Dying/broken/forgiven.... now I begin

Born: 17-06-56....gemini.... monkey
re-born: 3-09-80
born again\found: 14-04-08
other notable dates: 10-03-68; 03-09-87; 23-03-96;
1-05-98; 31-01-02; 5-04-04

Interests: movement, stressed/transgressive embodiment, lived experience (body\space\time\relation)
expression ( word, dance, text, image, story, music, poetics)
learning, yielding......

Hopes for the blog:
offer up the wild intersectedness of lived experience and engage others in creative, expressive, perhaps irreverant, hopefully playful, and respectful encounters....
enact kindness
create moments of pause for disclosure, discovery, stillness

Thursday, December 31, 2009


to my sponsor...
I thought it was time I let you know how much your support and guidance have meant to me over these past few years. Why it is that year's end seems to evoke this urge in me, I have no idea. You above most can attest to my lack of sentimentality and my ruthlessness when it comes to self honesty. And yet....here I am letting you know what your insight and care mean in ongoing ways, even though we both speak of not speaking of it, you claiming that I do as much for you as you do for me and I insisting that your talent at camouflaging kindness is crucial to how my dignity is maintained.
I like this dance of ours. It's not like I'm at risk of losing my hard fought sobriety.... it's been, as they say, a few 24 hours. Clean and sober are not the battlegrounds they once were. Now the battles are fought in the heart, in the gut, in the mirror. Give me a good old fashioned shit-knocking any day. Now you warn me off my vindictive fantasies and negative self talk, as if someone was actually going to get hurt. You are, you would say. And then you would warn me about dismissing that out of hand because it is a swift slide down into the bullshit pity pot. I resent that, and you know that, too, keenly aware as you are of how neither one of us goes that particular route, it being the easier, softer way.
So, yes, lots to thank you for. And this year especially, when you assure me that privacy is not deceit, but a right-- a boundary that I ought to cultivate with as much tenacity as I cultivate service; that preference is a behaviour, not only a feeling, and that it is also mine to enact, that one word or the other will do : yes/no.... without offering reasons; that 30 minutes of boredom continues to be the challenge you hold out to me.... and when I ask, cumulative or consecutive, you smile and tell me to exercise my best judgement on that one...
my best judgement..... and here's the best part of that... you believe I have it as far as these three mundane life- saving skills are concerned. And so I shall exercise it.... so I shall.
I won't finish with love or warm regards
I'll wish you what each of us values as much.... another 24 hours.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Autism camp encore: rites of passage

I decided to bring back one more gem before year's wintry end sleeps.... actually, that should be before year end's wintry sleep. Ahem.
I 've written here before about Victoria, my oldest camper. She and I have had lots of ups and downs together. The summer in question, she obsessed about her personal space even more than her usual 10 foot radius tactile defensive zone. We knew how to give her a wide berth. New campers are always interesting, however. Victoria is their rite of passage.
Andrew was a scrawny little 13 year old with overactive hormones and underdeveloped impulse control. He also had a thing for breasts.
"I'm gonna punch that fu#$@ng little weasel in the face if he comes close to me again " Victoria announces this to me as we walked into the gym on day 2 of camp. I do all the appropriate re-directs. She backs down, knowing I respect her. Andrew manages to make the rounds throughout the day poking and grabbing and pinching, not so surreptitiously copping a feel every chance he gets..... he is a teenager and after all is said and done, he is autistic, he's not dead.....
the day end de-brief has numerous accounts of his transgressions. The task of addressing Andrew's touchy-feely tendencies falls to me, the camp alpha.
" Hands to yourself, Andrew," I prompt him all through day 3, then down the scale to " no touching" and finally to blocking him from grabbing me. He's got that squirmy kind of strength I hate. " Andrew" I say as I hold his two hands away from my chest " some day you're going to touch the wrong person."
" So what" he says " I can't help it.... it's an impulse control problem ... "
I look right at him and he does not flinch. I release his hands and he backs off.
Victoria continues her rant on day 4. " I'm gonna punch out his fu#@&ng lights" she warns me " if he keeps on poking me..." she is pacing and breathing heavily, clearly agitated.
" How's your impulse control today " I ask her, looking up and smiling into her green, wild eyes. She stops moving, her stillness as frightening as her rage, considers me, evenly, and puts her huge hands in her pockets.
" Not good" she says.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

ascribe to me a body

ascribe to me a body
easily broken
that I might bear a story for every scar

assign to me a body
hurt so deeply
the only way to cry would be
a howl

ascribe to me a body
shaped by moments
so time with
into my craft

author me a body
honed by longing
that I might write
of smoke & spark & flame
blissful fire...
sweet pain
timeless twilight
graceful dawns, easy waking
thresholds, moonscapes
oceans, shorelines
hope's wilderness

ascribe to me this body
changed and grateful
that I might die
with you
as my last thought

Monday, December 28, 2009


My friend and colleague Richard is an internationally sought after semiotician. He studies cultural signs and codes, language and other forms of communication and representation, verbal and non-verbal. One of my favourite sayings of his is : Once I know your code, I no longer have to listen to your message.
This is not to suggest that messages are not important.... messages can contain hints of code, misdirection of code, can even be presented or believed as code by the sender..... but they are not code.
I thought I'd provide a few examples of code/message relation from a few insiders who were nice enough to share them with me....
... and we're off...
This is one from a gal who works at my bank : Let me see if I can find someone here who would like to help you with that
This is one from my sister who is a teacher at a " high risk demographic " elementary school in response to a colleague's query, "so, how did it go ?" regarding an interaction with a parent : about how you'd expect
This is one from me when I have to inquire after why something was done the way it was: I'd like you to walk me through your decision making process on this one

now, see if you can match the code below to the messages above

what the hell were you thinking
you're an asshole and no one here wants to deal with you
I figured it would go badly and I was not surprised ( you eedjit)

These are somewhat mundane and humourous examples; code can also be quite serious, deadly serious in some contexts. Not to be taken lightly, and not to be dismissed. Teaching me about code and ways to read it have been some of the best gifts Richard has given me, in addition to his wonderful friendship and mentorship.

of course, I welcome message/code examples others would like to share....

Sunday, December 27, 2009


is not luxury

Audre Lorde, Chosen Poems, Old and New; 1982

Saturday, December 26, 2009

irreverent review

As soon as you enter the reception area, you know that something singularly special awaits you. You might even feel breathless, your emotions all aflutter. It's not every day that a gal will be able to say that she had an experience that was memorable ( unforgettable, even? ) across so many dimensions of self.

The warmth of the encounter is foreshadowed by the care invested in the decor--steel grey on charcoal grey on dove grey, a homogeneity of carpet and drapes that screams tranquility and comfort. This is further underscored by the almost blissfully impersonal neutrality of the efficiently multi-tasking woman you encounter at the check-in desk who adds to your anticipation with her excrutiating deliberateness, the focus she gives to the rhythmic phone chimes rivaled only by her ongoing fascination with her glossy, French manicured nails. These she also taps to punctuate the meaningfulness of the interaction. Once you have been sufficiently groomed and processed, she then ushers you into the inner sanctum. This is what you have been waiting for, after all, and any behaviour you have encountered thus far has doubtless been administered in the service of the fullness of the experience. This space offers a dramatic contrast to the reception area, with thoughtfully arranged stools and counter tops in stark creams and polished chrome, an artfully saucy changing area and an even more enticing black leather examining table, nestled lovingly within a circle of foot rests and trays of stainless steel utensils. Nothing is left to chance, however, and your sensory needs are further nurtured by the crackling and wrinkling of paper sliding around under your butt and an equally crunchy cover sheet which you grasp tightly under your chin. The room temperature, just cool enough to stimulate shivering, completes the effect.

The lights dim gradually as the maestro arrives, sits on a stool and slides towards the table, the tails of his white coat swaying even as the sound of vinyl gloves snapping into place signals the beginning of the performance. Mere words are deemed superfluous in this arena; rather, he ceremoniously places his helmet on his head, turns on the light and leans in....
Bracing yourself, you believe you hear the word " relax" (m)uttered with all the dispassionate interest the situation calls for, and you realize he has spared you the indignity of a wordless first act and instead has gone straight to the main attraction.

Here, dear reader, I pause to give you a moment so consider the scene in all its glory before bringing it to its conclusion and denouement. You, on your back, swaddled in squeaking paper, feet anchored in stirrups, the maestro in his miner's helmet, unseen behind the paper drape suspended by your hastily and obediently bent knees, leaning slightly to his right, rummaging for instruments.... scene set? just exhale, now, and let it happen. While it is unseemly to do so, you gasp out loud as you are pierced by what feels like a spatula shaped icicle. Maestro lingers over the positioning and adjusting so as not to rush you through the exquisite agony of the moment...
and then.... with as little ceremony and as much speed as is humanly possible, the instrument is withdrawn and the sounds of dismissal ensue with a sequence of noises as inhuman as they are efficient: steel crashing into a dry, shining sink, gloves swishing with tissue paper whispers into a yawning waste receptacle, helmet thudding onto the tray and stool wheels whirring towards the dimmer switches near the exit, click of door..... full lights, you blink and shiver and slowly straighten your legs.

A few words to guide you should you choose to attend another performance. Since these experiences will likely have recurring patterns, exercise control where you have it....
* lower your expectations regarding eye contact and courtesy from pre-event staff
* choose a maestro with small hands and no sign of a refrigeration unit in or near the event arena
* leave immediately at the mention of any references to matching carpet and drapes
* and gentlemen, if you'd like an empathy experience, ask your proctologist or GP to store the surgical gloves in the deep freeze overnight before your next prostate exam

Happy Trails, fun seekers !!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Yule See

here on the rock
the wind howls and the waves crash
sparse and wild
jutting out into the unconditional sea
my home
fills me with longing
even & especially when I am here
on the rock
Funny how that works, longing...
I love how it fills me
& I love how it teaches me
to give way
even when old ghosts are insisting
the willows are scarce, here.

