Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Dark Man

I don't have nightmares, because a dream
is a story and I am both author and actor,
an omnipotent mortal. But last night
I was not in my own story, but a character
in another book I've read.

We're on the bad side and we're launching
a rebellion. Andrew and I leave messages
for others to find, we try to disrupt the system
by discouraging the volunteerism that fuels it.
"But why?" asks one zombie worker, a slave
to her fear.

Quietly, I answer: "Because he's killing people,"
and the room goes suddenly, deathly silent.
The eyes of the crowd roll to me in unison
and I can't move, I can't do anything but stare
out the door behind them, where he is waiting
for me. My fear is almost tangible, prickling
up my spine like bony fingers and freezing rain.

I wake sitting up.

This poem/dream was based on Stephen King's The Stand. Awesome book, but it'll give you nightmares.

Randall Flagg, illustrated by Michael Whelan.

        Do you ever get nightmares? What was your most frightening or memorable one?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

At the caroling party

At the caroling party
we hold auditions to decide who gets to sing
"five golden rings" and who has to sing
about silly ol' birds. The Greers don't try out
because they always sing "six geese a-
doin' it." At the caroling party
Ross is a celebrity; he keeps sheet music
in his head but his fingers play by heart.
When we come to Here Comes Santa Claus
my dad or Uncle Mike or someone will say,
"Oh yuck, let's skip this song this year!"
just to rile the children. At the caroling party
we sing The Holly and the Ivy even though
so few people know the words. No, no,
we have to sing it! It's tradition
and Aunt Elaine loves it. At the caroling party
Grandma often requests that Mary and I
hit the high note in O Holy Night, and we
hit it if we can because it's easier than
saying no to her. Singing's always easier
after a few drinks. At the caroling party
cousin David wears a bright red sweater
and mixes rum and cokes behind the bar.
My mother sits close to me and we try together
to pick out harmonies. She'd rather read the words
shaped from my lips than printed on paper.
At the caroling party, there are chairs and couches
but they're reserved for the older people
so you sit cramped on the floor or you stand. Yes,
it's a silly tradition, a Hallmark card tradition,
a mildly embarrassing, cheesy family tradition,
and yet there's never a single seat left empty
at the caroling party.

This poem was written in response to Poetry Prompt #106 on Read Write Poem.

        What's your favourite family Christmas (or other holiday) tradition?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cultivating bad habits

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

I'm planning a vacation the last week in January, and I'm looking for five poets (one for each workday) to guest-blog here while I'm away. You don't need to be a professional or even an experienced poet, you just need to be able to send me your poem with a photo and a question for the "Thoughts?" section sometime by early-mid January. If you're interested, leave me a comment with your e-mail address and I'll contact you.

Photo by Dennis Marciniak

        What's your worst habit?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday morning, winter solstice

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

        How do you force yourself out of bed on a workday -- overuse the snooze button? wake up to music? have someone else wake you up? take a hot shower?

Friday, December 18, 2009

The changefulness of December

There's something almost too festive about
dabbling out a Vince Guaraldi piece by the light
of tiny, white bulbs strung through pine tree
branches and bouncing off painted glass globes
while the spicy scent of gingerbread wafts in
from the candied boulevard atop the piano.

December used to be magic and maddening, holding
little lungs full of frosty air in transcendent
and excruciating waiting, slow and momentous. Then
we grew up and grew distracted from the distraction.
We watch the show play on from behind the side curtain,
looking out into the audience of awed children's faces
and yearning to recognize ourselves.

Christmas in Hampden by Idle Type

        What do you miss most about being a kid at Christmastime?

Thursday, December 17, 2009


The moon has moved again. My letters to him
come back stamped "Return to sender." The stars
keep calling me up on the telephone to complain
how I neglect them, to describe drunken nights out,
who pierced what, budding careers, sunken cities.

Old meteors have tugged and pulled at me before,
threatened to hit, but eventually they will all sigh
in resignation and flash me their burning backs.
I'm safer here: abiding my home shell, body curled
around these precious trifles, watching my radar
for hints of criticism, knitting my words
into regrets.

