Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rites of girlhood

earrings and nail polish
2 for $6 and 5 for $10
it's all for us
and the shoplifting 16-year-olds
who belong here

Katie takes an aisle like a pew
familiar in these temples of girlish rite
while I thumb awkwardly through necklaces
like pages of scripture from a foreign faith

what was I doing while every other girl
was learning to apply eyeliner?
probably still watching cartoons, picking up frogs,
still trying to flirt with boys
by taking their things and hiding them
I can only hold my eye obediently open for liner
when I'm drunk
so instead I scribble witty dialogue
in the corners of my eyes

and buy cheap nail polish
that dries to a warty finish
at the tip of my fingers
        a bright blue swamp
        a canvas full of crayon




Photo by James Lee



        How much do you fit into gender stereotypes? Are you a girly girl or a tomboy? Are you a macho man or Mr. Sensitive? Or are you pretty androgynous?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blues for adult friendships

Each year we know
more people than we've ever known
and yet our parties grow
smaller.

It used to be
just both being under ten and knowing
who the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were
was enough to unite us
in the big bad boring adult world
of line-ups and office parties.
Just swimming in that ocean
made you take note of others your size
and move with them
like a school.

As an adult, it's hard to keep friends
who don't share your little fishbowl.

Maybe it's just me
throwing up my cake so I can eat it again.
Do I really want more childhood best friends,
or do I want friends like my stuffed toys
who stopped talking with the game ended,
their mouths full of stuffing
waiting for me to speak their words?
Do I want a friend like my sweet old dog
who loved me but knew his place,
never followed me to school?

I'm a dirty mutt
who barks to come back into your heart
then whines to be let out again.




Photo by Jon Hanson



        Why do you think it's harder to make and keep friends as an adult than it was as a child? Is it because we're so much busier? Because adult friendships are more complex? Because children have more in common than adults do?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ghosts

At the back of my pink filing cabinet.

Don't call the shaman yet:
everything I've ever given up on
still fits in a letter-sized hanging folder,
bloated as a floating corpse,
labeled OUTDATED PROJECTS.
Like a vampire coffin, secret
in the basement of an abandoned house.

They only rise at night, of course.

If I lie awake
past midnight on a weeknight
I can hear them over the snore
of all the choices I've made,
shuffling their papers like feet,
rattling their drawer like heavy chains.

I could silence them.

If I could stop telling their stories
to friends around campfires.
If I could stop trying to resurrect them,
stop digging up their skins
and wearing them out to dinner
like a ring from a failed engagement.


This poem was written in response to a Poetry Prompt on Big Tent Poetry.




Aren't they cute?? Photo by dizznbonn



        What's haunting you? An unfinished project? A mistake you made? A soured friendship? A chance you didn't take?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Shoes

Flung up to hang by their laces
from the power line,
marking spaces like tombstones.
Shoes with black bottoms
leaving streaks on the gymnasium floor.
They won't be allowed back.
Shoes flapping
their torn soles on the pavement
like lips.
Old shoes
with stories worn into them
in creases and cracks,
colour worn off their toes
like burnt grass.
New shoes, white
as a fresh sheet of paper.
Baby shoes.
Shoes
with the laces undone,
waiting and snickering.
Shoes with attitude,
high-tops like a popped collar.
Shoes walking tracks
through the mud
like fingerprints.
A trail from baseball field
to broken window.
Fancy shoes
that only come out at weddings
kicked off under the table
when the dancing starts.
Shoes cramped in boxes
at the back of a closet.
Shoes on sale.
Shoes clicking
a clock beat down the hall.
Women's shoes: beautiful
high-heeled iron maidens.
Men's shoes: black and anonymous.
Shoe with an empty stomach,
hungry for a foot.
Shoe searching for its match.
Shoes
with cleats
taking bites of grass
and spitting them out.
Shoes full of baking soda,
stink burnt into them.
Shoes reinvented
with neon pink laces,
song lyrics scrawled in thick sharpie.
Shoes in a pile
by the doorway
having their own party.


This poem was written in response to this week's Poetry Prompt on Big Tent Poetry. It was also inspired by the poem Crows by Doug Anderson.




Photo by Nick Wiebe



        What do you think your shoes say about you?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Martha Stewart's one night stand

Before she answers, she glances at my fingernails. They're clean and trimmed, so she says, "Yes, I would like to come home with you." And I'm glad, because I often take women back to my apartment, but never a lady.

Upstairs, the first thing I notice is her smell. Like clean, folded laundry. Like vanilla and cinnamon baking under her skin. Like a rose garden through muslin curtains. Like white weddings and country Christmases.

I unbutton her shirt, unzip her pants. Her matching underwear is lavender with one yellow rose embroidered on the base of a bra strap, one on the front of her panties. She said she did them herself. Beneath the panties, her hair is short and grows in a triangle like a sliver slice of pie.

She kneads me like dough. Her body bends in ribbon curls, but inside she's stiff as icing sugar. Cold like an undercooked roast.

"I'm sorry," she says, after a long while. "Sometimes when I try to make things perfect I just can't... let go."

I tell her imperfection is my specialty. What can we do to make this less perfect? Here, I know, where are our socks? Put them back on. No, no, you take mine and I'll take yours. Don't you think the little flower border at the top flatters my calves? Thank God you didn't wear pantyhose instead.

She laughs until tears shine on her cheek like tinsel, and then she can let go.


This poem was written in response to a Poetry Prompt on Big Tent Poetry.




Martha Stewart's Marble Cupcakes by CupCakeQueen



        Do you consider yourself a perfectionist? How do you know when to say This needs more work or Whatever, this is good enough?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Seventeen

You swear you're no happier than me
but Seventeen, at least you have dreams.
Real dreams, good ones,
not just sensible two-year plans
watered down with more prudence.

