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Canada: A Glowing Tribute

For fun… on Canada Day, a whimsical piece I wrote about what constitutes being Canadian.

This was my entry into a contest to win a spot in “Barbed Lyres,” an anthology of satirical verse about Canada, edited by Margaret Atwood.

 

Glowing Tribute

There’s this girl I know on the Danforth

who goes to Buffalo to shop

for the bargains on Bill Blass sheets

and with her parents to Polish nights in Orillia

where she says she wouldn’t be caught

dead if the perogies weren’t to

absolutely die.

 

She takes her vacations in Warsaw almost every year

because she tells me the deals on crystal are

incredible and she can stay cheap with her Aunt Stenya.

 

It’s not like Mary isn’t into Canada

she did Banff in ’82

and drove all by herself to P.E.I. in ’84

where by the way she lucked into a

fabulous villa timeshare in the Caymans because

thanks to God she had American Express on her.

In the back window of her Beamer with the Blaupunkt

there’s one of those Canadian flag stickers and it glows

at night.

I mean what do you want from her.

It isn’t like she was born here.

office

Two new poems published.

My poems “Hallmark” and “Funeral Sandwiches” are featured here http://apheleiabp.org/home.html at Apheleia Broadside Publisher.

Theirs is an intriguing wonderfully creative concept for promoting the reading of poetry. On their website they publish individual poets that capture their interest and then they print the work and distribute it around New York City on flyers.

Here’s their romantic mission in their own words:

What used to be sold cheaply so that the art of many poets could reach as many people as possible, we are distributing completely free.  A book is often expensive and intimidating.  A single page is simple and quick. If you are in New York City, find one of our broadsides floating around. When you finish it, recycle it by passing it to a friend that you think may enjoy it as much as we hope you did.”

I just love this, the idea of my work being discovered randomly by someone on a New York subway who reaches down to pick up a piece of paper that blew underfoot and finds my words.

Go visit! http://apheleiabp.org/home.html

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Stealth

 

I awake in the early light

to the smack of water between the hulls.

Something draws me to the tiny porthole by my berth,

not a sound really, more a sensation.

And there on the horizon through the glass

looms an ocean liner of such size

it appears mythic.

 

All glinting steel and glass,

a beacon under the new sun,

this monolith of turbines and chrome

cutting a swath a football field wide

yet so far away

that neither the bellowing of her engines

nor the roar of her wake reach me,

rendering her, eerily, lifeless,

a paint-by-number colossus,

frozen in a dead calm sea.

 

Too far away to decipher details

so I settle for only imagining

the early morning risers

now assembling on her decks,

settling into chairs with their first coffees,

breathing in the panorama before them.

Conversation would be hushed, expectant,

Another idyllic day at sea ahead.

 

Do they see me?

My tiny sailboat moored off a small island,

Might they conjure me too,

Whether I am awake yet,

Where I sail to? From?

What name is painted across my bow.

 

Will some raise their binoculars to learn more

And watch as my sails fade away behind them,

Before they turn back to their morning.

(Gorda Sound, British Virgin Islands.)

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While Swimming

While Swimming.

 

Do our spines remember

gills, our bellies

the cool ocean floor?

 

Can we conjure ourselves in

the cavernous deep,

amid the ocean’s unknowable chambers,

resurrect what it was we carried,

intact,

as we slithered ashore?

 

Swimming,

I try summoning

my watery DNA that surely lurks

somewhere.

 

When my arms tire,

and all too soon,

I imagine myself armless,

sleek again, fins as my rudder.

designed for just this.

 

Forced to the surface for air,

is my resentment simply

the helix,

rebelling from memories of diving

deeper and deeper,

skimming the vast reefs, skirting beaches,

circling islands,

until the light finally left the surface

and expectantly, resolutely,

I dive deeper

again.

 

 

 

Tricia McCallum

Eleuthera

February 2014.

best St.Kilda photo boreray cliffs st kilda larger boreray cliffs st kilda

The Edge of the World

Glancing down at my bare feet

I see plainly the feet of my forebears:

long thin finger-like toes that link us,

irrefutably, astonishingly, across time,

these claw-like appendages that enabled them

to scale the cliffs of St. Kilda

in search of seabird eggs for food.

 

Ropes tied to their waists

barefoot Kildamanes as young as four

rappelled off the island’s vertical rock faces,

two sea stacks jutting out of the Atlantic

like giant pointed teeth.

 

For hundreds of years this resolute tribe

foraged for the eggs their lives depended on

among the hidden ledges and wind-battered crags

where the gannets, puffins and fulmar roosted,

eggs their only hope of sustenance

in that unforgiving place,

further out even than the Hebrides.

Fishing, incongruously,

considered too dangerous a pursuit.

Salt killed crops stone dead.

Trees steadfastly refused to grow.

Stories say the sea beat so hard in one storm

it blew sheep and cattle over the cliffs,

left villagers deaf for a week.

 

Survive they did,

surrounded by nothing but birds,

churning blue black ocean and stretched-out skies,

until visitors brought maladies they were defenseless against.

The seabirds owned it first:

it is theirs alone,

again.

 

I study the ominous hunting grounds of these birdmen,

my ancestors,

I see the spectacular waves battering the shore.

I look down at my feet,

their feet, wiggle my long agile toes

and whisper

in Gaelic,

the only language they knew,

Cuimhním.

I remember.

 

Photo courtesy of Alex Mahler.

 

 

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Pawns

Above the island the moon is fully round these nights,

dripping light,

succulent, impossibly

perfect.

But it’s not the wolves that howl here;

it is the waves.

