Wednesday, 2 August 2017

You and me, let's go out going all the way

You don't know what you've got till it's gone. Nothing has felt more sobering this summer than that. My stepmom recently said to me that the past nine years have gone by too fast. And that hit me like a freight train - what's truly terrifying is that, if a chunk of time as long as nine whole years could feel too short, then this summer is a mere blink of the eye. It's the time it takes for a text to send. It's the time it takes for all the lights in the city to go out at once.

It's such a simple thing to realize that you're surprised when you realize it because you thought it had been there, in your brain, all along but it's really something you need to feel before you know it. Matter over mind. I told myself over and over that I know what I have, that I'm having it right now, and eating it too. Like someone smiling into a mirror after brushing their teeth, not an emotion, just checking. Just a reminder. All 32 bits of bone still in place, like they have been since the age of ten. 

I'm happy. I'm used to the alternative, which isn't necessarily unhappiness, but it's not happiness either. It was something in between, waiting for something inside to snap and pretending I never knew it was there, and then once the ties broke I would continue, undone, but not unhappy. I think part of it comes from accepting the fragility that comes with intense emotions, and diving in anyway. I've found myself in the deep end and I think it's best that I stay there, at least until the water starts to reach my neck. 

Maybe that's all that matters.We can cry and scream and claw at the fabric until the seams start to give, or at least feel like they're starting to give, but time keeps going.  And it'll go all the way, long past your existence, or mine, or anyone else's. Whether you matter or you don't, whether you're leaving or staying, time moves. It feels like it's moving me. 

I've never been to the east coast, and in 30 days I'll be living there for eight months. I have a hoodie from PEI with "Cavendish" stitched to the front and it's my favourite hoodie, not because I've been there but because my stepmom gave it to me. While I was in Greece I bought a necklace with a tiny delicate anchor on it, not because I've been to the maritime provinces but because I figure I may as well pretend. If you need to know anything about me, it's that I thrive on familiarity. Home is a place and it's in Southeastern Ontario. So to say the least, I'm terrified. 

But when I'm anywhere that's not home, I swim in the ocean and I gaze at the stark blue line that is the horizon, the saltwater keeping me just a little bit more afloat than lakewater would, and I watch the sun set in such a way that it only can on the coast. I feel then that an hour or a day could pass and it wouldn't matter, because everything is inevitable and imminent and all I need to do is keep my head above the water. And just like learning how to float for the first time, it's easier to relax, to stop fighting, to trust yourself. Then I'll know what I've got. Then I'll realize that it's never been gone. 

But don't it always seem to go? 

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Making Vermilion

I note in the distance
the creaky door of the ramshackle house
crammed between chipped paint edges.

A widow with a painter’s smock
stands in the frame.

Fraying corners and technicolour oranges
patterned on her gravel dusted sandals,
summer sun seeping into veins
filling a cavity once forgotten and
leaving behind a spillage of freckles.

The smattering of dried paint bits
on the wooden paintbrush is
vaguely aquamarine –
listless and tender,
a colour come undone.

Inside she is vermilion
like the fire that licked Joan’s feet
or the colour of her beating heart
under cropped hair and men’s clothes
as she led the French to sunrise.

Purple pansies plucked carelessly
from the garden nestle in her hair,
they are in dire need of watering
but horticultural trivialities
never were a passion of hers.

Scraping and painting over,
again and again,
emptying and filling
falling and catching
she makes the process vivid.

The summer sun stretches out,
not scorching but rouging
her balmy skin,
making lightness compared
to the deep crimson colour underneath.

The edges of the door slowly
shed their skin, becoming red
and she smiles at the colour.

The door of the house creaks and
I now understand that
when there’s nothing left to burn
you have to set yourself on fire.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

It's just the right way to play the game

It's almost hilarious listening to people argue over rules of the game. Sometimes the tension above tiny checker pieces or flimsy cards can't even be cut with a knife - it requires a power saw. Everyone has their own way of playing backgammon or euker, and none of these ways seem to be the right one. To me, games are something done in passing. Games are played so that you can talk to your friends and family, or so you can drink cider and eat cheese and crackers. They are rarely played for the sake of playing. That's why they're called pastimes. I think we're all just passing time, and I don't think there's a right way to do it.

