I received this framed portrait in the mail today from a friend of mine. She combined a photo of me with a poem written by my friend the writer Tia Finn. I will treasure this, always, as it was a gift that came straight from their hearts.
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.
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,
It was like any other apartment on my roster.
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
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.
Life’s not hard enough
So let’s invent a foe
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
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.
amidst a scattering of pillows
flanked by your medications,
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
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.
Bricks and mortar aren’t what home is:
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.
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.
This November morning,
the bleak view out my window is the definitive study
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,
waiting to unleash all.