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A Hallway in Moxy Berlin Ostbahnhof Hotel

Stay Awhile

The anonymity is only part of their appeal.
Each time you slide in the card key
you can create another whole new world
for the night.
Lining up your grooming aids just so,
turning down the bed’s overstuffed duvet in preparation,
the lap desk awaiting you.

When TV no longer appeals
and sleep doesn’t come
there is the late night trip to the deserted lobby,
and maybe a conversation with the bored, sleepy desk clerk
if he’s not too stoned
or depressed.
An apple from the garishly painted ceramic bowl,
not quite hot water for a tea to go
and the last copy of the local paper.
Uncanny
how they all read the same.

Folding the towels the next morning,
wou wipe the sink dry
before heading for the breakfast bounty
you know by heart,
closing the door so quietly behind you,
you might never have been here.

Hands across a table.

Sit Down

Bricks and mortar aren’t what home is:
Granted.
Nor the things we collected,
displayed, lived with.
But isn’t it funny how
often it distills down
to that rickety table with the yellow Formica top
in the centre of our tiny kitchen all those years,
the one we picked up for a song
that no matter how carefully
we teased the two ends apart
would send out the same jarring screech
and how we’d all squeal in fright, as if on cue,
then laugh until it hurt,
before carefully inserting the battered extra leaf
to make room for more.

Finnegan Begin Again, a poem by Tricia McCallum

Finnegan Begin Again

Almost every seaside town in Ireland has one.
The resident canine.
The Duke of the Docks.
The Chairman of Chill.
This one answers to Finnegan.

No mutt more streetwise,
this is his turf.
He knows the ropes here,
just who is a soft touch,
who will chastise,
and who will give chase.

Finnegan makes his rounds daily.
First to Mrs. Tyrell’s Bake Shop for a day old bun.
If he’s lucky they’ve remembered him
at O’Riordan the Butcher’s with a decent bone.
Then it’s down to the rectory for a ladle full of yesterday’s soup
and a neck rub from Father Tam.

Afternoons mean dozing on the pier,
a sure-fire tourist draw.
His bedraggled coat brings out the mother in everyone, it seems.
By nightfall his belly is full.

He knows where he can keep dry and out of the cold.
Crafty is Finnegan.
And on frosty nights there are warm grates outside the pubs.
But there is no master awaiting him,
no hearth his very own,
Finnegan is no one’s and
his wise wee self sleeps alone.

list of names partially blurred. One name must be important among the many.

It Comes Down to This

The myriad charts and graphs of CoVid cases and deaths are numbing. But they all come down to this: one person. One person lost forever to the ones who loved him.

One Name.

It is dizzying,
Numbing in truth,
Front page of Sunday’s New York Times,
One thousand names, printed in rows.
They blur together.
We shut down when faced with such staggering loss.

Among them, this one,
New father Israel Sauz, 22. Broken Arrow Oklahoma,
Who will never know the face of his son.
Israel Sauz, 22,
whose boy will take his first step without him.
And his first turn at bat.
Who will ask about the father he never knew,
To learn they shared a love for poetry,
And a mean curve ball.
That his father batted with his left hand just like him.
His father, Israel Sauz,
Whose poems went unwritten,
Israel Sauz,
Who never held his son.

The Spark of Serendipity

 

Fleming left his dirty dishes in the sink and found penicillin.
Modern medicine was never the same.
The inventor of Coca Cola just wanted to cure headaches.
Velcro,
because a dog owner scrutinized
the tenacious burrs
embedded in his retriever’s coat.
The most profound discoveries
are pure accident.
Go looking for one thing and find another,
Maybe better.
On my way to a purebred prize winner
A mongrel butted in.
Best dog ever.
I thought the invitation said Thursday.
And found you.
Leave room for error.
Cast off loosely.
Await the entirely unexpected,
The astonishingly,
The utterly new.

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.

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.

The Confessional

 

 

Waiting in line for my turn

in Saturday confession,

Still young enough

To not conceive of why the young woman in the last pew

sobbed,

so piteously.

I stared and stared

at her hunched figure, shoulders heaving,

her quiet rasps obliterating the stillness.

 

By the time I entered

The dark pocket of the confessional

My curiosity could not be contained,

And even before Father Blackwell

had slid open the wooden panel between us,

I blurted it out, brazen.

Why is that lady so sad, Father?

His response was clipped, dismissive.

