Thursday January 10, 2019
Life After Life
I used to want Zia Vilma to be my mother cause she knew how to french braid, and make her own halloween costumes, and turn an old pair of leggings into a choker with a broken heart earring as the pendant.
She was the only one spent time with us, who played cards with us when we were little and begging to sit at table with all the adults.
She lit up when she saw us.
My own mother was a little different than she is now. She used to scream at us more then. She used to whip her eyes shut when she was yelling out all her demons.
I hated that face she made. I was afraid of it. she couldn’t look us in the eye.
Tuesday January 1, 2019
Comfortable With Uncertainty
The sorrow I’ve been pushing into the deep hole of me has started to itch
It rubs up against the sides of its cage and begs for fresh water
Don’t you know you cannot burry sadness alive?
The clock on the wall clicks more than ticks and I think everything around me is breaking
At dinner the light is soft and golden and everyone is in a perfect mood but me
The air in my lungs escapes before I know what I am saying and the room tunnels into the shape of my hurt
All those years of doing my best and being told to go back to the old me-the one who is better understood by shopkeepers and mothers and fathers and groups of afraid
I feel this pit beginning to take root and I am not sure what I’ll be if I pluck it from the dark mud where it’s been lost
How easy to say Fine instead of Not Fine
How easy to say sorry after the garden has been torn up
I am courageous enough to feel all this and all this that cannot be named
Wednesday August 8, 2018
Gimme a minute sweet one I’ve got water boiling on the stove
Gimme a minute honeypots I’m on the phone
Hold on darling there’s something I need to finish here
Can you wait?
What is it?
Can you could those legs?
How many do you think she has?
See that little yellow stripe?
How do you think she feels about it?
It’s not quite time for lunch yet but I have some apricots if you’d like.
Friday June 1, 2018
From a L’Oréal ad
Third grade recess. Teacher calls me out for wearing purple mascara that I stole from my aunt’s medicine cabinet when I went to visit her in New York City.
I didn’t know that it was purple, or I wouldn’t have taken it. Teacher says,
“Why are you wearing make-up?! You’re just a kid! Wash that off right now!”
So I went inside and tried to get it all off but it was hard, it was clumpy, it was attached.
“Monika! You’ve got purple all over your face!” Javier whispers. He’s got my back. Bless him.
Wednesday May 2, 2018
I want to remember everything from that house before it gets lost
The long staircase leading into the living room where I’d watch
my parents watch TV when I was supposed to be in bed
The upstairs bathroom with the black and white tiles that I would
count at night where my father took me so I wouldn’t wet the bed
The night my own bed became a flood and me, the punished rain, a sadness
The closet in my bedroom where I unzipped the front of my overalls to
show the blonde-haired boy something that he wanted that I didn’t know was mine
The lilac dining room that I would stand in watching the trees in the yard,
pretending they were alive and waiting for me
the telephone I used when I dared my first prank call on the operator and
the pulse of it when she called me back
I want to ask my mother if there are things I might be missing
the moment she knew I was made of her
the times she watched me sleep on the floor with my ponytail spilling over the pillow
Wednesday March 7, 2018
Hands on hips and butt naked Martha gives me a look like I’m never escaping. “But you lied to me!” She shouts at the top of her lungs.
“It’s a white lie…” I look at Billie, her mother, and Billie tries not to smile.
“I don’t even know what the is!” Martha wails.
“Why don’t you put on your pyjamas, sweetie,” says Billie and Martha slowly goes to her purple dresser and chooses a striped nightgown. It’s flannel. Billie made it.
“You’ve both really disappointed me,” Martha says, and we can’t help but laugh now. We laugh and laugh and then she laughs a bit too.
“Will you still give me a loonie? Even if the tooth fairy won’t? Can we pretend that she’s real? Just til I’m eight?”
Billie and I pinky swear.
