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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.

She read to them while embers, eyelids simmered low…

I have been taking a break from writing and reading a backlog of old and newly discovered poetry collected on my bedside table. Nothing I like better.

This is one by Rachael Ikins that has quickly set itself apart, in so many ways, delivering to me the magical moment of understanding I always hope for, look for, in every poem I come upon.

It’s a jewel, a story so perfectly told that it made me feel stronger, maybe even a little wiser, after reading it. I hope it also reaches you in ways that matter.

At Miss Kitty’s Home for Wayward Girls
Rachael Z. Ikins (c) 2014

In the aftermath of winter storms,
broken marriages, death, and a quest
for independence a group of women
various ages, hair colors etc. gathered before a fire
to roast marshmallow Easter candies called
Peeps. Creme brûlée on a fondue fork.

Good scouts that they were, creativity
& indoor fireplace saved dinner. A sudden rainstorm
soaked the plan to cook wieners over a bonfire
in the back yard. Every single woman lost a father
to heart disease when those fathers were fifty.
A strange, sad community.

But the elders, this tiny group of survivors,
delighted to shock younger, tales of sex,
older women, erotic experience, LOL,
sex-toys and dream lovers. One dreamer,
a poet. She read to them while embers, eyelids simmered

low. They slept with dogs, woke up, faced new
adventures. Next morning, poet noticed the fire.
Rekindled through night, ash-camouflaged coals.
Not unlike an older woman; holds deep heat.
One candle continued to waver from mantelpiece after

they’d gone to bed, guarding all sleepers and travelers
through darkness with fragile constant magic.

If I Could, I Would

I often wonder if advice ever really helps us in our everyday lives. Or do we have to live through something ourselves for the wisdom to stick to us?

My twin nieces turned 18 this month and I have been thinking of what I would most want them to know at 18 that I didn’t.  I mean, what’s all this learning by our mistakes and the resulting heartache if we can’t pass on some heads up?

What do I wish someone had told me? Where to begin? I’m exhausted thinking about it and how can I not fall short of such a lofty, impossible goal? But you’re not living if you’re not trying.

Out of that came this piece, “If I Could I Would,”  about trying to concoct a poem that would do it all: serve as the girls’ steadfast template, guide them through whatever may stand in their way. A piece devoutly to be wished for sure and also a concrete and lasting way to remind them, through their very own poem, what they mean to me and the riches they have brought to my life.

 

Shape Shifters

Written last week on our travels in Scotland…

 

I won’t always be able to follow you

down every corridor,

into your next adventure,

all through your wild

precious life.

Just when everything comes

clear,

takes a shape you recognize,

is when it is bound

to change,

utterly.

Remember the cloud pattern you

marveled at,

its perfectly rendered skyscrapers

strung along a city shore,

how it seemed meant for us

alone,

and how in the

instant you turned to tell me

had unceremoniously become

once again

just clouds.

 

(Photo by Joel Koop http://www.joelkoop.com/)

My new book The Music of Leaving now available for pre-order!

I am delighted to announce on behalf of my publisher Demeter Press that my next book The Music of Leaving, to be published in the fall of 2014, is  now available for pre-sale directly from Demeter at 50% off if ordered before July 15th. !

Follow this link, www.demeterpress.org
Scroll down … keep going… to where it says “Preorder our upcoming books.” Scroll down just a bit from there and you’ll see my book on left with a link to pre-order. Use the word “mothers” on the coupon code line to receive your automatic discount.

I ask all of my blog followers to pass on this news = – and links to anyone and everyone they know, have ever known, brushed up against on the subway, or danced with in the 70’s through 90’s. That should cut a tidy swath.

Getting even more excited now as the publishing date approaches…

Meanwhile, I thank you so much for your support.

All best, Tricia.

 

Here is a sneak peek at the cover of my new book.

The cover of my new book is an exquisite image by the photographer and artist Mayumi Terada.

But what makes this picture particularly quixotic is that this is not a real room.

Born in Japan and now living in New York, Terada originally trained as a sculptor and her photographs are not what they seem. Her  subjects are familiar yet are, in fact, wholly artificial environments and objects. These seemingly simple domestic spaces and intimate landscapes are a miniature world that Terada fashions out of balsa wood and Styrofoam, clay and fabric, and then photographs using strikingly atmospheric lighting.

