Category Archives: Poetry

The Karma Abacus: Birthday Blooms

Another year. I used to think of it like it was over, like I’d just completed something, marking an X on the wall like I’d done time. I don’t know why; I just did. But this year I am decidedly feeling like it is a beginning. At some point in the last year I could see the trajectory of my life was not one my heart felt called to anymore. So, I threw a wrench into the works knowing it would insist on change.

I think some era’s in life begin this way—with a sense of feeling life as you’ve known it is coming to an end. Like weeding a garden that’s gone to seed. You can hear something calling to you, a far away bloom, a perfume of future creativity. If I was being honest I would say I am intoxicated with the scent of it already.

Wherever you are, I’m toasting you for reading this blog and I hope to share many more words this year with you than last.

Birthday

It’s that time of year again,

hang my flag, say it’s my day.

Bring your weak lumbar,

your wrecked knee, fading eyebrows and

fear of earthquakes —

 

acknowledge aloneness

assess the years on the

karma abacus, your finger

touching more and more beads

sliding over years one by one

 

insistent, resigned,

a birthday.

 

Still, at night

You have a hunger, a mortal wish

to uncover promises you made to

yourself, so you route around

on the silty floor of the past,

and find your life

stubbornly

still breathing

ready at long last

to be understood.

 

 

 

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The blood jet is poetry, there is no stopping it

The headline is a line from Sylvia Plath’s poem, Kindness. I read it decades ago and it pops in my mind at least once a week still. Usually when I have poems caged in my chest and stuck there behind a lineup of copy I have to write for my day job. I know it’s inevitable I’ll let them out because…the bloodjet is poetry, there is no stopping it.

But what I’ve never done a good job at is sending them along into the world. Specifically, to publishers. I was knocked back, rejected and told I was shite early on in my 20’s and it really just made me feel like I was a terrible writer and though I would often perform my poetry and do plays with poems I stopped sending them out into the world to publishers or anyone else that might be in a position to knock them down and tear a hole in my heart.

That was then. Now I’m shrugging my shoulders and writing like a demon because I’m determined to find an audience. One way I’ve found this week is through Instagram. It’s so immediate and wonderful. You write a little poem and people like it, comment, and voila! Insta-poet.

If you are a proper published poet you are likely sighing and sitting back in your chair and shaking your head at me. And that is just fine. But I know some young kids who don’t care about which medium as long as its digital and will never read your beautifully bound little slim volume in a library. Sad but true. I don’t want to be a forgotten poet at the back of a dusty row of books. So I’m going to fool around with media and the medium a bit. I’m also wanting to do video poems because again, I think these are much more likely to find an audience.

It is fun to write for Instagram–it’s a very tight format, you have to fit them into one or two stanzas tops. If you care to follow me, I’m letting it all out @poemsbymeforyou. Keep in mind they’re for social media–not a literary magazine. Enjoy!

November

You must know the rain

Cannot sound like it did then—

No, it comes down now as ordinary

As a cobbler or librarian, doing a days work

And nothing more. No wild mercury elasticity

To its droplets, no mad bouncing in joy like

A love-sick puppy, laughing under an eave

Dripping down between my breasts as I call you

In Germany, hold the phone up so you can hear its silvery song. 

 

My love. It is still raining.

It no longer rains for us.

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Memories and Melancholia

It’s been a long time since I’ve written here and I’m sorry for that readers—I was working on a major writing project that took up all my spare time outside my day job.

But today I have a fever and am home sick. And what comes with fevers are always those strange hyper-real dreams, you know the ones where you think you are awake they are so tangible? I had one of those today about my mom and it brought me back to the years I was looking after her while slowly losing her to dementia.

Also woven into these dreams were the poems of Ulrikka S. Gernes, a Danish poet, who read at the Vancouver Writers Festival this past Saturday. Her poems have been singing in my head ever since. They surfaced in my fevered dreams like ocean glass and I wasn’t so sad to be sick if you want to know the truth.