Thursday May 11, 2017
from a quote by Louis C.K
Sunbeams of The Sun (May 2017 issue)
five years old, Nonna visits,
leaves her face creams tubed in the upstairs bathroom
curious, five years old, sneaks into the upstairs bathroom
counts the black tile, counts the white,
opens the cream, smears it on, five years old,
closes it, runs away to pretend that nothing is out of the ordinary
mother, thirty-five years old, yells at all of us
because one of us, five years old, left the tubes partially open
Nonna wants to know who would, since she wouldn’t
five years old wants to blame it on the upstairs bathroom ghost
thirty-five years old asks flame on lips for the last time,
shoots missile from eyes, no prisoners
five years old, scared, ashamed, caught, decides to lie
blames it on the upstairs bathroom ghost,
learns guilt, confesses
one hour later
Wednesday May 10, 2017
True Confessions Of Adrian Albert Mole
It took a long time for us to go back and visit
the pussy willow tree overgrowing the back deck
so much they chopped it down in all the impulsive
the gold stars sponge painted on the downstairs bathroom walls
the office converted into a nursery
the playroom now belonging to the boy who once
convinced me to show him my orange star underwear
They smiled sweetly at us like they weren’t responsible
for making us move to a better town filled with
they never apologized for the pussy willow tree
or the black berry bush
or the playroom
they volly whispers back and forth
about asking us if we’d like something to eat,
a danish or a banana
Sunday February 26, 2017
Dear Sugar Radio
I don’t have any memories of my mother’s father. He died when I was three, lived in Italy, and I only met him a couple times. The first time, they tell me, was when I was 3 months old. I had my ears peirced with gold studs (by my aunt Patricia, who was also travelling to Italy with us), I carried around a rainbow striped bunny that I would later name “Skittles”, and according to my mother, I was a very picky eater during the first couple months of my life. They tell me that he was a big man, feared by many. They tell me all the other grandkids ran away from him because they were intimidated by his size, or his mood, or his silence. They tell me that when he walked by my crib I begged for him to pick me up. They tell me that it was strange for a small thing to reach out to him. They tell me that he lived for taking me out into the fields to pick fresh figs. They tell me he smiled a lot when we were there.
Sixteen years later I went to Italy for the second time. I found his gravestone. I listened to the air between my life and his. I still can’t say I ever knew him. But I missed him then.
Saturday February 25, 2017
milk and honey
When I was 7 my mother babysat a boy named Benjamin who was my age, and his two younger brothers. Ben had white blond hair and white blond eyebrows and he swore like a sailor. He had a lot of excess saliva, always pooling at the base of his tongue so when he spoke he shot out spurts or sometimes entire globules of spit. I thought this made him cute. I thought his boyish hair was something to brag about. One day we were playing in my room and Benjamin asked if we could sit in my closet. I didn’t know what he wanted to do but I do know that going into the closet was slightly wrong. It felt bad. I wanted to be bad with Benjamin. We brought Barbies and then sat in there on the floor with the lights on just staring at each other. Ben suggested that we show each other our private parts and I thought, yeah, alright, I don’t see why not.
Saturday February 4, 2017
From the facial tissue package
driving to the silver’s farm
peach juice on my shorts from
wiping sticky fingers
and the pit in my pocket
cozy with a white shell
and a black stone
takes the winding road
slow because i get car
sick like she does
and our ginger cat too
pile out of the minivan
named athena and run
over the hot gravel
run run bare feet
picking corn with
a careful eye watch
out for worms or
Friday February 3, 2017
from the Windows display
I don’t think I ever cared about the fish we had when we were growing up. I think I wanted to, and I meant to, but it never hit. My sister seemed to care about them. She gave them names, she put tiny pellets into their water, she sometimes made up songs about them. But then she also kept killing them and had to flush them down the toilet and then get three more replacement fish. And then she did it again. I can see how one would think they’d be an unfit mother if they never figured out just how hard it is for goldfish to actually live in the first place. I realize now that I also couldn’t care about them because when my sister got them for her birthday that year, I also got a pair of white Barbie running shoes with sparkly pink laces. I was very busy.
Monday January 30, 2017
From a text
When I was a child, living in a big house on a tree lined street with a yellow door, I would build tiny worlds out of branches, moss, a shell from a visit to Florida. I saw things differently then, in different colours, with different textures. I didn’t know fatigue. I knew heartbreak.
When I had friends over – Sarah, Katie, Charlotte, – I invited them into the worlds. Sometimes someone brought a pinecone or a piece of string. Before bed, after brushing my teeth, washing my face and saying goodnight to my mother, I would take the tiny world apart, bit by bit.
Saturday January 21, 2017
from a text
I grew up in a cornfield
Nonna aproned in the backyard
Picking dandelions for supper
Knew all the kids on my block and sold drawings for pennies in groups of 2 or 3
We planted a sprig of pussy willow and it grew as wild and large as the entire porch
The people who repainted our bathrooms white with gold stars and moons had to cut it down because it was starting to grow into the house
We’d go for walks to the river in clusters of young
Not fully knowing which direction was the right one
The backyard was home to blackberry bushes and mint leaves
And to cousins and neighbours singing loud at the bonfire on summer nights
Sunday October 30, 2016
From a Freshii sign at the airport
When your mother puts you in gymnastics you glare at the back of her head as she drives you there the station wagon screeching to a stop in the parking place that’s meant for pregnant people. She doesn’t walk you in and make sure everything’s okay like all the other mothers she says HAVE A GOOD TIME and looks at you like everything about your existence is a highly regrettable mistake. Your purple leotard is crawling up your bum crack and you need to go pee but you say BYE MAMA and close the door gently and then you go inside and say that you’re here for beginning gymnastics please and where is the bathroom please and where is a cubby for you to put your boots.
Tuesday March 8, 2016
The Artist’s Way
In my house we never had enough moments of pure ease–we had some tensions around the dinner table–us correcting dad’s grammar, one little one getting in trouble for skipping school again, the big on getting in trouble for wanting to leave the dinner table to go work on her homework, the middle one getting in trouble for slamming the door earlier.
“Eat what’s on your plate”
“Eat this or don’t eat”
If you don’t eat what’s on your plate, you can’t leave the table”
We couldn’t say we weren’t hungry–we couldn’t say we didn’t want the risotto or the second day fried spaghetti or the chicken scallopini or the veal fettine with lemon and parsley. How could we say we don’t want to eat these good things with you when you get mad at us for BREATHING.
“You should feel so lucky you get to eat like this”
“You should see what the other kids have to eat every night: pasta from a can, tuna salad sandwiches”
“But we like tuna”
“Not for dinner we don’t”
Some moments reeked of attempted ease.
A joke here–him trying to steal a fork full of meat off our plates when weren’t looking–a question about the neighbour’s dog.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
from the A&W sign
I wonder what will happen to me if the police come? I don’t know anyone who belongs to the Children’s Aid… I’ve only read about foster homes and they don’t exactly get the best rap. I’m not sure if I can make it on my own. I’m not sure if I would be a good street kid because I don’t really like getting dirty and I’ve never squeegeed anything ever! I don’t know how to de-feather a pigeon and I’m absolutely unsure how to panhandle!
Monday November 16, 2015 at Matchstick Coffee Roasters
I can’t drink anything without it spilling it all over myself. Eating too, but drinking mostly. I’ve had this problem since I was a kid. I remember sitting on the yellow bus in the fourth grade, going home after school, and eating vanilla yogurt while talking to the older kids sitting in front of me. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but found out soon enough thanks to Lisa Van Oorschot who suddenly shrieked out at the top her lungs, “Amanda! Your sister just slopped yogurt all over herself!” The bus filled with cruel laughter and I went red and felt young and stupid and careless. I’ll never forget how thrilled Lisa was at the sight of me, sitting there embarrassed and completely ready to cry. I haven’t exactly grown up in that department. I can’t drink water without wearing most of it, regardless of the type of cup or bottle it’s in. It’s like my mouth refuses to adapt to glassware, turning me into a wild lion quenching my thirst at the watering hole.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
A Toronto Public Library card
Got your matching sweaters and your matching boots and your hats, well, they match too. I’m charmed and I’m so happy you found your person. I remember, in sixth grade or something, you looked at me and thought I might be the one. You invited me over for dinner and I was excited because I’d been keeping track of everyone’s lunches and yours were up there. Your mother was in culinary school, turn’s out, and so we had something fancy and with cream. It was all stir fries and soy milk at my house so I did a little private joy dance when I went to the bathroom. Quickly you tried to suck me into matching. “You should get a sweater like this one!” you’d say. I was resistant, but succumbed. How could I resist the creme caramel?
