Monday, November 30, 2009

Haiku on a dead man's business card

I'll write a haiku
on a dead man's business card
-- give it new meaning.

        Do you believe that part of a person's spirit lingers around or "haunts" places or objects after the person has died?

Friday, November 27, 2009

The rice cooker

The rice cooker gives a pompous lecture
on efficient design, his glass hat hopping up
off his head with each fervent bullet-point.
A background murmur of percolation indicates cogitation.
Soon his mind will fog with tangents of thick steam
and he'll have to start the whole thing over.

He fancies himself mighty important
with his brand name label and stainless
steel finish, but he doesn't know
the plainer appliances snicker
and call him stout
behind his back.

Yes, I realize these are not rice cookers. Keep reading.

        I have a habit of ascribing personalities to inanimate objects. It's fun. What kind of personalities do you think the three toasters in the image above might have?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ashley, who is Special, keeps a diary in my ear

Stupid Mom. Stupid Dad.

I’ll just tell Jeff-Jeff, I’ll just tell Jeff-Jeff I can’t take the shirt. Got enough shirts.

Remember at school when we talked about not talking to the streetcar drivers? They said don’t take stuff from them. Sorry, Jeff-Jeff. Kristen might be mad. Kristen might set up a meeting with me and Mom and Dad. I’m in trouble now.

Now my parents are mad. Jeff-Jeff, you got me in trouble. I’m in trouble now.

Maybe I shouldn’t have blabbed, just keep quiet.

Don’t blab, Ashley. Keep it quiet. Don’t blab.

I’m in trouble now.

This poem is related to an earlier piece I wrote, called Ashley, who is Special, practices aloud on the streetcar.

Photo by GTD Aquitaine

        I'm a notorious eavesdropper when I'm taking public transit. Have you overheard anything interesting lately?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

At my fantasy flea market

  • claw-foot bathtub

  • vintage fabric scrap bargain bin

  • Roy Lichtenstein paintings

  • white lace parasol

  • 1920s cloche hat

  • vintage glass Christmas ornaments - 2/$1

  • rack of 1950s housewife dresses

  • various articles autographed by Joni Mitchell or Leonard Cohen

  • Louis XV style armchair

  • 1960s Groma Kolibri typewriter

  • Mary Poppins's bottomless bag

  • DecisionMaker 5000

  • battery-operated time-stopping device

  • hair-digitalizer

  • personal portable lighting crew

  • Star Trek food replicator

  • careers - buy one get one free!

  • wind-up internal motivation

I'm off to Pennsylvania for the next two days, but I've scheduled poems to be automatically posted at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday and Friday. I haven't been able to see them and make sure they show up properly formatted, of course, so forgive me if something messes up.

Photo by Incase Designs

        What's for sale at your fantasy flea market?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


  1. "It’s amazing that I always chop onion this way
    and never cut myse—OUCH! DAMMIT!"

    A red little mouth on my middle finger,
    thin and deep, and it sings. I stifle it
    with bunched tissue like a chloroform rag
    but now there are splatters of crimson chorus
    wet on the ears of the witness-fingers
    and a muffled melody is seeping through
    with steadily pulsing percussion.


  3. Beneath concrete buildings and clouded skies, strangers:
    somber, smoky-eyed girl in grey dress shirts,
    dusty old biddies with silver hair and drab sweaters,
    men of chiseled stone in charcoal overcoats, distinguished
    salt-and-pepper locks, iron in their gaze,
    leading leaden lives.

    Image > Adjust > Brightness/Contrast

Photo by Roke

        This poem explores three types of saturation, the second obviously being media saturation. So now I'm going to ask the age-old question about celebrities: Why, as a society, are we so obsessed with people we don't know and will likely never even meet?

Monday, November 23, 2009


We are three and six and eight
and all we hunger for are the ambiguous shapes
that huddle beneath the tree, their entities obscured
by gussy prints and packaging. Skirting
and prodding their edges with our tiny fingers,
we play maddening guessing games
and feel shameful of our secret greed
on this most sacred occasion.