Seventeen, has no one ever told you
about the finite number of dreams, like eggs,
about dream menopause?
That's why the sleep of the old
is thin as eyelid skin,
all their dreams bled out,
their minds pregnant with memories.




The Elephant Celebes by Max Ernst



        Would you rather have dreams or memories? Really think about it -- the concreteness of memories gives a certain kind of satisfaction, but the limitless possibility of dreams is pretty seductive.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

pigeons

a subway car of newspapers
like a sidewalk of pigeons
their tattered pages folded like wings
their feathers smudged black with cheap ink

each bird lands in a hand
and sings a tale
so touching or scandalous or practical
the reader falls frozen in a stare
mouths pursed in pouts or kisses
eyes scanning back and forth
like searchlights




Photo by Alan D. Wilson (Creative Commons license)



        How do you feel about the desemination of news these days? Does the quickness and accessibility of information make up for the large amount of biased and lazy reporting that goes on?


Monday, July 26, 2010

a quiet weekend

soothing as a hot bath
mundane as folded laundry
calm as sunbeams on a cool bedsheet

productive, in a strange way
doing things you don't write on to-do lists
relationships are like garments
we need to wash, care for, be always waiting
with a threaded needle in hand
mindful of tiny tears that become        holes

sink scrubbed, cat cuddled
thoughts ordered and filed
body plugged into bed to charge
with my cell phone
and all my aching worries
filled in like cavities

on the Monday morning train
my mind is a pool so still
I can watch the fish below




Photo by Hardyplants




        What kind of weekend did you have? Was it the kind of weekend your wanted/needed?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How to ruin a nice moment

Doubt is like a lying child:
you know you just can't trust it
but you have to, sometimes.
Back in high school we used to fight all the time
(forgotten phone calls, he said she saids)
Only years later did I realize it was just
my boredom manifested as an entity
like Santa Claus, a god
that shapes the little lives of mortals.
I'm not sweet stupid sixteen anymore, so
I carry a thermometre pressed to my heart,
red marks on my ring finger where I pinch
over and over to see if it's real.
I'll smile when sunlight coaxes me
and sigh and ask Why
can't it always be happy times?

though a wiser part of me knows
I need the sad times
to appreciate times like these.


This poem was written in response to the Poetry Prompt on Big Tent Poetry.




Photo by David R. Tribble
I didn't know what image to put with this, so enjoy some clouds and sunlight.



        Are you the kind of person who listens more to their heart or head? If you listen to both at different times, how do you decide when to listen to one or the other?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

knitting club

I chose my pattern quickly and wisely
my needle knitted two purled two while others
were still chewing lips      choosing colours
that's often how it is for me
learning that feels like remembering
smugness      my poisonous old friend

needles clicking in chants      meditative fingers
counting purls like rosary beads
comparison      a temptation

the fool who chose a pattern
complex and delicate as a spider web
dropped too many sticky stitches
her sweater like a beaten face
her fingers like wild dogs      learning
to pull a sled in team

the fool who laughed in the face of instruction
set to work like a chef sniffing steam
adding a pinch of this      dash of that
made a long scarf that begins in a muddled mess
and ends in a feast of inspiration

I have fewer dropped stitches
and fewer colours




Photo by Pål Berge



      Can you think of a time you felt sure you knew the "right" or "best" way to do something, only to wonder at the end if maybe you had it all wrong? Alternatively, can you think of a time you did something the "wrong" way and were glad of it in the end because of the experience or unexpected outcome?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Poetry is cheaper than therapy

took a two-week vacation
from processing emotions to study
textbook terms of a new job
names        procedures        circadian rhythms
life changes like magnets        mixing up
the signals to my heart's compass
times like these I know to keep
that needled stone in my pocket
and just walk straight awhile
head down

now everything's piled up
on my bed like unsorted mail
tangled like extension cords
tv shows caught in my sex
life snagged on my calendar
mixed with my family clogging
the pipe I pass through
into dreaming

my bloated brain has a stomach ache
my heart        hunger pains


I'm back. And I think I need to be.




Photo by Bashereyre
Published under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.




        How do you keep yourself "centered"? Or, to put it another way, what do you do to settle and feel more like yourself during a big change?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Farewell to Adelaide West

Hanging up the phone with a sigh,
she says: “It's terrible how I've stopped caring
now that I know I'm leaving.”
I can tell by her voice, like a singer
wavering breathlessly at the end of a long note,
by the layers of scars
on her tongue.

I thought I felt the same way, ready
to shed this job like a winter coat
when the first bud opened

and yet I find myself
marking all the pathways I've learned
so newcomers can navigate the modes,
clearing little spaces here in this cluttered soil
so the new roots will grow deep.

The timing is right;
this job was a rose I cut
before the petal's edges had time
to brown.


After almost two years, I'm finally leaving Adelaide West. No more reception work for me – as of tomorrow I'm starting a new job using many of the skills I enjoy and actually went (and am still going) to school to learn.

This blog was born out of a deep personal need to do something creative and constructive for every workday that felt otherwise unfulfilling. With the artistic work involved in my new job (and, I assume, less time to burn during the workday), I wonder if I'll have the same desire and creative energy to write daily poems. On the other hand, writing poetry has become a kind of ritual and lifestyle for me, and perhaps a change of scenery will provide greater inspiration.

I will try to maintain my personal commitment to writing daily poems here. Although I'm no longer literally a poet on Adelaide West, I think I'll always keep the name as a reminder of how even the grey cement of a dreary office building can be tilled into fertile creative ground with a little effort.