This poem was written in response to Poetry Prompt #105 on Read Write Poem.

Photo of the Large Magellanic Cloud taken from the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: European Space Agency

        When was the last time you had a real, genuine conversation with another person? I mean one where you moved passed small talk about the weather and work and felt an actual human connection?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


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

        What's your relationship with denial? I happen to think a mild case of denial is necessary, at least sometimes, to survive in the world and be happy. Deep down, is there something you let yourself keep in denial of?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How to perform an appendectomy

Pay attention, because nothing is certain
and you may need to know this someday.

Step one: Identifying appendicitis

The patient will experience a whole world of abdominal pain
and swelling on the lower right side.
Also possibly a bunch of smaller symptoms
that he won’t complain about because who cares
if your appetite is stunted when a rabid dog
is eating your intestines?

Now you’ve got to get that bomb out of him
before it blows poison.

Step two: Setting up

Morphine would be nice, but why
would you have any when you’re bound
to be performing this in the middle of the woods
or at the end of the world (like that Stephen King book)?
Well, give the poor sucker whatever you’ve got but
for Godssakes, no alcohol -- you want him to bleed to death?
If he gives you any trouble, just wait
and he’ll pass out soon enough.

Step three: Actually cutting him open

If there’s a bulge in his belly, that’s where you cut.
Otherwise, cut a hole directly between his hip and navel.
Okay, that’s not exact, but it’s the best I can tell you.
Anyway, try to keep it small, eh? Now you have
a bunch of walls of abdominal wall to hack through
-- have fun. Oh, but do your friend a favour
and cut along the muscle fiber, not across.
Apparently one of the bottom muscles layers
can just be pulled apart, not cut, and it makes
the healing better.

Ah, you know what? Just cut ‘em all.
We’re not doctors here, so you just do your best, okay?

Step four: Locating the little bastard

You’re going to cut through this membrane
that holds all the organs like water in a balloon.
Watch, don’t let anything fall out -- that’s important stuff.

The appendix: it pops out right where the large intestine
meets the small. Not that that’s any help to you
-- if you’ve made the incision big enough to see
all that, you’ve probably already killed your friend.
Basically, what you’re looking for is an earthworm.
A giant, pink, poison earthworm attached to the intestines.
No, no, you idiot -- that is part of the intestines! Look
for something much smaller!

Step five: The hard part

Here’s where the medical texts and sites
start using fuzzy words like “litigate” and “mobilize.”
I think you really just cut it off. Close to the base,
but not too close or you’ll slice up the intestine!
Not too far or you’ll rupture it and spill poison everywhere!
Good? I don’t know if that’s good, I’m not a doctor!
I got this off the Internet! I majored in Political Science!

Look, the way I see it this guy’s dead anyway,
so just cut it off. We’ll see what happens.

Step six: Closing up shop

You’ve probably killed him by now, but
if by some miracle he’s still breathing, stitch him up.
Hmm, I’m actually not sure how to do this. Real doctors
sew up all the different stomach layers, but they have
special thread (and medical degrees). I wonder
if regular thread will work, or if we oughta just do up
the outer layer and pray for the best. Either way, I say go nuts
with any sterilizing agents you happen to have on you.

Oh hey, you know what I heard works well for closing wounds?
Duct tape. Oh, and super glue. I hear they used it for that
in the army. Don’t quote me on that, it’s just hearsay.

That’s it. If he’s still breathing, either he’s a zombie
or you deserve an honorary medical degree
or I deserve a Noble Prize.

Photo by Ralf Roletschek

        If you had to choose one of your friends or family members (and no, you can't choose a doctor, nurse, medical student, etc.) to perform an appendectomy on you, who would you choose and why?