Our begging is no match for tradition,
and we will eat dinner before opening presents,
as we have always done. Sitting restlessly
at our little fold-out card table, we make a pact
to eat quickly – but then there is turkey
and stuffing and gravy and cabbage rolls
        (I surgically slit the roll with my butter knife,
        plunder the rice and bacon entrails, and
        turn the offending cabbage over to my father,
        the family trash compactor)
all shaped and roasted by my aunt and grandmother
like a song born of love and thin air. Moist breading
and soft butter are an unforeseen distraction.

Pop can empty and mouth dry, I sniff
at my grandfather’s glass of Coke for that telltale stink
        (a few unexpected sips of bitter rye
        taught all the grandchildren to sniff first)
and sneak gulps from my father’s glass instead.

Then dessert: the torture
of having to wait for every adult to finish
their coffee, not only so we can get to the presents
but also so we can eat the leftover éclairs.
We kick at each other under the table, antsy
with sugar highs, and wonder aloud
        (purposely too loud)
how anyone can take sooo long
to finish a little cup of coffee.

Our mothers shush us
and ask for refills, but we know
eventually our fathers will cave.

This poem was written in response to Prompt #102 on Read Write Poem.

Thanks to all the people who helped me win the ThoseGirlsAreWild Contest! Check out the winner post, in which the amazing Andrea sings my requested Stevie Wonder song. I also won a copy of Shannon's sensational book, Laid: Young People's Experiences with Sex in an Easy-Access Culture (this is now my second copy -- yes, it's that good).

Photo by Kelvin Kay

        The theme of this poetry prompt is how food can be so deeply connected with memories. What meal or food do you associate with a particular memory or person?

Friday, November 20, 2009

The mayor of Cabbagetown has died

The mayor of Cabbagetown has died
and the city grows quiet, ears pressed
to flesh and memory, listening for
the stories
                he no longer tells
are painted into the gingerbread trim
of Carlton Street storefronts and
the faces
              of costumed children
pang at future Halloweens before a house
drab with the cavity of true death, so unlike
the jolly spectacle
                           of years past
continues on the Parliament parade route,
hesitantly creeping, unguided by its Marshal:
the mayor of Cabbagetown has died.

I wish I had less trivial words and memories by which to honour the death of a man who did so much for my city. Goodbye, Mr. Orbach.

        When you die, what do you want people to remember and say about you?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Prosaic predicament

I purchase the provisions,
word process, print, obey,
and palaver with patrons,
and paper-push for pay.

My profession, presently,
perturbs me to no end,
but I have pacts and promises
and payments to attend.

A poet is a pauper:
The pennies are in prose,
the Pecos are in paperbacks,
the real pay? No one knows.

You’d have to play at politics
or property, I s’pose.

This poem was prepared in participation of Poetry Prompt 101 on Read Write Poem.

Brought to you by the letter P.

        If you could make a living doing anything, what would you choose?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Disgrace under pressure

Fix the mistake. Reprint. Still mistakes. Reprint. Shuffle papers. Hands shaking. Clients waiting.

Take out staples. Replace pages. Re-staple. Take out staples. Impale finger. Replace pages. Worry about gangrene. Re-staple. Take out staples.

More mistakes. Clients waiting. Don't scream. Back to printer.

Multitask: print and photocopy. Press copy. Run to printer. Copies ready. Shit, legal size. Copy again. SHIT, legal size! Stop copying! STOP! SELECT LETTER SIZE. Copy again. Printing ready.

Signing documents. Don't cry. How do I spell my last name? Drop the pen. Hands shaking. The client doesn't like me.

Silence. Small talk. Oh God, sentences.

Photo courtesy of

        I have no problem speaking in front of a large audience or taking an important test, but apparently I'm totally incompetant at doing general office administration work under pressure. What tasks tend to make you break down under stress? which ones can you take in stride?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dream geographers

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

Dickens' Dream, unfinished painting by Robert W. Buss

        I have a recurring dream in which the closet at my grandparents' house connects directly to their storage nook. I sometimes have to open the closet when I'm at their house to check, because I'm never 100% certain it doesn't. Do you have a location in your dreams that is repeatedly different from the way it is in waking life?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Andrew cares for his hungover wife

I’m really trying to get up
but my body is too wet flour
that won’t conform
to any particular shape,
no matter how I roll it
over the tangled blankets.
Andrew! Scoop me up
in a bowl and wring me out
in the kitchen sink.
Sift with your fingers
to keep my brain from
spilling out my mouth
and down the drain.

A new site called Review Your Own Blog has recently launched -- check out my review of A Poet on Adelaide West and, if you have a blog, consider submitting your own review.

The hangover by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

        My actual hangover cure involves Ibuprofen, Gatorade, television and fast food. You?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Just looking

Killing time before work. Can I
help you? No thanks, I'm just looking.
It doesn't cost anything just to
try things on. Gum costs a dollar
and that's basically nothing,
that doesn't even count, right?
Rationalization is the bedfellow
of consumerism. Martha Stewart knows
the secret to happiness: how to fold
the perfect fitted sheet. I must buy
her magazine -- it has good things.
Chips are on sale. Chocolate.
Butter has never been healthier.
Sarah Jessica Parker's perfume
is probably good; ugly women need
to smell pretty. I want shoes. Why
do pink disposable razors cost twice
as much as blue ones? I have a beard too
-- it’s on my legs. Save on cream cheese.
Earn double the customer reward points
if you buy two. Why yes I would like
a free sample of Mini-Wheats.
Where are the tampons? Where is
the exit? Where is my wallet?
A pack of gum, just one dollar.

Window shopping at Simpsons Department Store in Toronto, 1937
Photo by Alexandra Studio

        Buy Nothing Day is coming up -- November 27th in North America, November 28th in Europe and overseas. Do you think practicing anti-consumerism for just one day can make any kind of impact on society or individuals? Why or why not?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sketchbook philosophy

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

Fun with photocopiers and office supplies

        Amateurs get a bad rap, but a lot of great works and important discoveries have come from people who lovingly pursued a field in their spare time. What do you think are the merits and potential harms of amateurism compared to professionalism?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


  1. Shayla

    I casually complain to a coworker
    about all the government employees
    who’re watching Breakfast Television
    in their flannel pajamas about now
    while I’m stuck here festering with her
    in this swamp of greed and regulation
    (okay, not in those words exactly)
    and she says it’s really stupid
    because most of them are immigrants
    (ohhhhhhh boy, here we go)
    and why should they get a holiday?
    Their grandparents didn’t fight
    in the World Wars,
    at least not on our side,
    and most of them don’t know
    what today is about anyway.

    And I think about a friend of mine
    whose family had to flee their home
    during the first Gulf war. I don’t know
    many people of any colour or country
    who’ve been as close to war
    as she has.

    She could tell you
    what today is about.

  2. Andrew

    The principal, Mr. Murphy, is a history buff.
    He asks to come in and talk to our Grade 8 class
    about Nazism and World War Two, things that happened
    before we were born, before our parents were born.

    He paces up along the row of pencil-marked desks
    looking at us awhile. Then he points to Lisa, an Asian girl,
    and says, “If this was Nazi Germany, you’d be dead.”
    He continues down the line: “You’d be dead,
    you’d be dead, you’d still be alive, not you…”
    There goes Karen, Derek, Peter, Debbie
    -- half the class is Asian, all dead.

    Mr. Murphy points to Chris, who is black
    and also maybe my best friend, and says, “You’re dead.”
    He comes to me next. “You’d be alive, but
    you’d have to hide that you’re Polish.”

    At the end, he asks those of us still alive
    to raise our hands. Five hands go up.