Scarce they may be,
yet those that thrive have learned
to yield with a vengeance
I'm learning to admire
how love has
changed everything
sparse & wild

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

into the wild tangled places

I never met a philosopher who didn't
( secretly ) want to be smoke
taoist non of non-action
pure thought drifting
unencumbered by the dirty work of words

I never met an addict who didn't
crave ( resolution)
one moment of glorious free fall quiet
celebrating torment's disclosures

I never met a cat who couldn't
survive a brutal fall
only to be broken by a lesser one that offered
no time to surrender to that
instinct of waiting
for the world to open up in front of her

I never met a poet who didn't
care about words
carrying the load
& feel the ache of that
deep in his own bones

I never met a story that couldn't
find a poet
willing to take the hits
longing to be summoned
into the wild tangled places
where bodies hurt
stones cry
moonlight bears witness

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


on this longest
winter night
cold is an old friend
bearing unguarded memories
feet circled around an open oven
hot sugar bread
thick, too sweet tea
yarn darned socks
too patchworked to be worn
but home
wearing a coat to bed...
awakened by a too bright moon
every sigh visible silver
with swirls, worlds and faces
in frost and lace
I remember smiling into the darkness

Monday, December 21, 2009

Free verse

Early on I remember talking to her
about hate
oblivious to her admonitions
that it was a bottomless pit
of wasted energy
I argued for its benefits and applications
insisting that it took
no effort
at all
an easy agenda item--
as hell....

coldness became my camouflage
helpful, enduring
more neutral than it seems
on its face
a logical consequence

Later on I remembered the first time I loved
not realizing how rare that would be
the gifts it would bring
the toll it would take
the memories it would leave
how much they would matter

A lifetime later I'm yielding
to what it means to love without holding back
having felt it once before
I knew its sweetness
when it awakened
unpredictable overpowering tenderness
tougher than anger, sadness or hell
helpless as water
older than time
always more than words
always seeking words

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fear .... ( a not so short prose )

The line of traffic extends for almost a city block. There is a car, sitting, idling, its driver's door wide open, that seems to be the problem. Other cars are doing their best to get around the open door, still others are slowing down, rubbernecking, so see why things are slowing down.

A police vehicle appears out of nowhere, the cop strides toward the offending car, assessing the scene; he glances at his watch and squints up at the sun. What the hell. Flynn would rather do any other law enforcement responsibility than traffic patrol duty. It was so....pedestrian. He sighs to himself even as he continues to turn around, slowly doing the 360. He notices a woman crouching on a grassy patch across the street from the car. Her ankle length black skirt is wrapped around her legs and she is further swaddled by the tight hug her arms have around her knees. There is a briefcase nearby, with papers that appear to have been haphazardly thrust inside. It yaws open, like a mouth with large uneven teeth protruding. Paper fangs. Flynn is not sure why he finds this unnerving and while he is here feeling slightly off balance by the whole thing, traffic continues to back up.

Does anyone know anything about this car, Flynn hollers over the traffic. The woman has been resting her forehead against her knees and now she lifts her chin and looks right at the cop. He looks right back. She nods, and stands up carefully and dusts the grass off her skirt. She collects her briefcase, pausing long enough to arrange the papers so that none will fall out. She tests it, briefly, with a slight heft and swing, and something about her posture alerts Flynn to the possibility of a foot chase. Swiftly, he glances at her shoes, his instincts jangling now. The woman walks steadily, deliberately towards him. I own the car, she says, looking up into his face.

Jeez, ma'am-- it's always " ma'am" beyond a certain age--Jeez, ma'am, you've got quite a bottleneck going here. He cocks his head and gazes down at her, doing that fixed stare into the eyes cop thing.

Are you sick or something?

No, she says, not sick.

Not sick....stoned, maybe? high? Flynn runs through the mental checklist; a trick gone bad.... nah, couldn't be, the look and the briefcase don't match up... maybe a head case....

He's looking at her more closely now; he's noticing how she keeps him between her and the car.

Anything you want to tell me here, ma'am?

He's looking at the car more closely, now, too. He's sweating; she's not.

I can't go back in there until you get rid of it, she days. Her voice is a little shaky.

Just show me what the problem is, he says, taking her arm and guiding her towards the car.

Oh, no! she cries, and pulls back, shaking him off. Her movement is startling, forceful and agile; her eyes are darting back and forth.

It was on the window, she says quietly, just get it out and I can get back in there.

Flynn puts his hands on her shoulders; he wants her to stay put. He feels her stiffen in that way that women do when they're warning you not to keep doing that. He backs up and gives her the shitIsurrenderwaitrightthere gesture. He turns away and approaches her car, glancing back to make sure she 's not going to take off. Flynn never thought he'd see the day when he wished he had back up for a traffic diversion. He leans in and examines the windshield....
.... the wasp flies up into his face, he rears back, wrestling with the space; he falls onto the horn, it gives a loud blast; he hits his head on the door frame, hastily backing out, bum first, swinging his hands in front of his face..... holyshitmutherfu.... Flynn curses instinctively, bobbing and weaving, all thoughts of dignity abandoned, avoiding the thing buzzing wildly about his head and shoulders. He manages to swat it away, abruptly stopping his flailing dance in mid-gesture, glancing around a little sheepishly. He lifts his chin and rolls his head, smoothes the front of his shirt. Ok, Ma'am, he says, it's gone.
The woman walks past Flynn and cautiously approaches the car. Thank you, she says, and hugs the briefcase close as she climbs back in.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Journal entry: Resolution or folly ?

Here is a quote that grabbed me by the throat:
" You can't talk yourself out of problems you behave yourself into"

it's attributed to Stephen Covey; however, regardless of the source, I cannot get it out of my head. Perhaps it has something to do with my returning to full time duty at my workplace after a six month sabbatical. Perhaps it is too close to the bone, an inconvenient insight better left unearthed.... even though I am not one who's inclined to shirk self honesty.
The upshot is, it's got me thinking and reflecting about the problems I have behaved myself into, and how talking or thinking about doing things differently will not suffice if behaviour is what got me up to my neck in water in the first place. At least it's water and not some other substance that is equally applicable.....
Obviously, I have to behave myself out. Sounds simple enough..... but like so much that appears simple, it's not easy. Perhaps that's what will be the appeal...
you see, it's not the nasty stuff that calls out to my over-commitment gene ... it is the fulfilling stuff , the tendency to plan like I'm going to live forever and to live like I'm going to die tomorrow.... and now, more than ever, I have so much in my life that deserves my being present for moments that I only hoped would happen.

I've said it elswhere: if a thing does not gladden my heart, I am going to have to lay it down.
I've said it elsewhere: yielding is the hardest work of hope and craft.
These, then, will be the touchstones; I will trust them.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Spock on the Rock: fan fiction #2

Darlene Hickey has turned out to be one hell of an ambassador. She got them set up with warm clothes, she got them set up with transportation, and she found a buddy with a great basement where they could " crash". If there's a down side, Kirk mused, it's that Darlene is the transportation, so the crew have to be talking in code all the time. Darlene is a quick study, though, and it's only a matter of time before she figures out that Spock and company are even stranger than she already knows for sure.
Kirk still can't get over how Spock and Darlene hit it off. Spock's been quite the space cadet since he re-integrated.... at least McCoy is much more settled since he got Spock out of his head... still, Spock seems too damn comfortable here in Newfoundland, even with the awful wind and cold, the strange language and not one piece of flat land. Spock claims that it is so much like Vulcan it is uncanny, actually nurturing his re-integration, feeding his soul. That comment raised everyone's eyebrows and, according to Uhura, " just warmed their hearts". Right.
Kirk looks out the window of Darlene's van. She's taking them to the Marine Lab in Middle Cove, apparently the site for ocean research on the east coast. Darlene insists that it's the best place to talk to people about whales and any other marine life ya might have a hankerin' to investigate. Not bad for a girl from Torbay, Kirk smiles to himself, whatever the hell that means.
Whales....all the sound analyses point to whales as the solution to the horrible situation they left back in the future. With vibrations from an unknown alien species creating turmoil and disaster in all the oceans of earth, Kirk and his crew defied the odds and travelled back in time to find the earlier forms of the species in earth's late 20th century oceans. Newfoundland was as far from San Francisco as they could get ... how they could have overshot the mark by a whole continent remains a mystery.... and, Kirk thought ruefully, it looks like a moonscape.
Yes, my son, Darlene assures him. Kirk startles; he hadn't realized he had said it out loud. 'Round 'ere we dig our basements with dynamite... Darlene continues, we don't call it The Rock fer nothing!! She deftly pulls into the parking space outside the Lab, a round, squat structure with porthole windows and water all around, crashing madly. Darlene gazes out over the wildness with pride; she gives a little lift and turn gesture with her head and chin that Kirk has seen frequently among many of the natives since he and his crew set down a few days earlier. Quite the culture. He glances at his crew and they all pile out and follow Darlene into the steel bubble.
All hands seem to know her. Pardon me for sayin', lass, Scotty speaks softly, but you're not exactly a stranger here....
I should say not, roars a tall, shaggy man in jeans and a plaid shirt. Darlene's our youngest PhD in marine biology in two decades. He beams, clearly delighted at Darlene's embarrassment. Ah, jaysus, dad, she says, and does the introductions. Dr. Aloysius Hickey, Captain James T. Kirk, here on ... research, so he says.
Atcher service, says Dr. Al. I'm the chief cook and bottle washer around here. I've got the one associate, Noel, here, and Darlene, of course, and four graduate students...
Scotty, Sulu and McCoy share a moment. Not bad, says Sulu, for a girl from Torbay.
The group follows Drs. Al and Darlene to the viewing tank, gawking, then murmuring about the noise of the waves and the silvery motion of the swimming creatures that surround them. Then a cry of shock from Chekov: Kepten!!
Kirk follows the pointing finger. There on the other side of the tank, in the damn freezing waters of the north Atlantic ocean, is Spock, stripped down to his gitch, cavorting with the seals and the fish, seemingly oblivious to the cold. Everyone is pounding on the glass wall. Spock is impervoius, melding with his new found fishy friends. Finally, his reverie is broken, and Al sends his grad students to help him in. To his other colleague, a man as bald as Al is hairy, Al hollers, Noel... get the rum and put on the kettle. Noel tears himself away and heads for the back office. Darlene leans against the tank with arms crossed, shaking her head, and declares ..... much longer out there, Spock, and anything stiff and pointy woulda been falling off, and I don't only mean yer ears, if ye get my drift....
... the ears comment stops everyone is his tracks; Uhura is helping Spock towel off and she, too, pauses. This is an important moment.
Did somebody say rum ? Scotty asks.

to be continued....

