Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Two old friends meet for dinner

downtown, far from their childhood.
Each lives a sitcom the other stopped watching
after the second season but can still follow
in sporadic episodes: the same familiar characters
all up to the same crazy antics.

They don’t attempt reentry; they can’t blend
colours long dried. This friendship is already
a finished painting, so they gather up
their dusty sketches and move
to a new medium.

Photo by Grigor Apinian

        Who is your oldest friend you still keep in touch with (who isn't related to you)?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Not sleeping well

You can’t be productive in a dream;
The only thing real is pale blood cycling
through your temples like six pressing tasks
you’re struggling to remember, you’re chanting
under your breath. When I wake in the 2 a.m.
dark, the only finished project I get to keep is
a twitch under my left eye or a new symptom
to the cold I thought was mending.

You don’t get much sleep on a roller coaster.
Some people willingly stand in line for hours
just to feel all the exhilarating sensations
of a panic attack, but
I just want off.

The Schwarzkopf Olympia Looping, Düren
Photo by Boris23

        How does stress tend to manifest itself if your dreams (ie. final exams, work projects, full-blown nightmares, etc.)?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Shared space

Dancing with you was easier
when I stood on your feet
and we moved together, every step
synchronized in the effortless harmony
of shared space.

Now we just sway in the hollow light
of my neon smile – awkwardly, aimlessly,
both too polite to lead. Self-conscious
of my hand on your shoulder, no longer
clasped tight in balance, I’m mourning
the strange emptiness between our bodies.
Stiffness in my step; the sudden force of my
clumsy heel on your toe will hurt worse
than the old dull aching that spread beneath
the constant, resting weight of my shoes
scuffing the shine off yours.

La valse by Charles Léandre

        Can you think of a time when one of your comfortable relationships was challenged by a change in your schedule or location? How did the relationship adapt, if at all?

Thursday, March 25, 2010


All of my goldfish have died
or evolved into legged creatures
that can’t be contained in glass bowls
except you, and even you
have little need of me, never more
than indifferently picking
at the sprinkle of nourishment
I offer.

You are content to remain
a solitary goldfish, never to grow
within the permanence of
your impervious sphere.

Photo by Duchess

        Let's play the metaphor game: what animal are you and why?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sources of strange childhood pride

My grandparents were beautiful.
They were the ones everyone wanted to have,
but they chose to have only each other.

My father was tough. I slept assured
with a great, woolly dog by the front door
and dad snoring down the hall.

My imagination was robust (and often remarked upon
by the strangers I barked at in grocery stores);
at six, no other skill seemed so vital.

I had a slingshot carved from a tree branch
(which practically made me Dennis the Menace)
until I gave it away to my cousin in a show of loyalty.

I could climb to the very top
of the big pine tree: the ultimate test
of courage, skill and maturity.

Remember this stupid movie?

        What were the sources of your strange childhood pride?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Being grown up is

drinking chardonnay while you do your taxes.
hanging laundry while you cry.
asking strangers for directions, then finding your own way.
building a house of cards in the wind.
tearing some plants out of the garden so the rest have room to grow.
holding up your corner of the big safety net.
working to keep your name in the sand.
growing wings, then giving away all your feathers as gifts to loved ones.
signing all your paintings, not just the masterpieces.
deciding what parts of yourself to sell.
watering houseplants with a thimble.
blowing up your own balloons.
trying to colour within lines of text.
choosing the best answer to an impossible question.

        What is "being grown up" to you?

Monday, March 22, 2010

To be an old woman

May I live long enough to be
an old woman. After the long battle
against anti-aging cream and the plastic
sex nymphs on glossy magazine covers is lost
and the world’s disinterest will allow me to be a whole
person again – as whole as I was at seven years old,
smiling and sun burnt, hair knotted in tree sap –
it should suit me just fine.

I think I will be braver
at seventy. When life carves its name
in the bark of my face like hearted lovers’ initials
and my vanity – no longer swollen with flattery
and delusion – shrivels in the absence of cat-calling,
I fully intend to become a shameless flirt.

There is a whole depth of self
only years can realize. I want
to become wise and well-read,
blessed with pervasive reflection.
I want to know all the things
it takes a lifetime to learn.

Photo by Edward S. Curtis

        How do you imagine you'll be different at, say, age seventy than you are now?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Stress case

She ran out of track a mile back,
but she’s still running; she still thinks it’s a race.
She doesn’t realize there’s no prize.
She’s still running; she still thinks there’s a first place.

If she’s going to try, she aims high.
She keeps pushing; she keeps setting new goals.
The only direction is perfection,
so she keeps pushing, keeps in complete control.