  3. David

    Things have been coming back
    to my father-in-law slowly, since the accident.
    His wife held his hand, taught him to read again,
    re-taught him little things. Her unwavering patience
    and love is touching.

    One morning, as he and I share breakfast alone,
    he tells me he remembers the war. He was too young,
    but he lied so he could go. They needed him, he says.

    My father-in-law wanted to be a pilot, but
    he was miserably hungover the day of the exam.
    They sent him with a troop to clear trails instead.
    One day as they were burning through thickets
    they came upon a group of young Nazi soldiers
    and attacked them with their torches.

    He watched them burn,
    boys just his own age.

  4. Katie

    My sister and I write poems for Remembrance Day,
    terrible rhyming ones for school that we decorate
    with green construction paper borders
    and pencil-crayon poppies.

    Our mother persuades us to mail them off
    to our grandfather, who is a veteran, with a letter
    to thank him for fighting for our freedom.

    Years latter, our poems will be framed
    and mounted proudly on his living room wall
    beside the Gravenhurst Banner clippings
    from when he sent them in
    for publication. Our grandparents
    will direct guests to read them
    and wait with inflated chests
    while we squirm with
    dutiful embarrassment.

Photo by hobvias sudoneighm

        What's one of your more vivid memories connected to war or Remembrance Day?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's so hard to stick to one feat

It’s so hard to stick to one feat
and not let a new aim compete
when anticipation
gives gratification
as good as the jobs you complete.

I think I owe you all another poem later today… I just thought this one was funny.

Photo by King Kong Rah Rah Rah

        I've been meaning to write a book forever, and suddenly today all I want to do is learn how to paint. What project have you been meaning to work on or complete for a while now? What kinds of new projects distract you?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Huckleberry Finn visits Toronto, 2009

Well the first thing I seen was how terrible loud the place was. I never struck anything like it, with all the powerful big machine-carts a-driving around and the folks inside a-honking and a-yelling. One ornery old cretur all but tromped me to mush with his yellow cart, and blamed if I warn't scared most to death.

I hain't never seen so many types of people together in all my life, neither. And all mixed up together, too. Whitefolk crowded together with the Spaniards and A-rabs and 'black people' -- I got to call them that because I called them something else and then this woman with uncommon short hair like a boy's she heard me and says I ain't to call them that anymore because it's offensive. I warn't meaning anything by it, that's just what we call them back home. Anyway, I reckon I'll call them 'black people' now. Ain't no matter to me.

They got powerful tall buildings in Tronto too. I come across one called the Cyan Tower, and honest Injun, it looked high enough to pierce Heaven. The whole skyline was enough to make a body's eyes pop out of his skull.

I seen the most awful beautiful posters of women in the store windows. I could tell how they was off for money, on a account of they was wearing gold and di'monds, and I suspect that's why they was on the Queen's Street. It was a bully street.

Original illustration by E.W. Kemble

        Do you ever imagine what it would be like to bring a historical character into modern day?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Wretched crow

Wretched crow, does anyone else feed you?
Your ribs show through patchy feathers, yet
you're too wrathful to sit in cupped hands,
too vain to accept gifts offered in charity,
too spiteful to twitter a courteous song.

I throw you the table scraps of my life
and you peck at them indifferently.

Want to help me win a contest AND support an awesome blog? Go to the ThoseGirlsAreWild Contest and leave a comment saying Shayla sent you.

Photo by nswallace

        Ever try to help someone who wouldn't accept your help?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Never have I ever

Never have I ever broken a bone.
Never have I ever failed a course.
Never have I ever gone scuba diving.
Never have I ever licked a battery.
Never have I ever ridden a motorcycle.
Never have I ever gone on a blind date.
Never have I ever worn contacts.
Never have I ever cried at a funeral.
Never have I ever seen Schindler’s List.
Never have I ever travelled alone.
Never have I ever solved a Rubik's Cube.
Never have I ever dyed my hair a wild colour.
Never have I ever gone streaking.
Never have I ever ridden a hot air balloon.
Never have I ever seen the Pacific Ocean.
Never have I ever taken dance lessons.
Never have I ever grown a garden.
Never have I ever run a marathon.
Never have I ever been able to whistle.
Never have I ever learned to paint.
Never have I ever seen a tornado.
Never have I ever mastered juggling.
Never have I ever learned to play the cello.
Never have I ever had a child.
Never have I ever written a book.

Want to help me win a contest AND support an awesome blog? Go to the ThoseGirlsAreWild Contest and leave a comment saying Shayla sent you.

Photo by Juliancolton

        How does our range of life experiences (or lack thereof) define us? If you died today, what would you regret not doing?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Green-means-go eyes incited
to their fullest width, the cat
watches a scrap of yarn slither
across a flannel plain of blanket.
She attacks the woolen worm
as it retreats to the haven
of a cupped hand; her pale claw
carves a thin, red-lipped smile
between my thumb and forefinger.

Andrew shrugs his prudent shoulders
to say A cat is cruel fate and scars
are what come of tempting it

and he is right, perhaps. I have
on my hands fresh scars from cat claws
and deep scars from kitchen slips
and old scars from climbing trees
and faded scars from sibling brawls
and they mark me.

Photo by Guylaine Brunet

        Got a scar with a good story behind it?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dear Baby Not Yet Conceived,

        Just now I went to open a Notepad document to write this poem, and instead I opened the calculator program. That’s your fault, Baby.

        I’ve been reading about this neuroeducation institute, Baby, and I’d like to send you there someday when you exist, but the thing is it costs a lot of money. If it was just you it might be okay, but if you go then I’ll have to pay for all my Unconceived Babies to go, and that’s just overwhelming. I have a student loan and a mortgage, Baby.

        You’re probably going to be smart enough to do well in public school anyway. Your future father and I are both pretty smart. I promise to use the money I save by sending you to public school to stay home with you for the first four years so there’s no chance of any nanny or daycare person depriving you of necessary affection and causing you developmental issues that may ultimately result in your becoming a sociopath. I’ll even try to teach you to read before kindergarten.

        You know what, Baby? You ask a lot of me, even without the special school. I’m going to have to carry you around inside me for nine months, while you deplete my storage of vitamins and ruin my figure and potentially give me gestational diabetes mellitus. Then I have to give birth to you, and you’ll see for yourself what a mess that’s going to be.

        I want you to know I read a lot about parenting, Baby, and I don’t even plan for you to exist anytime in the next five years. Hopefully my informed parenting technique will make up for all the anxiety hormones that will inevitably course through my (and thus your) body during pregnancy. And for the fact that you’ll probably have to go to public school.

Your future mother

Photo by Carin Araujo.

        Ever had an imaginary conversation with/written a message to your unborn child (or at least thought about him/her)?

Monday, November 2, 2009


This Christmas I’ve grown tall enough
to reach the thinner, higher branches
and my mother allows me to place
the old, glass ornaments, fragile
as butterfly wings. She hands me
hand-painted orbs, crystal icicles,
and I hunt for pedestal branches
like a nest-making turtledove.

Stretching, ambitious for higher sprigs,
I fumble; glass shatters
on the wooden floor.

Laughter stops, sudden as birds
startled into flight. My mother
picks up one large shard, thumbing
its painted poinsettia. Then she sits,
coloured tree lights quivering
in the shine of her eyes.

“This one was my grandmother’s,” she says,
tonelessly. She stares at the glass a moment,
then goes to the kitchen for a broom
to sweep her sentimentality up
off the floor.

This poem was written in response to a prompt on Read Write Poem.

Check out my new Laid post, Video games: a study in gender marketing.

Photo by RLogos

        This poem is fiction, but was inspired by a time when I actually did break one of my mother's heirloom ornaments. Have you ever accidentally lost or destroyed something that was irreplaceable to someone?