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Perfect Job

To attract the job submissions
offer an ideal position:
Room to grow and progress
Informal dress

Work that we find satisfying
Never causes stress or crying
End at five, start at nine
No overtime

Always keep a lengthy fuse
Never snap or spy or abuse
Please be near a subway station
Pay well and give three weeks vacation

If you respect and compensate us
you will never have to terminate us
We won't steal office supplies
and swivel chairs
Won't spend every morning
playing solitaire
Hurry, job ad!
Many thanks

Workers of the world

This is a parody of the song The Perfect Nanny from Mary Poppins.

        What's your criteria for the ideal (but still realistic) job?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hibernation attempt #1

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

Check out my latest Laid post: Five things I've learned from living [with a man].

Photo by Daniel Schwen

        All this cold and darkness is getting me down (yes, I realize it's only December) and I need cheering up: what's your favourite thing about winter?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Good girl

I wonder if detention would have been good for me,
if so much praise earned over so many years
from my obedience to authority figures has made me
one of those zombies in the Milgram experiment
who will go on shocking the poor learner
just because the experimenter tells me to.

I wonder if having strange, frequent sex in the basement
of my parents' house has made me unable to have
sex dreams where people don't walk in at crucial moments,
has stifled me quiet, always jumping at noises,
never fully comfortable without my clothes
at arm's reach.

Illustration of the setup of a Milgram experiment

        Do you think you were a "good kid" or a "bad kid" growing up? How do you think that affects the person you've become as an adult? Do you have any regrets about it?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day slipper

Slippery pavement, like someone spilled
the contents of the world's largest slushy
down the sidewalk and into my new boots
while the wind and sleet conspire
to ruin my makeup.

I take slow, deliberate steps, flat-footed,
and in my head, Andrew sings
his Beatles parody:
          She was a daaaaay slipper
          one-way ticket down
          it took her sooooo long
          to get up...
          then she fell down.

Big stuff happening on Adelaide West: yesterday I got my 2000th unique hit and today is my 300th post!

Photo by biofriendly

        Do you dress "appropriately" (ie. ugly and warm) for bad weather, or do you try to still look good?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lunchtime job interviews

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

Monday, December 7, 2009

First snow

We took bets on when the first snow would fall:
Hayley said Halloween, I said the Santa Claus Parade
and the weatherman said today, early December.

This winter doesn't flaunt great, fluffy snowflakes,
flouncing them about like tufts of a feather boa, decorating
tree branches and eye lashes; it is meagre, sprinkling
prudent white flecks of salt, to taste,
leaving only an austere frost.

Photo by Paul Smith

        Snow or no snow? Are you the kind of person who longs for the convenience of a snowless winter, or do you love a winter wonderland?

Friday, December 4, 2009


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

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Bath beads, blood cells, red eyes peering from darkness,
clustered on the peel’s ledge like glistening garnets
or nested together like plump, dozing eggs.

Concentrated nibbles, stealing deep, moist-lip kisses
one by one, like splashing pennies into wishes.
Sucking sweet, red fruitmeat off the bone.

This poem was written in response to Prompt #103 on Read Write Poem.

Photo by Flagstaffotos

        I find fruit so suggestive in so many ways. Do you think the photo above looks appetizing? A little gross? Sexual? Violent? What does it make you think of?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Man overboard

Today I’m strutting down Queen Street
and the mannequins and the billboard models
they’re looking at me
                               ‘cause I’m twenty-one days
to man-overboard status and learning to swim.
I’m a resume printed on thick company letterhead.
I’m a buried treasure chest of stolen office supplies.
I’m practicing
                    my answers, handshake, dramatic exit.
I’m a bitten tongue, a lit match hungry for bridges.
I’m a shot of vodka you gargle on a late lunch
to wash the office shit talk off your breath.