When a chance asks her to dance,
she’s not sleeping; she’s harvesting crops.
Even when she’s dead tired in bed,
she’s not sleeping; it never stops.

If her world starts coming unfurled
she’ll be burning, welding the shreds into one.
She’ll end her days in a fiery blaze,
she’ll be burning. She’ll burn out like the sun.

This poem wasn't written about anyone in particular, I just wanted to play with rhymes.

Photo by the Yohkoh solar observatory, 1991

        How much do you stress over making things perfect?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

On the Danforth, a sudden change of heart

The muddy grass in Withrow Park gives me
wet, smacking kisses on the soles of my boots,
and even the dour, winter-bare trees seem
good natured in their annual preparation.
Children unfold like morning glories.

West of Pape, a church steeple holds up the sun
like a pedestal, and a half-blinded east ender
follows the light downtown.

Withrow Park, Toronto. Photo by Skeezix1000

        I don't know about you, but spring makes me want to make plans and go OUT. Anywhere. What spring plans are you excited for?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The upside of being mildly obsessive

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

Photo by Katharina Surhoff

        How does being inspired or preoccupied with a new idea/project affect your daily life and interactions?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lights out in car three

The elevator is grey and dim
like the first steps inside a cave, taken
before fear swallows up curiosity.
As the doors press shut behind me,
I realize I’ve gone too many steps in.
Quickly! I wrap my hands around
the throat of my imagination and squeeze
before it starts to hear the dripping
of murky water from stalactites, or
sense some movement in the faint
red light of declining numbers, or
smell the dank, musky reek of some
ancient beast, watching me.

When the doors release me, years later,
I step thoughtlessly back into the light,
like eyes reopening from a blink.

Photo by Rama

        When was the last time you did something for the first time, even something as small as riding in an elevator with no lights?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Jewellery box house

In time, there will be costume trinkets
nested in teacups on shelves between spry ferns
and rows of books with cracked spines.
I’ll cloak the chipped plaster walls in glossy
turquoise and magenta, transition tones of
nonpareil vibrancy. Familiar hands will fumble
crystal knobs, finger their reflection in mirror trays,
and passersby will steal furtive glimpses through
mist-coloured curtains to where a grand tabby cat
sprawls in a sunbeam, strumpet-like.

This poem was written in response to Poetry Prompt #118: Digging on Read Write Poem.

Storing jewellery in teacups.
Thank you, Martha Stewart.

        Describe your ideal living space. You don't have to use artsy design words -- maybe you want something spacious or well-organized.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The way we were

This worn wooden library chair is the closest
I will ever come to sitting at the Grand Opera House,
long since crushed beneath the necessity of sky scrapers,
and I wouldn’t brave the polluted waters at Sunnyside Beach,
except maybe on a well-funded dare. Maybe.
That was a different Toronto, a city we now only glimpse
through the keyhole of commemorative plaques
and microfilm.

We are each just one stitch in the city’s tapestry,
but there are worse corners of history to be sewn into.
This Toronto holds the Tower as her staff, but still keeps
a prized collection of old buildings like antique jewellery;
the Royal York is a diamond ring that makes her forget
the ruby she used to wear there.

Grand Opera House (Yonge/Adelaide), 1874-1927
Photo by F. W. Micklethwaite

        What is your favourite historical building in your city? Why?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Simply moving forward

I refuse to believe this time spent waiting
for opportunity to rise up over the horizon
and shine its light upon us is without a purpose.

This time is like a meandering walk
on a Sunday afternoon: with nowhere to be,
I surrender myself to the seduction of fields,
arcane alleyways, virgin boulevards,
whatever stirs imagination or curiosity.
If I happen upon a crimson leaf or cordial stray
or cement scripture, I stop to pay it
due consideration. I make friends of strangers,
both biological and geographical.

Though adventure comes assured in traveling
to the beach, to the store, to the park,
I find sometimes simply moving forward,
letting my feet journey wherever
my deepest self desires to go,
often leads to more authentic ends.

        Have you ever taken up an activity or gotten involved in a project, just because it interested you, and found it led to something that had a greater impact on your life?

        An alternative way to think about it: does your career path (whether fully realized or currently just an aspiration) relate to any of the activities or interests you had as a child?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Katie teaches me to paint with acrylics

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

Photo by North&SouthPaw

        Do you work or have you worked in any visually artistic medium (painting, sketching, sculpting, photography, etc.)? If so, which one? If not (or even if so), which would you like to be immediately good at if you could choose?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

sacred process

I miss the tedious fulfillment of writing
research essays: digging for answer fragments
fossilized in dense text

filtering miles of pebbly beach with my fingers,
hunting for seashells to construct my own ocean
piece by piece

or the aimless joy of putting one foot before the other,
wandering idle streets; discovery is only
a welcome byproduct

pencil underlines, feverish note taking:
process is sacred ritual and ceremony, like church,
like packing a suitcase; it is faith.

