Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The rose

When the first faint lines
of wilting appeared on a petal’s edge,
like the crinkle of an old woman’s eye,
the rose cast off its blossoms
and waited naked
for the frost.

It was no longer a rose.

Photo by Vaikunda Raja

        Is there an action or activity that defines you? What would happen if you were no longer able to do it?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

smile list

when you and I were sixteen
and our parents felt like our children
or our boyfriends wanted to be our boy friends
we wrote silly lists that made us smile:

        crackling ice cubes
        unfortunate last names
        hearing a song you love but forgot about
        anything colour-coded
        running for the bus and just making it
        snowflakes caught in eyelashes
        holding hands
        small dogs on staircases
        Simon & Garfunkel
        the word “chesterfield”
        flared nostrils
        waking up with perfect hair
        waking up with ridiculously bad hair
        messages fingered in mirror steam
        profound graffiti
        talkative strangers
        old friends

Photo by Nevit

        What's on your smile list?

Monday, February 22, 2010


Talk of miracles
turns my mind to the days
of gods who threw down lightning bolts
and mortals who danced to summon the rain.
The gaps in human knowledge are always penciled in
with splendid imagination, like the blanks in a Mad Libs story.

Yet there is no comfort in living
so far from bedtime story beliefs
– miracles, true love, anthropocentric Gods,
the supremacy (or even competence) of humankind –
without stubborn faith in a twofold bedrock:
the strength to claw my way out of any hole
and the hands that reach down to help me.

This poem was written in response to Poetry Prompt # 115: What do you believe? on Read Write Poem.

Photo by Oliver Spalt

        What do you believe in?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Life in the decade without a name

My generation plays a game that goes: If you could live your prime through any era, which would you choose?

Katie belongs in the late Eighties, nursing on brat pack movies through her high school years – fresh from the theatre, not crystallized in HD. She’d flirt wildly with the notion of moving to NYC, spending five hours on her makeup before dashing out to outlaw parties at the local Burger King dressed in skin and sequins. The rest of her life could be spent telling outrageous stories she couldn’t quite remember because of all the chemical drugs.

Andrew would wake up just a few years earlier and fritter his quarters away in the arcades. All his favourite tunes would still be on the radio.

And me, you know I couldn’t be happier anytime but the Sixties, when the wind blew hard enough to move people, to tear things down. When fashion was political, not corporate, and there were causes to dies for in good company. Chain me to a tree or lock me in a school and I’ll play you the five chords I know.

Fun game, but it always leads to the inevitable, terrifying question: given the chance, would I? Would I run away to clubland? Would I join the revolution?

And then: when I look back on this era, what will I have missed being a part of?

It could be worse. Sometimes I thank God for the Internet, and for 9/11 – the only things that kept this decade from being as lame as the Nineties.

Photo by S.Sgt. Albert R. Simpson, October 21, 1967

        Your turn: If you could live your prime through any era, which would you choose and why?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My subconscious is on steroids

I pinch the skin of my arm, hard,
on the subway platform. Too many times
have I asked myself, Is this a dream?
and said Nooo and moments later awoke.
My brain has a top-notch video card
and way too much memory; when I try
to spot a dream through little tricks
– light level adjustment, stationary text,
tactile precision and complexity,
the clarity of every texture and detail –
every sensation swells right up to greet me.

Even now, as I carefully inspect every
pore and follicle on this red, throbbing welt,
I’ll never be quite certain.

Salvador Dali A by photographer Philippe Halsman, 1948

        Have you ever had an experience where you couldn't remember if it had happened in real life or just in a dream?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


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

This poem was inspired by something I realized today: Necropolis literally means "city of the dead" in Greek. How cool is that?

EDIT: I just learned that Lucille Clifton, one of my favourite poets, died today. I'd like to dedicate today's poem to her. You can read more about her life and work in her obituary in the New York Times.

Photo by T.J. Blackwell

        What is your relationship with cemeteries? Do you see them as being solemn places to visit lost loved ones, haunted places favourable for telling scary stories, tragically romantic places to wander, curious human constructions to be examined, or something else?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Back to basics

An author in esteem only, I return to writing fiction,
though my literary tendons have atrophied, decayed,
after all these comatose years. They will not trust me,
preferring to sleep folded in the footlocker at the edge of my bed,
(muttering pretty snips of sentences while they dream)
but still they are glad to be out, tumbling words
across my page in a red patter; my house is littered
with fledglings and ancient eggshells.

Under the clarity of instinct, they have taken
a hacksaw to industrious panic, to the lubricious want of status,
and in doing so claimed a second childhood; they are clowns,
grinning from within the jaws of a toothless lion.

This poem was written in response to Poetry Prompty #114 on Read Write Poem.

Gibson & Co, 1873

        When it comes to creating any form of art, what do you think is the best balance between the motor of ambition and the inspiration that comes from aimless play? In other words, how much should an artist be goal-oriented and how much should s/he practice open-ended experimentation?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Baby, get your can

Baby, get your can:
this plant needs watering.
Its leaves are folded in a heap
like shirts waiting for the iron
and they smell like rainy Mondays
and empty houses and missed goodbyes.

Baby, take it away; I can’t bear
to look at it any longer.