Friday lunch on Queen Street West by Sookie

        Ever fantasize about burning a bridge? Not literally! I mean making a dramatic exit in which you irreparably destroy your relationship with a lover, friend, boss, etc., but it feels sooo worth it. Ever actually done it?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The fax-call saga

1:48 p.m.Return from lunch. Coworker warns me that someone's been trying to send a fax to our phone.
1:50 p.m.Answer phone. Hear screech of fax machine. Hang up.
1:51 p.m.Answer phone. Hear screech of fax machine. Hang up.
1:53 p.m.Answer phone. Hear screech of fax machine. Hang up.
2:00 p.m.Note fax-calls show up as "LINE 5 Transfer" on phone screen, and only come through on line 5.
2:02 p.m.Answer phone. Hear screech of fax machine. Hang up.
2:40 p.m.Attempt to leave fax-call on PARK. Fax-call disconnects and calls again.
2:51 p.m.Mistakenly blame random law firm for the fax-calls. Call them to complain. Hang up.
2:55 p.m.Answer phone. Hear screech of fax machine. Hang up.
3:30 p.m.Call random law firm to complain two more times. Begin to suspect it isn't them.
3:44 p.m.Take to pressing the line and the release with one hand, rather than picking up the phone each time.
3:57 p.m.Press Line 5. Hear screech of fax machine. Press release.
3:59 p.m.Press Line 5. Hear screech of fax machine. Press release.
4:00 p.m.Press Line 5. Hear screech of fax machine. Press release.
4:24 p.m.Begin tally to see how many fax-calls will occur within half an hour.
4:54 p.m.Twenty-five phone calls in thirty minutes -- that's approximately one fax-call every minutes and twelve seconds.

9:00 a.m.Note from office renter taped to phone: "Turn your phone ringer back on. I turned it off last night because the phone kept ringing and it was driving me crazy."
9:01 a.m.Press Line 5. Hear screech of fax machine. Press release.
9:03 a.m.Press Line 5. Hear screech of fax machine. Press release.
9:20 a.m.Attempt to forward all calls on line 5 to boardroom phone. Doesn't work.
9:25 a.m.Call phone company to try to block the number, except we don't know what number they're fax-calling us from. No help there.
9:54 a.m.Call company's phone system support guy. Press buttons for fifteen minutes. Phone system support guy says he'll come over.
10:25 a.m.Learn how to forward fax-call to fax machine. Fax-call connects to fax machine, but doesn't go through. Repeat several times. Give up.
10:39 a.m.Press Line 5. Hear screech of fax machine. Press release.
10:40 a.m.Attempt to forward fax-call to fax machine and have coworker manually accept it. Nothing.
10:42 a.m.Devise ingenious plan to identify offending fax-call number via fax transmission journal print-out. Foiled: confounded fax machine only shows successfully received faxes.
10:48 a.m.Press Line 5. Hear screech of fax machine. Press release.
10:49 a.m.Press Line 5. Hear screech of fax machine. Press release.
10:50 a.m.Press Line 5. Hear screech of fax machine. Press release.
10:53 a.m.Fantasize about what I would say to offending fax-caller if only I had their phone or fax number.
10:55 a.m.Coworker decides to use line 5 for her very long business call. Think warm, fuzzy thoughts about coworker.
11:12 a.m.Coworker hangs up. Fax-call saga resumes.
11:14 a.m.Press Line 5. Hear screech of fax machine. Press release.
11:15 a.m.Press Line 5. Hear screech of fax machine. Press release.
11:21 a.m.Attempt to leave the boardroom phone off the hook, on line 5. Doesn't work.
11:22 a.m.Press Line 5. Hear screech of fax machine. Press release.
11:23 a.m.Forget how I calculated one fax-call every one minute and twelve seconds. Unable to get ahold of nerdy husband. Call sister instead. Yes, one minute and twelve seconds is correct.
11:30 a.m.Press Line 5. Hear screech of fax machine. Press release.
11:32 a.m.Press Line 5. Hear screech of fax machine. Press release.
11:45 a.m.Phone system support guy arrives and diagnoses the problem as a modem that has mistakenly been programmed to continually dial our number. He transfers the calls to our fax machine.
12:06 a.m.Fax machine rings faintly every minute and twelve seconds -- music to my ears (comparatively).

Photo by Deman

Keeping this log of the fax-call saga helped me maintain my sense of humour in an otherwise frustrating situation. How do you deal with totally annoying, frustrating crap like this?