Friday, December 11, 2009

Grave Humour: epitaph

Here rests the body of Eliza Devine
for her, life held no terrors.
Born a virgin, died a virgin....
no hits, no runs, no errors.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Sea Gulls

For one carved instant as they flew
The language had no simile--
Silver, crystal, ivory
Were tarnished. Etched upon the horizon blue,
The frieze must go unchallenged, for the lift
And carriage of the wings would stain the drift
Of stars against a tropic indigo
Or dull the parable of snow.

Now settling one by one
Within green hollows or where curled
Crests caught the spectrum from the sun,
A thousand wings are furled.
No clay-born lilies of the world
Could blow as free
As those wild orchids of the sea.

and, now plundered....

one carved


against a



For one instant
wings stain the drift
of snow

one by one
within green hollows
a thousand wings are
as free
as wild orchids

Saturday, November 28, 2009

spatial/shape poem: attempt #2

h a p p i n e s s

,,, is
,,,,,,,, a
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, wave
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, h
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, a
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, p
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, p
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, i
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, n
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, e
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, s
,,,,,,,,,,,, s

waves back

Thursday, November 26, 2009

shape/spatial poem attempt #1

I have been given a gift ... twice
blessed, born once: tethered; born anew
called forth, amazed, mother (ing) my absent child
yet mother I was mother I am thus
born(e) over to ongoing being born
twice given a gift, I yield more, much more than twice

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

these moments

these moments
when we meet
soul to soul
a language of the heart
its quiet
defiance of time & space
these moments
when words trust
& glances
lay bare the finest parts of self
I never thought I'd know
these moments

Friday, November 20, 2009

Spock on the Rock: Fan fiction attempt # 1

" What're ya at, b'y ! "
Six sets of eyes stare back at Spock as if he had just uttered an unseemly profanity .... or one of his typical preposterous proclamations. McCoy breaks the amazed silence, muttering about why they bothered bringing this green-blooded son of a bitch back from the dead, anyway. McCoy is good with profanity, and since Spock's resurrection, he has been most appreciative of the Vulcan's efforts in this regard.
"Mr.Spock," says Uhura, gently, " I have no idea what you just said."
" Aye, lad, " this is Scotty, " maybe the temporal shifting has affected your thought processes."
McCoy snorts, ready to protest Scotty's presumption at diagnosis, but Kirk intervenes
" Spock, what did you just say?"
Spock surveys them all impassively, these friends to whom he owes so much,
" Contrary to your admonition on landing, Captain, this is NOT a paranoid and primitive culture.... indeed, the natives I have encountered so far are candid, forthright and helpful. 'What're ya at, b'y' is a form of ingenuous inquiry into one's well being. I have been asked this by at least a dozen passengers on this ferry."
" Absolutely, " Chekov pipes up, " I have been asked the same thing by three people."
" And I can confirm that as well, sir," Sulu chimes in.
" It's Jim, Spock, Jim..... well, we've obviously lucked out with this choice of boat." Kirk rubs his hands together and hugs himself vigourously. They are rapidly leaving behind the small island where they landed and cloaked the ship a few hours ago. The ferry they boarded is on its way to Portugal Cove, whatever that means. We're going to have to find a native to help us, Kirk muses, but, damn, the first thing we need is warm clothing!
" How is it that we are here shivering on the deck of this boat? "Kirk asks, bewildered that his all star crew somehow managed to miss the temperature detail in their research on this place. Newfoundland. He hopes the name is a harbinger.
" We were accurate on the temperature, Captain, " Scotty offers " but it's not the cold, sir, it's the damp...."
then the flurry begins....
"......and the wind
.....and the spray
......and is that an iceberg off in the distance? "
" I don't care what you say, it's the cold" McCoy again, " and we aren't used to it. We've got to get more layers. Spock, can't we get some information from one of your helpful natives?"
" Indeed, Doctor, a most logical suggestion, although I find the air and the wind to be ...bracing, exhilarating " Spock sniffs deeply at the salt air and lifts his chest to the breeze.
McCoy shakes his head. Kirk looks thoughtfully at his first officer and friend. Sometimes Spock is full of surprises. Like now-- he waves to a young woman on the opposite side of the boat. She waves back and makes her way toward them, her long, dark hair whipping in the wind, her hands stuffed into the pockets of her hip length parka.
" May I present Miss Darlene Hickey. Miss Hickey is from .... Torbay? " Spock glances at her for confirmation " ... Torbay."
"What're ya at, b'ys... " says Darlene, who seems impervious to the strangeness of this group huddled together for warmth, and the cold that's got them huddling. " Dontcha have coats where yer from ? "
" We... miscalculated ," Kirk says, and rapid fire, assigns tasks to his crew.... "Sulu and Uhura, find out the name of the place where we parked the ship. Scotty and Chekov, see if you can find out where we can find an engineer or marine biologist from this century." Darlene Hickey gives Spock a look; with a slight incline of her head in Kirk's direction she mouths "is he fer real?" Spock nods imperceptibly. Darlene sighs. " Once we're ashore, I'll call some of my buds and we'll getcha set up, no time. Then I s'pose we'll go to the mall and you can buy whatcha need."
" We are most grateful. Miss Hickey, " says Chekov.
" No prawblem," she says back, " and call me Darlene. Why're ya here anyway?"
" We are looking for whales, lass" Scotty offers, " we've heard that you have abundant marine life here."
" Ya heard right, " Darlene says " we got a whole ocean around us here. Are ya sure it's whales yer after, though? why wouldja be needin' whales?"
She watches as the group passes a glance around their huddle... more here than meets the eye, Darlene surmises. They seem alright, though, for mainlanders. Clearly, they're not from here.
" It's a long story, Darlene, " the one called Kirk speaks right at her. She's also heard them call him 'Captain'. Captain of what, she wonders; it sure as hell isn't a boat.
Kirk, McCoy and Spock stay put while the others go their way investigating. They gaze out over the frothy wash behind the ferry. Darlene leans on her elbows against the railing, looking them over.
" Spock," Kirk says quietly, " how did you meet this woman?"
" She approached me very soon after we boarded the ferry, Captain, " Spock speaks earnestly, " she said she was sure she recognized us from a something she called .... television ??"
" We'll get Uhura to look into it," Kirk says," and it's Jim, Spock, ... Jim." His crew is re-assembling, passing on the information they have gleaned from their stroll around the boat. Kirk clears his throat and approaches Darlene.
"Jim, " says McCoy, leaning close to Kirk, " now, for god's sakes, just ask the damn questions and forget the charm. "
" Bones," says Kirk, " I'm hurt.... Miss Hickey, Darlene... we could use a .... knowledgeable person to help us out. We're on a research expedition and we don't know our way around....
No shit, Darlene says to herself, but listens, all the same.
Kirk again.... we need to find a place called the Marine Lab...
Darlene nods
...and is it true that this boat makes regular trips back and forth to ... to ....
" Bell Island," Darlene asserts, " named for its shape," ya eedjit, she says under her breath. She shakes her head, catches Spock's eye and winks.
" We're just about to dock, here, now, " Darlene says, " then we'll g'wan up to the store."
"What's up there? " a chorus of asks
" The pay phone, b'y! ya got any other way to get in touch with people ? "
Six sets of eyes stare back at her. She waits a beat. " Alright, then, let's get 'er done ..."
Let's get 'er done, McCoy mouths silently and gazes at Kirk. Kirk glances at Spock, his unspoken request for a translation.
" I believe Miss Hickey is proposing that we proceed in as timely a fashion as possible, " Spock catches Darlene's eye. She gives him a sly, shy smile.
" Very well, Miss Hickey .... er, Darlene ," Kirk hastily revises in the wake of Darlene's glare,
and, with his best characteristic bow and twinkle, says " we place ourselves in your capable hands."

... to be continued.....