As Terada explains, these “dollhouses”resonate with her memories:

“I began to make many different kinds of objects for the house – stairs, windows, and curtains – that was how the Dollhouse series came about,” says Terada, who was . The series is mainly based on my memories, which I wanted to share with the audience. I deliberately chose a minimal design, which made the images more universal, regardless of individual tastes in home furnishing… Ultimately everything is painted white. The images are all shot with natural light… I do not use a computer at all…. coming from sculpture and handling plaster, black and white is an obvious choice for me.”

All the Silent Girls

I realize now

decades later

they were the abused ones, the misused ones,

the girls in the back seats of cars,

willing, hungry, any attention would do.

What boys called, with a self-satisfied wink:

easy, when what they were was

lost.

Most of them I lay you odds

struggling for air

under the thumb, the boot,

of a distant father, sinister uncle,

stern boyfriend.

Silent,

for none would listen.

Silent.

For whom would believe.

 

All the sad girls, the voiceless girls,

carrying unseen yokes on

their frail backs

to the end of their days,

then down,

powerless,

down

into their uneasy graves.

 

With hoof beats as impermanent as stars

Happy Easter to you!

It continues to amaze me the legions of poets out there writing exquisite verse like the one below, artists that I am fortunate enough to stumble upon, time and again, in my travels, by land and keyboard.

Case in point is today`s offering:

Fists I Thought Were Made To Hold the Reins
by Brooks Haxton
Catfish, lacking scales, are beautiful
in their repulsive way, but they will give you
an infected wound if you’re not careful.
The filets I rubbed with cayenne, chili, salt,
and ginger, skillet hot and dry, then drowned
with lemon. Even the kids, who don’t eat fish,
left none. My wife and I stopped brooding,
and my right hand opened with me staring
into the empty palm, long having, if I ever
knew, forgotten when and how the reins
slipped free. I love equestrians,
but I let go the reins, unlike my heroes,
lacking their authority.

An unimaginable horse
is rippling at a gallop far away, unshod,
with hoof beats as impermanent as stars.

Easter morning once

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

Fresh perms and white cotton gloves.

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 pressed trousers.

We four positioned, solemnly,

on the stone steps before Mass for the obligatory photo-taking

in the harsh sunlight of the still chilly April morning.

Our secret smiles as we huddled together

counting  the days until summer, warmth

and freedom.

And in the end all that is really left is a feeling

This combines – sumptuously – the work of two of my favourite poets, Dana Gioia and Jena Strong.  With Strong responding compellingly to Gioia’s melancholic wise poem, “The Letter.”

 

The Letter

by Dana Gioia

And in the end, all that is really left Is a feeling—strong and unavoidable— That somehow we deserved something better. That somewhere along the line things Got fouled up. And that letter from whoever’s In charge, which certainly would have set Everything straight between us and the world, Never reached us. Got lost somewhere. Possibly mislaid in some provincial station. Or sent by mistake to an old address Whose new tenant put it on her dresser With the curlers and the hairspray forgetting To give it to the landlord to forward. And we still wait like children who have sent two weeks’ allowance far away To answer an enticing advertisement From a crumbling, yellow magazine, Watching through years as long as a childhood summer, Checking the post box with impatient faith Even on days when mail is never brought.

 

mail package

And here, Jena Strong’s “Response:”

No, Dana. In the end, we will have received every letter, opened some neatly, along the crease of the envelope, using the letter opener we found that time at the five and dime when we were little kids with coins in our lint-lined pockets, that somehow we kept through all the loves and all the moves, all the well days and all the hand-wringing goodbye moments, tucked away and taken out to open letters announcing: I love you, you are loved.

Others, we will have been not so careful with, tearing them open with overeager hands or our front teeth like rabid animals, hungry not for news but for something to chew on and digest, to fuel us through one hard winter after another.

Yes, we sent messages out to the world, in bottles, in songs, in pleas and prayers, in exultation and in desperation, asking for so much and stopping one day and then another, no longer wondering if we deserved answers, deserved return receipt, deserved reciprocity.

We deserved it, deserved it all in the end, got what our starving hearts feared wouldn’t come. We arrived, at the end, here, to this place where open and honest learned to lie together, lion and lamb, storm and stasis, breath and gifts from an abyss of longing unwrapped, a party in our mouths of words and of kisses and of running to the mailbox after work to lift the lid from the tin mailbox– It came! It came! Mama!

All things in good time and all good things in time after so long waiting, Dana. This, I believe. This, I refuse to give up for another minute, not wasting a single morsel of the mail, the inbox– the sender and the receiver, the writer and the reader are one, and the same.

Writer and Poet

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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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