At the curl just offshore comes the low siren of them,

an eerie organic sound building as they cascade on shore.

Controlled, commandeered by the moon

just as the wolves are.

She, all powerful in her sphere,

they, powerless,

mere tools so far below

for her bidding.

Catherine and James McCallum

I visited my parent’s graveside yesterday

I was in my hometown again after many years to speak at a memorial of a dear high school friend, a soul mate of mine. I think we kept each other from going crazy in those early years.

The day following the event I left my hotel with a large coffee in hand and headed for the cemetery and a visit to my parents’ graveside.

It was a perfectly glorious day. Sun splitting the rocks, fall colours abounding in full splendor, a light breeze scattering the few clouds above.  I was the only person in the entire cemetery. Aren’t Sundays the day people visit these places? My only company was a symphony of bird calls from the forest behind the gravesites. I couldn’t have ordered better accompaniment for the visit.

I cleaned off the debris from their stone, now slightly weathered, laid down the small stone angel I had brought to place there, and sat down on my blanket, also brought for the occasion.

Where to start, mother and father? Mom, you’ve been gone 22 years, Dad over 20. Your grandchildren, some of whom you never met, are grown and thriving, and carry so many of your hallmark characteristics. Scott’s twin Brooke has your forthright manner, Dad, and no nonsense demeanour. But she still loves a good laugh, just as you did. Mom, I see your gentleness in Dana, and your disinclination to judge.

Father, you said we didn’t need a place to come like this, that we’d remember you without it, and of course you were right. But on a rare day like this it is a place to come and be alone with you. To just be.

I trace your names etched alongside one another on the stone.

Are you together in heaven too? I have no idea about any of that. But what a lovely thought. One I’ll hold on to, for today at least.

And while I’m at it I’ll think of you both deliriously happy, somewhere, beyond anything we know.

To my Relay for Life Teammates (the morning after):

Hi Teammates:

I am on my fourth coffee so am actually approaching coherency once again (I am ever the optimist!)

Looking back on this Relay, I realize every year has its own character. There have been years marked by ridiculous weather, by personal and particular losses, by event size and location, and more. But each stands apart.

I think 2011 was the year of contemplation. There was minimal drama (I mean, not a water sluice, flying tent, or oil slick the whole night). And Mary Poppins was certainly a more demure theme than 2010′s witchery. Couple our rather sedate evening of twinkling (literally) fairy lights while we dabbled with the Proust questionnaire, and yes, contemplative fits.

I think (and am happy that) we all came to know one another a wee bit better. As Bertrand Russell wisely said: “Just connect.” And this year I felt we did.

Somehow it all comes together doesn’t it? Some of us are mothers, meaning frenetic schedules and impossible demands, but you show up whenever you can and for as long as you can, and give your all. What great lessons for your children.

Bekah is the perfect example, who told me last night that she and Melissa and possibly some other friends may work toward having their own team next year. It did my heart good to hear that: Whether or not it happens is less important than that they want it to.

And burying the lead, which I am not inclined to do, here goes: We raised the most cash yet in 2011, am I right?

Just want to thank all of you for working so selflessly for others, people you may never know but whose lives may change dramatically because of the effort you put in here each and every time out.

I am proud to count myself among you.

Hope to see you out and about this summer. Enjoy your holidays wherever they take you and the roads leading to them.

I leave you with some favourite quotes about friendship:

Yes we are [friends] and I do like to pass the day with you in serious and inconsequential chatter. I wouldn’t mind washing up beside you, dusting beside you, reading the back half of the paper while you read the front. We are friends and I would miss you, do miss you and think of you very often. I don’t want to lose this happy space where I have found someone who is smart and easy and doesn’t bother to check her diary when we arrange to meet. ~Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body, 1992

“I felt it shelter to speak to you. “ Emily Dickinson

“My mother used to say that there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet. She’s now in a maximum security twilight home in Australia.” Dame Edna Everage.

Overnight Relay for Life fundraiser tomorrow night!

We have our overnight fundraiser called Relay for Life for cancer research tomorrow night in a town nearby. We raise money all year, my (our!) team of 10 women breakfasts: garage sales, barbecues, theatre nights, name it – and then one night a year – tomorrow! – we join up with dozens of other teams from our area to walk through the night together, at a local fairground. Two team members at a time walk for half an hour and then two more replace them, from 7 pm til 7 am.

We pitch our tents; share stories; I run a Trivia Challenge for everyone at around midnight every year; and we eat junk food and gab. Our team’s theme this year is Mary Poppins, thus our campsite will resemble a rooftop, complete with chimneys and smokestacks, and sprouting form these foam board cut into curls of smoke in various shapes. Suspended above all this will be twinkling lights, and a silhouette of Mary Poppins herself flying aloft (we’ll rig it somehow, not sure how quite yet, maybe good ol’ fishing line), her umbrella unfurled, her carpet bag in hand.

I am glueing plastic daisies to my hat today, and preparing my outfit – long black skirt, fitted tweed jacket, ankle length lace-up red leather boots, and of course, my trusty tartan umbrella. I even found an initial M to iron on to my jacket lapel. I bring the baking naturally. Doing a “high tea” theme this year in keeping with the very proper English theme of Mary Poppins. Scones, raisin and cranberry orange, homemade jam, mini-cinnamon buns and fudge brownies, and two decadent layer cakes, one filled with caramel, the other with chocolate mousse. My BAD. But my teammies need carbs for energy at 3 in the morning.

Reason for all this fuss? Only the best cause ever: Reducing cancer in our lifetimes.