She writes in her book, Frayed Opus for Strings & Wind Instruments,  that “Melancholia has a wide spectrum of nuances and tones and it often evokes a heightened sensitivity.” I felt these nuances today, the curtains drawn, quilt pulled up, dreaming of my mother, her small dog Max, her brittle collarbone against me as I held her towards the end. Don’t think ‘depression’, it’s just a daughter missing her mother when she’s sick. People like to make more of these things than they are—just human moments we all experience and sometimes the way into them, to really feel them, is through a fevered dream.

Ulrikka’s says she will “forever defend melancholia; it has an inherent power to sharpen certain senses that are beneficial to art, to life.” I couldn’t agree more. Herewith, a little poem that came from my memory dream with my mom and her little dog Max and myself towards the end when she was slipping in and out of the now and I was trying to pretend everything was just fine and hold onto her.

Moustache 

I look at your dark moustache as your coffee cup dangles

From your bony fingers, smoke curling into the air

through the dust as it floats

Through a shaft of morning light.

The hairs move like cheerful whiskers,

black and wiry, poking down into your cup

as we talk about the dog , how he likes to bark especially hard

at the man in the motorized wheelchair.

You tell me you sometimes duck your head

under the window to avoid him

or let the dog out to attack his wheels.

This was some time ago but I don’t bring it up.

I help you walk to the bathroom, undo your pants,

let you down slowly onto the toilet

then slip out for a second so you can be alone.

Okay? I say then come back, place your hands on my shoulders

And pull you up. We laugh a little as your pants drop

To the floor and I have to balance you and pull them up in one motion.

I close the lid on the toilet and sit you gently back down.

I’m going to dye your moustache okay?

You seem a bit embarassed but not sure why and

cluck at the dog to come and he circles then sits down at your feet.

I mix the Jolen powder and cream together and apply

the white paste to your wiry scruff.

I set a small kitchen timer for five minutes.

I lean back against the sink and tell you about my son.

He’s four months old now. You exclaim oh oh—

Most of the time you forget he’s been born.

Sometimes you remember and admonish me,

saying  of course, of course.

I take the face cloth and gently wipe the paste off then

take you to the mirror. You’re not sure

what you should be looking at but smile at me as though

I have just given you the news we were going on a holiday.

You will have no memory of this tomorrow.

I will hold it inside long after you are gone

like a snowglobe

shaking it whenever I need you.

 

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Before it’s too late…

DSCF0672I’ve been transformed. There I’ve said it—it may feel like I’ve just dumped an overblown heap of pseudo wellness speak or new age bullshit on you but this isn’t like that. It is the actual thing of transformation, before the word started being used in mission statements, yoga studio bathrooms or political ads.

What I’m talking about is the sense of slipping out of  your life and into another, only you are in the same body, driving the same car, with mail addressed to where you still live. But suddenly the old gimmick you used for so long to enter into the world is no longer needed, that half-truth you were telling yourself and others, about your life, about moment after moment when your heart’s subliminal, traitorous subtext was screaming at you: I don’t care. I don’t care. 

Gone. All those discouraging voices have disappeared like magic, and what is left is the actual thing you trying to discover, so easily seen now in the outline of buildings , textured and contrasted against the sky; people’s intentions appear undiluted and transparent, like veins you never noticed before. Their agenda so obviously void of you. Agree to disagree? Yes, probably a good idea at this point.

My former life, the one before the transformation, is like a nice but slow patient I must put my arm around and through the crook of its arm and walk to a bench, any old bench in a park say, at dusk. I put my hands on its shoulders and shift it onto the wood, see it firmly seated then say adieu in as cheerful a manner as I can muster.

Walking away, I remind myself change doesn’t come without something—someone— making room for its fruition, and that real transformation is a long haul, only fully complete after it is considered in reflection, a death having occurred of some kind or another.

But I’m talking around the facts. The truth is I went to an intense writing residency for ten days and it changed my life. Or rather, it reminded me of life, the one I used to live, when I wrote and performed my writing all the time. Something so important to my happiness yet year by year I let it go; sometimes on purpose, to prove I could what? Sacrifice? Not be selfish? Be a good mother. Oh, maybe it was to survive. That was it. A lot of it. For years. Like a fog bank that moves in, I could see no other way. And then I spent 10 days with poets and Susan Musgrave. Yeah, if you know of Susan then you’re nodding right now. You get it.

In the book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott talks about just showing up at the blank page to write, chipping away at it, she urges writers to just keep staying in motion, moving towards the moment when you give your attention completely to the doing, even if it feels like you can’t wrap your arms around all you have to, the immensity of the task, its blinding and potentially life threatening call to truth, insurmountable. You write anyway.

You write anyway.

I want the habit, of writing anyway. I want to live a life that calls me to the page each day. That’s what I know now that I didn’t know then. As in a month ago.

The latin roots of transformation are trans meaning “across” and  formare meaning “to form” so I take this to mean that it affects every part of your life, the very nature of your chemical makeup is somehow altered, and a new form comes into being.

I am so grateful for the wakening to go across and to form. To have the just-in-time love affair with my own life again, my poems, before it was too late.

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Why We Should All Celebrate National Poetry Day

As soon as you hear National Poetry Day, some of you may flinch a little, thinking  ‘oh for Pete’s sake, a poetry day? Do we really need a national day to celebrate poetry?’

I would say yes, more so now than ever. The fact is, poetry is not for the faint-hearted or wishy-washy. Poetry is not a woman in a patchwork sewn cape staring at daffodils wearing colourful cheap jewelry who you imagine might make a good zucchini loaf.

No, my friend, poetry is the synthesis of our deepest life, the hidden sorrows that quietly rip through you while you eat a sandwich at work and try to keep your life together.

Poetry is the moment—the only moment—captured as if the poet held your own heart, like a spear of lightning in his or her hand, not minding that it’s shredding open their skin, caving in their hearts or keeping them up at 3 am. It’s not a magic trick or a reading at a local library to small children or red roses tucked into a Hallmark card—it’s an act of courage, defiance even, to snatch the electric emotion out of thin air and transcribe it, with all its burning or tender or dying life and deliver it like a pure child to the universe.

Poetry is our defence against a shallow world spinning itself towards a crash landing. Poetry is our respite, a quite breath, a gentle tug into the sacred, into a kind of wisdom we had all along, that longed to look to a sparse page with black letters and be saved.

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When a writer has had enough of words

I am craving white space on the page. Only what remains after the burning of many words can be left, and even then it should be a shadow and wake no emotion.

The crowing of words from every digital precipice is all together too much noise ‘signifying nothing’.I rest my eyes on the white snow outside, turn my head to eliminate the shivering arms of a maple.

The cat turns to me as though to say, when will we rest?

I answer, soon, soon. The holidays are soon.

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Let the sun find its way to you

HARRISON LAKE 1I used to always feel nostalgic about love during summer. I think the kisses I had in a little park with my first boyfriend made it that way. I would lay with my head on his chest and he’d lazily draw a blade of grass over my shoulder, then slowly along my neck then gently over my ear, finally making me giggle and turn away. And we’d do that for hours. So innocent. So perfect. So sweet.

Lately, I’ve been hugging summer close to me, stretching out in its warm embrace and letting it romance me like I was fourteen again. It isn’t always easy to move towards the present, to really be in it and let go of the past, but once you have life feels as it was meant to.

It feels like the sun can make its way to me without any need for someone else to improve it or a song to score the sunset so I can enjoy it or a book to describe the feeling for me or lover to whisper in the night and tell me what it really is.

No, it’s just seeping into my skin and heart, fully saturated with ripe possibility.

Sweet Sun

 

The sun bleaches all the bruises–

sweat hard, forgive the sun

she’s a guest here, she’ll be gone.

 

Moon gives you blue light

just blue light with no strings–

hold it in, let it go with your lungs

at ease at last in bed alone.

 

Summer

lazy as a cat on a couch

coy and calling in a bowl of berries

finally

you sit down too

content it’s only you.

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