here I am, a body of memories:

the feet of a walker, coarse and flattened,

thousands of miles have I roamed.

feet that carried the weight of fluctuations

between body love and body shame.

ankles that were cursedly passed on

thick and boney, yet never failing.

calves that connect to the worst joint of

this body of memories: the knees,

the targets of frustrated students.

too many kicks, too many times,

knees that cannot ever decide

whether or not to give out on the stairs.

here I am, a body of memories,

a painful sciatic nerve sending sharp

reminders to move. no, lie still.

belly of Buddha, plump and rolling,

memories of salty and savoury.

here I am, a body of memories

a heart full of love for decades old babies

who nestled all snug in my womb and

now live contently in the small of my heart.

the neck that says oh, what a wonderful

life you have lived full of sunshine unfettered.

here I am, a body of memories,

a face with stories of laughter and

sunburns and a tree in the woods.

eyes of a father, mom’s cute button nose,

a head of hair that wavers between

mousey and the shining grey of later life.

here I am, a body of memories,

a woman of a certain age.

something from the summer I want to remember would be

the mornings at the cottage, each one filled with anticipation,

a sense of possibility, those butterflies I have missed in this

‘unprecedented time’

possibility, anticipatory joy

those beautiful feelings have left the dance floor

they no longer tango through my mind, or

swing by to take me by the hand and spin me

into the future

but on the dock, as I looked up and down the river

I felt hopeful, anxious – the good kind – the kind that

makes small children inhale their food so they can

‘get life going already!’

not me.

I took my bowl of oatmeal, resplendent with

summer berries and sat in the sunshine,

and I inhaled

the possibilities of the day

remind me who I am

without the edges

of my life

without the random encounters

bumped shoulders

banalities, apologies

face-to-face chance meetings

found in the city

surrounded by the buzz of human energy


remind me who I am

without the legroom

of nature

where the delicate flower

can heal the wounds

that isolation opened

expanded, left unprocessed

how do I feel without

certainty

anticipatory joy

the capacity to grieve



who am I

do I matter

in this moment

hour, day, year

of adjourned life



remind me who we are

behind the mask

the shuttered storefronts

hollow corridors

behind the automated, portentous doorways of hospitals

behind the windshields of trucks feeding a nation

behind the plexiglass

behind our fear



remind me who I am

use words plucked out of the air

for I can no longer

safely

touch the page

inspired by Touch Me by Stanley Kunitz

there’s an eagle and a tree
on a card
on my desk
I keep it because
the eagle is strength
free
to say those words out loud
I keep it because
the tree is nature
with deep roots that
ground me
in those moments
I want to escape
from the candor
on the page
I keep it because
it came from a place
of embodied creativity
I want to capture the artist’s
dedication to her craft
bottle it and take a sip
each morning when I sit to write
or during the dark night
when the questions surface
why make the effort?
who hears the whispers in the wind?
I keep it because
it speaks to the loneliness
of putting words into
the hollow

thank you to Firefly Creative Writing for the prompt and Alana Hansen for the beautiful work of art adorning my desk

A couple weeks ago I submitted a poem to The Power Plant Contemporary Art Museum’s Power of the Poets contest. The idea was to write based on an artist’s work. I chose Black Cloud by Carlos Amorales and wrote from the duality of this view of his work and our current state of isolation.

