lanterns

Bread Crumbs

Writers are natural allies.

We patrol the same landscape.

We know the three AM grope for the right word.

 

We try not to wake anyone.

We stare at a comma. Just stare.

We wrestle with line breaks.

Semi-colons mystify us all.

 

There is fascination in miniscule detail.

There is a perfect title. A perfect modifier.

If only we can find it.

 

Our thesauruses are well thumbed.

We concern ourselves with cadence, clauses.

Care deeply about the present perfect tense

versus the past perfect.

 

We are entranced by detail, minutia.

We know the weight it must carry.

The girl’s hair down, or should it be a braid?

Her shoes – navy blue. Or better, yes -

Royal blue.

Was it raining or threatening rain.

Did she say the word goodbye or whisper it after.

Was the door left ajar on purpose.

 

Out of all this steely-eyed focus

Nothing is assured.

Recognition, hard won.

What do writers, poets, actually do?

Rebuke in the tone.

 

We creep into bed in the wee hours

Still grappling with the last line.

Wondering if we came even close.

 

But on those solitary singular nights

When we may get it right

We dare to join the pantheon before us

Who persisted in the dim light

For what so often seems out of reach,

Leaving bread crumbs behind for others

Should they find themselves

Suddenly

Astonishingly

Lost.

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The Best New Year’s News!

 

Picture me smiling.  I awoke this morning, the first of the New Year, to discover I had won the Goodreads.com January 2017 Poetry Contest with my poem The Things I Learned as a Bartender.

My success here encourages me to dive even deeper in my writing and strive to uncover, to examine, the seemingly insignificant details in our lives so often overlooked that help us understand ourselves –  and one another.

My fellow finalists are all gifted artists: I am proud to be among them.

Thank you to the Goodreads judges and to everyone who took the time to participate.

Let’s make 2017 amazing.  Are you in?

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I am a Goodreads finalist!

I am over the moon to learn that I’m a finalist in the Goodreads.com January 2016 Poetry Contest with my recent poem The Things I Learned as a Bartender. Proud to be in such supremely gifted company.

Read all the contenders here: https://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/147616-goodreads-january-2017-newsletter-top-finalists-poems—-please-sele?utm_medium=email&utm_source=copypastepoll

 

SW06

The Cost

Yes, painful, so very often
to have fewer filters than most.
To be wide awake to the hurt in the world.
I look across at the driver next to me at the stop light
and wonder if he is loved.
It is involuntary. Born in some. Inescapable.
Manifest.
This breathing in the pain of others. Then carrying it.
Never failing to notice the one lonely person in the room,
the resigned among us.
Drawn to what is broken, all that needs tending.
Powerless to look away.
And always more to see.

But I pay the cost.
Would pay it twice in this life of mine
for what it gives in return,
this unseen affliction.

See me here.
Still standing,
bearing scars under my clothes,
yet laughter rises easily in me.
Still able to take a child’s delight
in an unexpected gift,
a fresh snowfall,
a baby returning my smile.

See me here.
I am still standing.
And so terribly vulnerable to joy.

church-cross

Reverence

I can’t step into a church without being reminded of Leo.
I see him, leaning heavily on his cane, waiting in the vestibule
to usher the parishioners to their seats,
his labored gait up the aisle, one leg stiff,
the shoulder of his Canadian Legion jacket strewn
with medals and ribbons.
In the stillness the rubber tip of his cane
squeaks loudly against the polished floor.

The star resident at her mother’s boarding-house,
my friend Linda said we should visit him.
He’d insisted,
and there had been toffees promised.
Restless and bored one spring day I relented,
followed Linda home and climbed the stairs lazily to Leo’s room.
Unlike the others his door was open.
There was Leo, lying on his bed, his cane alongside,
rest the only respite from his affliction.

Come in, close the door.
Feed my bird Charlie.
I worried then about telling my mother this.
But Leo wasn’t a stranger.
Everyone knew Leo.
Father Blackwell told us in catechism class
it was men like Leo who had kept us free.
The shabby room smelled of wet wool
from clothes drying on the radiator
and of Old Sail, his pipe tobacco.
A bowl of sweets beckoned by the bed.
Charlie was bustling about in his cage.
Sit beside Leo, honey.
A good Catholic girl, I did as the hero said.
The bristles of his beard stung my face,
his breath turned to a rasp.
I smelled something fetid on his breath.
When he released me
Charlie was singing,
still.

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While cleaning out a bookcase.

For Richard Blessing

There is a poet I’m reading
After being surprised to come upon his dog-eared collection
While cleaning a bookcase.
I had forgotten even owning it.
His name won’t mean anything to you, never famous or fashionable,
But it draws me after all these years,
His slim dusty volume so callously abandoned.
How quickly I am reminded of his sublime voice,
Like that of a long forgotten beloved friend,
Resurrected now line by line,
Rising off the yellowed pages
In the slate gray light of this autumn afternoon.

His father’s nurse says she’s too tall for marriages.
The younger poets are ample in their margins.
The migrating salmon leap like sparks from some windy chimney.
The sound of his son’s bat on a baseball, as sweet as any teacake,
the ball’s leaping arc making the field small.

It’s gratitude I feel to find him once again,
Someone I didn’t even know I had lost,
Relieved to have unearthed his particular genius, restored it to my life.

I won’t be rich or famous, you said, sad on your birthday.
I don’t have a baby. Now it’s too late.
I pull you close. We have missed nothing. This is our only life.

And just when I think he can give me no more
Comes his closing prayer, this long dead poet
With no name you would know:
May grace be drawn to our ill-suited hands.

christmas lights

Minor Defects Will Not Affect Wear

How can you care not
For this earthly life?
Even with its vagaries,
Its ragtag beginnings,
Unspeakable endings.

Remember how
The latte at the corner café that late afternoon
Arrived as the autumn light dappled your newspaper just so,
Intertwined hearts atop the foam,
Courtesy of the beaming waitress who announced
She was getting married.

You sometimes reach the bus just in time.
Blood tests come back perfectly normal.
Simple mini lights transform a sad house.
A fresh fall of snow perfects a neglected yard.

Awaken to the astonishing delights of the
Here and now.
The two legged terrier with the tailor-made chassis,
The tired little girl in the shopping cart who smiles back,
A favourite Phil Collins song on the car radio
In the pouring rain.

There are blessings.
They must be heeded.
It doesn’t get better.
It just may be enough.

Jeff-Phillips-Reflection-in-Puddle_840x400

November Came to Me.

 

Without warning

November came to me

In June.

The morning primrose newly budding in their sun warmed beds,

Always a welcome harbinger,

Now meaningless to me from

The dark and deep quiet of my bedroom above.

 

The stars when they appeared seemed meant for others

Capable of joy, even simple recognition,

My November revealing them as distortions,

Pinpoints of lights in the torn fabric of a distant

Foreboding world.

 

November came for the best of me

To extinguish my light,

My peace,

Leaving behind flats of nothingness

Hours, days, never to be accounted for,

Regained,

As I groped blindly through them.

Or slept. Or stared.

 

Laughter seemed inconceivable.

Sadness lay deep in my marrow

When November came to me

In June.

 

(Photo courtesy of Jeff Philips.)