Archive for July, 2018


Space, occupied.

July 16, 2018

Twisted and tied up,
a pretzel person flexible and fluid
Set free to swing in these ropes,
With a desire to push further than once thought possible.
We stretch and strain muscles,
expanding elasticity –
body and mind aligned in a mission of how to find ways
to occupy space and
make sensible use of time,
finite though it may seem
there’s still so much of it in a day.

Ample opportunities to play,
to have a say in the ways
we inhabit the hours,
even when giving over that schedule to someone else’s dream.
We can scheme to get away,
to escape
but perhaps the place to start,
an opening of heart
and seeing that this isn’t such a bad way
to spend the day.
And if it is so,
then go,
get out and find somewhere else to be,
keep digging at the foundations
of who you would like to see yourself as
until sanity reigns
and sense finds itself at home on the daily.

Because anything else just seems crazy.


Festival season

July 13, 2018

We live at the bottom of the mountain. With the spring sun comes the winter runoff, and this prepares us, to some extent, for the deluge of summer. I don’t know how many more years we can do this though, I’m terrified that we’re running out of room. And once the mountain is full, I honestly don’t know what will happen next.

Some years ago, two men arrived at the bottom of the mountain, red car rag top dust trailing behind. Their shiny shoes matched their shiny glasses, showing only that which looked at them, not what they saw. Their smiles were broad and insincere, half hidden by well kept whiskers, and the crisp white cards they carried promised usury. We were suspicious, tried to steer them elsewhere, but old Mr. Ellis, whose family had owned the top of the mountain since way back, he was always a sucker for feeling important. Being the youngest of nine, he’d lived a lifetime of being passed over, until time gave him what he’d always considered his birthright, putting his siblings in the ground and him in charge. And those shiny men, they cottoned to that right away. It was only a matter of time before he gave them exactly what they wanted. Access.

Since then, every year they return, bringing a whole swath of folks with them. I remember reading somewhere, ‘after three, the multitude,’ as though something magical can be kept quiet until enough know about it, and then there’s no stopping it. And not everyone knows how to react to things that are magical. People are just as likely inclined to stamp it out, destroy it, as to cherish and respect it. Perhaps more so.

Sometimes I think those men were devils and when Mr. Ellis shook their hands, made a deal, that was the three they needed, and it invited a torrent of people looking for somewhere to be. Most people seem to live for escaping their lives, they work and they toil and they stress, and for short amounts of time, they escape that drudgery, they vacate. I’m not sure they think about the people who live in the places they’re vacationing to. They don’t think about the work they create, the mess they leave behind. They come with their shiny shoes and their shiny blacked out eyes and tell us of the economic growth they’re burdening us with. Oh, excuse me, benefitting us with.

Mama says I shouldn’t complain. It is how it is, and there is no reason to grumble over what is. All that does is make one frustrated and that helps no one. I try to be like her and not to worry so much, but she’s not been down into the mines and seen what goes on there after the summer folk leave. I wish I could tell her, but so far it’s just me and young Jack who know about it….


Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

July 10, 2018

A knock on the door in the middle of the night is rarely a good omen.

Laura could see, through the picture window of the living room, the police car parked on the street as she crossed sleepily to the door, pulling her threadbare terrycloth robe tight, cinching the mismatched belt haphazardly. She could hear stirring in the bedroom behind her, knew that Harvey had been sleeping fitfully this night. She shouldn’t have burdened him with truth. But it was far too late to put the lid back on, and steadied herself as she opened the door.

Sergeant Elliot Hargreaves, recently promoted within the sheriff’s department of their county, hovered on the porch with as much authority as someone who has to deliver bad news could muster.

“Laura. I’m so sorry about this. I mean…it’s just that..”

“Elliot, you’re going to have to get better at this. You’re a sergeant now. Don’t stammer or try to sugar coat it. A police man at the door in the wee hours is rarely a cause for celebration. You can do this.”

He cleared his throat, staring at a spot on the porch between them, his fingers drumming on the edge of the screen door he held open. When he met her eyes, she could see that the sensitive young man she’d held tight when his mama couldn’t anymore, weakened as she’d been by the cancer which ultimately finished her, had taken a step back. She didn’t let the smile of pride find it’s way to her lips, instead meeting his attempt at stoicism with her own.

“Laura, your husband is dead.” If he registered her non-surprise, he didn’t let it show. He waited, letting the words sink in, watching the gamut of emotions rage in the shadows that lined her eyes. They closed tight and he took a step into the house, in case she was about to pitch forward. He should have known better, for when her lids flashed open, there was a fire in there all those years of abuse had never quite been able to douse.

“How long ago? And where?” Her matter of fact questions pushed a length of steel into his spine and he set his shoulders into what he hoped was a more official stance before responding.