I can never tell whether life is unfair or simply kicking our asses. I think about how minds change. Some say that actions are not a product of reactivity, but of fault. It seems entirely unfair for someone to have a conversation, see a film, or read a book, and in that moment decide that their view of someone has changed. Suddenly and recklessly. Like weather. There was some life-altering truth in a coffee stained exchange with a close friend or in a film about love, and now they see a certain person that's been on their mind differently. But this person that has changed has no idea. They've done nothing. They actually haven't changed. Neither has their friend. It was external factors that changed your friend's mind, and it will be external factors that change yours. Rarely do we change our own minds.

We can't say that life is unfair. What makes us entitled to fairness? Who measures this fairness? We just get our asses kicked. That much is true. I think there's more truth in the way that emotions can manifest into physical pain than the million pixels that make up a single word on a screen. Then again, it could just be heart burn.

I'm trying to be okay with things that don't make sense. The world will continue to spin if I don't understand, and it will if I do. I think I'm just terrified of the latter. I don't know the right way to play the game, I just call it unfair. You don't either. Someday we'll know. And if we don't, we'll just blame it on the changing of the weather.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

On the Merits of Silence

A soft rapping on the door
turns to a frantic knock;
a pounding in your head
and a vibration in the wood.

Now memories are stuffed
like ill-fitting clothing
into cramped drawers,
spilling at the edges,
painting a perfect picture
of domestic living.

A soft breeze in your hair
turns to a violent wind,
a wind that fractures temples
and crumbles ancient cities.

You sip water from a
fragile, pellucid glass
filled with tiny ice cubes
and watch the city turn to dust,
spotting an arm here or a leg there
of the heavy marble statues
protruding from the sand.

All this is observed
in silence,
a deep void filling the air
like the bottom of a clear lake.

And the pillars fall
with no witness
to the sound
since there is none.
And you smile because
your careful taciturnity proves
to be a blessing
and finally, mercifully,
the knocking stops.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Avalanche

Slow down, slow down
Start from the beginning
But not the very beginning
With silence and a whimper
And the pinprick of light
That became the ocean in your iris
And the salt water in your eyes

Slow down, slow down
Don't lie anymore
When the mountains are crowns
We could always sleep
In the rubble
And when the avalanche comes
We'll cross our fingers
Behind our backs

Slow down, slow down
There is so much less
Oxygen here
And if we can't breathe
We could always dance
Under five feet of snow
And you can take your time
To learn the steps.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Feast or Famine

Summer entices. 

The way she glitters with half closed eyes and hazy visions of sunsets over lakes. The frigid, unapologetic splash of water and ever-present sound of feet hitting ground and laughter tinkling in the background like the bell on a cat's collar. She beckons. With her empty, relaxing days waiting to be filled with equal parts merriment and meditation; her promise of late mornings and even later nights edged with soft liquor and the closeness of friends. 

Summer entices, yet I can't seem to grasp her hand. 

I can spend all day doing nothing, if nothing means reading and listening to the familiar crooning of the Tragically Hip; if nothing means jumping on every shift at the humane society so I have something to do; if nothing means eating snacks just because I'm bored; if nothing means convincing myself that I'm not upset, that I just need a walk, that I'm fine, I'm fine. 

It's frustrating because for the rest of the year I'm so busy that I hardly have a moment to sit down, a moment to myself, but then summer comes around and I have all the moments in the world. Both scenarios are unsatisfactory. I'm grasping for that middle area, that place where I'm busy enough that I don't feel depressed but relaxed enough that I don't have a panic attack. My grandma said to me over the phone, "as I always say, it's either feast or famine." I haven't found that place yet, and maybe that's why I can't quite grasp summer's hand. I'm just holding onto her pinky finger.

Summer is soft skin, dark skies, and fireworks. I lay down staring at my phone, wondering if I should call my friends and if they would even want to hear me complain. Summer is a shout that fills the space, a beaming sun and even brighter smile. I sit on the subway, on my way to the humane society, happy to be going somewhere, sunlight hitting my face and a smile curling on my lips, faint. I feel battered by lofty expectations that have been freshly crushed. 

I used to think that seeing a radio show host's face would shatter the illusion and I wouldn't be able to listen to the show any longer. I would try to imagine what they look like, creating elaborate characters in my head. These characters felt right, they felt real while attached to this person, this disembodied voice. Strangely, nobody ever looks like how they sound. 