Monday, November 16, 2009

Palindrome.... soon too soon

sand dance
sifting soothing
sifting soothing
sand dance

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dark Knight

It's my turn to get my name.
Gabriel, my colleague, has long since taken on the task of assigning each of us a cartoon or fantasy character suited to our personality. My department does this every December at our greedy gift exchange. Gabriel named himself first : Batman, and on from there through my other colleagues.... Wonder Woman, Captain America, Porky Pig, the Energizer Bunny...
this year, I'm up.
I'm perversely excited because I am a bit of a pariah in my home unit... not exactly a model citizen. I'm hoping for a character appropriate to my mission.Greedy gifts done, paper and ribbon piled high, cutlery and food remains scattered over the table. Gabriel stands to his full 6'5" and the light from the window catches the shine on his magnificent bald head. He stands there, majestic, our dark knight. I say a small, silent prayer of thanks that he is not wearing lycra. He clears his throat.... the drum roll.
H......, you are Buttercup, queen of the powder puff girls.
My face feels like it is falling in on itself. I wish I was a cat... I would do that thing with my ears that cats do when they're pissed off. If my face were a hand, it would be a fist; if my face were a sky, it would be a thunder cloud. I'm horrified. How could he have made such a huge miscalculation?
I gaze at the expectant, happy faces. It's my chance to be grateful, and my joy is taking far too long.
Instead, I move my wrapping paper around the table; a ribbon falls and I lean over and pick it up. I fiddle with it, examining the lovely play of colour by the light of the window. I place it on the table next to my fork, and I gaze at my fork, weighing its potential as a weapon. I fold my hands in my lap and I look up, my forehead betraying my consternation.Gabriel knows. They all know.
I sigh.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

only one


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

...down to only two

calls me
moon's knight
soft sight
deep see
calls me

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Remembering friends, long gone

no more night
quite the ride
down the slide
gone, the fight
no more night

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Triolet : Four

You searched for me
I hoped for you
You wrote to see
You searched for me
Words are the key
Honesty, too
You searched for me
I hoped for you

Thursday, November 5, 2009

On another early morning.... triolet

what's a night owl to do
when she just can't say no
when the sleeps are too few
what's a night owl to do
she'll admit it's not new
that you reap what you sow
what's a night owl to do
when she just can't say no

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tales of Autism Camp: Temporary Closure Triolet

Rage into action rage hard fought
Fuel in the tank not the fire / (If)
work's the crucible, change is wrought
Rage into action rage hard fought
Feces, urine, puke, drool and snot
Autism's bodies dance the wire
Rage into action rage hard fought
Fuel in the tank not in the fire

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dazed(?) yeah(!); view(ed) reluctantly spewed: TRIOLET

I knew it was the story all along
I didn't think I'd find it in a rhyme
I figured I was past it, much too strong
I knew it was the story all along
I'm howling* and pretending it's a song
A princess and the pea tale out of time
I knew it was the story all along
I didn't think I'd find it in a rhyme

* you can insert any of the following words for torment or distress in here as well: weeping, crying, sobbing, sighing.... the list goes on... two syllables, however!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Allegory... from a time before

imagine luminous black
wings stretching into golden
a silent fall into the arc of world
all seeing ravens
a bird of your choice
imagine you are the bird
swooping over a crest
of black and white hill
close enough to hear melodies
horses hooves
creaking armour
knights striving & heaving
crosses in all directions
daring sweep
diagonal rush to save ... or capture
uneasy alliances of church & state
dive into the mist, closer
closer still
near enough to taste
copper of blood and soldiers
murmuring a thousand sighs
sacrificed for a king
victory or gallantry
a queen's tranquil insolence
the hush of the castle at day's end
a tactical lullaby
this in two dimensions...
or one...

No; don't

Monday, October 12, 2009


In one of my lives, I'm a competitive
of muscle, movement & guile
and aware of it, oh yes
all the while
I'm spinning and unraveling
I know I also dwell in it
careful to conceal
as much as I reveal
not falling prey to the cheesy grins
& easy smiles
littering this landscape
At the end of the day
I do a routine to music
I choose
the music is more important
than you might think
it is misdirection
indeed, it can be
Tango is a complicated
wildness and control
barely contained
intensities of shape, proximity & speed
instantly recognizable by its rhythms
Roxanne is not a tango
in the traditional sense & yet
a stylized version had more
heart, movement and guile than I had felt in a time
It grabbed me by the throat
taking my breath away
compelled & captured
I yielded
to its

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Memory resides
not only
in mind
but also
in breath, bone and gesture
in the muscle &
sinew of life
when these become
untethered time becomes
a fog in which hooks and anchors
can be
in bewildered, terrifying wonderment
time is of the essence
not only spending... nae, moreso doing
doing, doing mundane forgettables
carries them back to the meanings they held
as long ago

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Riding the autistic bus

I can hear the bus before I see it. That can't be good, I think. Indeed, even conceptualizing it this way gives me pause... obviously, I do not hear the bus... I hear the unmistakable chorus of noises emanating from the 45 kids on the bus.
We are preparing to depart from the amusement park where we have spent a good part of the day, from 10:00am till now, around 2:45. The bus ride is our riskiest activity at autism camp. It's the only time we have all the campers together and only a dozen or so people in a supervisory capacity---my most trusted, most resourceful students and assistants and me.
There is an art to getting these kids on the bus, surviving the ride and getting them off with as little anxiety and as much personal safety and dignity as possible. Who sits where is important as is who sits next to whom. Some kids need facilitation so that they and others around them are safe. Other kids have more latitude. This past summer's group had inordinately high numbers of screamers, headbangers, spitters, biters, pinchers, thrashers, grabbers and " scrawbers" ("scrawb" : the Newfoundland verb that is a perverse hybrid of scratch and claw is quite appropro here...). Once these behaviours are triggered, the cascade effect can be quite remarkable to behold.
Here is what preceded my arrival on the bus: Aurora Borealis Celestial Darling, one of this summer's campers, is a 12 year old girl who exhibits all of the above described behaviours. I have no idea what her parents were thinking ( or smoking?) when they named her, but on this particular day there were few heavenly attributions that I or others could make about her. For some unknown reason, Aurora got on the bus ahead of the others, then lay in wait to launch a physical assault, then a thrashing performance and then a screaming demonstration of operatic proportions. Her screaming triggered the other screamers. By the time I got on the bus, I could count 1o silent, scared kids and everyone else was screaming or wailing.
I scan and find all the eyes I need and in that uncanny way that attuned people work together, we got busy on de-escalation without anyone having to say too much. Aurora is moved to the second seat from the front behind one of our other award-winning grabbers; one of the assistants hugs her tightly to help her calm down. Another assistant sits with the gal who was scrawbed and begins to comfort her; another one engages our headbanger and gets him interested in something else; another engages five very scared little boys in an ingenious game of hangman... and I convince a screamer that her singing voice is lovely and a boy on the verge of losing it that he can keep it together and help me out here.
Before the bus leaves the parking lot, the only one making noise is Aurora--and she continues to wail, spit, moan and trash; her assistant provides her with hug pressure and room to move, a tough balance and a difficult one for one person only, but the best thing the rest of us can do to help is to keep the other 44 calm and this bus ride as regular as possible. As we approach the campus, another round of eye contact and soft words helps us organize getting Aurora off the bus first.
We get her off the bus; it takes three adults. Not as dignified as we'd like, but safe for her and the others. As soon as her feet are on the ground she relaxes, smiles at her father and skips off in his direction with a sweet little wave of her hand. The other kids file off, not too much the worse for wear, and head home with their parents.
We collapse, laughing and teary -eyed, sweating, embarrassed at our relief.
Thank you so much, I say to them.
It's a good thing they're all afraid of you, one of my students says.
They're not, I say. They just know I'm not afraid of them.
I hug them all. I check in with them all one to one before I let them leave.

My son and I go for a booster juice. My neck hurts and I am a little shaky. He and I talk about the bus ride. I call my spouse and give the low down on what's on the go. My heart rate slows to where it usually thumps. "Be the duck" has been my mantra for many years.... smooth on the surface, paddling like crazy underneath. Be the duck.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Family Jewels

Felix stayed up all night staring at the moon.
Mrs. M. ( Felix's mom) announces this as she deposits the little man and his younger sister at the entrance to the gymnasium. Felix is seven years old, a cute cherub of a boy, already about 20 lbs too heavy for his somewhat delicate frame thanks to the pharmacological cocktail he is using for his anxiety and other autistic " behaviours". So far this year, his favourite things are swimming and hiking and he likes to get changed for swim a tad early for everyone's liking.... especially since he has a compulsive attachment to the little blue superman speedos he wore as a five year old. His mom packs his other swim trunks, and some days we actually get him into them.... not today!! We do not negotiate with Felix after a night of moonlighting .... he is dreamy to the point of silliness and this takes the edge of the absurdity of going on a hike with the rest of his group in those very small speedos matched with big sneakers and socks. You can't get much more glamourous than that...

I should back up for a bit and acknowledge that the Autism camp I have run lo these past 13 years has been located at a university in my community and it is a wonderful venue... gorgeous trails and fields and use of gyms and other spaces free of charge.... the president is a former track athlete and an avid runner.... he likes to get a run in just before lunch and often uses the running and walking trails on the campus. Thus the stage is set.

About a half hour into the hike, Felix's group come hustling back into the gym.... the students working with the group look a little flustered. What's up... I ask them.
We had a ... mishap. We think we just might have been the cause of your camp being closed down for good.
Unlikely, I say. Tell me what happened
And they do. It seems that Felix was a little more anxious than anyone suspected given his goofy and floppy state at the beginning of the hike. He had been ambling along and was all of sudden startled into peeing himself by a huge noise in the bushes along the trail. Great, I think... an animal and a nasty accident...
no! -- nothing so straightforward as that...
turns out el presidente came crashing through the bushes in time to take the full wrath of Felix's anxiety: the little guy swung and punched at the first thing that appeared in front of his face ... and since he is only as tall as a man's ... pelvis... well, needless to say, the president dropped to the ground like a stone and kind of groaned and rolled there for awhile.
I wait for the rest of it.
We checked to make sure he was Ok ... and then we got back here asap to tell you, the students tell me.
I 'll check into it, I say. I smile... a small, secret smile. Felix, I say, we better get you out of those wet trunks. At least we can salvage this.
and... I'd like him to be dry; there could be a long line of people who'd like to shake his hand.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mind Control

Victoria is my oldest camper. It's difficult, really, to use the category "camper" to describe Victoria... she is more akin to a phenomenon. 6ft. tall, about 220 lbs., flaming red wild curly hair, a kind of drag queen Ronald McDonald on steroids... imperious, playful, brilliant, profane, devious...oh, and strong.... quite physically strong. Victoria was 25 this past summer and has been attending my camp since she was 12. I've watched her grow up; I've attended her birthday parties, taught her how to dance and helped her resolve a profound toe-walking habit in her early adolescence. She's given me two concussions, hundreds of hugs and kisses, thousands of insights and loads of laughs... she has also terrorized countless young males with her outrageous flirtations and her remarkably well directed lack of impulse control.
Here is a conversation from a few summers ago.
We are leaning against a fence that surrounds the outdoor pool where we went for our afternoon swims. Victoria is forgoing swimming this particular day for the reason that many teenage girls give to avoid swimming. Victoria was immensely pleased to announce to all in hearing distance the reason she was sitting it out. It is a beautiful sunny day. She and I are sharing a moment.

Who loves, ya, baby, I say to her.
You do, she says, and we gently touch fist knuckles together, my ongoing concession to her tactile defensiveness.
What are you up to today since you're not swimming, I ask her.
I'm practicing mind control, she informs me.
is that so... I say with just the appropriate amount of disbelief to egg her on...
ohhhh, yeahhh, watch this...
I follow her casually flipped hand in the direction of the diving board; a young guy is bounding into a take off.
I'm going to make him jump in, she says.
We both watch as he leaves the board and splashes us with a huge cannonball after-effect.
We gaze at each other over the edges of our sunglasses.
Impressive, I say.
She gives a small grunt of satisfaction and turns slightly away from our shared gaze, I could do this all afternoon, she says as she smiles shamelessly.
She also apologizes for the splash: she can only control the minds of the people... she takes no credit for the water.
No doubt, I think...
and I wonder, not for the first time, if she plays with me as much as I play with her.
I suspect so. And, I suspect, I have a lot to learn in this regard. I hope she sticks around for another 10 years.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


An autistic savant feels the swoon
of that old neuro-typical tune
playing chess with his sisters
and other sad blisters
till the dish ran away with the spoon

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Haiku: autism landscape

built environments
perilous sensory load
k/nights without armour

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Autism Camp, the next installment: Echolalia

Johann B. likes to get naked and cavort. This was cute when he was five years old and could get his scrawny little butt out of sight quickly. It is not cute now that he is 15 and has more body parts that flop, jiggle and swing when he moves. That particular summer, Johann's favourite trick was to stand in the middle of the gymnasium and begin taking off his clothes. Sometimes he'd start at the top and work his way down and sometimes he's start at the bottom and work his way up. The two students who worked with him, Jason and Chris, were young guys in their early 20's, with wonderful dispositions and sensibilities. Jason was a rugby player who swore that working with kids with Autism totally improved his rugby game. Chris was a wiry little guy who had made a vow against profanity once he decided he was going to be a primary school teacher. So, there they were, doing a strip-tease tango with Johann... he'd take off his pants and underwear and while Jason and Chris were busy getting them all back on, he'd be pulling off his t-shirt. Eventually they split up and tag-teamed : one took the top and the other took the bottom until Johann decided it wasn't entertaining any more.
Geez, Johann, they'd say
Geez, Johann, he'd say back.
This is not fun...
This is not fun...
This is stopping ...now!
This is stopping ... now!
... and then he'd stop, somehow hearing his own voice saying something he hadn't planned on paying attention to.
Needless to say, bathroom breaks were also " not fun". Chris wanders in to check on Johann after a 15 minute wait, alerting Jason to be on the ready for one of Johann's ( in) famous streaking performances. Chris ought to have been prepared for this by now, but he was nonetheless surprised by Johann, in all his glory, perched happily on the commode.
Holy Cats, you're naked!! Chris blurts it out before he can even think about the consequences...
Johann latches on like a drowning man. Holy Cats, you're naked, he yells; then again, and again.
It is a mantra, a chant, a cheer! He leaves his pile of clothes and dashes out into the gym. Holy Cats, you're naked, he shouts with glee, galloping and swinging his arms in big circles....
everyone gazes at this display in utter amazement. Sometimes, you just have to bow to the absurd.
Jason and Chris corral him and guide him, giggling fiendishly, back to the bathroom. They are giggling, too, and who can blame them! Freshly dressed, Johann moves through the rest of the day. No more undressing, no more echolalia. Perhaps we did a brilliant re-direct.
Johann's mom comes to pick him up. He plops down in the front seat and gazes at her, a little fatigued and glassy -eyed. She catches my eye for an instant, but before I can say a word, she waves and drives off. I watch the car for a moment as Mrs.B. swerves and then regains control. That must have been an interesting ride home.

Monday, September 14, 2009


(wo(a)nderings from a night person...)
Dawn sneaks up
on a person like me
who used to drink her way
through the night &
justify to an itinerant conscience
the lines she crossed in the name of surviving
I cut myself
loose & now I sail into golden dawn
on a sea of tranquility
caressed by flickers of early purple
helpless as water
to the pull of the moon

Sunday, September 13, 2009

two facts and a fib

following up on Jon's lead on Expressive Subjects...

I have had more broken bones than scars

I can bench press my body weight

I have written something every day since I was 11 years old.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

show and tell

Sebastian is 12 years old. An old child. He has been attending summer movement camp since he was 8 and has mixed feelings about being here. His first summer he asked me why his mom had dropped him here in the middle of all these retards, and assured me that he was not one of them.
At the time I had said to him that whatever he thought about the other folks at camp, he was not to engage in that kind of disrespectful language. Seb will take that from me because I will also tell him why his mom dropped him off at my camp. You see, Seb, I would say, you have enough going on with how you act in the world that you have earned yourself a diagnosis of high functioning autism. What do you think, he would ask me. I am not qualified to diagnose, I would tell him. But since you're here, how about giving some of the activites a try.... it could help with some of your games and fitness skills.
Seb is a strategic fella, so he knows the currency for being included in activities with his same age peers, whose approval he craves and whose disdain he does not quite comprehend. He is puzzled about why some of his bizzare responses are not met with high fives from the gang in the school yard.
He is, however, quite the little magician with word manipulation. The young gal who worked with him this past summer made the somewhat dubious decision to wear a tiny little camisole that left very little to anyone's imagination. Seb figured he'd died and gone to heaven. When I introduced them to each other (her name was Chantal) I did notice a little gleam in his eye....
at first I thought it was to do with the magnificent display before him. But, no; he surprised me.
By the end of the day he was working on how he will introduce Chantal to his buddies
Hello, everyone, this is Shoawantelle.... ( get it? show and tell... Chantal... )
I give him a little smirk and shake my head, yes, Seb, I say ... I get it.
He smiles and asks, do you think she will get it
I don't know, I say. What do you think??
I hope not! he says....
Sebastian: adolescent wordsmith extraordinaire.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Happy Campers

Summer stretches out like molasses for the children with whom I have been working for the past 35 years. The past decade or so has been somewhat different because I made a decision to do something about the interminable anguish that many of these kids experience. Meet the happy campers who have been attending my Summer Movement camp for children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for the past 13 years. Obviously, I cannot disclose any names, places or any other identifiers... this population is vulnerable enough as it is without leaving them prey to the caprice of the internet. What I'd like to do over the next few posts is describe some of what happens: the joys, the absurdities and the gut- wrenching sorrows. I'd like to give you an insider's perspective on what it's like to be at " autism camp" ( as the kids affectionately call it).
Hang on... it can be quite the ride!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Birth day

Did you know
that quickening is and is
much more than the first feeling
of life's motion
that fire burns
more intensely
with every breath
bone and gesture
impossible love
this is what happens next

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


intuitively, you took my hands
at a moment of emotional intensity
you held them
without reservation
or shame

many moons later
your willingness, kindness and authenticity
sustain me
& I live in the warmth of knowing
what it means
to have someone
who's got my back

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Woodstock is 40 years old.
As an event, it remains almost absurdly mythic.
As music, it remains unforgettable.
As a semiotic, it remains
as dangerous &
as ever.


sweet attentiveness
at the heart of your noticing
a tenderness of embodied memory
I can almost see
the soft smile
you must have felt
playing about your face
as you beheld
a cherished moment
and just when I could not
loving you more
I do

Friday, August 7, 2009


you allow yourself to be
knowing that I will not use that against you
as precious as love
and perhaps even more
rare and remarkable

Sunday, August 2, 2009

August One

a year ago today
we did a similar dance
much less lifting
but no less moving
closer to earth
than to sky
trees nearby
instead of all around
the necessary consolation of leaves
a place to be
alone with your own thoughts

I knew then--as I know now--that proximity
in and of itself
is not presence or connection
No...it is the small kindnesses
how your footfall is familiar
your unhurried gestures
a language of the heart
inhabiting space and time
clearings of always there
risking authenticity
the only dance

Friday, July 31, 2009

*<:-) Moon

enigma shimmers
neither contrived nor bestowed
earned phases of ease

Saturday, July 25, 2009

the story of this flower's storm

that clear -eyed look
belies the gladness
borne of being an old child
one who knew too much too soon
dancing pounding restless melodies
sing chime chant
(for) this unruly river ( is)
into the fierce
tenderness of now

Thursday, July 16, 2009


here is this gift
give to me
the chance to write stories
about lives so real
as to be unbelievable
how it is
that strings can vibrate
until they disjoin
the sweetest songs
are hovering
just out of reach
a restless rationality
longs for trembling
rainfall sighs against
a thousand blades of grass
or one
raindrop clings
like a fragile wish
leans into a hopeful sway
gives rise
to almost
unbearable tenderness
dwells in asking
for the chance
to write stories
you give me
you give me
you give

Monday, July 13, 2009


Imagine a huge conglomerate educational corporation whose purpose seems to be processing knowledge containers as if they were meat patties. Let's call it a university. Imagine all the people that might inhabit such a place. Let's call them professors, staff, students and senior administrators. Imagine several fiefdoms organized under a feudal system with hegemonic overlords wielding centralized and de-centralized power. Let's call them Faculties and Deans. Imagine that all these people --deans, senior administrators, staff, professors, students--lead busy, complex, textured, contingency driven lives. Let's call that being human. Imagine some of these humans as trauma survivors who manage post traumatic stress disorder on a day to day basis; imagine that these survivors know that triggers are inevitable in a place like this. Let's call that proactively forming a support network. That's the set up. Now... imagine this...

