A Certain (a-) Symmetry

abstract forest art stephen hall flickr
“Pass in Time” via Stephen Hall at Flickr 

Something about the way I learned to lean backwards

cross-sectional on the sofa
Composed well, but weirdly—
almost deconstructed
to the core
point of reference,

Laughing and loopy
A bent and staggering mess
holding steady (ish)
enough to scrape by
on today.

You’d hold me up now and then,
taught me how to stay
despite my starry criss-crossed gaze,
my lopsided stance.

Our circus show balancing act:

I couldn’t lean there forever
so I think of you as I teach myself
to stay steady yet
delightfully crooked.

For this I am
unequivocally grateful.

Our messes are forever misaligned
juxtaposed, mismatched, scattered.
Each day a lone paint splat
ungracefully bland in its seclusion,
necessarily uneven and unique.

When I step back a little, holding my gaze,
I know that beauty,
I feel its worth.

Art, love, life.

Such as it is.


when i was new


marionette girl

when i was new


you would want to read me

to watch and investigate   

to play with me.


i was shiny, then:  


and sweet-smelling

like that slightly perfumey plastic

the kind that signaled something good

when we were young

and didn’t know the difference.  


(i used to think that the plastic bottoms of my

cheap chinatown shoes

were chocolate and try to eat them)


now you put me away again

you’ll share a little bit but you don’t really want

to give your toys away.




so i’m shoved back up in the closet,  

stuck collecting dust

an empty glass-eyed stare 

waiting to be pulled back down

at your leisure.


you almost forget—

but suddenly i

light up your eyes again.

and it’s

almost as exciting as

the first time

you held me like that

your skilled grip a perfect balance of

firm and gentle

bending my small pieces around

guiding my limbs with such skill and grace:

i fold, hang and glide,

a marionette surrendered deeply in a dance

of pleasure.


for a moment you are captivated

watching as

we move in synch.  


then i’m away again.

each time you tug my box down from the shelf

i’m a little more used up

and you are a little less thrilled.

with each reach i’m closer to shelf life,

 you’re a little more bored.


(mommy! I want a new one.

this one doesn’t work anymore.)


i work, though—

i work better than before.

you’ve warmly worn me into



but you can’t see it.

you are blinded  

by the shimmery show

of new distractions


(mommy! i need a new toy to bring to class.  

show and tell is tomorrow!)


the thing that you bring out

to tell stories of—

that has to be pretty.


it has to always be better than

the last.


this could never stay enough.



{Image: Send me adrift at Flickr}

Inspiration for my chapbook

dove imprint captain tenneal at flickr

(Photo by Captain Tenneal at Flickr)

I’ve decided to put together a book of poetry, inspired by and dedicated to my Uncle Peter and his wife Nellie McClung (granddaughter of the Canadian suffragette). They were creatives (poets, amongst other things) now both deceased.

I think of them more and more the older I get because – well, forgive me if I sound callous (I mean this as the highest compliment) but they were the quintessential ‘crazy’ poets.

Both were afflicted with Schizophrenia and met at Riverview in the 1970’s. They did their thing because they had to.

Or because they didn’t have much else. Or because it was everything.

How do we describe the need to create? 

When I was younger and they were alive, I didn’t get their poetry, their relationship. But now I do-at least a little bit more. I wish that I could write with them.

I dug up a couple of their own publications and did a little Google search. It’s difficult to find something that is Nellie ‘Lillian’ rather than ‘Letitia’ McClung, the latter being the famous suffragette and Nellie’s grandmother.

I did find this little dedication to Nellie from the SPCA. She didn’t have much, but she left some of that to the animals – pretty cool. And her obituary here.

I found my own ‘Raindrop,’ Peter’s paper stapled book of Haikus.

At the back is a poem from Nellie to Peter. I think it’s a lovely and strange snippet of their lives together, a set of simple moments that was really so much more.

Sonnet for Peter

I hung my poem
about Ireland
out the window
to dry for you
(you lying pale & wan
in your hospital bed)
& soon the gannet & kestrel
small sparrows in twos & threes
alighted at your window
& pecked at the words
& you said it was good
excitement in your voice
“The birdies are here.”
on the phone

not knowing what to do
with my simple poems
I came each day
and pinned my latest poem
with clothes pins
on a wire across your window

I thought of Chekhov’s story we shared
of the man who goes to visit
a hospital patient, & describes
the view out the window, to the enthusiasm
of the patient, the next visitor
saying there was only a brick wall

& again of Li Po who put his poems
in lighted candled paper boats

and sent them out to sea in the dark.

~ Nellie McClung