Though not successful I was happy to throw my net for writing a bit wider.

black cloud, 2020

beauty
marked by distress

despondency
tinted by expectation

out there, life
former
altered, wounded, flaccid

in here, swarmed
obscurity
shadows, panic, death

stillness
streaked with approximations

expectation
shaded with suspicion

out there, anticipating
tomorrow
next week, month, year

in here, trembling
survival
dismay, agitation, loss

hush
mixed with intrigue

grief
mingled with reprieve

out, potential

in, subsistence

when this is over

I want to walk

city streets

maintain social distance

from steel and concrete

see the sun gleam

off skyscraper windows

seek shade

in graffitied alleys

I want to feel

the energy of people

coming from everywhere

going to somewhere

the man carrying

a briefcase

in a rush to return to the world

who, long ago

spent hours with his tailor

getting the cut of his suit

just right

when this is over

I want to buy lunch

at a food court

where people will

line up on

red circles for safety

I want to walk up

a broad avenue

past all the healing houses

see families clustered

at entrances

into those places

filled with people

who embraced all our fears

while living with

their own

when this is over

I want to pass by

the hot dog vendor’s cart

smell street meat

catch some banter

between purveyor

and customer

discussions of the particulars

of orders

when this is over

I want to sit under

a bamboo canopy

with my son and talk

about anything but

a virus that

shut down the world

when this is over

I want to walk along

a long street

and be grateful

when I stop

at a cafe for

some baked goods

and a yellow latte

full of warmth and

familiarity

when this is over

I want to walk

through the park

to be in nature

the kind that you only

find in the city

I’ll hear a mom

tell her child

it’s okay, the swing

is safe

and I’ll send her strength

because

being a mom

will be fraught with more

than the usual fears

when this is over

I want to walk into

a favourite bookstore

browse the shelves

touching only

with my eyes

and I will leave

my digital signature

when I find a hardcover friend

to broaden my understanding

when this is over

I want to hear a child

laughing

and I’ll sing their song

all the way home

when this is over

I want to get on the train

and hear people

talking too loudly

on the upper levels

even though it’s

rush hour

and we’re all meant to

be quiet

no one will mind

we will all be grateful

when this is over

we all want

to hear people

smell nourishment

feel the energy

of the city

and be patient

as we embrace

the new ways

of life

thanks to Firefly Creative Writing for two weeks of bringing me to the page at their morning coffee sessions

 

it’s spring, so

I want to touch nature

I want to walk

on aged pathways

head through fields

earth untrodden

places I’ve never seen

high in the mountains

down in the meadows

it’s spring, so

I want to be

out venturing in

the world

standing below the

cherry trees

in Trinity Bellwoods

walking among the

people of the city

watching the pugs

in their t-shirts

greet one another

at each end of

their perfect

pugness

it’s spring, so

I want to be

taking off

the wooden eye covers

of the little house

in the woods

raking pine needles

I abandoned

in my October rush

to begin a 19-day

bedside vigil

it’s spring, so

I want to be airing

out rooms

wiping down cupboards

to be filled

with staples

I want to fold

fresh linens and

place them in neat piles

on the shelves

fill the wood box

that imperfectly

perfect structure

I made with D.K.

it’s spring, so

I want to pull on

my wetsuit over

my winterized body

take my paddleboard

onto the river

and pretend it’s

July

it’s spring, so

I want to go to

the fruit stand

and buy too many

pots of flowers

that will burn in

the late August sun

I want to walk in

a half-marathon

that torturous

indicator

that age has not

sidelined me yet

it’s spring, so

I want to sit

at a table just

inside the door of

my favourite café

get too hot

when the sun

streams in

I want to

turn my face

in the direction

of children discovering

a trail of ants

I want to hear

wonder and

curiosity

laughter and gossip

it’s spring, so

I want to

see and touch and

feel

all the things

that make me

alive

 

This morning’s writing session from Firefly Creative Writing began with a reading of Eagle Poem by Joy Harjo. Chris, who led the writing session, read the poem and asked us to find a word, or a phrase, or something else that struck a chord with this and do some free writing.

For me, the line swept our hearts clean with sacred wings stood out and so I went with that.

the moments I have witnessed

the moment of life

I have witnessed

a moment where

life swept our hearts

clean

the journey was complete

for a suspended moment

there was you

your beginnings

no sound

the suspension between

when you were there

and when you were

here

life swept our hearts

clean

your presence central

in the chaos

breathe in

the moment of life

I have witnessed.