Melody arives at Milly's door. Milly's got two students but Melody has that wild look so Milly knows she has to take a walk. Hang in there, I'll be back in a few minutes she says to the two gals who exchange puzzled glances but seem willing to tolerate the oddness. Some days Milly seems like just another regular person and then right out of the blue these totally whacked things happen and students and colleagues alike begin to think that maybe there's a dark well there somewhere.... but it never lasts long. Milly's efficient as hell and Melody knows it... that's why she's here...
they talk and walk; it's a long corridor and it leads to doors that go outside and it's a nice day out there... Melody says she was ok until that asshole put the jarofbullsemen on her desk and asked her to pack it up for shipping...just like that... this is not supposed to happen in a department like this Melody sobs... geez, it's not biology ... if I go back and it's still there do you think it's ok for me to, like, leave ... ? like , just go...
why not says Milly you can't be packing up stuff like that Melody wimpers I know... if it breaks I'm going to have to scald myself to get it off me...Milly holds up the halt hand -- Just leave; that's the best option.
they walk until their breathing is regular. I'm Ok now Melody says, if that jerk hasn't packed it up himself I 'm leaving . Milly nods slowly. That's a plan. They look each other in the eye. Melody smiles... got a story? she asks... Milly does not have to dig too deeply for this one. Did I ever tell you about finding that boxofrectalthermometers in Marylou's office....


here is the feather bed
its seductive imperative
fling myself with wild abandon
i(o)nto its pillowy depths
& awaken
refreshed in six months

presupposes that rest
is the solution
to a problem of meaning
no sleep is enough

my relief is not
mere performance
it is felt
bone deep
the ground has shifted
I cannot unring the bell
nor would I want to

tell you what... I'll keep
earning your respect & regard
the carnal ground of
this trust we share
means everything
to me

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


you have watched me
with rage as fuel
for long enough to wonder
if there is any
left in the
There is.

... and within this sweet twilight
a fire burns bright


did you know that the dragonfly is one of the few ( and perhaps the only?)
creature(s) who can function
in air on land in/on water
that it can fly forwards & backwards
hover and dance
that its wings can hum and sing
are transparent & iridescent

that it might be that it once was
a dragon...
that as tough and versatile as it is
it has no sting
the old soul re-born in the body of now
I see you in your many elements
spinner of tales and fire
teacher poet learning dwelling
no wonder you have such an affinity for these
not so distant relatives
dance on...

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Mace

After the ceremony, I swaddled the mace in its blue velvet shroud and placed it in its pine casket. I was deliberate ... if not exactly deferential. So much of what all this means leaves me cold these days. I crouch next to the box, my own regalia spread about me like a cape and I realize with a stab of irony that to the unknowing eye, I might appear reverent. I smother a snort of mirth and begin pulling off my white cotton gloves... with these I protect the Mace from unsightly body oils... finger by finger I extract myself from this, my last performance of honoris causa, and toss the discarded skin of my duty into the box next to the discards of two years of such performances in this role that requires that I bear the Mace.

Times gone, the Mace would have been a gory and gloriously barbaric thing, with spikes & barbs & the blood of slaughter. The Mace I bear is ceremonial, and although the spikes and barbs find their mark, the violence is bloodless. I have to say, during that week of ceremonies, I brandished the Mace with more than a little irreverent aplomb, but it was my secret swan song-- everyone watching saw a ritual enacted with dignity, respect and grace, the least I could do for days designed for sweet memories.

I suppose it's not a bad thing to walk away while the swans are still singing.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


if Milly were a person
who mattered or a worse one,
I would hold her with my eyes
and take her hand

in this convenient fiction
and know it's not a trick when
a person who is wise
is planting land

*thanks to Timmy for his comment on the previous post; this was a seep- out that demanded a say

Friday, June 19, 2009

the simplest expression of fragility

gulls swoop so dangerously close
Milly can look them in the eye
a testimony to the discipline of barely there
on her back
burrowed into the dingy sand
the April day seems warm enough
disguising the bite, gust and snap

the birds know better
Milly feels the swing of sky swoop
vertigo precedes a softening of sound
& time
maybe they're the same thing
She wonders about how that works
that slow motion loss of sound thing
the legacy of the stone cold saints

she's got no business complaining
by now she's not only excavated those bones,
she's burned them
the dark, horrific stench of black sin filling her
nose and eyes
for months, maybe years
there's that time thing again

is this how it will always--or never --be?
the simplest expression of fragility
a pathetic descent into strange, unnerving smallness
she wonders... Is this what happens
when others speak their mundane devastations
their little disappoints and despairs
surely cannot be all that different from hers
how would she know
deep knowing (is/a) feeling at home with feeling
wondering always wondering if this is how others feel
if asking is further evidence
she has already
said too much

Thursday, June 18, 2009

oh, eff!!

this offering is a re-counting of a response to critic Kenneth Tyman, one of the first commentators to use the " F" word on the BBC.....

When Kenneth Tyman had the pluck
To use the Saxon word for " mate"
The hypocrites all ran amok
And said " why not say copulate" !

New Statesman
Aug., 1968

Ravens and Crows

So, the conference I am attending is on teaching and learning... interests that are so close to my heart. The site of the conference is a gorgeous spot on the top of a steep, steep hill. I can stand in a grove of trees and gaze out at the lovely waters surrounding this place. The trees are filled with crows and ravens... these cousins seem to like hanging out with each other here... and they caw, scree and chorus; they flap, dance, pace, prance... and suddenly halt into intense curious fascination, then to do that impossibly precise choreography of their heads...then to do that stroll...it puts me in mind of preachers in long coats, hands clasped behind their backs, their strides reminiscent of sailors just off the boat... and then they are off again...

all through the day my colleagues and I are buzzing--animated by our reflections on the tensions in teaching and learning... so many of the people I encounter are working poetically...it is as if we have found each other on this fine day in June, amid the trees and the birds, what are the chances of that...

here are some of the mantras I have heard today... it is strange to hear things that I say to myself in my head spoken out in the open :
Do the duck
Do the f@#k dance
Delayed gratification is the hallmark of emotional maturity
A good teacher on a bad day is a better risk than a bad teacher on a good day

and, as they say in L'Acadie, elle/il jongle beaucoup

pact of generosity *

I am once again on the east coast ...this time in Canada and in the Maritimes... at ( yet) another conference. I had the great fortune to attend a story - telling workshop yesterday, a place where a story is not prefaced with an apology... an authentic space.
I am taken by the sensibility that I feel in myself and my fellow participants: there is a strong commitment to listening... I/we have spent a number of years learning to listen like a cow **... what this means is that I turn my eyes toward you when you speak and give you my soft and rapt attention and I twitch my ears so that they are attuned to you as well... this is how I practice listening people--and their stories-- into existence... this is how storytelling works... the give and receive of being in a moment and aware of a moment, simultaneously: the deep call of mindfulness.
even now, hours later, I feel that I am still in that liminal space in between thought and word, feeling and expression and I am easy with being here until I am somewhere else...

Sunday, June 14, 2009


a boat
has to float
on its own bottom
if not
it doesn't
if it doesn't
it isn't

Saturday, June 13, 2009

hie (almost) coo

you do not know me
until you know my hidden shame
and all it touches

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

counting the days...

yesterday I cried & it was real
hiding, out of sight
at the top of a flight
of stairs, desperate to be concealed...
& to conceal

the last thing I want to confess
this heartbeat fluttering
wild schizophrenic muttering
helps me to be ignored, I guess

now there's a quaint blessing
amidst ceaseless, pounding, deceitful absurdities
that cling, slither & ooze

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Joe Lake

The waters off the Newfoundland coast are as chilling as they are bountiful. Here, a human can die in a matter of minutes in the hypothermic embrace of of the North Atlantic; here, swimming is neither leisure or irony--it is folly. Hence, I am no stranger than most in my culture when, at age 17, I found myself for the first time up to my neck in water in a mysterious beastie, also known as a swimming pool. With no frame of reference, no stars to guide my way, no astralobe to navigate the unknown waters, I inch precariously forward. I find myself on what I discover ( too late) is the slope: the angled drop off on the thresh-hold between shallow and deep. Unable to access strategies of buoyancy, change of direction, deceleration, or common sense, I pathetically flap at the water and realize that the bottom is slipping away from me and there is absolutely nothing I can do but die a death of shame and ignorance, without even the nobility of hypothermia. To compound this horror, a woman on the pool deck is throwing all manner and shape of objects at me, oblivious to my inability to recognize them as buoyant aids; dodging them as best I can, I submit to a death by water that will be as undignified and brutal as it is pathetic. Finally, she jumps in, grabs me, and pulls me to the side. I have just been rescued by my first year activity course professor, an inauspicious beginning for a physical education major who must pass a swimming course in third year in order to satisfy her degree requirements.

Finding no lower level, I register for pre-beginner swim lessons at the YMCA: Thursdays, 7-8 pm; my instructor's name is Joe Lake. Joe Lake is about 5'6"and 250 lbs.--he is a buoyant man and a fine swimmer. Class number three " we" are to jump in the deep end. The royal " we" still evades me at 8:00pm. Joe Lake asks if I'd like to stay and keep working on it. I learn the meaning of progression. I have moved beyond my earlier aversion to buoyant aids and am wearing three of them--a swim belt, a life jacket, and water wings. I hold the looped end of the "staff of life" reaching assist; Joe Lake holds the other. No one laughs; this is grim business. I jump in, Joe Lake pulls me to the side. We gradually remove buoyant aid and reach assist combinations until I jump in, unaided. Joe Lake bobs in the water nearby in case I need his help, but I paddle to the side and eventually, the shallow end. We sit on the deck with our feet in the water; it is an hour later. Everything has changed. Joe Lake says to me, EMM, you will be a good teacher because you understand fear.

My nose bleeds for three days, but it is nothing in the face of this terrifying wonder I feel: I will not die in a swimming pool, I will be a good teacher, and I understand fear. Over the next 15 years I will teach hundreds of terrified adults and children how to swim because I understand fear; I will save two children from drowning because I understand fear; my brother will drown in three feet of water on his vacation because no one around him understood fear; my assistantship during my graduate program will be in advanced aquatics. Swimming is both leisure and irony; it is no longer folly.

It is many years later and I doubt that Joe Lake agonizes over memories of me or the countless others he has shepherded into the depths. Fear--both spoken and unspoken --has kept me hungry through these years. I have opened the doors of most of the rooms in my head and am not nearly as terrified as I used to be; a life of reflection and commitment to unsparing self-honesty has left me competent, still curious, and puzzled about lots of things.... and profoundly humble. There is much to learn. I am not easily intimidated; I crave neither approval nor praise; I do not wield my intellect as a weapon. Neither my students nor my colleagues fear for their dignity in their dealings with me, yet, dissonance remains a strong feature in my learning, leadership and creative contexts. I think about the role of my unspoken fears in my life as a mother, a partner, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher...and I wonder if I am short-changing my son, partner, parents, sister, brothers, friends, students; after all, survivors like me have responsibilities: we can't let someone drown where we were saved.

What are the depths I need to explore? Will I be willing to explore these depths, to brave the silence and the speaking? Will I know another's fear when I see it? Will I recognize my own? Pre-occupied with my inability to settle for mediocrity and complacency in myself and, if I am honest, in others, I often feel that bottom slipping away, those pathetic flapping attempts at warding off my own irrelevance. One hour of Joe Lake's life changed my life. What is my unspoken fear? Not giving that hour; being too busy with " more important things" ; not recognizing the depths or the fears in others ... in myself. This is my fear, my fuel, my muse, my hope.

Thanks, Joe.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

joy is as unsettling


dilemmas turned velvet
poetry offers slippage
like these words? me, too. I heard them earlier this week at a presentation
on arts-based education
I show them to you here; they are not my creation


this particular combination
yet, if you are reading them, these ( those? ) words are now ours.
Strange, yes? Maybe...
dare I use these words now that I have encountered them like this?
I do dare
I insist, persist, resist, enlist, shake my fist... get the gist


of this
walk away, confessing
I can't walk away from life because of life
joy is as unsettling
tears out of nowhere, evocative quartets
speak( ing) of love
usual suspects


poetics in vulnerability
not despite
riddle of shadow
inviting me to learn how to hold a shapeshifter
no matter what
it becomes

Saturday, May 16, 2009

my words for now

today I am taken by how absolutely
I dwell
in every moment
I spend with you
...stories ...
not remorse soaked compensation for time lost
you and I traveled that time in one sweet day
and in so many moments since

you here now, means the world to me
even more so in the small things
your delicate, sinewy arms
the bones of your elbows just there below the sleeves of your shirt
how your hand gestures translate smooth movements under the skin of your forearms
now, there, before my eyes...
I want to see all of it
hear all of it
know about anything you want to disclose
I cherish the comfortable quiet
soft glances between us
pace and rhythm of our silences and solitudes
perhaps you know all this already
all the same, here is my heart
and my words for now...

old reliable coffee: always the same, always good

it is 10:30 am at Balzac's , a coffee shop in the Distillery district of Toronto; the walls are filled with vintage tin coffee ads ... the title of this post is one of them. I watch a man and child at a table near me. The child is a little boy, three-ish; he wears jeans with hole in one knee, socks and sandals, a tee shirt hanging longer than his little blue hoodie. He has just finished the immensely focused task of zipping up the hoodie. There are two cups on the table, a big one for the man and a small one on a saucer for the boy. I can see that he is drinking hot chocolate and he holds a big cookie in one hand. He has dirty blonde hair-- it hangs in bangs on his forehead-- and big gray eyes. I can see his eyes from my table; he is wide eyed, alternating between his cookie and the man's face.
The man is reading the paper, he glances over at the boy and puts the paper down; he glances at his PDA on the table, he looks left and right, every time a door opens or a customer orders. Man and boy share a moment of eye contact; the little boy grins, the man checks his PDA, the door, the bar...it's a busy place without a doubt.
The boy is moving his little fingers, making wing gestures with his non-cookie arm, his feet sliding sofly and purposefully along the iron stem of the table. It takes a long time for a little boy to eat a giant cookie... chewing is serious business, and the world of the cafe is ceaselessly fascinating, the rattan chairs, the marble tables, the way the cup fits in the saucer...he can lay on his belly on the seat of the chair, a little swimmer in a sea of tinkles and conversations; he can spin and he can fit his whole body there on that seat if he wants... and he can do all this and not miss a beat of cookie munching...his face is filled with hot chocolate and cookie mess. The man leans in a wipes him down with a napkin, rubs his own eyes, checks his PDA and looks left and right. The little boy says
" Daddy...." and then I can hear no more of his little speech. Daddy alternates between chininhandelbowontable, two hands on two knees, hands clapsed on table, leaning back... cookie almost gone, and the rattan chair is still a tactile cornucopia, a landscape, a vista... the little guy is swishing and twisting on his seat, swinging his little legs, smiling and gazing about...down to the last bite. Daddy springs to his feet and ushers the boy to the bathroom and, shortly after, out the door. The little boy walks slightly ahead; the man carries an eco-friendly bag... I see them turn off to the right as the door closes.

Sometimes I wonder about my Laban training... I am drawn to look, see, notice and describe
and sometimes I wonder...

Apocalypse ( May 15, 2009)

I don't know his name--privacy and security being important to him; he often waits in the bus shelter with me, mismatched clothing, sneakers as big as pillows, coke bottle glasses...
he checks his watch every two or three minutes, then turns his head to look in the direction of the bus, his marking time a corrective against public transport's aversion to punctuality.
This morning he talked to me as soon as I arrived, his voice quick and loud, right next to my ear, he describes his rationale for how many cans of salmon he plans to buy at the grocery store, the advantages of instant coffee, his annoyance at missing the earlier bus, how this has thrown off his schedule, what it might mean for all the other shoppers competing with him for his salmon.

At the bus station I met his counterpart, an older man in a stained raincoat, shoes with no laces, his shirt collar up on one side, buttoned up all the way to his Adam's apple; he toasts me with his coffee as I walk past his little cafe table. " Morning" he says, and smiles and stares. I smile and stare back. "Good morning" I say.
" Yer bus is on the way, missus" he says
I'm grateful for his vigilance, these daily assurances; and yet, this morning, I am somewhat unnerved by his appearance...maybe it was the shoe laces, maybe it was the way I felt my own swallow looking at that shirt collar...something seems off to me. He toasts me again; I go outside to my bench.

My third horseman arrives--this man's name I know, having worked with him for years and watched him go down the swift slide of paranoia; he lumbers toward me, his good side leading the way, as usual... his huge bald head beginning to show the first folds of age along the back of his neck. He gestures and wails, swaying towards and away from me, then right, then left; he tells me how angry he is about the sons of bitches he has to deal with in public bathrooms. His arms hang loosely at his sides and his ranting stops suddenly and he just stands there breathing and staring at me. I breathe and stare back. I offer some bus money, he shuffles off to his bus. I am sad enough to cry.

My own bus arrives and I climb on, hand over my transfer, find a seat. I sigh and gaze straight ahead. A colleague gets on at the last minute, spies me and attaches herself to the seat near mine. Her coat is velvet, her hair is clean and windblown, her shirt collar is casually open, neatly placed against the lapels of her coat, the points of both collars in marvellous symmetry, her eyes are shining ...and she begins: you won't believe the fabulous renovations I've been doing on my house...

I must be an ear; no one needs a mouth.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

the sea is so blue that only blood is redder...

This phrase just grabs me by the throat. I wish I had written it...hell, I wish I had thought of it. I heard it last night at a presentation given here at this conference I am attending in the northeastern United States. The presenter said it was a line from a poem by the poet Claudet. I have been thinking about it ever since, mesmerized by the felt sense of its logic...

another experience beckons me as well; it has been a compelling couple of days. I am at a reception following the above-mentioned presentation. I stand in a small group with three of my colleagues...two of whom I consider good friends. We are in lively conversation and I am quite caught by the flow if it, so much so that I am startled to notice a woman hovering at the edges of our conversation circle... I had not even seen her, and, embarrassed at how I had left her there, unnoticed, for so long, I try to catch her eye. I am unsuccessful; she meets no one's gaze, then backs up slightly and moves away. I am shaken by the depth of my indecision : she was as close to me as these words are to you...how is it that I did not walk around my friend and make the physical effort to draw this woman into our circle...she slips away... and as I leave the room I see her in/out on the edges of another conversation.

even now, I am going over this event's unfolding, wondering how it might have been different, how it was that I was so rooted for too long in that moment of noticing and not acting, wanting to repair the hurt of a few seconds worth of invisibility, the time it takes for someone to slip away into a crowd, a mist, a sea so blue that only blood is redder...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

reflecting from the other side of Beltane on being found in April

called forth
in ways I could not have imagined
I story
sweet stillness
dark flame
fierce tenderness
wild joy
spoken and written
between us
ongoing, delightful disclosures
strangely familiar
astonishing how you have given
to me
not once, but twice
a knowing so carnal
as to shatter the ground
of my certainties
I can only say
I prefer a mystery
a lovely twilight beckons
and there is much to learn

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Price exacted

Edmonton; late '80's. A great place for honing my irritant skills ( a.k.a. graduate school). Being a sucker for service I am also doing some music and dance work with an Anglican church group on the cusp of expressiveness...
through a series of misadventures, I find myself invited to the elevation--or is that installation? of an Anglican priest to the rank of bishop. It's quite the elaborate affair, with chanting, incense, walking, bobbing, wailing, kneeling, standing, flapping...
kind of like watching a flock of crazed hungry birds devour a carcass

I am sitting next to the spouse of one of the bishops participating in the service. I watch a dozen men in flowing vestments huddle over and around their soon to be elevated brother, surrounding and covering him until he is absolutely hidden from view.
Unable to contain my blistering semiotic curiosity for a moment longer, I lean over to my seat mate and whisper : what are they doing?
She pauses for a long moment, then exhales, inclining ever so slightly towards me, her subtle postural softening remarkably well disguised by the impossible precision of her crossed ankles. I think I see the barest hint of rueful knowing glance..." they're removing his spine" she says, that glance of hers lingering ...holding mine just long enough for both of us to lean back against the stiff brown pew.