She has not been forgiven.

More importantly, he demanded,

What was it I needed forgiveness for this week passed?

 

When I emerged,

Chastened, reborn,

The woman had gone.

I never saw her again.

But I remember the child

I was that day,

The one who could not yet know

A grief so profound.

A heart so broken.

A life never

Bargained for.

Proper Punishment

It was exact, sophisticated,

The cruelty perpetrated by the nuns

On the young girls

With the full heft of the church behind them.

Brought there

In fear and disgrace

Away from everything they held dear,

Come to give birth.

Unwed, they called them,

Fallen,

They called them.

 

Then the new, bewildered mothers allotted time

To bond with their newborns.

Their babies brought to their waiting arms

For scant moments

Then as toddlers

In between incessant chores,

Just enough to bind their hearts together,

Enough to punish

Properly.

 

Soon enough

wrenched from their arms

And left to watch from behind the bolted convent windows,

Their tiny children loaded into strangers’ cars

Bound for America

And homes their mothers would never see.

 

The children pressed their faces against the back windows

As they inched down the drive,

Nervous, curious,

Not yet bereft,

Wondering of their mothers

Who clutched one another

From behind the misted windows

Weeping,

Whispering,

Stay.

Hitting the ground running.

This piece by Denise Duhamel from Queen for a Day  is precisely why I love the form of poetry.

It hits the street running. Makes us rethink everything we think. Wakes us up. Makes us see differently. In the best possible ways. Xo t

The Ugly Stepsister

You don’t know what it was like.
My mother marries this bum who takes off on us,
after only a few months, leaving his little Cinderella
behind. Oh yes, Cindy will try to tell you
that her father died. She’s like that, she’s a martyr.
But between you and me, he took up
with a dame close to Cindy’s age.
My mother never got a cent out of him
for child support. So that explains
why sometimes the old lady was gruff.
My sisters and I didn’t mind Cindy at first,
but her relentless cheeriness soon took its toll.
She dragged the dirty clothes to one of Chelsea’s
many laundromats. She was fond of talking
to mice and rats on the way. She loved doing dishes
and scrubbing walls, taking phone messages,
and cleaning toilet bowls. You know,
the kind of woman that makes the rest
of us look bad. My sisters and I
weren’t paranoid, but we couldn’t help
but see this manic love for housework
as part of Cindy’s sinister plan. Our dates
would come to pick us up and Cindy’d pop out
of the kitchen offering warm chocolate chip cookies.
Critics often point to the fact that my sisters and I
were dark and she was blonde, implying
jealousy on our part. But let me
set the record straight. We have the empty bottles
of Clairol’s Nice’n Easy to prove
Cindy was a fake. She was what her shrink called
a master manipulator. She loved people
to feel bad for her-her favorite phrase was a faint,
“I don’t mind. That’s OK.” We should have known
she’d marry Jeff Charming, the guy from our high school
who went on to trade bonds. Cindy finagled her way
into a private Christmas party on Wall Street,
charging a little black dress at Barney’s,
which she would have returned the next day
if Jeff hadn’t fallen head over heels.
She claimed he took her on a horse-and-buggy ride
through Central Park, that it was the most romantic
evening of her life, even though she was home
before midnight-a bit early, if you ask me, for Manhattan.
It turned out that Jeff was seeing someone else
and had to cover his tracks. But Cindy didn’t
let little things like another woman’s happiness
get in her way. She filled her glass slipper
with champagne she had lifted
from the Wall Street extravaganza. She toasted
to Mr. Charming’s coming around, which he did
soon enough. At the wedding, some of Cindy’s friends
looked at my sisters and me with pity. The bride insisted
that our bridesmaids’ dresses should be pumpkin,
which is a hard enough color for anyone to carry off.
But let me assure you, we’re all very happy
now that Cindy’s moved uptown. We’ve
started a mail order business-cosmetics
and perfumes. Just between you and me,
there’s quite a few bucks to be made
on women’s self-doubts. And though
we don’t like to gloat, we hear Cindy Charming
isn’t doing her aerobics anymore. It’s rumored
that she yells at the maid, then locks herself in her room,
pressing hot match tips into her palm.

Writer and Poet

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Tricia McCallum profile

Tricia McCallum

Always be a poet. Even in prose.
Charles Baudelaire.

In essence I am a storyteller who writes poems. Put simply, I write the poems I want to read.[…]

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Tricia McCallum

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