Photo by A. Barra under a Creative Commons license



        How important is self-expression to you? What is your primary method of self-expression (writing, blogging, participating in forums, talking to people, etc.)?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

G20, Toronto


  • Saturday

    There is a black bruise
    on the sweet fruit of protest,
    and the city chokes on its bitterness.
    Storefronts are smashed and cop cars burn
    -- not universal symbols, but words
    that mean different things
    in different languages.

    The medium swallows the message.

  • Sunday

    Beating their batons, the police
    chase protestors through flower beds
    in Queen’s Park, where politicians make
    laws that are first broken, then spoken.
    One hundred citizens charged like beasts,
    so seven hundred will sleep in cages.

    Civil rights are more fragile than people.

  • Monday

    Police still walk in crowds along Queen Street
    where smashed windows have been covered up
    with wooden boards like political excuses.
    When I pass them on my way to lunch,
    my mouth can’t decide which way to turn
    (a smile feels like a permission slip,
    a frown a kick to the groin)
    so I just look away.

    A broken window is easier to fix than a promise.






Photo by Commodore Gandalf Cunningham



        (At the risk of starting up another G20 debate in another comment section) What are your thoughts on the interaction between police and protestors throughout the G20 summit and aftermath?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Toronto, days before the G20 Summit

Police clump on the streets like a flighty flock of birds,
numerous and easily startled by gusts of wind
and forgotten briefcases on subway platforms.

Trains wait at their stations like planes on a runway
while the passengers spill out into the streets
to snap up cabs like falling coins.

Office buildings tremor in fear – of what? We speculate:
Car bombs? God’s wrath? Bad economic policies?
Or just awe as the living earth turns in its sleep?

The next morning, only zealous protesters and Bay Street types
walk the streets. Unlikely pairs, they ride in subway cars
like the ribs of a picked-clean roast.


For the non-Canadians: Bay Street is Canada's Wall Street.

Sorry for the lack of posting; this has been a crazy week, with or without the G20.

This poem was written in response to Monday's prompt on Big Tent Poetry.




Photo by Tomasz Bugajski, taken from BlogTO



        What are your thoughts on the G20 Summit? If you live/work in Toronto, how has the Summit affected you so far?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sight

My sight grows near
in its idleness, looking at the same
common objects, familiar faces
but no longer seeing them.
This wallpaper -- a dull and muted coating
on the inside of an office's yawning mouth.
There are no glasses that can show it to me
fresh and promising, as when its creator coaxed it
into existence with a curling finger.

Some days I squint at cement,
shaggy front lawns, strain and see
that every blade of grass has washed its face,
put on strands of diamonds, crowns of rubies
to attend some fancy lawn brunch.
They tremble like lips, glittering stars in a silent sky
beside the grey yard where the buses
cough black complaints into the air.




Photo by Taro Taylor



        Can you think of something generally thought to be common or plain (ie. steam from a cup of tea, rain on a window, the sound of crickets) that you find beautiful or interesting?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gold digger

Ardent pursuer,
you flattered and wooed
so I opened my heart,
though my pulse was subdued.
I sowed seeds of passion
and waited to reap:
My eyes were closed,
but I was not asleep.

At first I believed
all your beautiful lies
-- then you gazed deeper
into my purse than my eyes.
I’m slow on the surface
but quick in the deep:
My eyes were closed,
but I was not asleep.

You make it your business
to court and betray,
so I’ll see that you get
the appropriate pay.
I too can play wolf
dressed up like a sheep:
My eyes are closed,
but I am not asleep.




In Aesop's fable, the wolf was hanged



        Do you consider yourself a good judge of character? Why or why not?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Parody of "The Life I Lead"

I feel the pride and drive of endeavor,
like a contestant competing to proceed,
when I kick off my business heels to clean and cook meals.
How active is the life I lead!

Two nights a week, I care for my parents.
The other three, I spend with my kids.
With fees and bills I must attend, I work weekends.
How busy is the life I lead!

No time to be Canadian in twenty-ten.
My home office replaced my reading room and den.
I’m a skilled multitasker! I’m driven! I’m fit!
My social life: my interests, culture, friends
do get left a bit behind
I must admit.

When jobs and chores and family are tended,
I’ll share a moment with the man I’ve wed
and then I’ll fall into my bed and sleep like the dead.
How crazy is the life I lead!


This poem was written in response to an article in the Toronto Star called Canadians, particularly women, caught in time crunch, and is a parody of the song The Life I Lead from Mary Poppins.








        My life is not nearly as hectic as this right now, but there have been times when it was and there may be times when it is again. What has been the busiest period of your life? How busy was it?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Old love

His bones were crumbling columns of sand
that blew apart when she breathed, and scattered
grains across the canyon like memories.

Once, while he was sleeping, she sewed shut
the tiny tear on his temple where the nightmares broke in
with a single strand of her tawny hair.

Once, while she was sleeping, he planted seeds
in the corner of her eyes, so her sorrows
would always bring her flowers.




Photo by Dave Kellam



        This poem was partially inspired by today's Think About It Mondays post on ThoseGirlsAreWild.com. So, to continue that discussion: what part, if any, do you think logic plays in love?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Squinting through a kaleidoscope

We all long to be known, especially by ourselves,
so we send out sound waves from our mouths
and measure the intervals of their echoes
off the ears of our friends; we call in
loved ones like criminals for questioning
and jot notes in our diaries, hoping
they will sketch a portrait.

What we end up with is a Picasso painting,
a subject depicted from all angles and contexts.
What we end up with is a murky black, the colour of
too many shades of paint mixed together.