Photo by Mila

        Can you think of an activity that is generally considered tedious, boring or "not fun" that you actually enjoy doing? What do you like about it?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Dear Grandma Katie

Would it make you sad to know
I don’t remember much about you
except your sweet, old-lady smell;
your collection of tiny, ornate perfume bottles
that so impressed me; hand-in-hand
walks to Mosquito Park; the inhuman patience
that let you hold a peppermint in your mouth,
without crunching, until it disappeared?
Would it make you sad to know I remember
more vividly, in the summer of your death,
slipping my hand in the open crack of a screen door,
wrapping my small fingers around a gold bell
and, in the clumsiness of my panicked getaway,
losing it amid the clovered trench?

This poem was written in response to Poetry Prompt #116: the time of your life on Read Write Poem.

        Do you have a friend or relative who you can barely remember because s/he died when you were very young? What do you remember about him or her?

Friday, March 5, 2010

March on

Nothing vast has changed:
I’m still unfulfilled,
you’re still unemployed.
The only difference is the sunlight
on St. Andrew’s Church
that dawns a new day at 5 p.m.,
the warm winds that blow kisses hello
and help me out of my moping
like a gentlemen taking a lady’s coat.

Winter is the restless night
you cowered before as a child,
pooled in blankets thick as excuses,
still in the silence of leafless trees;
when your silk scarf curtains glowed
like rekindled embers, you exhaled
and took peaceful sleep.

St. Andrew's Church, Toronto
Photo by Simon Pulsifer

        Why is it that even after an unusually mild winter (for Toronto, anyway), we're all still so damn excited that spring is almost here? What is it about spring that puts everyone in such an improved mood?

Thursday, March 4, 2010


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

Photo by Shira Golding

        When you meet new people, how do you go about "testing for potential friends"?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sympathy card

I don’t want to sign my name in ownership
beneath processed Hallmark sentiments
or string you sentences of fridge magnet phrases,
but these are the only tool I know
to convey my love in the foreign language of grief.

Please understand, this layer of etiquette
is not a latex glove to insulate me
from the blood that pours from your wound;
it is for you, just padding on my clumsy edges.

The Funeral by Édouard Manet

        There is a lot of etiquette and ritual surrounding death: sympathy cards, funerals, wakes, shiva, etc. To what degree to you think these things aid the grieving process?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

1:30 a.m.

Let’s play the part of a sleeping person:
What does a sleeping person look like?
How does a sleeping person breathe?

Is it hot in here? It’s hot.

How are a sleeping person’s eyes?
What does a sleeping person see?

Should I pull back the blankets?
No, just lie still.

How are a sleeping person’s shoulders?

It’s the cat: she’s like a little oven.
Kick her off the bed.

Fine, we’ll try something else.
Let’s clear our mind:
Take a deep breath in
and exhale out all thoughts.
Take a deep breath in

I can hear the furnace coming on.

and exhale out all thoughts.
Take a deep breath in

Maybe I should try something else?
Shut up.

and exhale out all thoughts.
Take a deep breath in

Is it the medication that’s keeping me up?

and exhale out all thoughts.
Take a deep breath in

What if it isn’t?
What if I’m developing actual insomnia?

and exhale out all thoughts.
Take a deep breath in

I wish Andrew was awake.

and exhale out all thoughts.
Take a deep breath in

Should I wake him up?
What on earth for? Let him sleep.

and exhale out all thoughts.
Take a deep breath in

Would you listen to that lucky bastard sleep?

I’ve never been good at meditation.
Remember that thing Dad used to do?
Let’s try that:
Your toes are getting very heavy,
like little weights are attached to them.
They are sinking down into the mattress.

How much rest does your body get without REM?
Will just lying here help at all?

The weight is traveling
all the way up to your ankles.
They are getting very heavy,
sinking deep into the mattress.

I don’t feel them sinking.

Are they sunk all the way already?
…all the way up to your knees.
Feel your calf muscles relax completely
and sink into the mattress.

Should I feel more asleep yet?
Go slower.

All the tension is draining from your
ankles and they are dead weight.

I don’t think this is working.

…all the way up to your hips.
Your whole lower body is totally relaxed.

What if I stay awake all night?
I can’t call in sick tomorrow.

Your lower body has sunk
into the mattress.

Give up and roll over.
Let’s try it again from a new position.

Photo by Justin Silles

        What do you do when you can't sleep? Does it happen to you often?