It’s just different enough


Snippets from the first month or so:

Walking along the highway-ish road the first day, a black man with bright purple hair (and shoes) speaking French to his young daughter who clutched a stuffed animal.

That was the second child that I’d seen walking along the street holding a stuffie. For some reason it struck me as different. That and the purple hair. I can still see them walking in front of me.

When I bothered to order a sandwich in my clumsy french, and the man at the restaurant spoke with me, slowly. A small and encouraging breakthrough.

There was this loud buzzing sound sometimes. I heard it when the patio doors were open. I asked my niece what it was, thinking of some power line type of issue.

Cicadas, she said.

Little moments of different.

The kids playing on the fenced-in, cement playground at the school on the (busy) corner, French-accent shouts bouncing off brick walls.

The brick seems to sharpen already bold soundscapes.

The way that the neighbors fighting sounds more like a play than a real thing. Maybe it’s the thicker walls, the fact that I don’t know them, the fact that it sounds more like drama than real problems…but I feel more removed, as if it is some sort of performance. My last neighbors were too close to home.

I couldn’t stand the fighting anymore.

The cab drivers are animated, chatty. Most people seem simultaneously more and less friendly…at least, less forced happiness. There’s flairs of charisma but it’s not vacant charm. It’s authentic and vibrant. No sugarcoats.

I feel like I’m in a movie—not acting in it, just watching characters.

The night I flew out was the night the man burned. I went to a party that I wasn’t invited to and watched that on a TV. Surreal, fitting…especially the way the screen separated us and the man, but also ourselves.

I had felt disconnect for a while and this was symbolic of a real distance that I’d been feeling for so long anyhow.

It was fitting of the shit that I’d shed, the new horizons that I couldn’t wait one more minute to miss. I didn’t idealize the other side at all; I knew it would come with it’s own set of imperfections and trials.

But first would come some semblance of clarity that I’d been craving for so long.


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

when the wave breaks

waves 3

“And darling we will be fine, but what was yours and mine
appears to be a sandcastle that the gibbering wave takes /
But if it’s all just the same, then will you say my name,
say my name in the morning, so I know when the wave breaks?” ~ Joanna Newsom

Moments ebb and flow, swelling regularly


Peaks of inspiration, emotion inevitably fall into lulls,

forming troughs of calm or disconnectedness.  

Salt water brimming, overflowing in drops, maybe rivulets:

pressure released, gravity wins.

Some times a slow surge, a glassy-smooth sailing:

thin clear sheet shining the sand.

Each one unique but behaving the same, following familiar energetic patterns:

Climax, crest, curl, collapse.

Reach out, retreat, repeat.