Photo by H. Pellikka



        I've always been fascinated by how I act the same when I'm with different groups of friends, and yet my "role" changes within the context of each group. Depending on who I'm with, I'm smart or dull, outgoing or quiet, ambitious or lazy -- without ever acting any differently than I normally act. To what degree to you find your are perceived differently within different groups (including family)?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The weight

To-do lists are piling up, weighing down.
Strange, how paper so light
in strips and scraps can join hands
like a chanting crowd made of solitary voices,
how altogether it has weight.

The forth little piggy built his house of paper:
bills, receipts, UPS slips, doctors’ referrals, grocery lists.
The weight of it kept the big bad wolf out
but it crushed the pig too.




Illustration by L. Leslie Brooke



        What's on your to-do list right now?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Deepwater Horizon

We stab the ocean and it bleeds oil.
Pelicans lick poison from their wings
along the shore, where dolphins wash up
slick and black as million dollar lies.

Pelicans lick poison from their wings
with their eyes clouded and hungry.
Slick and black as million dollar lies,
they watch, waiting to be washed clean.

With their eyes clouded and hungry
the black suits shrug their shoulders.
They watch, waiting to be washed clean.
A freckle on the ocean’s face, they say.

The black suits shrug their shoulders
as the black blood pours in barrels.
A freckle on the ocean’s face, they say,
smiling with a row of drills for teeth.

The black blood pours in barrels,
stealing sunlight from the seafloor.
Smiling with a row of drills for teeth,
we stab the ocean and it bleeds oil.


This pantoun (never written one of these before) was written in response to the weekly prompt on Big Tent Poetry




Photo from the International Bird Rescue Research Center



        What current event(s) are you actively following or concerned about lately?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spring cleaning

Donate
        Full lyrics to several Spice Girls' songs
        Box of old knock-knock jokes
        Encyclopedia of Stephen King plots (good condition)
        Call and response format for Catholic mass
        Recording of Gone with the Wind
        Beatles trivial pursuit (give back to Andrew?)

Sell
        Education in Journalism (gently used)
        Education in Political Science (still in package)
        Education in Web Design (incomplete)

Garbage
        Paranoia of food poisoning after eating fish
        Grudges against people who were mean to me 10+ years ago

Mend
        Finger memory for various piano songs
        Ability to list all countries
        Basic math skills

Storage
        Compiled family history and stories
        Images and recordings of deceased loved ones
        Lyrics to various Raffi songs (save for children)
        Names of husband's extended family (store with travel bags)
        Memory log of big mistakes (label well)

Keep
        Memory log of happy moments (reframe, hang in foyer)
        Pocket reference of friends' life-happenings
        Sense of humour (buy travel-sized tube for purse)
        Self-confidence pills (take only one per day)
        Prank opportunity radar




Photo by Natasha C. Dunn



        If you were "spring cleaning" your mind or life, what would you throw out? What would you keep?

Serenade in an empty house

I either need a stage in my closet
or an arena of waving shirtsleeves,
silent and humanoid.

This will do too, chords resonating in the vacuum
of my sparse living room, muddling
clumsy fingers on smudgy keys.

In the bleachers, a fluid shadow audience, flickering
in and out of fantasies like projector light
on a whitewashed drive-in screen.

Wind too strong, channeling through
my lungs, stampeding through my throat,
trampling me flat, sometimes.

When keys turn in the door like credits rolling,
the wind slows to a calm, controlled breeze
and soon stills to silence.


I totally had this written yesterday, but Blogger was doing some kind of maintenance and wouldn't let me post it. Today's poem is still coming!




Photo by Zoran Miljkovic Joe



        What do you like to do when you have the house to yourself?

Friday, June 4, 2010

gods

  1. Jennifer Aniston

    O Jennifer, guardian of the hearts
    of those who love adulterers, hear our prayer.
    Keep watch over our boyfriends, and lead
    them not into the arms of Angelinas,
    but let them hold us faithfully in their minds
    forever and ever.

    Amen.

  2. Lindsay Lohan

    Our Lindsay, who art in rehab,
    hollowed be thy name.
    Because thou hath committed a multitude of sins,
    both legal and social, and because thine sins
    hath been written in the sacred US Weekly
    thou hath been raised up as the patron celebrity
    of Big Mistakes.

    Preserve us from public humiliation
    and shield us from bad judgment
    so that our private and public lives
    might forever remain separate.

    Amen.

  3. Kirstie Alley

    Hail Kirstie, full of face,
    Jenny Craig is with you.
    Blessed are you among dieters, and blessed
    are the pounds you shed and regain.
    O Kirsty, goddess of weight
    pray for us calorie counters now
    and at the hour of lunch.

    Amen.








        What role or service do you think celebrities provide within society? Do you think they are modern day "gods"?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dear skin, red and itchy

Are you playing a terrorist’s game, strapping
bombs to your back, blowing yourself away
in a cloud of smoke like a speech bubble?

Are you dragging yourself home from work, screaming
at your wife over piggy bank pennies, eyes dark-circled
and temples pounding with coworker idiocy?

Are you acting up in class, throwing tantrums
like a dirty-clothed kid with a stomach full of sugar,
taking slaps on the wrist like makeshift hugs?

Are you plagued by some inexpressible strain,
a baby lying frustrated in her crib, endlessly crying,
while her parents scramble to puzzle it out?




Photo by Sarah Klockars-Clauser



        People talk about "communicating" or "being in touch" with their bodies; how has your body been "speaking" to you lately, and what do you think it's been "saying"?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In the absence of cruelty

Between the slated wooden shutters, a bee hums.
Andrew reaches for a tattered magazine, but
instead of rolling it into a nightstick
he curves it into a shy smile.