Photo by Sharyn Morrow

        What do you think is the value of an artist issuing a statement to “explain” his or her work, compared to saying nothing and leaving it completely open to interpretation?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My hands

are building a crustaceous shell
like a lobster, boiled and breaded.
One is the torn liner in an old woolen coat,
the other is wood polished with ammonia.
They are mountains crumbling to sand,
faded maps made of November tree bark,
sentient lumps of chalk and driftwood.
The winter wind blows them down
on the ground like leaves, bitter and dead.

Note: the cold weather has made my hands dry, but not nearly as dry as I exaggerate them to be in this poem. Don’t worry, I have heard of moisturizer.

ALSO, check out my latest LAID post: Sure he's a slut, but what does that have to do with politics?

Photo by Rob Hingle

        I was uninspired today, so I did this poem as kind of an exercise in writing metaphors. Can you think of a metaphor for your hands that reflects the way they look or feel, the way you use them or some other quality?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dear Yesterday Girl

How can you expect so much of me when you know we’re the same person with the same fickleness? With the same weakness for passive amusement and mindless games and just sitting very still. We’re the fool child who wastes his allowance on candy and never has anything to show for it but fat and cavities. Don’t you realize I have no more motivation than you, just nearer deadlines?

You ask a lot, and I’m really trying. I want it all as much as you do – the finished projects, constructive lifestyle, cultivated relationships – and I know I’m the one who has to make it happen, but it just doesn’t get any easier. We both keep thinking it will, but it just doesn’t.

Thanks for cleaning the cat box and taking the chicken out of the freezer. Thanks for doing the dishes and making the bed and flossing our teeth. Thanks for the sleep deprivation too, asshole.

Tomorrow Girl

Idleness by John William Godward

        What would you say in a letter to Yesterday You? To Tomorrow You?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Speculation on a coffee mug

My father subscribed to the old coffee mug adage, You don’t know anything until you’re thirty.

At ten years old, this infuriated me; according to coffee-stained bubble letters on the side of a little ceramic bucket, I was to remain in my lowly childhood ignorance for three times my current lifetime. I knew how to read and write, after all, and didn't that count for something?

That coffee mug’s been haunting me lately, as I count the final hours of my early twenties and try to remember back
        when being good was like colouring crayon
                inside thick black outlines
        when I had more opinions (my father’s) about politics,
                and less understanding
        when sex was bad and alcohol worse and drugs
                turned you crazy or criminal
        when religion wasn’t shrapnel

Life since high school has been an exercise in unlearning. A part of me looks forward to thirty, when allegedly I will know something.

Photo by Joe Mabel

        What belief or issue have you had a major change of heart about over the course of your life?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Spell to summon change

Snap the hitch
A slip of a stitch
The flip of a switch
The scratch of an itch

Set the gauge
A light on the stage
The turn of a page
The end of an age

Pedestrian tunnel that runs beneath the Don Valley Parkway
Photo by Steven Burke

        I like to wander through new areas of the city when my mind feels stale and I want to encourage a creative change. Is there something small you do to freshen things up when your mind gets stagnant?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Needs a project

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

Remember this game? I suck at it.

        How do you know when you're getting bored and need to start a new project (ie. you watch too much TV, eat too much, pick stupid fights with your housemates, etc.)?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dear Joni Mitchell

I’m tracking your footprints
across eighty-eight dusty keys,
shadowing you with my clumsy fingers.
I’m wandering your labyrinthine lyrics
until they grow bored and release me
back out the door I came in.

I’m chasing you along the winding melody,
right to the edge where you leap into flight
and I skid to a stop, knowing I would fall;
my voice is greyer in its prime than yours was
when you decided to quit
and take up painting.

        Can you think of someone you admire and try to imitate, but every time you look at their work you can't helping feeling totally intimidated by how amazing it is?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Sighing over sweet, ancient memories,
the ocean combs out her wavy locks, carelessly
spilling them across the flaxen sand.
The untroubled sky writes her love-notes
on the feathers of seabirds, and she gives no reply
except a faint, shy caress at the horizon.

Even I of the most loquacious mind
sit watching in permeating silence;
there is a kind of clarity here
such as I have never found.

        My mom says she always pictures herself by the ocean when she's meditating, and I never fully understood why until my trip to Cuba. What image(s) tends to pop up when you're trying to calm or quiet your mind?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pop quiz

  1. The tide goes out
    as it does, from time to time.
    I thought I was past the point of doubting
    its return, fidgeting as I wait,
    prodding anxiously at the beached sea-drift
    and rehearsing despair.

    I seek comfort in both reason and faith: pattern observation
    and prayers to make-believe ocean gods.

  2. You can’t cage a man in a golden band
    or a signature in ink or a spoken promise before God;
    you can’t make a gift of a clear sky.

    Love is just one brand of glue.
    Routine, inertia, practicality:
    the names of monsters in my closet.

  3. This is pointless musing. This is internal,
    a constellation in the winter sky that represents
    boredom and hormones. This is too familiar.
    I am the one picking at this scab
    and making it bleed.

    I’ve learned this lesson before. I remember the theory
    but not the application.

        Can you think of a life lesson you've learned in theory but have trouble applying to your actual life?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mother bird takes a renter

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

This poem is written in response to Poetry Prompt #112 on Read Write Poem, although I think I may have missed the concept of a "narrative wallpaper."

Cherry Blossoms in High Park, Toronto
Photo by Chensiyuan

        What's been the hardest move you've had to adjust to? Were you the one who moved out, or was it a loved one?