 

the moment of community

I have witnessed

a moment where

love swept our hearts

clean

the emptiness was complete

for a suspended moment

there was only two

just a girl

and a boy

no sound

the suspension between

when you were hidden

and when you were

seen

love swept our hearts

clean

your presence embraced

the forest

breathe in

the moment of community

I have witnessed.

 

the moment of death

I have witnessed

a moment where

life swept our hearts

clean

the emptiness was complete

for a suspended moment

there was nothing

no feeling

no sorrow

no sound

the suspension between

when you were here

and when you were

there

death swept our hearts

clean

your presence evaporated

in the silence

breathe in

the moment of death

I have witnessed.

There’s the kind of hugs that a toddler gives, the little humans who barrel down the hall at the sound of the front door opening. The hugs that hit you full force, mid-leg; you cannot move or reciprocate but only take in all that day-long, pent-up love, because as quickly as it started the squeezer hug is over and the little human toddles away, satiated.

There’s the kind of hugs that happen at airports, the goodbye ones that you try not to fill with anxiety or sorrow, the ones you try to imprint with every ounce of your love, enough, at least, until ‘next time’. There’s the kind that are ‘hello’, ‘welcome home’, ‘my gosh I have missed you, don’t ever go away again’. There’s the ones where you share the vulnerability of being apart.

There’s the kind of hug that says ‘I do’ even when there’s no piece of paper from City Hall or a church or any witnesses, the kind that binds two hearts forever. There’s the kind that says, ‘I’m sorry, I thought we’d make it, I loved our time together, goodbye.’

There’s the kind of hug that says everything when words fail you. The ones that are offered to try to alleviate unbearable sadness, grief, loss. There’s the kind of hug you give someone, so they know they’re not alone in life, in struggles, in death.

There’s the hugs you squandered when you thought they came in an endless supply. The ones from someone who is now out of reach.

(thank you to Firefly Creative Writing for the morning coffee session prompts this week and Shari and Mike Photograph in Vancouver for the photo of a sibling pre-wedding hug)

These days I’m being carried by words. Words of those leading guided meditations, the words that remind me to breathe, and focus on the spaces in between. The words of instruction about how to squat and roll over and rest. Words of my favourite yoga instructor telling me to keep seeking comfort in movement and be gentle with myself. The words of young moms finding their way in this uncharted territory of pandemic and new motherhood. The words of parents trying to be all things to all people.

These days I’m being carried by words. Words of people suffering loss who cannot be with others to mitigate their grief. Words of front-line workers, the tentative ‘hello’ of a grocery clerk who has been berated and can relax when they see that we see them. Words of nurses who are carrying the burden of being the last person to touch and comfort too many people. Words of doctors begging people to stay home. Words of people full of sorrow and anger over losses contrasted against the ignorance of others who feel hard done by in a world of restrictions and believe their anger and resistance belongs on top of others’ lives.

These days I’m being carried by words. Words of my son who asks how are you doing, are you okay, do you need a hug, this casserole is amazing, thank you. Words of my husband wondering how my writing is going, do you want a salad/dinner/hug, how was your walk, what can I do, thank you for keeping us safe. Words of my daughter from the other side of the country, checking in, trying to make sense of things, sharing words of sunshine that she finds in each day.

These days I’m being carried by words. Words that make it on to the page. Words of my classmates who encouraged me. Words of my instructor who told me to keep going, that I got my words right. Words of writers putting their stories and their imaginations out into the world. Words that help to relieve the sorrow, to recognize the grief, to touch the part of people that distance has created. Words of hope, sadness, life.

These days I’m being carried by words. Words of health officials and scientists telling me how I can help, what effect I can have, and what they hope will be next. Words of politicians who have surprised me, sounding a little more leader, a little less divisive. Words of journalists questioning political truths which are false, numbers which are fixed, history which is fictionalized.

These days I’m being carried by words.