Saturday March 14, 2015
The Midwich Cuckoos
Let’s take ourselves back in time to the time before
the time when we knew about consequence
and hemming of jeans and the blueberry kiss of
How is one to know when a stranger is the icy breath on the window
of the car accident?
The Mother we’ve been waiting for since the day we arrived her
spewing needs and hunger
at the top of our lungs
I’ve wanted a revolution from day one but I don’t like starting things
preferring the sourdough to rise in the cupboard
unwatched by blue eyes
We wrapped purple and blue and green and grey around strands of hair we weren’t
afraid to lose
a summer of coconut oil and tuna sandwiches
Cherry popsicle lipstick
Tuesday December 30, 2014
from a crossword puzzle
you got just the right amount of beauty
not too much that it makes the others curl
you smile like the moon rise
like the full moon rise
and you know those elements of courage
a deep seed of bravery
a forgetting of childhood fear
a quartz crystal compass in your gut
you got those elements of courage
you would walk the cemeteries in the rain
daring the ghosts to dance with you
you would climb the tallest tree
begging the sky to grab you
you would swim deep down
take me water
Monday December 29, 2014
Little Lord Love
“Marla! Come downstairs! Your Papa wants a kiss before goin’ to work!” She stretches like a starfish and thinks about how many days are left until camp. She goes downstairs and kisses her Papa on the cheek. “Have a good day, baby.” He starts the car and Johnny Cash blares. She pushes her face against the window and watches as he drives away. “What’s the matter with you? Haven’t you got a soccer game in half an hour?” Mama makes a face like she’s smelled something foul. “I’m not going. I have a stomach ache.” Mama rolls her eyes. “Suit yourself…” She goes back to the kitchen, where she’s pretending to do the dishes but really watching All My Children. Marla. Marla is eleven. Marla loves cheddar cheese and June Carter. Marla hates soccer but she’s good at it so everyone assumes she likes it. “Did you call Coach?!” Mama says, from the other room. “Can you do it?” Marla lies on the floor, her stomach pressing into the wood, her left cheek down. “Marla, what’s the matter with you?” “I told you, I’m SICK!”
Friday November 14, 2014 at Little Collins
The specials board at Little Collins
My mother’s secret recipe
She kept the special plate in the high cupboard
Only made it for special occasions
It was my favourite
She let me taste the batter once or twice
I often think of the combination
Spicy and sweet
As if you could catch a perfect character blend
Like a cold
Or a bought of chicken pox
I wanted some of her for me
I wanted to be spicy and sweet
I got close to her and stayed
As still as I could
It was her favourite
And it was mine
Friday November 14, 2014 at Culprit Coffee Co.
The specials board at Little Collins
M: Are you eating your greens?
B: Are you actually asking me that?
M: Is there a problem?
B: Did you even hear what I just said?
M: Of course I did.
M: Look. I, I’m not sure that – …
B: I knew it.
M: Knew what?
B: That you would just breeze over my feelings and be totally removed and totally passive aggressive and -…
M: Those are some steep accusations –
M: I don’t know! I’m being attacked!
B: I’m Obsessive Compulsive, Mom.
M: Says who?
B: My doctor. I finally feel like I understand myself in a new way and you’re completely ignoring –
M: When’s the blame going to come, Bobby? When’s the tracing it back to your troubled childhood going to come?!
