Cycling

Back when kitchen counters were mysteries
and bunk beds were military fortresses
back when the cracks in the pavement were terrifying canyons
back when neighbours were ogres
and fathers were giants whose shoulders reached into the sky

Back then, once upon a time
a little girl soared effortlessly through the labyrinth of streets
part Cinderella, part Mulan
evading the enemy forces, the dragons, the tram
straddling the back of her dad’s bicycle
she rode Black Beauty and Aladdin’s magic carpet

And she had not yet learned about gravity
which bends space, and time
and even the strongest of backs
gravity, which pulls one body into the orbit of another
nor did she know about acceleration
how everyone moves faster and further apart

But she knew cycling for two is hard work
and that there was a steep slope to climb
before they would find the castle
and she knew she was not the damsel in distress
so she pressed her hands against her father’s back
puffed out her chest, filled up her lungs with tales
and pushed both of them up the hill

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Morning

Sometimes I wait for one whole slow second
and watch the motionless
motionless folds
of the duvet we lie under
– a child’s duvet
blue with stars and planets –
until motionless it expands
expands to enfold
the walls the ceiling
the milky morning sky
for one breathless moment
eclipsing the city and the sun
and everything
until it moves up up
and down with your breathing.
And all the stars in the world
rush back into place.

Posted in Poetry, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Blue Lake with the Little Fish beneath the Snow Mountain

A few years ago I visited Lake Louise, in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The rather wonderful Native American name for this lake gave me the title for this poem.

(Winner of the 2011 Alison Morland Prize, published in Poetry and Audience, Summer 2011. )

Even the sky is bigger in this land:
a blue and white expanse
of scorching heat or icy cold.
It has no history, you said
(like us) just opportunity
and plaques outside buildings
newer than my European house.
So much newer than my Europe.

Yet here is Lake Louise:
so still and blindingly blue
it must have almost been forever
ice becoming water becoming ice
baptized for some heathen princess
who could not have known
what others, though only human, had known:
the little fish, and the snow mountain
and that eternity is almost painfully turquoise.

I did not know then
that history is made by forgetting old names
so I turned the mountains and the forests and the plains
into ‘Where You Live’
like they were turned into ‘Canada’ before;
I did not know then
that even a single moment can be
almost painfully turquoise.

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment

You Would Not Like This Poem

(My first spoken word poem)

You would not like this poem.

This which restrains, reigns in, carefully assigning strait-jackets, pruning a primeval wilderness into a bed of hyacinths here, a row of petunias there. Condensing, molding, shaping into lines, the pillow lines on your face; nuzzling necks, tentative fingers, the night we drained your father’s car battery in Banff; twenty questions, twenty thousand questions, and answers, on buses, trains. Me combing out your mane. Electrons zooming through time and space, conveying the smile on your face to my computer screen. Configuring those final words to yours: I don’t think I can do this anymore…and watch the curtain fall.

And a thousand, hundred thousand moments more than these, which I try, try, try to squeeze into twenty-four lines, 334 words which might just make us bigger, than we ever were.

You see, I found my poetry. I lost it somewhere in my life with you. I should confess, I found a poet too…my ends and my beginnings get confused. I’ve no excuse: I am an unrepentant Mary Magdalene, I myself carved the scarlet letter into my skin, I burned it into my chest, I burned it in.

I am not sorry. But this is an apology, this is a confession.

And poetry?

I tried to tell you about poetry. I thought you with your paint-stained hands would understand, to look at a thing and let it BE. cummings is like Picasso, you know: a colour and a shape and a perspective, that’s all. But you are vision, I am language, and we cannot make them coincide. But how I tried…did I? Hard enough? Was I soft enough, forgiving enough, did I forgive enough, or anything at all? Did I forgive your inability to argue with me? Did I forgive you your religion, the dependence that you chose?

Maybe. But I never could forgive you your ineloquent prose; your want of poetry. So this is an apology. This is a confession. You would not like this poem.

But it’s for you.

Posted in Spoken Word | Leave a comment

Metaphysics

Imagine a room, without you in it
That’s how you began explaining metaphysics
And I, unable to see any difficulty,
Built four walls, a door and a bed in my mind
And always I try to make windows of your eyes
To drag the upholstery out of your head
And lay out your corners between us in bed
With each blaming word I slam one of your doors
Then climb all the way back up to the floor
Back to a room without us in it
Back to misunderstanding your metaphysics

Posted in Poetry | 1 Comment

A Dream of Drowning

I always dream of drowning.
Awake, I can dive in the water
I can fly in the water
I can cool the raging fire
And always my mother cries
From a pier far off in my mind
Don’t go out of your depth
And I, laughing, go further than I dare
And I swim, swim, swim…
But when I dream
I dream of drowning.

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment

Shampoo

With the utter incomprehension
of a calf
I stand in the shower
Graceless limbs stumbling
Over the milky white cream
Filling the bathroom with a rain forest
Washing my own hair

Recently weened.

The newscaster talks of politics
Through the bath tub
While I mistake water
For soap suds
The stinging in my eyes
For shampoo.

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment