Skip to content
Old medicine shelf

Something Called Qi

My friend made an appointment
with the city’s much acclaimed doctor of Eastern medicine,
way down on the Danforth above the Roots store.
He opened the session by counselling her vehemently
via his earnest translator
to keep the nape of her neck covered at all times
in order to guard against the marauders,
the incoming toxins.
She hadn’t even removed her coat.
This guy meant business.

First he asked her to stick out her tongue,
a diagnostic tool esteemed among Eastern prognosticators,
the sight of which prompted from him a harangue in Mandarin.
It seemed her tongue was seemingly the wrong color and texture,
not to mention tone,
this a sure-fire flag to her malaise,
something called her Qi entirely out of whack,
but you pronounce it chi.

The ancient art of cupping came next.
She followed orders, open to all of it ,
this woman who once scoffed at yoga, calling upon the ancients now,
flipping onto her back wordlessly, bare from the waist up.

The click and then the hiss of the Bic lighter
as the small discs of thick clear glass were heated,
then placed on her back in turn,
one replacing another in swift succession.

A lengthy script for a herbal concoction came next,
to be purchased in Chinatown,
Mondays and Wednesdays only.
And call first.

I used to think chemo was bad,
she joked to the doctor at their next session,
confessing she could not choke down
even one more drop of his prescribed brew,
its smell alone prompting memories of a dismal sheep farm
we had worked on together years ago in New Zealand.

The doctor’s final words were succinct:
No pepper, no spice, no hot, he admonished,
It takes time.
Time, he counselled, his hand upon hers,
clarifying for my friend what in the end
no one in the East nor the West
was able to give her.

February

January’s belligerent sister,
the more troublesome twin.
Its days are longer
But somehow colder.

It promises Monday delivery but doesn’t show.
Sullen, scheming in the corner of the playground,
It doesn’t play well with others.
It summons your worst.

It’s the oil pump that seizes just
As you’re merging on to the freeway.
Ragged cuticles and lizard skin.
Pulling tight turtlenecks over crackling scalps.

It leaves you asking why bother.
Its only job to send you back to bed.
The miser of light, master of mean.
The fortune cookie that gets you all wrong.

(Photo courtesy of James Wysotski)

grey microphone with lights in bokeh photography

The Delicate Dance

Poise and abandon.
The art of poetry demands both.
So much in life does.
The karaoke singer summons both and seizes the microphone.
The high diver, too, poised on the edge of the cliff,
the mortician as he confronts human carnage,
the golf pro stepping up to a five foot putt for the win.

It’s a high wire act
perfected, painstakingly,over time.
Remember that job you weren’t close to being qualified for,
you aced the interview.
The hospice nurse asks are you ready
and you don’t look down.
You lie, and say
yes.

Cleaning David Bowie’s Apartment, London’s West End, 1973

It was like any other apartment on my roster.
Untidy, untended.
They all look the same.
Tea stains mottled the kitchen sink,
and the predictable, sad bathtub ring.
The piano where Major Tom was probably composed
sat in a corner, unremarkable, save for its one chipped key.

The bedroom, too, tedious,
a tacky Gothic headboard,
pilled flannel sheets and overcrowded bedside table,
bath towels, mismatched, haphazardly strewn.
Kids’ toys littered the floors and surfaces,
not one of them I hadn’t seen already,
back home in the monotonous Canadian suburbs.

I don’t know what I expected.
Just not ordinary.
I cleaned ordinary all day long.
Perhaps a zig zag lightning bolt slashed in neon across the shower wall,
the tiny golden head of a Grammy statue poking out from the back of a bookshelf.
Violet satin pyjamas precisely folded atop a matching pillowcase
with Bowie emblazoned on both in sequins.

Truth be told, Ziggy,
I still hoped for a glimpse of something
after wringing out my mop for the last time,
perhaps rising suddenly in the air all around me,
amid the motes of dust,
the sudden twinkling shimmer
of stardust.

man carries girl

Shared

Street smarts.
Left-handedness.
A tendency to sadness.
Fetal position sleep.
The way you dealt cards, precisely.
Turned the wheel of your car, hand over hand.
Things as microscopic as
The way you washed your face, methodically,
Patting it dry, never rubbing.
Staring intently at yourself in the mirror for a brief moment
Before folding the towel perfectly in half and returning it to the rack.
I stare too, fold the towel, thoughtfully.
I hear myself coughing when I rise.
I could be you.

brown and black medicine tablets on black surface

The Weight of It All

Life’s not hard enough
So let’s invent a foe
So fearless
So shameless
That it doesn’t toy with your dreams
So much as mocks them.
Hands you back a wretched version of yourself
After it’s done its worst.
Has its way with you
Like a slave master of old.

And even though we call on everything we know
In defense,
Science, all of it, yes,
Bring it on,
The tiny powdered cylinders of hope, thrice daily,
The temples gelled, the paddles clamped securely,
Still we are brought to our knees.

We may summon the gods, too
If there be such things,
And if there are,
If there be any,
Now would be the perfect time
For them to show up.

Waiting Room

Lying there
amidst a scattering of pillows
flanked by your medications,
oblivious,
you seem more real to me than ever,
probably because a bed
was never able to contain you.
Before our feet were on the floor
we heard you mornings,
bustling in the kitchen,
radio on, the tea hot.

Small,
I remember stumbling to the washroom
in the wee hours, you as ever
in your chair across the living room,
smoke curling from your ashtray;
you’d look up from your book
and smile at me,
ten-thousand watts.

Through the years it seemed that
sleep was for other people.
It is your turn now –
nothing left to be done, nothing can be done.
Close your eyes, mother.
Someone else will turn out the lights.

Grey skies rolling in

I’m Not Sure

This November morning,
the bleak view out my window is the definitive study
in gloom.
Leaving me unsure whether to renounce the whole world
or fall in love with it forever.
Sleet wants to be snow. But snow would be the easy way out.
These leaden mornings grant us permission to bury our feelings
beneath heavy blankets.
But the toll is ultimately levied,
the brutality of these months,
at full bore,
biding time,
waiting to unleash all.

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.

Big Points for Trying

I was good to animals and small children.
Made room for the guy on the streetcar
who talked to himself.
Even gave him a few bucks.
But truth be told:
I never invited him home to tea.

Didn’t always take the easiest way,
but certainly enough times.
And, yes, vanity got in the way,
more than once —
the fight back from an ugly girlhood.

I frittered away talent,
pearls to swine, some might say,
churning out Annual Reports for rent money,
giving my all on corporate press tours,
with no energy left for the poem.
But a girl’s got to make a living
long seemed a decent excuse.

The world gives you too many reasons
to feel you’re not quite
good enough, talented enough.
accomplished enough.
And there was I —
Listening intently
to each
and every one.

Writer and Poet

BEARA-08-24-alternate_400x270
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.[…]

Amazon Profile

Invalid OAuth access token.

New Book

Books on Goodreads

Tricia McCallum

Recent Comments

Thanks for sharing

Archives

Past Posts

Categories

All Topics