Part of me wants to go back to childhood summers. Eating nectarines with mouth wide open, juice trickling down dirty elbows. Pencil drawings of rabbits and strawberries. Birds chirping, owls hooting in the dead of afternoon, well maybe it was the evening when the sun was setting, wind chimes... chiming. Scrunching up my nose as a dollop of cold sunscreen is smoothed over my skin. My grandma cocooning me in bed for my afternoon nap, singing songs and telling stories that I know by heart. It's not simple anymore. Every bone and vein in my body says that it should be, that I'm fine. I imagine a man taking a drag from a joint with the absolute air of nonchalance and musing, "it's a dog eat dog world, man." My fingers slowly type a short text inviting my friends to go to the beach sometime, half expecting them to be busy.

As my grandma always says, it's either feast or famine.



Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Nothing's gonna touch you in these golden years

You told me that it was a feeling, unprecedented. That I had to grin and bear it before I touched the grass beneath my feet and it would be electric, not muddy. I think I found that feeling in a gritty video of Matt Good playing Tripoli in his apartment to a bright-eyed audience of 20 people. Maybe I'm just a kid, but I could have cried.

The thing is, the young don't understand the young. The old don't understand the young, either - but the truth is that we're all the same; we're all just not what we're chocked up to be. There's an empty throne in the sand and ants have colonized it. If the world is a town, then what is the universe? A city? To me it's all rocks and rubble. It belongs to the ants. 

I gently rubbed a cat's belly, purrs seeping from her like warm chocolate. As her tiny paw rested on mind, claws carefully sheathed, I suddenly felt the utter vulnerability of this animal, completely submissive and trusting; the cat, a receiver of energy. It was beautiful. I didn't understand this cat, she didn't understand me - but she loved. In the present, she loved - and that was all that mattered, past and future disregarded. She could have decided in the next moment that she didn't love me and decided instead that biting my hand was worthwhile - but I would roll that dice. It's funny - I have always known it isn't possible but I like to believe that I can somehow influence the number that comes up on the dice by shaking and rolling it a certain way. 

You told me that life is more than vices and virtues. That it ain't all beauty but poetry. I told you that I knew that already, but really I just thought that you were trying to justify. Your hypocrisy slapped me in the face, leaving a stinging red mark on my cheek. But I forgave you. Time and time again, because time is honey and I'm a honeycomb. This is what the young are like.

I feel too much to think. I feel too much to be young. I thrive on my intellect but it's my emotion that makes me live. I can eat hummus at 10pm because this is the most individualistic time of my life. I'm not one for moral realism, but I never did read the Bible. 

Life has scaled down. It's a delicate Victorian miniature, painted with an ivory brush. I realize now that fulfillment isn't the peak of the mountain, it's carving a crevice in the side with your bare hands and sleeping there. That's what the young are like. 

You told me it was worth it, and I believed you. 

Where has my head gone?
Well I felt it slip away


Monday, 14 September 2015

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - Pastiche Writing

     Her great-grandparents lived in a cottage, in the north but not terribly far north; a small, plain abode nestled between the dense forest, a quaint garden of lilies, tulips, and hydrangeas, and the lake. Often they drove out, in late summer, and when they arrived the girl would head immediately for the lake, nearly flinging her shoes off and tiptoeing into the dark, tepid water, careful not to disturb any minnows - it was the minnows that she especially liked and which she would catch and and pour into a bucket only to later dump them clumsily into the lake. When the minnows were in hiding and the bumblebees cared not to hover lackadaisically about the tulips, she would be listlessly wandering inside the cottage. Sometimes, the girl would sit cross-legged on the navy blue armchair, her feet still rough and cold from the lake water, and watch her great grandmother solve a crossword puzzle. Perhaps it was the boredom, or perhaps it was the slow, elegant way with which her grandmother scribbled on the page - nevertheless she would get lost in this quiet observation for half an hour at a time. She thought it would be a sad life, her grandparents living in this cottage, since she was able to amuse herself for a week, but could not imagine staying there for an eternity.
      There was one food, that she would eat at the cottage and which she would never eat at home, and that was strawberries and cream. She would lean against the kitchen counter and address her grandmother in the politest tone she could muster, "Cottage grandma?" - as her great grandmother lived in a cottage and the girl was unable to distinguish between her grandmother and great grandmother - and her grandmother would reply, "Yes, peaches and cream?" The girl thought this particularly strange and wonderful, how her grandmother would call her peaches and cream, as she's never had peaches and cream before, only strawberries and cream. Peaches and cream this, peaches and cream that. It sounded good coming from her grandmother's mouth; her grandmother who smelled like flower-scented soap and lake water.
     Boredom was a continual feeling during this time spent in the north - one that the girl combatted with surprising ease. She had two movies that she enjoyed - Matilda and The Little Mermaid. She would lie on the pine-scented quilt on the bed beside the window over-looking the lake, and watch these movies on the small television over and over again until she was able to recite the lines backwards and forwards. Matilda was the story of a little girl with selfish parents that treat her terribly, and one day Matilda realizes that she has telekinetic powers, which she uses to her advantage. Sometimes, as the girl was eating brown sugar and oatmeal at the cramped dining room table, she would try to make her oatmeal move in the slightest, just as Matilda had with her Cheerios. One day, she swore she saw the soggy bowl of oats jump.
    One summer, the girl didn't visit her grandparents at the small, plain cottage in the north. The reasons why were unclear to her, but the same foreknowledge which had before simply brushed the lining of her mind now laid a heavy weight on her skull. Her grandparents were old, and the cottage was difficult to maintain. She now understood why her heart sagged and her chest stung when she considered what it would be like to stay there for an eternity. A somber dusk like that of the sky at the cottage hung in her mind as she remembered the pungent smell of bug repellant being sprayed on her knobby knees and bruised legs and heard the soft, elegant scratches of the pencil on the crumpled newspaper in her grandmother's lap.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Tous les mêmes? Pas du tout

There is something inherently fervent about French people. Parisians, especially. There is an urgency in their step, knitted brows, sharp tongues. Beautiful words spill like warm water from their mouths, quickly, carelessly, seductively, as if they are utterly and completely unaware of how saccharine their voice is to my ears. Les mots ne peuvent pas la décrire. Not English ones, at least. The soft clinking of cutlery, like the sounds that tiny stars would make; the hazy, sooty smell of cigarettes brushing the tip of your nose. I was in love with the vague concept of France until I had an affair with Paris.

I stood for hours in the Orangerie. There was a painting by Monet called "Argenteuil" that I remember staring at for a good ten minutes. It was a beautiful impressionist piece, with a gold, antique, very French frame. A small painting. Capable of being looked over, dismissed; eyes carried over it but the feet of passerbys kept moving. The subject is boats (Boats. You laugh. You rub your eye with one hand. 'It's just boats.' That very fact was what captivated me.), with such depth that the minute I laid eyes on it, I fell into it. I stumbled, tripped, and settled into these subtle, comforting colours. I wanted to touch it. Maybe because I wasn't allowed to - when a person is told that they cannot do something, the desire to do that very thing burns now inside them, even though it didn't before. Being rebellious is a pleasure in which only the willing can indulge. The urge to take my face and press it against the painting was so strong that my hands were tense and I could almost feel the canvas against my cheek, like waking up to find yourself lying on hard, cool pavement. Looking at that painting left me standing there, crossed arms and cocked head (in true connoisseur of fine arts fashion) like an idiot, a true simpleton, a cherub freshly dropped on Earth and has scraped its knees.

It's funny, the things that people are willing to put themselves through when they're travelling. On any other day in Canada, waiting in line for two and a half hours in the heat to see a pile of bones underground would be a colossal waste of time. But in Paris, somehow it just feels right. Waiting in that line, as sweat filled my tank top and even my sunglasses couldn't completely block the glaring sun, I felt dizzy from both the impending heat stroke and the excitement of what was to come. The sun beating down on me simply alluded to the culture I was about to absorb. This is worth it, I kept saying every time I had to lean against a tiny fence that wrapped around the perimeter. Somehow, this ridiculous waiting time felt justified. The catacombs were chilling, both physically and mentally.

When we went inside Notre Dame, I felt like I was being assaulted - I somehow didn't expect it to be beautiful, and severely so. On the other hand, I felt slightly sheepish and guilty - I was infatuated with the gorgeous religious imagery. My grandmother is religious, a Roman Catholic with a capital C, devout and stubborn, so naturally I was sent to a catholic elementary school in which I found nothing stimulating nor believable. So, standing in the grandiose yet crowded cathedrale de Notre Dame, I couldn't help but feel strange about my love for the art but apathy for the religion. We lit a candle for my grandmother in one of the cathedrals and thus ended our personal tour de Notre Dame.

