                        brand name wearers      barebackers      drama queens
                  polluters      chauvinists      reality TV watchers
            Republicans      spoiled brats      creationists
      litterers      misery lovers      materialists)
maybe I would find contentment

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Marg pecks at the inconsequential

you must always write the file number
because taking a minute to look it up later
is just dreadful

you must always mail the letters this evening
because mailing them tomorrow morning
is just dreadful

you must always keep the stapler out in the open
because to reach behind the computer for it
is just dreadful

how is it, my love, that this maddening quality
which puts deep teeth marks in my tongue
when it shows itself in other people
is plainly laughable in you?

Monday, August 17, 2009

bachelorette party

my bridesmaids are blowing up hot pink balloons
while I prepare Pin the Dick on the Hunk        sketching
a greasy-looking man with a handle ball mustache
thick black marker on blue Bristol board
taking as my models the naked men on these

sleazy 1990s playing cards
add a new level to this drinking game
new rule: every time the man on your card
shows butt crack, you must drink
new rule: every time the man on your card
is wearing clothes, you must drink
new rule: every time the man on your card
doesn’t look into your eyes, you

must drink the whole shot, even when it burns
because Stranger James bought it for me
at the bar where my friends are scavenger hunting
and the next morning I will find photographs of
strange penises and unfamiliar boxers
hanging off my curtain rod, swaying back

and forth across the front stage, dancing to songs
our parents grew up with        our cheeks flushed with
alcohol, aerobic exercise, the heat of a crowded room
I can’t breathe but stopping is not an option
even after the music cuts and the bar closes
and we’re walking east along Bloor, still drunk enough
to crave hotdogs from 7-Eleven.

Friday, August 14, 2009

In the blip between past and future

I often daydream about going back
in time to the seventh grade
but with my mind and memories intact,
my eyes sharp with hindsight
and my tongue sharp with experience.

The daydream starts out vengeful, always,
saying now the things I wish I’d thought of then

but slowly it evolves to doing now
the things I wish I’d valued then
and starting now the things
I wish I’d realized then.

Inevitably, I seek out and try to convince
loved ones that I’m from the future,
Mom and Dad, and it’s okay that I swear now
because I’m twenty-three, and Andrew,
I know I’m flat-chested and metal-mouthed
but I’m going to be your wife someday, really.

And all the while I dream the scenery passes
unseen before my eyes, which, being human,
take little interest in the present.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

With love, The Universe

Our boss leaves early, so of course none of us are doing work. We are singing songs we don’t know the words to, dancing because we need the body heat in this cold, cold office. I’m obscuring articles in new magazines with my scissors, stealing photo illustrations and gluing them into the little windows on envelopes. I steal a sheet of paper from the printer, too, and write:

Dear Stranger,

If you’re reading this, only Fate and your own actions have decreed it so. If there’s something you’ve been wanted to do but haven’t because you’re afraid or unsure, this is the day to do it -- Fate is with you today!

With love,
The Universe

We fold it into an airplane and attach a green paperclip, as much for flair as aerodynamics. The plane is bent and uneven, and along the hallway it does not soar gracefully, majestically, but dives. Repeatedly.

Undaunted, we open the window as wide as it will go -- just wide enough to fit a thin arm out -- and release.

This time, the plane does not dive. It funnels down into the intersection in slow, wide circles, sometimes drifting out of view but always returning. As it lands, the cars grasp at it with their wheels, but can only blow it around the intersection like waves tossing a boat.

The light changes, and a man steps out to cross. We watch with tight fists and held breath as he approaches the message.

He bends to pick it up, and we scream.

The Stranger reads the message once, twice, and then falls still on the street corner, gawking and searching the sky as if the Universe might be waving at him from ten stories up.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


on the side of my lip
there's chocolate smudged
and I don't know it
until somebody points it out

I scrape my leg somewhere
and there's blood
running down my calf
and I don't know it
until it drips

and there are answers, tangled
deep in the murky waters
of my mind like weeds
and I don't know it
until I take the pen off the paper
and read what I've written

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

hot and stormy

the back of my neck is wet
and I can’t tell if it’s rain or sweat
and it makes me feel dirty
like having sex in the morning
with my teeth unbrushed.

Check out my latest post on LAID, Uh, Pookie? Why are we getting married?

Monday, August 10, 2009

the storm

Andrew showers as the storm approaches
(impervious to my worrywart bewares)
while I sit crouched in darkness
nose to the window watching
the lightning – constant, flickering
like old light bulbs       shifting
the shadows at the corner of my eye
it reaches with skeletal fingers
across the sky

just as I grow used to the thunder
growling low in its throat       loud
and persistent as the clacking wheels of a long train
a roar and a quick flash of light
like the shine of cats’ eyes
flings me back in spasms
and into the bathroom with Andrew

you’d better get out! I cry
that storm is here!

Friday, August 7, 2009


My yard is overgrown green
grass like thick, shaggy fur and weeds
no longer blending in with the ferns
but overtaking them, making them
look like the intruders.

Katie shaves the beard off my lawn
while I clip the hedges’ reaching fingernails.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Marriage changes everything

Andrew comes home from his work party
drunk and wanting a hug.

Even before he recounts the all food he ate
in vivid detail, the mini hamburgers,
the well-seasoned shrimp with just a hint of heat,
he describes a conversation with a newlywed friend
who warned, Beware -- marriage changes everything.

But not for us, Andrew says, his tone
both question and answer.

I don’t know, but I can’t help
doubting that one piece of paper
representing a faith we don’t hold
and a law we sometimes break
will change our lives
when it won’t even change my last name.

Time will change us, certainly,
but that is a different battle.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Hayley’s office is undoubtedly the best one,
having a clear vista of Adelaide West
and a computer that keeps its back to the door.
I recline on one of her leather client chairs,
hands in a cardboard box of papers past, my fingers
combing through the sheets like crime scene evidence
just so I can stay here and chat a while longer.

I never realized how telling old receipts can be,
how much you can gleam about a person
based on how much they’ll spend on
shoes, home accessories, dog walkers.
Quite by accident, I am glimpsing
the person in the cardboard box
with voyeuristic intimacy, like surveying
the childhood photos of strangers
on somebody’s fireplace mantle.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


this is the closest we will ever get
to the midsummer village festivals
we've read about in books but have never known,
nor known anyone who has ever known

there are no blushing maypole maidens
or muddy, grinning stable hands here,
but we too have bonfires that draw all
out and to the flames like moths,
we too have strings and singing,
folk gossip and the dulcet laughter
of sun-kissed children at their games

and we have ale too, aye, plentiful