resized bronze child

Friendly Fire

 

 

He would sit under the kitchen table
About an hour before each mid-week transfer.
Clockwork.
Just sit, wrapped up in himself.
Quietly, not even petulantly.
Resignation in the set of his shoulders,
A look in his eyes
Not of sadness, but worse,
Surrender.

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No One Wants to Fail

This new poem is about choosing to not look away, but to notice.

Painful, yes, and there are easier choices. But it seems to me I have never had a choice. Perhaps others feel the same. And out of this decision to simply not look away comes so much, in ways I have no doubt are untold.

 

No One Wants to Fail.

From the cart behind me
I hear the commotion.
The little boy refuses to bend his knees
So his mother can place him
In the child’s seat in front.
He stiffens,
Screams.
Another child tugs at her skirt.
But she has had enough.
The shopping trip is sacrificed.
She yanks them through the exit doors,
Her face set in anger.

The boy will wish he had obeyed.
His sister will see it all unfold.
The mother will wish it was otherwise
But feel powerless to make it so.
Who among us
Wants to fail.

angel statue

Hard Evidence

There are so many gods. I like to believe there is one just for small children.

 

Hard Evidence

Ahead of me in line
I catch a glimpse of two tiny white feet
sticking out from a baby seat,
uncovered on this October morning,
the soles black.
Around each of the frail ankles
lies a ring of grime.

When the baby’s face bobs into view
I see that she’s captivated
by the jeweled butterfly on my lapel
and smiles wanly.

Shall I pin the treasure to her stained sweater
Spirit her away
Teach her the names of all the creatures that fly.
Shall I wash her sooty feet with the finest velvet
And dry them with my hair?

old photos pile

Easter Morning Once.

 

A new dress, even if it had been my sister’s.

Helmet-like perms, and all of us

in soft white cotton gloves, with vertical ridges stitched in

above each knuckle, so they stood up,

like Mickey Mouse’s on Saturday morning.

The matching hats were courtesy of Jackson’s Department Store’s bargain bin,

Fill a basket, five bucks out the door,

their out-sized pink and blue plastic daisies haphazardly attached,

head wear meant for the deranged.

 

Our conspiratorial looks as we were herded together

for the obligatory snapshot on the stone steps after Mass,

the sunlight harsh on a still-frigid April morning,

swiss dot and stiff crinolines lofting in the wind.

 

Embarrassed by my sturdy white knee socks,

I yearned for the silk stockings

Worn by my older sisters, who flanked me.

Stationed solemnly in front

was our younger brother, happy to form his own line,

quietly proud of his clip on bow-tie and tartan vest and

perfectly pressed little wool trousers.

 

Chins up! Stand straight! came the reprimands,

but not one of us listened.

At least one child would turn her head away that day just as the shutter clicked.

Another would squint unbecomingly against the glare.

And the third, the face of the third girl

would show to the camera a look of such sadness

as is unimaginable in one so young.

 

Now piled deeply in this battered shoebox,

the sorting job no one ever took on,

these celluloid witnesses to our lives.

The edges scalloped like icing on a cake,

bearing hairline cracks, some of our heads and limbs torn asunder,

the truest chronicle of those years,

bringing with it the simple message

that each of us might have done better

if we’d only known how.

 

 

 

 

 

thimble

The Sadness of Her Sewing

A poem for your birthday, Mom. I miss you like it was a thousand years.

 

The Sadness of Her Sewing

 

There she remains,

In the folds of her nightgown

Tucked deeply in her bedside drawer,

Releasing the scent of her Chantilly.

In her favorite clip-on earrings

Of aurora borealis rhinestones,

All  the colors of the northern lights,

She explained,

And here, perhaps most,

Up on the closet shelf,

Her worn wicker sewing basket,

A frayed tapestry on the lid of

a young woman’s face.

Inside, among the bobbins,

Mother’s tarnished metal thimble,

Its tiny nubs smoothed glossy from use.

Remembering now whenever she mended

I would hear her sigh deeply,

As the steel cap clicked

Against her flying needle,

Her impatience palpable,

Desperate to be done.

Knowing now it reminded her of

Being pulled from school at the age of nine

To do piecework for a gruff Glasgow furrier,

Stitching together overcoats in dingy rooms

From towers of animal pelts,

Never to return to school

Or childhood

Again.