“A couple of hours ago, just south of town. Presumably heading toward Jezzy’s bar when his car went off the highway and plowed full tilt into one of those big maples on Winchester. It killed him instantly if he wasn’t already dead. Without an autopsy it’s difficult to say, but coroner’s guess is a heart attack.” He looked down at his boots for a moment. When he looked back up, Laura had fixed her dark eyes on him. He looked down again. When he spoke again, his voice was quiet, hesitant.

“When my mama got sick, and I was going to drop out of school to take care of her, you wouldn’t let me. You told me to stay in school, make something of myself. I know that you got more hell than usual from your husband, everyone in town knows how mean that old bastard was to you, but you never stopped coming by and taking care of her. All the way to the very end.”

“Your mama was a damn fine woman, Elliot. She raised you as right as she could, considering she didn’t have much help, and she’d be mighty proud of the man you turned out to be.” He continued as though he’d not heard her.

“I came home from school early one day, just before graduation. The two of you were in the screened in porch where she liked to sit on the good days. You didn’t hear me come in. I heard you telling her how you could fix it, if she needed to..” his voice broke a touch and Laura wrapped her arms around herself, to keep from reaching out, knowing what he was about to say.

“ check out. You told her there were options, and you could make her a concoction that would help her sleep and not be in any more pain.”

His eyes met hers, brightly washed with tears. He cleared his throat and balled his fist to wipe one eye, and then the other, his other hand gripping the edge of the screen door tight.

“When she died in her sleep while I was away at college, I knew it was you. I was so angry at you for that, for waiting until I was away. I even thought about making an anonymous call to Walter, to let him know the department should do a toxicology report, see what turned up. Not that it could have done much to bring her back.” She met his eyes, nothing but sadness and compassion in hers.

“She made the decision, honey. She knew you were going to be just fine, and didn’t want you to worry about her anymore. It was so bad at the end, she would have hated you to see her like that. It was hard to let her go, but harder still to see her suffer.”

“Did your husband suffer? Before his heart attack? There was a bottle of whiskey in the car with him. If the lab did tests on it, would they find traces of something that might have caused him some distress before he took a header into that maple?”

Her silence spoke volumes.

“Well, some mysteries might have to remain just that. Especially considering the bottle was accidentally smashed when the new corporal didn’t notice it in his blind spot and backed over it.”

Laura felt a smile tug at the corner of her mouth.

“I’m real sorry for everything you had to put up with from that piece of work. If you ask me, he finally got what was coming to him. There’ll be some paperwork to fill out whenever you get some time to come down to the station. Good night, Laura.”

“Good night, Elliot. I’m glad it was you who came to tell me. And thank you.”

“I’ll always be grateful for the kindness you showed my mama. You’re a good woman, you deserve a good man.” His suddenly young face split in a broad grin. “Give Harvey my regards. Ma’am.” He tipped his hat to her and walked down the steps.

Laura’s laugh followed him through the closed door.


What’s past is prologue.

July 3, 2018

The sound of the screen door slamming was nearly eclipsed by the crack of thunder that rolled across the sky. She closed her eyes, and let the weight of the last ten years slide in salty paths down her cheeks, as the heavens opened in commiseration.

The sound of his engine roared and it wasn’t a stretch to imagine his tires tearing up the lawn, which never got a chance to recover from his obstinate refusal to use the driveway, though perhaps now it finally would.

She glanced at the sideboard, at the document next to a dust ring where a bottle she wouldn’t miss used to sit. At the signature he’d thrown at the paper more than written, white knuckle grip on the pen, which lay discarded once he’d finished with it. She knew just how it felt.

She poured the last drops of whiskey from his glass, rinsed it clean and pushed herself away from the kitchen sink. Walking to stand at the back door, she watched the rain wash the world clean. And then gave a throaty chuckle as she saw the heavy drops splashing mud up onto the side of the house. She stepped out onto the back porch, the warm July rain making short work of the tears on her cheeks, streaking the blue of her sundress darker, bringing it closer to the purple of the aconite flowers that bloomed in boxes lining the edge of the deck.
Revelling in the feel of the water soaked wood under her bare soles, she walked down the three steps into the yard. It stretched toward the willow trees which hung over the river, obscured by a mess of brambles he’d had always promised to remove, but never did.

Taken by a sudden urge, she grabbed the long handled clippers lying next to the stairs and strode through the tall grass, feeling the sodden earth sink beneath her feet.

She started attacking the brambles, clipping randomly with a fury well matched by the tempest around her. Not noticing when the thorns cut her arms and legs, she took out all of her rage at the way she’d let herself be treated on the prickly bushes until she realized someone was calling her name.

“Laura, what the hell?”
Her closest neighbour, Harvey, stood askance a few paces away. His short dark hair, peppered with grey, sticking to his scalp. The concern in his eyes was genuine and she smiled ruefully, suddenly aware of how she must look.

