poem: Hush

I’ve always been drawn to “moment poems.” They don’t have to be particularly profound or astute, as long as there’s enough rich language to bring me to the moment too. Even the word “moment” is alluring to me. The other day I had a rare moment of tranquility, where the only thing I needed to do was just be present, while my daughter slept. The peace of it wasn’t lost on me, and I tried to capture it here.

 

Hush

She’s fallen asleep in the car

not the gradual kind

but a crash into sleep

where one minute it’s protesting from the back

about the tightness of the seatbelt

and next she is silent

still, a tiny smile on her lips.

We can’t bear to move her,

know the shift and heft from seat

into our arms, no matter how gingerly

will rouse her, fast and unwilling.

He takes her sister inside

and I offer to stay, though I have no book

and don’t want the blare of the radio.

It’s starting to get hot now, the cusp of summer

and I crack open my door to let in the air.

I hear our tenant magpies

from their clever garage-roof vantage.

They always have so much to say.

I envy their passion for debate.

A neighbour, unseen but I’d guess two-houses down

is mowing a lawn, the buzz of the motor

becomes a comfortable constant.

I recline my seat, careful not to bump her legs

getting so much longer now

as they dangle behind me, one white shoe,

with hearts, hanging just from her toes.

I will shut my eyes too

can’t sleep, really, like this

but meditate or at least savour a moment

without demand.

A clatter from behind the car

when brittle leaves,

carcasses of fall, catch a breeze,

and scrape together across the

concrete. There is a pause, then a bolder blowing

that frightens them away under steps

and into grassy corners.

She’s a guardian wind, I think

protective of our quiet here

together. I keep my eyes closed,

do not stir

when she slips into the car

and whispers a lullaby

meant only for the two of us.

 

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Park Bench

I saw this writing prompt to compose a story completely with dialogue — no narration allowed. I figured that would be an interesting challenge. I mean, in a way, this is what playwrights and screenwriters do all the time, but there’s always the idea that it will be brought to life by actors. It’s interesting to think of a dialogue existing only on the page, with characters who will never be more or less than the things they say. So, I decided to try it. I don’t think my first attempt (below) is very successful. Not a lot of conflict here, and nothing much “happens” in the story. But it was fun to write anyway. The idea came from a friend of mine, who years ago, asked why it wasn’t socially acceptable to just tell people when you think they’re beautiful. I am not sure if he ever tried it, but I hope it worked out well if he did.

Park Bench

“Excuse me, I know this is very forward of me, but I just saw you sitting here and I wanted to come over to tell you that I think you’re beautiful.”

“Wow. Thank you, I guess. Is this a pick-up line or something?”

“No, not at all. I’m actually married. Happily. I just think sometimes we need to spread a little joy in the world. Looking at you made me happy. I thought it might make you happy if I told you how beautiful you are. It’s nothing more than that.”

“Have you done this before?”

“What? Told a strange woman she’s beautiful?”

“Yes.”

“No, it’s the first time.”

“Well, you’re very smooth. It seems like something you’ve done before.”

“I am not trying to be smooth. It’s sincere. Is this the first time someone has told you you’re beautiful?”

“No, but it’s the first time a strange man has ever waltzed over to me while I am eating my lunch, trying to read, and so obviously worked to pick me up. I find most people are more subtle.”

“You don’t believe me that I am not trying to woo you here. Listen, you can go on smirking and thinking I am creepy or silly or whatever, but the truth is the world is a dark, sad place, and we don’t take enough time to appreciate things that are beautiful or that make us happy.”

“You are probably right about that. But, do you think your wife would like it that you approach women and call them beautiful?”

“I think she would understand. I’ll probably tell her I did this, actually.”

“You’ll tell her?”

“Yes, when I get home I’ll probably tell her about this whole conversation. Including the fact that you didn’t believe a man could chat with you, and feel gratitude at your beauty, without there being some ulterior motive involved.”

“This is very strange. Honestly, you seem like a nice guy, but this is all just weird.”

“It makes me sad that you’re so taken aback by this. It just proves how wrong things are with our society, that people can’t share a compliment, have a conversation without it being something more.”