Gently, he ushers
the bee from the window, toward the door
like guiding the proverbial old lady across the street.
It flees, panicked, from room to room,
to the comfort of familiar light through glass,
and Andrew follows it.

Eventually, they will tire: the bee
panting on the solid ground of a window sill,
and Andrew mourning in a sigh, reaching
for a shroud of paper towel.


Inspired by Stephen King's Under the Dome.



Photo by Dominic



        You don't have to answer here if you don't want to, but at least ask yourself: what's the cruelest thing you've ever done?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Woman: to Man

It must be difficult to relate to someone always swept up
in an ocean of feelings – vast and deep and fluid –
when yours tend only to rotate between happy, annoyed
and drunk (another form of happiness).

The text of Woman is crowded with schizophrenic roles:
Woman as wide-hipped mother, lulling her child to sleep.
Woman as wide-eyed child, reaching for fire.
Woman swaying like a wildflower or growling like a beast.
Woman twisting the doorknob to Sin to see if it’s locked.

These roles are makeup I put on and wash off,
dresses I purchase and outgrow;
some are heavy and some are glamorous
and some have scratchy crinoline underlays
but it’s easier to contemplate my sexuality with layers
like armor against the audience of a full-length mirror
than bent over journal pages of skin with a hand mirror.

Every word and tear and motion is a costume change
and you never know which character you’re taking to bed,
but it doesn’t matter, if you like the actress.


This is not my philosophy of female sexuality; it's just something I've been thinking about.




Painting by Till Niermann



        What "roles" do you feel you take on sometimes? This isn't necessarily a gender-related question.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Ten thousand hours

"… ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert — in anything. In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is the equivalent to roughly three hours per day, or twenty hours per week, of practice over ten years. Of course, this doesn’t address why some people don’t seem to get anywhere when they practice, and why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others. But no one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It sees that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery."

- Daniel Levitin, This is Your Brain on Music


It’s hard to defend yourself
against critical relatives, high-achieving friends
when your mouth is always full to bursting
with many-flavoured side projects, film clippings
and music notes dribbling down your chin.
Life’s too short not to order the works, even if
the resulting burger dislocates your jaw.

It’s hard to live with the heat
of peers so strong and focused like magnifying glasses.
I long to be consumed, devoured, to wake suddenly
like Robert Louis Stevenson and write feverishly
for three days, burn it up, and write it all again.

There is fever here too; I am a ravenous bee
suckling a world of flowers. These fragmented
pieces scattered haphazardly, taking over my
living room are not failures -- they are seeds
waiting ten thousand hours to bloom.


Sorry if this poem sounds kind of "boo-hoo, poor me." I'm just a little frustrated because I spent all yesterday working on one particular side project that I'm pretty focused on right now, and it's going really slowly because there are a bunch of technical setbacks. You know the feeling, I'm sure.




Photo by Alvesgaspar



        Can you think of a time when you went crazy with a project and just worked obsessively on it for a period of time (even if it wasn't a particularly long period)? Alternatively, can you think of a time when you worked steadily on a project, taking small, regular bites at it over a long period of time (if you're the kind of person who works like this, I bow down to you)?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Feast or famine

Spring is a rush-hour subway train
and I’m standing in it like a perched hawk hunting
for an empty seat            for a square foot of personal space
or half an hour of perfect solitude.

Reminds me of nature documentaries: of eight-foot tall grass
of monkeys splashing playfully in a spring flood
of elephants drinking and feasting            filling
the emptiness of the winter drought
in their wrinkled grey bellies.

I’m filling up too, on shared pitchers of beer
on conversation            on scribbles in calendar squares
and I too am revisiting            redefining winter.
Bloated, I’m idealizing hibernation
and forgetting the echo
of its emptiness.




Photo by Hanay



        Would you rather spend the next six months in complete solitude or surrounded by other people (it can be people you like) to the point where the only time you spent alone was bathroom breaks?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Anti-poem

Every lazy-ass fibre of my being rebels
against writing a poem today, so
here is an anti-poem.

Here are clichés, roses red and violets blue.
Here is my love, a blue river rushing
into a sea of overused metaphors.
Here is blatant prose chopped up
into stanzas: an undercover essay.
Here are all the ingredients in the recipe
for bad-poem soup.

Here’s a trite little ditty about Jesus
we can stamp onto tacky, plastic wall-hangings
and sell with all the other mass-produced
trinkets some people call art.




Lucy in the Field with Flowers
from the Museum of Bad Art




        Do you believe there's such a thing as bad art? What distinguishes it from good art?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

At St. Clair's

the cookies n’ cream
tastes like real cookies and
the strawberry cheesecake
tastes like real cheesecake and
sweaty children push through
the heavy glass doors with the force
of over thirty magnetic flavours
pulling at iron tongues.

Fifteen minutes before closing,
there are two fire trucks parked
at the corner, and inside the parlour
the fire men line the counter
like a row of shiny medals.
The server says It’s on the house
so the men feed their change to the tip jar
and call hearty thank-yous on their way out.
The fire men stand on the corner, holding their
sugar cones with muscled forearms,
and we smile sweetly at them

wishing life were always
as pleasant and simple as
firemen and ice cream.


I believe the official name of the parlour is Maple Leaf Dairy, but it's "St. Clair's" to most people. It's on the Danforth, two streets east of Dawes on the south side, and I highly recommend it.






        I was discussing yesterday how girls almost unanimously love firemen, but don’t always agree on their attraction to other members of the public protection service like police officers. Why do you think that might be? I hint at my own theory in the last lines of the poem.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Johnny G’s, 4 p.m. on Victoria Day

Over the doors, an elaborate stained-glass window
and behind the glass: pots of plastic flowers
shawled in delicate cobwebs. This is
the essence of Cabbagetown.

The place is cramped with too many small wooden tables,
but quiet now, only old men nursing coffees and folded
newspapers, a few bedheaded twenty-somethings.
I squint at the daily specials: a neon rainbow
printed so tightly on the black marker board
even my glasses can’t loosen them.

The walls are rolled back, paint-chipped windowed doors
folded up like sweaty five-dollar bills in a change purse.
The waitress brings me a scoop of vanilla ice cream,
a glass of water with three crackling ice cubes,
$2.23 for immunity against the hot breath
that pants in from Parliament Street.

Taped to the window, a laminated menu glows
like a yellow leaf.




Johnny G's @ 478 Parliament Street



        What kind of atmosphere do you like in a restaurant or bar (trendy, casual, homey, quirky, etc.)? What are your haunts around your city?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dream analysis

Katie dreams of zombie attacks, while I
dream of not being able to fall asleep, of waking
up in the morning and not getting ready fast enough.

Katie dreams of hamster-crabs, unnatural
spawn born of her caged pets, while I dream of
scooping crabs out of crevices in my upper thigh.

The tiny psychoanalyst on my shoulder
strokes the whiskers of his roundish beard.
Mmm, yes, das veery eenteresting.




Photo from Toronto Zombie Walk 2007 by Sam Javanrouh



        Do you believe in dream analysis?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Therefore I am

Back in January of ‘06, stumbling blindly
through my worst blizzard of anxiety on record,
I took shelter in self-help books, library checkouts
lying open, face down on my nightstand:
a paperback tent city.

The books called to me from sidewalk corners,
some peddlers, some preachers, some teachers.
One said, Your are not your mind. You
are not all these frantic, rambling voices.
You are not neutral networks, not a database
of stored memories & information.
You are not your mind.

That one didn’t jive, so I tossed it
back in the river like a bad catch.
Because I am my mind.

I am party streamers of DNA sequences
strung by generations of humping relatives.
I am hormones & fragmented song lyrics.
I am my chronically overactive imagination,
my obsessive analyzing, my swollen ego,
my good memory & bad sense of direction,
my annoying habitual response to criticism
        (“You know, flip-flops aren’t really in season yet.”
        “YOU’RE not in season yet.”)

I am a huge, disjointed novel compiled
of one page from every book I ever read.




Photo by Gaetan Lee



        Do you believe we are our minds? If not, then what?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

shayla.css (my 400th post!)

.ego {
        padding: 100px;
        zoom: 200%;
        text-decoration: blink;
}

.family {
        font-family: inherit;
        position: absolute;
        overflow: visible;
}

#andrew {
        position: absolute;
        background-color: red;
        speech-rate: faster;
        font-size: large;
        text-overflow: ellipsis;
}

.career { cursor: wait; }

#job {
        background-color: grey;
        position: relative;
        width: 830am;
        height: 5pm;
        overflow: hidden;
        border: thick solid black;
}

.friends {
        cue: url(laugh.wav);
        volume: 100%;
        overflow: auto;
}


This is my 400th post!! Sorry to the [majority of my] readers who don't know how to read CSS, but to my two most loyal readers who do know how:

#inside_joke { font family: comic sans }




Remember when websites used to look like this?



        I've been using CSS since high school, but until my night school teacher explained it yesterday, I never fully understood what I was doing with it (I'd just change something and think, "Oh, I guess that's what that does!"). Is there something you like to dabble in (ie. music, cooking) even though much of the time you're not really sure what you're doing?

        Hmm... This is a strange thing to admit on my 400th post, but I think poetry might be one of mine.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Philosophy of a Monday morning

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




There, is that depressing enough for a Monday? I’m actually in a pretty good mood today; this poem is just kind of a manifestation of the more cynical thoughts that have been kicking around my brain lately. At least it was longer than two stanzas!




Russian [leaders] nesting dolls



        Our society tends to define people by their job title, which leads me to ask: if you could choose one aspect of your efforts or being to define you to others or within society, what would it be?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rusty tools

  1. Hammer

    So much potential inevitably gets stowed
    like rusty tools, heaped in a cardboard box
    on the top shelf of my to-do list. Sometimes
    I take them out and look at them all.

    Then, overwhelmed by
    their many cryptic functions,
    their multitude, I put them
    all back, one by one.

  2. Screw driver

    In other dimensions
    there are version of me:
    They have cello string lines
    for fingerprints, names stamped
    on business cards and dust jackets.
    Paint obeys them.

    They call me up on rainy Saturdays
    to chat, but I don’t answer
    so they call up my mother
    who does.

  3. Tape measure

    at dinner        he eats
    one bite of rice
    one bite of chicken
    one bite of carrot

    one bite of rice
    one bite of chicken
    one bite of carrot

    one bite of rice
    one bite of chicken
    one bite of carrot

    and if fullness comes too soon
    he will leave unfinished        on his plate

    one bite of rice
    one bite of chicken
    one bite of carrot

    and it won’t matter because
    at dinner        he eats
    for experience        not accomplishment




I've fallen into the habit of writing short, two-stanza poems lately, and I'm really trying to break out of it. So I wrote a short, two-stanza poem, and this was the only thing I could think to do. Next week, I have a goal: new format!!




Photo by Per Erik Strandberg



        What are some of your "rusty tools"? Can you think of any skills or interests you were really involved with at one point, but sort of let fall away in favour of pursuing other things?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mother

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




NO, I am not pregnant, nor do I intend to be for many years. It's just that Mother's Day just passed and I've been thinking about mothers lately.




