it was easy.
our worries were
divisions of labor
who did more.
she didn’t really, did she?
how could they?
we were cruel.
judgments came swift and brutal.
withholding likes and retweets
the kind word for one small and mean.
before we were cavalier
we knew nothing.
but we can learn.
now we will learn
it was easy
it was easy.
It comes down to the ceremony now, the detail.
Pressing your shirt with the cutaway collar, not too much starch,
the way you liked it.
I sent the shoes that were a bit small,
but they were so fine-looking and you would approve.
At the last minute I remembered your favorite photo of all of us
for tucking into your suit jacket pocket.
Now to prepare the food for the mourners,
sandwiches to begin.
Made differently today,
the correct word is painstakingly.
The butter must be spread
to each and every corner of the bread,
from freshly-baked loaves.
Heap both sides of the bread lavishly with spreads,
No celery, you hated it.
Remove the crusts.
Assemble them ever so gently
before making the final cuts
into perfect quarters.
Clean the knife after each one.
Display them proudly
on my most treasured serving pieces.
And cloth napkins.
All is ready.
Invite them in.
I’ll get this right
for all the times
The sun was hotter.
You can tell.
Look at us squinting against it in photos then.
Everything washed out by the glare,
all detail surrendered.
we could be anybody.
The gardens, look,
It hurt to walk on the grass.
We lay in scorched backyards
slathering butter on our chests,
chain-smoking, eating fluorescent cheesies,
swilling bright red soda.
Everyone burned raw.
Everyone looked deliriously happy.
nothing could go wrong.
Our lives lay ahead of us.
Men were above us,
landing on the moon.
(goodreads.com contest winner).
Among da Vinci’s countless notebooks, all written in code,
or backwards, to ward off thieves,
is found a jotting that translates to:
“Tell me if I ever did a thing.”
Hardest on himself,
his abandoned projects haunted him,
and those completed offer little solace:
scissors, the parachute, a clock with a minute hand,
the first contact lens.
An upstart, he sketched Mona Lisa, no doubt, just to keep us guessing.
Her lips alone took him 10 years.
Voracious curiosity fuelled him,
climbing a mountain outside of Milan to understand
why the sky was blue.
dissecting human cadavers to perfect his anatomical drawings and,
it is rumored,
When he was commissioned to paint the Last Supper
he reluctantly put aside a joke book he was writing,
and throughout his life was convinced that if only we had wings
we could fly like birds.
Imagine this man’s to-do lists:
“Have Avichenna’s work on useful inventions translated.”
“Get a skull.”
If it’s true
as grim neurologists now claim,
that our memory is far from intact,
that the very process by which we retrieve the past
is flawed, random, that it plays fast and loose with
fact, detail, even
colour. Then how exactly do I conjure
what was us.
If it’s all up for grabs,
all bets off,
what was true?
The way you looked at me that evening
on the boardwalk,
was it as tender as I picture it now?
And your kiss. As deeply felt?
Did you profess your love in three languages
or was it just two?
Before you round the corner do you actually
turn to look at me
one last time?
Are you in the blue shirt
or the red?
Are those actual tears?
But science falls short. It overlooks
the power of the human heart
which has a memory all its own,
where the moments of our lives never alter,
or grow old.
Where a look remains as tender
as when first it was delivered,
a heart quickens just as it once did.
Yearning as fervent,
passion as acute,
and in that special place
the moments worth remembering
lie in wait for us, inviolate,
undefiled by time
Coming to Nothing
The day-to-day momentum
carries us with it,
making it impossible to imagine
this all shall pass.
Too much to think this will end,
carrying us into oblivion alongside
all of our carefully honed plans,
our exquisite attention to detail.
Who can contemplate that one day
and not so very far away,
another, perhaps even a stranger,
will be charged to sift through our lives,
tossing into random piles
our old day timers, nail polishes
and favorite sunglasses,
expired library cards.
Who can comprehend that one day
Some distant cousin may glance
at a dog-eared photograph
of a laughing, red-haired woman,
and ask with fleeting interest
to no one in particular:
“Wasn’t she a writer?”
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.
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,
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 utterly new.
You need to know that I want
Unabashedly sentimental songs.
Think Van Morrison
In his earlier, less angry days and
Dylan, in his later, gentler ones.
An instrumental of Annie Laurie is a must,
As too Mark Knopfler,
Who so magically supplied the soundtrack
For my days here.
You’ll need really good food for after.
Excellent, piping hot coffee and brewed Orange Pekoe in china pots,
Kentucky Fried Chicken,
Pizzas made to order,
And a Build Your Own ice cream sundae station
To add the requisite whimsy.
Display a very few pictures of me,
Not huge Bristol boards packed full of them,
So popular these days.
Black and white predominating, if you will,
My unwavering preference.
Yes, my nod to tradition,
Scads of calla lilies, but white only,
The yellow look fake somehow,
Oh, a few off white roses, would you,
Champagne they call them now.
And in the middle of everything
Position one commanding vase of
Fat white peonies,
Because their fragrance, their sheer deliciousness
Outdistances all the others combined.
Everyone there ought to tell
One story about me that stands out for them,
And not just of sweetness and light.
The dark, too.
You all know
I was more than one shade.
A piper would be wonderful at the close,
Just one, as there was for my father,
A whole band of them he felt excessive
And I must agree.
Then let me go.
Knowing that most days
I cherished this life of mine
And that while briefly here,
Laughed probably more than most,
Loved a few of you beyond measure,
And with providence in my corner
Was able to write a few poems
I would not change one word of
If This Is Your Final Destination, Welcome Home.
Always the smell of tiger balm
takes me back to Kuala Lumpur in 1980,
the sweltering airstrips,
the sea of expectant upturned faces
of the refugees waiting en masse
at the bottom of the airplane stairs,
on their way to Canada
and to second unimaginable lives.
Plane load after plane load,
week after week, three years running,
we ferried them across oceans.
After days and sometimes weeks
in crowded buses
they waited to be next in line,
these survivors of Pol Pot and
his merciless Khmer Rouge,
these witnesses of unimaginable horror.
We delivered them to Gander, to Montreal
and to Toronto,
away from all they had known,
everything they owned in small tidy bundles
at their feet.
We chose our words carefully
for the interpreter,
Trying to prepare them in some small way
for what lay ahead.
Where do you begin?
How do you tell someone how cold feels?
We played them music
we wanted them to hear,
hits of the day, Blondie, REO Speedwagon,
handed out sandwiches and Pampers
and wet naps.
They in turn watched our every move,
accepted anything given to them,
suspiciously at first,
then with vigorously nodding heads,
pouring forth their thanks,
holding up their solemn, silent babies proudly
for us to hold.
When we dimmed the cabin lights,
hearing their guarded whispers
to one another,
sharing late night confessions in the dark
high above the ocean,
these people for whom
no sadness had gone unknown.
It was boarding them I remember most.
Even when I urged them
up the aircraft stairs, off the blistering tarmac,
beckoned them toward me,
they held back, tentative,
and only when I descended the stairs
took the first of them by the hand,
would they dare take the first step
toward this wild and inconceivable freedom.
I see their faces clearly now and I ask:
Who among us could possibly measure
the courage we asked of them.