B: What? This has nothing to do with anything between you and Dad. This is chemical. This is my mind. This is –
M: Bobby, I need to go to the bathroom.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
overheard a Grand Beach
No! It was this big, Mama! It was really this huge! Franklin, stop it! That’s how big it was! I’m the one that held it so you don’t even know! FRANKLIN SHUT UP! I’m telling Mama. MAMA! FRANKLIN! Mama! Franklin is saying that I didn’t know how big the kitten was! That is was smaller! It was a Maine Coon cat! That’s what Aunty said! A Maine Coon! They’re the size of a dog! Even when they’re babies! That’s the truth. Mama? Listen to me! I’m talking to you! Can we can a Maine Coon? Papa won’t even notice that it’s not a dog. He won’t sneeze or have itchy eyes or anything.
Wednesday February 5, 2014
Learning To Love You More
Harrell Fletcher & Miranda July
sometimes you wanna sing, have a song in your head
and all the rest seems unimportant
or just too plain to care about right then
so you do
you sing it out and you let the emotions from
well, your past
bubble up and from words that rhyme with each other
Shania Twain kind of words
words you never thought you’d hear your boyfriend defend
words you always told yourself you would never own
you do now
cause Shania knew what she was doing
and on some deep level, everybody knows that
you sing to the one who stole your heart
the one with eyes so blue you can only come up with lyrics about the sky
the one who loved you in secret but hurt you hard in front of the whole world
you may even sing about the wind or something
the breeze, the trivial, the dew?
probably the dew.
let’s be honest: the dew.
and you struggle to come up with a chorus
or a verse
or whichever didn’t come first
and you picture singing that to someone, anyone
one day in the future
when you get one
or your kid-
when you are capable of one
and you hope it causes those lovey dovey tremors
those small ever so subtle shakes that keep
you singing those songs when you find them
Monday March 4, 2013 at R Squared
Griffin. Not sure why you’re in my head today. Here we go.
Had curly hair. Dark. Looked dirty. Remembered his big teeth always big and smiley. Curly, curly hair. The first boy I had met with curls. Griffin wore green and blue wool sweaters for picture day. interacted with him? Can’t recall. His winter boots, black, Velcro. His hat, big, popply, also green and blue like his sweaters. He is a Mr. Potato head in my memory–putting clothes on him and facial expressions to help me paint him. Had a lisp. Had a lisp that didn’t bother anyone. Had a lot of G.I Joes. Always making smashing noises with his big teeth, big lips. BOOOOKERSSSHhHHHHH. Small and quiet. Griffin. Last name out the window hanging on a clothesline, flapping in the wind. Never had a last name, maybe. Never had a first one either. Griffin is the name of a furry forest animal. Like a bear. Or a squirrel. Griffin the squirrel. His big teeth always big and smiley like a squirrel. This squirrel smiles. Not all squirrels do. Friends with him only in winter. Climbing the snow hills together. Were we friends? Never know.
Saturday February 23, 2013
It scared me from when I was a kid. Half of the stringy stuff got caught in my throat and I choked on it. I guess that’s how you learn. You almost die before you realize that it is not the right way to eat an orange. Couldn’t someone have showed me that it was improper? I’ve had an issue with these things for a long time. It would be nice if someone noticed and just helped me along. I used to think you had to peel an artichoke the entire way to its core before you could eat it. But I kept peeling and peeling, and eventually all the layers were sitting on a paper towel and the heart of it was missing. Someone could have mentioned it then…but they thought it was endearing. I will never forget it. I thought it was the same as opening up a chocolate Kinder Egg to get to the little toy inside. But nothing was inside, I was just disappointed. Oranges are the same way now. They could have easily been a favourite but I think I’m going to go about eating it the wrong way and never think to buy them on my own unless they’re pre-cut.
Choking is not a fun feeling, so. I guess it’s residual fear or something.
I wonder if it’s just a life lesson I have to experience my own way. Like learning everything the hard way; burning my hands on the stove to know that it’s hot, and eating too many spicy peppers to understand my body just isn’t meant for that kind of thing.