Sunday, 22 October 2017

high and canada dry



the barenaked ladies are eleven years older than me.

and gord downie is dead.

"53, man. what a young age to go."

that's what tyler stewart said to me when i met him backstage, on their concert on the day that gord downie died. 

they sang ahead by a century and ed robertson cried a bit. i cried too. the tragically hip was part of my childhood - long car rides to the cottage were punctuated by gord's familiar and distinct crooning. to me, the tragically hip was summer and long expanses of land where you couldn't see anything beyond the sunset. the first time i listened to wheat kings and 38 years old after i hadn't heard them in many years, i cried because it opened something in my heart that was always there. it was like finding an old blanket from when you were very young and crying because it's so beautiful and so comforting. gord provided some beauty for my childhood and he is one of the reasons i love being canadian.

the barenaked ladies are another reason.

i wore a t shirt to the concert that says "without music, life would Bb". i bought it at a thrift store and thought was funny and stupid. but i couldn't have found a better night to wear it. gord made life 3D. the barenaked ladies are still doing that. and like my t shirt, they started as a bad joke but became something profound.

the barenaked ladies are 29 years old. their members are even older. maybe that's why there was an awkward silence when my friends and i spoke to jim, and to fill it my friend urged him to smell her lemon-scented yellow rain boots (yes, this is a real thing). he thought she wanted him to sign them and we watched him hesitantly pop open the sharpie cap to which she frantically explained that she wanted him to smell them.

he said they didn't really smell like lemons.

life moves fast. things change. you're young and then suddenly everyone else is old, and you still feel young. it's like how regina spektor said you're young until you're not, except you're young until you realize how freaking old everyone else is. that means i'm getting older too, but for awhile i think i'll still feel like my life is just beginning.

so as my life is still beginning, another ends. maybe it was too soon, but gord was always ahead by a century, so maybe he made up for it.

listening to gord is making me cry
you're leaving me high and canada dry

Monday, 2 October 2017

I saw that I could love

when your arms first collided with me i felt as if i had known you for years, and technically i had, but not in that way. you laughed into my ear and i held fast to your hands because i was drunk and it was late and i couldn't lose this feeling. jello shots were held in the air and as you reached for one i still held onto your hands. i was waiting for the next necessary step, wanting to let the messy drunk hook up run its course, and it didn't. although i pulled your sweater off and tossed it to you in one hasty and indifferent gesture, the feeling of the fabric lingered on me even as i ended the night at home.

when we drank limeade and gin on your balcony i leaned back in my chair and you asked me how my summer has been. as i replied i could see the way you listened to me, how your eyes sparkled and you smiled at me for no reason. i knew then that nothing had died a month ago, and my mistake was written in the way you looked at me.

when i spent the morning at your house and we lay watching tv, our heads were on separate pillows but you later described their closeness as awkward. it was only awkward because we both wanted to be much closer. but we still talked with the ease of friends and it was okay.

when i hugged you i told myself that i couldn't let my lips leave without kissing yours. and so i did. i casually waved goodbye but when i entered my house i swung open the door of my mother's room and jumped on her covers, half whispering and half wheezing that i had kissed him, and that it was great.

but what i cannot describe is when you grabbed my face, looked into my eyes, said my name and whispered "i love you". that is a feeling i cannot reproduce.

i am still holding fast to your hands, miles away, stretching as far as i can, and you are stretching back.

The arts

give me beautiful words
and i will give you mine
and then nothing
will be left
for anyone else
then our words will
have conquered 
like rome conquered
greece with weapons

but do not forget
that greece conquered
rome with love. 

Here

As the ocean reaches out to me
the sand escapes and flows over my toes 
and I dig them deeper, the coarseness soothes.

And I realize there is something so simple 
about the amniotic water lapping in and out
of the mouths of clams.

The ocean reaches further, she wraps around
the bare skin of my feet and I curl my toes
but the saltwater is cold and the tide is strong.

I was not born here,
but I see a womb in the cluster of mussels
on the side of a dilapidated fishing boat.

I was not born here,
but here I am. 

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Nothing is terminal

Fingertips make valleys
in undiscovered skin and
on yours my hands 
have hardly made ravines.

But I know that
your freckles don't spill
over your skin like flecks of
cosmic dust,
they are carefully placed
so that I remember them.

I know your smile,
the way it looks 
and how it feels
pressed against mine
in the pause before a kiss,
vivid and human. 

I didn't know the feeling
of the floor then 
the way that I do now,
a landscape of tangled legs
and feather duvets and
the unforgiving flatness 
of the varnished oak
that becomes forgotten. 

One day my fingertips
will leave valleys
my kisses will taste like saltwater
and when leaving doesn't kill me 
then I'll understand 
that nothing is terminal,
not even love. 

Over here the ocean stretches forever
and now I think,
the hardwood floor 
would be such a nice place
to lay my head. 

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.