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Pink Angora

How wrong we can be about the things we think will save us…

I walked behind them on the way home after skating that Saturday night
in my small town.
He was the high school all-star,
she the ice ballerina.

She wore pink angora mittens and a matching beret,
perched at what seemed the perfect angle on her small head,
her white-blond hair cascading down.

She was so small he towered beside her as they walked.
He strode, she with tiny quick mincing steps to keep up,
her little pink furry hand eclipsed inside his enormous one.

She looked up at him often and longingly.
He looked straight ahead and did most of the talking,
I couldn’t imagine that bitter February night
happiness being anywhere but right here,
in front of me,
she at his side,
with a rightful place,
and a way for her to be in this world.

At 15,
it seemed all I needed was there,
in that matching set of woolens
and in a tall young man walking beside me
who could have been anywhere,
anywhere he wanted,
but had chosen here,
with me.

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.

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.

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.

photo of fallen leaves in autumn to accompany my poem about the ending of things

Out There

I just saw a man walking a raccoon on a leash.
I kick a pathway through the foliage to my front door.
So much needs tending.
A flurry of leaves follows me inside,
depositing the season deeply into every corner.
The slanted fall light is so harsh it seems it might lay bare
everything it touches.
And no forgiveness in it.
I smell the winter approaching.
Taste the metallic cold of it in my mouth.
I fear I may have lived my best years.

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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