Charity by William-Adolphe Bouguereau



        Okay, I said motherhood doesn't worry me, but what I really mean is it doesn't worry me any more than it should. What aspect of parenthood worries you? Do you think you will/would/do make a good parent?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lunch hour hangouts


  1. The Royal York

    I’m forever seduced by the romance
    of empty wooden desks in this lobby
    old and glamorous as a diamond.

    Someday I will sit here and write
    lines of trash in laborious penmanship.
    Alas, my muse is a rawboned rover
    who cannot bear the weight
    of ambiance; I'm doomed
    to scrap paper scribbles on
    crowded subway seats.


  2. St. Andrew’s Church

    Reverent silence, broken
    by the stray coughs of mortals
    and the surreptitious turning
    of comic book pages.

    In Toronto, religion
    is handed out on street corners;
    you need to know where to look
    for good Romanesque Revivals
    and quiet reading rooms.


  3. Urban Affairs Library

    Reference only. I keep coming back
    like a foolish girl waiting for love
    from a one hundred night stand.

    You're everything I ever wanted, but
    you'll never come home with me
    to meet my parents.









        Where do you go or what do you do on your lunch hour?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Eaton Centre food court, 6 p.m.

Half empty. Only territorial teenagers,
student nomads carrying laptops on their backs
like turtle shells, and lonely people
shopping for company.

An old man sleeps: head down,
the white of his hair snowing
on a table grey and greasy as
restaurant back stairs.
He might be homeless,
or just tired and waiting
like the rest of us.




Photo by Liliana Amundaraín



        How do locations affect your mood? Are there places you visit just because they make you feel happy? Are there places you avoid just because they depress you?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Old movies

You love like a black-and-white classic, and I
like a thorny sixties flick: the last scene, one subtle
gesture or a flicker of a deeper emotion across
the protagonist’s face after the victory sunset
leaves the audience wondering, yearning
for some spelled out resolution, bullet point
meaning scratched on a chalkboard.

I will never be able to explain
and you will never have to.




The Graduate, 1967



        How much explaining do you think a film should do? Some films dumb things down so much it's insulting to the audience, while some make things so cryptic they go over everyone's head. What's the right balance?

Friday, May 7, 2010

General anxiety vs. The flying trapezes

Spotlight, hot as panic.
Ground, unyielding as death.
Crowd, captious as God.

My fear is disguised with smiles and sequins,
limbs moving in muscle memory, powdered hands
dry as my lips.

On the platform, I grasp the bar
firmly as a choice; it is always a choice
between brief terror and relentless worry,
truth or dare, goldfish bowl
or shark-infested freedom.
Safety is a net that catches you
and never lets go.

I step off the platform,
acknowledge the distinction
between life and non-death,
make my choice.


This poem was written in response to MONDAY PROMPT/ May 3 on Big Tent Poetry.




Circus poster, 1890.



        Do you think it's important to face your fears, or is it okay to live with certain fears as long as they don't disrupt your life? Have you done anything recently that scared you?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Kensington Market, after hours

On a rainy Wednesday evening, the only patrons
are drunks and locals; we are
the former.

The shops are bicycles chained to iron railings,
burnt-out carousal lights, closed eyes
on a tattooed face.

Rain bathes the streets, but it can’t wash away
history, fish shop stink, curious
graffiti murals.




Kensington Market, 1922 - Photo by John Boyd



        How would you describe the character of your own neighbourhood? What qualities do you like in a neighbourhood (to live in)?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

White wine makes painting fine

White wine makes painting fine!
Painting rooms is such a snooze,
unless you have a little booze.
White wine will pass the time!

White wine on the decline!
Oh no! The bottle's getting low
and we still have two walls to go.
Red wine will soon be mine!

Red wine is just divine!
We may have drank too many cups
– we’ll have to do a few touch-ups.
Red wine makes sloppy lines!




Photo by Jon Sullivan



        What do you do to make boring or unpleasant chores more fun (ie. play music, have company, etc.)?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

introverts

in kindergarten, you
would hide beneath your desk
nuclear fallout style
to let your brain cool down
prevent overload
your teacher said, “don’t worry,
he’ll grow out of it”
now you hide in familiar
spaces, insulate yourself
within a cast of friends
like curled fingers

you keep a bicycle pump
folded up in your wallet
to re-inflate my ego,
pull over at the side of the road
emergency repair job
I speak for you in public,
give your lunch order
to over-friendly waitresses,
your personal liaison

though even I
go all deer-in-the-headlights
when the telephone
becomes an endlessly crying baby,
when my e-mail inbox fills
like a sinking ship






        Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert? Here's a good way to tell: do you "recharge" yourself by seeking the company of friends or by seeking time alone? Despite popular belief, shyness and introversion are two completely different things.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A rare and wakeful morning

I slept in a blink
and woke in a blink
like an hourglass flip,
like returning to the moment
from a daydream
when you call my name.

The dawn sky
made up its face
like a shady afternoon;
when it leaned to kiss
my eyelids, I could smell
its perfume: fresh
as a breeze
along the lake shore,
sweet as sun
on the boardwalk.