I said to my mother one night, "I think that Paris would be the perfect place to take a significant other. Now I know why everyone says this place is so damn romantic. That's because it is." People who visit Paris without a significant other still become a lover of Paris, but also become Paris' lover. She caresses you in the cafes, holds your hand in the art galleries, and messes with your hair in Versailles. She never sleeps, her soft lights shining in the dark, crisp street.

I have never been more introspective. I didn't learn much about myself, but I was very much content on the inside. My thoughts were constant and loud, but happy. On the last night, as I was leaning my hips against the wrought-iron bars across our large apartment window and playing Francoiz Breut on my phone, my mother was chattering away with my sister on her phone and I felt... full. It was cold outside, the night for Parisians had not ended yet, and I felt full of culture and experience; soft, warm, and satisfied. Paris was a hearty meal, one with which I needed no dessert or tea afterward.

Je suis desolee que je ne peux pas trouver les mots qui sont le plus beau pour decrire Paris, mais j'espere que vous me comprennez.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Short story

The boards are terribly brittle. His breathing is heavy and his hands are clammy and cold; shut tight like a clam. There's no pearl in there. The sky is a rich, heavy dark blue, the kind of sky people drink wine under, and the image of a demure woman leaning her hip against a kitchen counter dances across his mind and then dissipates. The boards groan and sigh under his weight but he feels strangely sedated. To look up, however, would be obscene, an almost instant reveal, a head peeking from a slit in the curtain before a big show. So instead he looks down at the planks as he nimbly hops from one to the next across the abandoned building, partially exposed every few seconds by the large windows. He notices that the planks are all the same dull maroon colour, like dried blood that was ineffectually scrubbed out of a garment and left to become a permanent blemish. He feels like this colour. His legs are starting to hurt and the air cuts his lungs, but a small part of his brain tells him that everything he's feeling is deserved. He starts to sprint, and as his limbs carry him, he feels untouchable, suddenly he's not there anymore, he's not anywhere; her blood isn't cascading, a beautiful arch, a crescendo like Beethoven; the silver edge isn't sharp, it's glistening; his footprints are in the sand, he just needs to get to the other side -

He slips. It isn't a noble, merciful plunge, it's abrupt, and throws his body against itself as he claws at the plank and finally grips it with an awkward slap. His body now swings dilatorily, like a pendulum. He pauses to catch his breath, then like water sputtering through a spigot, he lets out an uncontrollable sob. It pours from him, emptying him, an hourglass turned over. It's a breathless shout that doesn't fill the space. It's unsatisfactory. What immediately follows is deathly silence. Somewhere a rat skitters across the cement and a horn honks apathetically.  He shakily heaves himself onto the plank, coughing from the dust and the dryness of his throat. He brushes the paint flecks off the hem of his jeans, a habitual act of vanity, and sits down, legs dangling like a child. Emptying the contents of his pockets, he pulls a stick of gum, a receipt, some lint, and exactly $1.35. He reads the tiny inscription at the bottom of the soft, crumpled receipt. Thank you, please come again. Usually this message is impersonal and passive, but tonight it speaks directly to him. Thank you. Thank you for what? He says it out loud. Thank you. It feels gentle, yet solid on his tongue - hard to swallow. It means nothing to him, but he smiles anyway. Please come again. I can't, he urges the words, as if they're physical. But they remain there nevertheless, printed on the receipt and branded under his eyelids. 

His mind wanders and lands on the faceless woman sipping wine from a clear glass. Her hip shifts slightly, almost provocatively, as she leans against the counter. She's laughing. But this time, he imagines the glass dropping on the floor, shattering but making no sound, the wine snaking across the tile floors. It looks like the colour of the planks before they faded. The dark sky drips on the floor, in her hair, it covers her, and the image is gone. 

He leaves the receipt, arranging the coins and the gum on top of it. All that remains are the words and the sound of runaway feet hitting decaying wood. 

Thank you, please come again. 

Monday, 8 June 2015

Sonnet

Who is it that winks in soft daylight here?
If I were but a shell of myself you;
Of all would turn away and disappear
For all is changed save my skin and its hue 
So wherefore, I ask, is your laugh so strange?
These lines so unfamiliar and new
Are etched into your porcelain skin; changed
Not thy appearance, but thy moral view
Milky white is your treachery and though
Your sweet speech is still novelty to me
It is cold, near hated, and lost its glow
And I know not the person that I see.
   What appeared to be a look of true pain
   Was to me indifference; cold before rain