Friday, May 1, 2009

... and I'd do it all again

lover, friend, partner
over time and across contexts
this day
I celebrate how you and I dwell
in this wilderness of intimacy
carnal bedrock
& deep regard

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fine Line(s)

my guardian sits ahorse
glam rock Pendragon hybrid
brings down a cascade of violet
velvet curtain
with a wave of lace-drenched hand
the court knows
what can and cannot
with time space sound sight motion stillness
this is how it works:
inside outside
light dark
frontstage backstage
muse merlin
owls ravens
doves starlings
playful & terrifying
imagine my shock
without guardians
inner twins, sparks, smoke, voices, rivers, explosions
dance & silence
beast & bird
awaiting moment (')s
...or murmur
(I) learn
when & how to word

Saturday, April 25, 2009


needed: integrity
any takers?
start the fire...

Saturday, April 18, 2009


You are holding a small bird carefully in your hands
its heart pounding and fluttering
its flight willingly contained
it feels your immense kindness
& restraint it knows
a fellow traveler
we sit on a rock & you tell me a story about the bird
how it came to you
how you waited, surrendering
to learning how to be with ...(it)
your burning neither prison nor sanctuary
& when you open your hands the bird pauses before it soars
not only,
but always
at times like these
I feel privileged to know you

Monday, April 13, 2009

The old skipper.... ( almost a year ago...)

I remember when my dad got old enough and nefarious enough to be called "skipper" ... a Newfoundland honorific reserved for the select few heartless, vicious old bastards who outlasted the others... if ever a hard-ass deserved that title, it was my father.. all these shady old characters running into him out and around, saying " how's she goin', skipper", giving him his due, a rank earned of hard knocks, as bad as the worst of them. We've had our battles, the old skipper and me, and we're calmer now...
These 20 years I've been shipwrecked here on the mainland, and my Sunday night telephone calls thankfully anchor me to the Rock; they are my touchstones, my return to my ground. My phone calls... when I hear the old skipper's gruff voice, that same voice that's told a thousand arseholes to go to hell, his gravel voice and harder hands, never needing to be that way at home because we knew what he was capable of on the street, the old skipper.
And we're calmer now...
years later, we all can talk and laugh and when I call my family every Sunday, 8:00 pm Canada time, 9:30 in Newfoundland, we can say we love each other and know what that means...
So, that was some phone call the Sunday after you found me after all these years. My sister and I have been talking on the phone on a few Mondays and Tuesdays since...
She tells me " Mom and Dad are acting...different"
"what are they up to?" I ask
"they've been hugging each other and smiling and talking about you more than usual" she says
I don't know what to say to that. I've been smiling a lot, too. She says " they're celebrating..."
That's OK with me; I'm fine with celebrating this gift...given

So, this past Sunday I was talking to my dad and he says to me," you know, I never stopped prayin' for that little fella "
"I know, Dad," I said " I never stopped, either"
... and it all came washing over me, all the tears we never cried for you, all the words we never spoke about you, all there, terrible and beautiful, and then, my father's voice...
and I knew that in spite of it all, in spite of all the shite we put each other through, all he ever wanted was for me to be happy, and here we are, the old skipper and me, battles over, and still, that's all he wants for me now.
And that's all I want for you.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

...almost six months ago...

One night when I was intoxicated
and didn't know it
I walked through a patio door
I was in that stupid frame of mind where
problem-solving was about moving the obstacle
and not wondering about what the obstacle might be

It took weeks to get over my injuries
my broken face and dislocated shoulder
and I never got the chance to apologize to my friends
who probably aren't my friends anymore
if they ever were

My first named emotion was disappointment
exquisitely beige
after years of torment with mad and sad
I can do nuance
lovely repertoires of melt...
annoyed, irritated, frustrated
pleased, satisfied
on a mission of sanity
buffers like these staunch the bleeding
and keep the clean-up out of harm's way
without denying the gut
reality of hope

One day when I was mindful
and didn't know it
I drove along a roadway
and noticed the broken remnants of branches
scattered in the grass alongside...
skeletal remains of unyielding to a recent storm
and a willow swaying to a gentle breeze of denouement...
her embrace a heart of softness

It took days to get that moment
into these words
but love is patient
and yielding is the hardest work
of hope and craft

Friday, April 10, 2009

such was not my prayer

Many pray to lose the desire
such was not my prayer
desire being the least of my crimes
it would have been a deceit...
or a worse deceit, a token...
or a worse deceit, the slippery slope of lovespeak

perhaps this affinity for crime was borne
under the watchful gaze of the sistersofmercy
the fluttering ministrations of their bodiless hands and faces
t(w)here I first felt the lash of teacher-care
its lasting impression
one of sharp-edged irony
in spite of their best efforts
neither bitterness nor hopelessness has taken root
I trust the tree
sway & creak
branches, barbs & brambles
as delicate
and resilient
as rain

Thursday, April 9, 2009

an easy place to make a killing *

voice loosed
hearts pound
women swoon
so glad that's settled

hook shimmering
just up ahead
universe unfolding
as it should

attribution undefendable
abjection unavoidable
attunement epiphenomenal
affinity undeniable

open arms
sadly mistaken
mistakes are oftentimes mistakes
left for gulls

twilight shivers
tranquility quivers
monkey howls
if you have any poo
fling it now

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Paper fish

My sister teaches sixth graders in St.John's, Newfoundland. Her students are considered an "at risk demographic". She and I and our brothers would have been placed in that category as well if it had existed when we were young... poor, industrious, resourceful, tenacious, painfully aware of our subordinate status, our odd clothes, the unspoken expectation of being pathetically grateful.
She cares about her kids, my sister. That's her greatest source of anguish. We trade anguish stories all the time... just lately she 's been agonizing about how her students are aghast at the prospect of doing the bare minimum, much less what is simply required. At least they're not indifferent, I say to her...she is not amused. You'd think I was asking them to give me an arm or something, she says, and their parents... it doesn't seem to faze them that their kids can't read or don't get their work done... I just don't know what their chances are, what is going to happen to them...
( here it comes) Geez, I remember when Mom sewed a paper fish for me when we didn't have any glue in the house....
I smile at that. That is so Mom, I think...
...out of school herself at age 13, her generation of women relegated to caring for homes and men, no chances to explore her potential, she worked and cleaned and worked and cleaned, our home's spotlessness a balm against cold rooms, sparse furniture, and our steady diet of canned food. Dented cans, piles of blankets, and one warm room. If we were indoors and awake, we were in the kitchen...and if we were awake in other rooms, we were very efficient.
Our poverty was the context of her resourcefulness, and I never met anyone as brave as my mother...and I say brave and not fearless because she was afraid of many things. No skills, little education, less sophistication, but she toiled and learned and scrapped on our behalf... and even when I was mortified by her tactics, I had to admire her. She never put herself first; never. And no task was too menial, nothing was beneath her. She always seemed a little bemused at how things worked out... even now, her old age pension is an amazing thing...imagine, she says, getting money just for lasting. Pensions... the first steady, predictable income my mother has ever seen.

Imagine how that fish must have looked... one of my mom's labours of love, larger than life, a bright--almost luminous-- green, a strange and wonderful thing, beautifully cut and traced and sewn with green wool... exquisitely stitched...the mark of a family running on little but the essentials: talk is cheap; friends are better than money; unconditional love, no matter what the crime.
At the time, I used to wonder about my mother...now I just wonder at her. Her basic approach to life has not changed...she would happily pick grains of salt off crackers if my sister's son asked her to...no subservience being too low in the service of grandchildren.
I am terrified of becoming her, yet I am also proud to see so much of her in me... and in my sister. I want her kindness, her resourcefulness, her utter lack of pretentiousness, her gut level candor, tempered with absolutely no need to have the last word...or the first one....her immense satisfaction with the ordinary, mundane world. Thinking of her and the strange and wonderful things she would do for us almost always leaves me crying for all that I did not appreciate...every time I talk to her I tell her I love her, and I mean it.

And what does that mean, to tell my Mom that I love her...for me and my long journey to integrity it means that love as a feeling is not sufficient. I have to be sufficient. I have to talk to her as a person who knows things, I have to be interested in her life, to take seriously her take on things. I have to disagree ( with respect ) when we differ, not surrendering to tokenistic platitudes, agreeing and smoothing for the sake of filling air time. My " no" has to be a legitimate response of preference, but I cannot let it be a response of laziness, convenience or dismissal.

I used to feel bad that my mom's sphere of experience was so small ....now I know that the everyday world, as mean and small as it can be, is teeming with acts of resilience, hope and craft... I guess she's taught me more than I realize.
I smile at that. That is so Mom, I think...