“Are you some kind of philosopher or something?”

“Philosopher? Ha, no, I’m a Java developer.”

“Like coffee? Is that what they call baristas these days?”

“Ha ha! No, I work with computers. Web programs.”

“I know. I was kidding.”

“Oh! Very funny. I didn’t get that. You seemed too put out by me to be making jokes.”

“I am less put out now. More intrigued.”

“Well, that’s progress, I suppose. I didn’t necessarily think you would react favourably, when I decided to come tell you, out of the blue, that you’re beautiful. But I didn’t expect you to be so cynical. Surprised, maybe. Embarrassed. Awkward, but not so skeptical.”

“It’s kind of rude to call me cynical. You don’t know me at all.”

“That’s true, and I am not saying you’re always cynical. Just that, in this situation, in the few moments we’ve interacted and I’ve known you, I would describe your nature as cynical.”

“I would describe your nature as batty.”

“Is that another joke?”

“Only partly.”

“What’s your name?”

“Why do you need to know that? I mean, if you have no intention of knowing me after this moment, or trying to persuade me into anything romantic. Why does it matter what my name is?”

“Well, it’s just common courtesy when you meet someone and exchange a few words with them to ask their name.”

“It’s Carrie. And yours?”

“Horatio.”

“No it is not.”

“Yes! Really, I swear. It’s actually Horatio. I knew you wouldn’t believe it.”

“It’s not a very common name. Seems like part of your charming ruse.”

“Again, this is not a ruse. But it is proving to be quite interesting. I didn’t expect that.”

“You keep mentioning expectations. Is this something you considered for a long time, before actually coming over to talk to me?”

“Not today, no, with you specifically. But I have considered for awhile what a situation like this might be like. How a person, a beautiful, strange woman, would react to being told so.”

“I am sorry I didn’t make it easier on you.”

“I’m not, this is a perfectly exciting way to spend a sunny afternoon in the park. It’s refreshing. Makes me feel…optimistic about the world.”

“It’s starting to have that effect on me too.”

“You’re very clever, Carrie. Confident. I can tell all this about you. More than just a pretty face.”

“Now you’re going to make me blush.”

“I don’t think so. I think you already knew that about yourself.”

“You know what’s odd, Horatio? I think you might be able to read me better than people who’ve known me for decades.”

“Maybe you’re more yourself, right now, than you are with people you’ve known for decades”

“It’s possible. Something to consider.”

“Are you leaving?”

“Yeah, I have to get back to work. Thank you , though. For this, chat, or whatever.”

“Happy to do it. Good story to tell now, too. For both of us.”

“I’ll never tell a soul.”

“Really? That weird, huh?”

“No. It’s turned out to be nice. I want to keep it, just for me. My own happy story to hold in my heart when the world seems too dark. Too sad, like you said.”

“That makes me happy. I might do this again sometime.”

“You should, Horatio. You definitely should.”

poem: On Michigan Beach

A few weeks ago, I was going through old boxes in my parents’ basement. One contained a bunch of papers, books and writing from high school. It was a fun little box of discovery and memory, and I found my creative writing assignments from Grade 12. It was interesting to see what my 17-year-old self thought about things. Some pieces were so bad it was funny, and others I don’t remember writing at all, and can’t figure out what would’ve inspired me. But that summer before Grade 12, I had the opportunity to go to this international leadership camp in Michigan. Sounds nerdy, and in ways it was, but it was also an amazing experience for me — especially at that time in my life. I met some interesting and inspiring people from all over the globe, and to a girl who grew up in, (at that time) boring and uniform Saskatoon, meeting people from such exotic places as Ecuador, Ghana and Japan made a pretty big impact. Much of what I wrote about that year came from my few weeks at that camp, including this poem.

 

On Michigan Beach

The pleasant smell of smoke

and burning pine, as fire

steals each face from shadows.

They are laughing, singing,

and in the spaces between

they look at stars.

At night, this place

feels different.

Bigger.

Water and land

kiss softly in darkness.

Sometimes, they are so quiet.

Only the sounds of

breath and waves.

Skin brushing skin.

They huddle in the damp air

and press their memories into sand.

 

 

earworm: “Talking In Your Sleep,” The Romantics (1983)

I have had this song stuck in my head for a few days. It’s catchy. I don’t mind having a fun little ’80s ditty like this in my head…except, I have always thought the lyrics to this to be strange. The singer repeatedly proclaims: “I hear the secrets that you keep, when you’re talking in your sleep.” OK, I am intrigued, Wally Palmar — poofy-haired lead of the Romantics. Just what are these revealing secrets your bedmate shares with you while she’s unconscious? Has she buried a body in the basement? Does she cheat on her taxes? Harbour a secret and disgusting hankering for a spam sandwich? No, apparently, as Wally relays: “You tell me that you want me. You tell me that need me. You tell me that you love me. And I know that I’m right, ’cause I hear it in the night.” Hmm, well Wally, I can’t speak to the specifics of your relationship, but I would assume that if this woman is sleeping in your bed with you, on an implied regular basis, then it’s safe to assume that she probably wants and needs you, at least in a carnal way. Love is a big word, and maybe that’s what she doesn’t like to bandy about openly. I guess I could understand how her inability to express her true emotions, at least in waking hours, might be troubling for you. But I have to say, I find her secrets a little vanilla. I was hoping for something a tad more juicy.

Unless…he is not actually in a relationship with this woman at all, and just sneaks into her room at night while she slumbers. Now, that’s creepy. And illegal. I will give him the benefit of the doubt in this situation, and assume maybe she is a roommate or something, but it’s still weird. This scenario does match better with the video, which is both hilarious and disturbing as it features lingerie-clad women apparently asleep while standing, until the band members come along and wake them with their truly awesome ’80s riffs. I do appreciate the bass player’s head groove though. I think I will adopt that as my trusted move to this song.

The Civil Wars covered this, and it sounds like a completely different song altogether. When I hear their haunting duet, I don’t even really think about the meaning behind the lyrics. The emotion is all there in their voices. But perhaps I shouldn’t be seeking meaning in an old pop-rock hit anyway. The Romantics also sing “What I Like About You” which is also so very, very catchy. Like a persistent cold.

earworm: “Sour Girl”, Stone Temple Pilots (2000)

I woke up with “Sour Girl” by Stone Temple Pilots, running through my head. Whenever I think of this song, it reminds me of my internship at the first newspaper I ever worked for. There was an older reporter there (not old; probably about as old as I am now, but from my 21-year-old eyes, he definitely seemed older than me). Anyway, he was pretty cool — a little skeevy sometimes, with the up-and-down-and-up-again eye scan of every female, but still a nice guy at the core. And he had good taste in music. I heard him going on about this song to another reporter. I knew the song. It was a big hit for STP that summer of 2000. But I didn’t really pay much attention to it, until my eavesdropping forced me to listen again. I liked STP well enough. I was a ’90s girl, and the grinding guitars of “Sex Type Thing” and Scott Weiland’s deep growl on “Dead and Bloated” worked for me. Much about Scott Weiland worked for me, in fact. Heroin addiction and perpetual philandering are such appealing, rock ‘n’ roll qualities from far, far away. Anyway, though it hadn’t grabbed me at first, I took another listen to “Sour Girl”, and tried to ignore the fact that the band had used Sarah Michelle Gellar in their video (she’s always irritated me for some reason). I realized the first few bars of the song, before Scott comes in with the lyrics, are almost like a little story on their own. I could hear the origin, and demise of this relationship he goes on to sing about. I even made my own lyrics to the instrumental intro. In my head I sing along: “When I saw her, how I loved her, oh I hurt her and she went away” (x2). Yes, they’re terrible. Certainly not up to snuff with the real lyrics, like my favourite line mid-way through the song: “The rollercoaster ride’s a lonely one; I paid a ransom note to stop it from steaming”. I heard this song is about one of Scott’s divorces, so I imagined he paid both figuratively and literally for his mistakes. Strangely, he sounds more heartbroken than “sour” himself. I know that older reporter-man was on his own second marriage. He may be on another by now. So I understand why this song struck him. I think, for me, the appeal is just the softer side of STP, and the honest regret that bleeds out of the speakers.