 

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Thank you, Katherine and Robert.

I think it impossible for any of us to imagine the sacrifices made for us as we remember those lost.

Pictured are my father’s parents, Robert and Katherine McCallum, in Glasgow in (I am guessing) 1914, 1915… just before my grandfather went off to fight in the First World War.

Robert and his five brothers all fought in various capacities. He alas was subjected to mustard gas on the battlefield in France (although it had been outlawed) and died shortly thereafter. My grandmother meanwhile handled the home and cared for their many children but, sadly, only survived her husband by two years.

I love their confidence in this photo, their hopefulness, the equality between them that shines through. I wish I had known them. I wish I could tell them how proud they make me, here, in Canada, 100 years later, in a life they could not even comprehend.

I hear from the scant stories there were of them that my grandmother was very independent, a real firebrand, and that Robert was a born storyteller and generous in spirit. I’m sure they had faults too but sweetly these never made it into the few stories I have of them.

I thank you, Katherine and Robert, for all that you did and all that you both were.

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The Dark.

The Dark.

I want to not leave him there
alone,
at the end of the first night’s viewing,
realizing as I tell my brother this
how ridiculous I must sound and
nodding in compliance
when he says that’s not our father anymore,
but when I drive out of the funeral home parking lot
and see the last light go off inside,
plunging the place into darkness,
my breath sticks in my throat
remembering how Dad lit the night light
in the hallway outside his bedroom
every single night this past year
since my mother died.

 

Photo by Giles Norman.

westie at easter

Easter Morning Once

Here’s an Easter poem.

It’s never been my favourite holiday. All that forced gaiety (I speak of Catholics) about the “rising,” and the massive baskets of gargantuan, alien-like palm leaves lining the church vestibule.

Those unsettling paintings of a bearded man bathed in light emerging, floating, eerily, from some cave-like structure. I was supposed to find comfort in the images but frankly I found them foreboding.

And three masses for us to sing through as the student choir, from the airless darkened loft above.

I know. I should cheer up. But all these memories resurface, unbidden, (I won’t say resurrected) each year at Eastertime.

The chocolate made up for a lot though.

 

Easter Morning Once.

 A new dress, even if it had been my sister’s.

Fresh perms and white cotton gloves.

My boring knee socks and yearning to wear stockings like my older sisters.

My wee brother at my side in his clip on bowtie and tartan vest

And little pressed trousers.

We four positioned, solemnly, on the stone church steps before Mass

In the harsh sunlight of the still chilly April morning

For the obligatory snapshot,

Our secret smiles as we huddled together,

Counting the days until summer, warmth

And freedom.

 

 

 

Tricia signing 840x400

My Toronto Book Launch. With a gracious crowd and amazing cupcakes!

Karen and I 840x400Amelia and cupcake 840x400         

The Music of Leaving, my new book of poetry, was launched in, dare I say it and I do, rather grand style on Saturday evening, November 1st in front of a large and enthusiastic audience at the Women’s Art Association of Canada in downtown Toronto’s Yorkville area.

During my presentation to the crowd I talked about the power and possibilities of poetry and what it has meant to me in my life, and then read several pieces from my book. I infused my presentation with humour wherever possible so the audience was not lining up to hang themselves by night’s end. My poetry can get a little dark…

And I was delighted to be introduced so eloquently by my co-M.C.’s for the event Karen Fraser, Toronto entrepreneur and champion of business women everywhere, me included,  and my lovely brother Scott McCallum.

Oh. The cupcakes were superb!

 

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In Case We Never Meet

A brand new poem. For book three? Why not dream?

 

In Case We Never Meet

You ought to know

I was kind to children and small animals

and never awoke one day

without underlying sadness.

 

That I overtipped waitresses,

at breakfast especially,

hated small talk and early mornings

and had the most annoying compulsion

to read the last page of a book

first.

 

Loved a great many people,

but not all at once

or together at parties.

That I miss

smoking, every single day,

even 25 years on.

And my lovely father,

always.

 

You ought to know

I am scared of the dark

yet fiercely drawn to it.

And at my happiest in the ocean

or on it,

That I once valued intelligence in people

over just about everything.

But you should also know

I got smarter

and that changed:

Now it’s kindness.