Photo by James Thornett



        Are you a night person or a morning person? I have a theory that people become night or day people partially in response to the routines of people around them. For example, if you really like being around people, you might stay up later because your friends tend to stay up later. Or maybe you crave some alone time and stay up late to get it while everyone else is asleep. What do you think?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Jellyfish

I wake with darkness all around
without the wind, without a sound
alone in this vast, black somewhere
there is no sky, there is no ground

Now faintly in the distance there:
a light as fragile as a prayer
Through squinting eyes I’m shocked to spy
a jellyfish glows in the air

First one, then two, then by and by
their numbers start to multiply
They cloud me like a swarm of bees
as full as stars fill up the sky

Their tentacles sway in some breeze
like meadow grass or willow trees
but I know of no plant or spear
whose blades are deadlier than these

How long have I been trembling here?
Could be a minute or a year
In darkness, time cannot be read
and soon despair replaces fear

as deep in my exhausted dread
I grow a longing to be dead
and when it blooms I take a stand
and reach to grasp a glowing thread

I clasp around the see-through strand
but it just passes through my hand
like wine through lips after a toast
My fate is deaf to my command

Forever standing at my post
one question troubles me the most:
which one of us is just a ghost?
Which one of us is just a ghost?


This poem was written "in response" to NaPoWriMo #30: Free day (and farewell) on Read Write Poem. The meter and structure of the poem was based on that of a famous Robert Frost poem.




Photo by Thesupermat



        Do you believe in an afterlife? What do you imagine it will be like?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A message from the Federal Government of Canada

Dear citizens of Canada,

In preparation for the upcoming G8 and G20 summits in Ontario, the following regulations are hereby passed and will take effect as of May 1, 2010:

  • Demonstrators may not be within two (2) kilometres of the location of the event they are protesting at any time.

  • Only members of recognized advocacy organizations have free access to the Designated Protest Zone. Unaffiliated citizens must register for Zone access at least two months in advance.

  • Megaphones are banned within the boundaries of all major Canadian cities.

  • All protest signs are to contain only muted colours and fonts no larger than seventy-two (72) points.

  • Media coverage of all governmental activities is limited to venues with Can-Gov Membership press passes. Independent news venues may purchase passes from the Can-Gov Membership Office in Ottawa at the price of one thousand dollars ($1,000) per pass.

  • Letters to government officials and members of parliament must be typed, printed and no longer than five hundred (500) words in length.

Thank you for your submissive cooperation,

The Federal Government of Canada


I don't even know if this counts as a poem. I've been uninspired and completely preoccupied lately. Anyway, this whatever was written in response to the Toronto Star article All G20 protests will be directed to Trinity Bellwoods Park and NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompt #29: Front page news on Read Write Poem.




Photo by John Maclennan



        The right to protest is an important part of democratic society, but we all know that sometimes things get out of hand and go to far. To what degree or in what ways should protesting be limited? Do you think it's acceptable to ask demonstrators to protest the G20 from a public park two kilometres away from the event?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

People watching on the Bloor line

A sweet-faced Asian girl closes her mascaraed eyes and sleeps to headphone lullabies.

A couple with pale skin and dark hair whisper to each other in what sounds like a Slavic language. In Toronto, you need to whisper to have a private conversation; someone is always bound to eavesdrop in your language.

A wisp of an old man has a tan coat and a pointy white beard. Does his beret make him look distinguished, or is he distinguished enough to pull off a beret? Likely the latter.

A young black man wears a Blue Jays baseball cap – the old style, before the Jay looked sulky about how bad his team was doing. He offers his seat to a teetering lady with a cane, but she says no thank you.

A blond-haired construction worker type in a black leather jacket swigs two percent milk from a small carton.

A paunched, plain-Jane flirts with a well-dressed man. Do not be deceived – she is a master of body language. Watch how she giggles, leans in, absently brushes the man’s bicep with her fingers as she talks – and he is bewitched. We both are.




Photo by Bobolink



        Are you a people-watcher too? What kind of people catch your eye?

Monday, April 26, 2010

At confession

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




This poem was written in response to NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompt #24: Find a phrase on Read Write Poem. It was inspired by the origin of the phrase "All things must pass" from the biblical verses Matthew 24:6-8 (King James Version).




I love, LOVE The Wizard of Oz



        I was raised Catholic and grew up going to confession from time to time. It’s probably the only part of Catholicism I sometimes miss, although I don’t think I ever truly gave it up (I’m a pretty confessional person in general).

        Think of today’s comment box as a secular confession box: tell me something you’d like to “confess.” It doesn’t have to be a sin or something you feel guilty about; maybe it’s just an observation about yourself that you want to share.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thank you for riding the Celebrity Line

Arriving at Fame. Fame Station.

Priority seating is intended for the beautiful and marketable. Your cooperation is requested.

Arriving at Paparazzi. Paparazzi Station.

Please mind the doors, the doors are now closing. Please do not charge the doors, doors are closing. Passengers, please step back from the doors and wait for the next train. We cannot move on until the doors are cleared. Thank you.

Arriving at Reality TV. Reality TV Station.

Doors are opening. Please mind the gap between your personal and public life.

Your attention please. We are currently experiencing a delay at our Tabloid Station, due to sexual infidelity. Publicists are on site, and we hope to be moving on shortly.

We are being delayed, waiting for the scandal to clear. We expect to be moving shortly.

Please be advised that imperfection is not permitted anywhere on the Celebrity Line. Violators will be slandered.

The delay we were experiencing at our Tabloid Station has now cleared and normal service has resumed.

Arriving at Has-Been. Has-Been Station.

Please remember to collect your self-worth and exit through the common doors.

Arriving at Infomercial. Infomercial Station. This is our final stop. All passengers, please exit the train.

Thank you for riding the Celebrity Line.


This poem was written in response to NaPoWriMo Poetry Prompt #23: unlikely couples on Read Write Poem.






        Do you go out of your way to follow celebrity gossip (by that I mean, do you read/purchase celebrity magazines or watch entertainment report programs)? Why or why not?