“He signed. He even toasted me, and then took the rest of the whiskey with him, thank god. It’s finally over, really and truly.” She let out a ragged sigh that deepened and pulled an unbidden sob from the centre of her chest. The clippers dropped in the space of time it took Harvey to close the distance and wrap his arms around her.

The moment he had her, she let go, her screams absorbed by the soon to be damper cotton of his workshirt, her body spasmodic with the pain of release. He maintained his calm, an eye to her storm, while the torrent soaked them both. He felt her grow still, her breath coming in gasps and halting hiccups. He waited until he felt her quiet and gently pulled back. She wiped the back of her hand across her rain soaked cheeks before realizing the futility of the act. The absurdity of it struck her and she let out a hoarse chuckle that soon gave way to hearty laugh. Harvey registered that he’d not seen Laura laugh in a long time, and it gave him hope. Although..

She saw the shadow cross his face, and quelled her mirth.
“What is it?”

“Do you think signing the divorce papers will really keep him from coming back?”

“Not likely, he’s too much of a bastard for that. But the monk’s hood I infused into his damn whiskey will make sure he doesn’t.”

The sudden chill Harvey felt had nothing to do with the rain.


Last ones.

July 1, 2018

How many of your birthdays did I miss? Yet you missed none of mine. Even when I wasn’t there for it, you were. I saved all your cards, somehow a card written in your hand was special to me. As though dads weren’t totally expected to show sentimentality thus, and you doing so meant something. Plus I love that you wrote in tiny capitals. There is something about it, how it gives weight to each letter, not just the first one, which I appreciate.
I liked making you cards. I liked writing poems in them, they always said basically the same thing.
I’m glad you’re my dad.
How fortunate for this budding poet that so many things rhyme with dad.
You saved all my cards. Mum gave them back to me after you died. You printed and saved all the emails I wrote too, the first time I went to Paris. I don’t know why your sentimentality surprised me, but it did.
I remember the first time I was aware that you would mute the television when I practiced the piano. Not just during the commercials, either. That probably should have been a clue.

How many of your birthdays did I spend away, at festivals, events, busy, so busy, nearly too busy for anything but a quick call. To let you know that I remembered what day it was. That whatever was happening, whatever drunk fireworkedoverdone shout it out via massive speaker array to prove… what, exactly? That we are patriotic party animals? nonsense was occurring at the time, I knew in my heart what today actually meant.

Happy birthday, papa.
Thanks, kiddo.

Not much more than that.
But that last one. The one I came home for. I was living in Berlin with that sweet boy and I talked about coming home for soundwave, for your birthday. And he insisted I should, because “It’s your dad!”

And so I did, and the return ticket got messed up because I asked a friend to use his credit card to book it, and it was a German site and he didn’t realize it was june 26-29 instead of june26-july29 and customs was certainly suspicious why I’d be flying back to Germany 3 days after I landed, and that was the first moment I realized there had been a mistake.

I was tempted to kiss you hello and then wave goodbye three days later, sure that my life was in Europe at that point. But no. I came back for your birthday. I came back for soundwave.

We went ziplining. Your 72nd birthday and we went ziplining. Why did it take me so long to discover what a daredevil you were in some ways?
You went skydiving for your 60th birthday. I missed that one too.

But not this one.
I remember receiving an invitation to a party in Vancouver. I was on the verge of asking you to drive me to the ferry. On your birthday. And I knew that you would. I knew that you’d be sad, but you’d understand. I spent so many years running away, it was a default for me. It still is, sometimes.
But I stayed. I’m so grateful I did.

And we had barbecue, we had beers. And after dinner, the yearly tradition of tequila shared. You and Barry, and a blue bottle he brought from Costa Rica. The womenfolk gather themselves up, and head inside, leaving you to it.
For some reason, the two of you invited me to stay.

We drank that entire bottle between the three of us. I wish I could remember in exacting detail, everything that was said. It doesn’t matter though because I remember how it felt. I remember how it felt to finally be there, for the entirety of your birthday, for the first time in a long time.

It felt perfect.

We laughed and we talked about the future and the world and our places in it, and you rejoiced that I had managed to stop being such a silly person with her head firmly ensconced in her own ass and had turned out to be a pretty good kid, all in all. That you thought I was going to be just fine. And I laughed and told you it was all your fault.

Which, ironically, was the thing I said to you on the phone less than a year later, as you lay dying in a hospital bed in Victoria while I was hustling to get there. That everything good about me is all your fault. You told me you loved me, and that was the last coherent thing I ever heard you say.

As far as last ones go, both that birthday and those words are about the best thing ever. I’m so grateful for all of it.

Happy birthday, papa.


%d bloggers like this: