She’s It

How do you write about a mother?
There simply is no other,
nothing comparable.
She’s the china shop and
the raging bull.

She takes the cake,
yet hates to bake.
Will curse you out for swearing
then say “shit,
that’s what you’re wearing?”

A bright light in the dark,
she’s a brand that leaves her mark.
Always hers,
always first,
on her mind and in her heart.

The cord is cut so surely,
yet the tension never wanes.
She’s the sunset on your last day,
and the morphine
for your pain.


How best do you describe them?
Each extreme and every contrast
in one person.
They’re the future
and the past.

The world rests on their shoulders
and they stand hip to hip,
holding everything
together with
no compromise in grip.

Not for a second slipping,
no, not even for a minute.
I don’t know much,
but this I do: if there’s a God,
she’s It.


She came out here to Arisaig
to simply get away.
She hadn’t made a sort of plan
but it was no mistake.

She wanted something nice to see,
a view of mountains, sky or sea
so she drove and drove until she found
a place that had all three.

It looked so cold, and smelled
like rain, and sounded very still.
The lighthouse watched her breathe it in
until she had her fill.

So back she goes to town and folks
and work and noise and smoke,
to exhale Arisaig each day
’til she needs another toke.

Listening When It’s Hard

This past weekend, I travelled to Antigonish, from Halifax, for a writing workshop led by Sheree Fitch. Sheree is a Maritime children’s author, and one of the most mesmerizing storytellers I’ve ever met. The first time I met her, I was eight years old. I had gotten an opportunity to attend a writing workshop in the Annapolis Valley, and I can still remember her lessons. So on Thursday, when I noticed an announcement on Twitter that she would be leading a workshop for Arts Health Antigonish, I wasted no time in registering. It was not a mistake.

Not only was it a fun weekend, filled with stories, memories, creative sparks and new friendships, it was also educational on a personal level. One of Sheree’s phrases from this weekend (which may have come from a book, but I can’t remember the author or book now) kept resonating with me after I’d returned home.

“Listen with a willingness to change.” That is true listening. We’re not talking about just hearing, but listening. Leaning in, taking it in.

When I got home, I saw a book on my table that I had taken out from the library, and which had so far sat on my kitchen table untouched. It was “Indian Horse” by Richard Wagamese. I had heard about it from one of the Canada Reads videos I had watched last month. It had remained untouched because I had a surface knowledge of what I would read in there. I knew it would be an uncomfortable read, and that it would most likely change me, force me to see a dirty truth. I would know things after reading it, that I already kind of knew, but I didn’t really know. And I wasn’t sure I was ready. It’s really, really easy to keep your head in the sand.

But after this weekend, with those words in my mind, I saw that book and picked it up. I started reading it yesterday, and finished it this morning, with big fat tears streaming down my face. It is quite obvious while reading this book, why it made it onto Canada Reads a couple years ago. It is spellbinding, tragic, hopeful, enlightening and utterly heart-breaking. We may think, in certain parts of this country, that we are already enlightened, already beyond the prejudices of our nation’s past… but as a whole, we are not. We can’t keep our collective head in the sand, and pretend that Canada is beyond those problems, or pretend that there aren’t many people still feeling the effects of past injustices.

I finally read this book with the willingness to be changed, and though I’m not quite sure how I’ve changed yet, I already know this book will stay with me a long time. I truly believe everyone in Canada should read it, even if you are indeed beyond the prejudices (which I hope many of us are). It is important to acknowledge the not-so-pretty picture of Canada’s past. Acknowledge that things happened that should not have happened. Acknowledge that people were destroyed, families were destroyed, spirits were destroyed, cultures were destroyed, and that healing is an ongoing struggle.

If anything, I think this book could help us all to stop judging others, from every walk of life. Everyone has a story, and we have to listen if we want to make things better for everyone in this country. The more uncomfortable it might be, the more potential it has to change us, the closer we have to lean in.


I wrote this on a typewriter-mimicking app (Hanx Writer) in about 10 minutes. I was pretty shocked at how fun it was to type something permanent. It was freeing!

Anyway, I printed the PDF, edited some bits and then scanned it. Hopefully the experience is a bit more aesthetically interesting for you than if I had copied and pasted the words into this box.

Feel free to suggest changes! Who knows what it might turn into. ;)

CrabappleSo, who do you think is the real sucker in the story? I haven’t actually decided yet.

To NaPoWriMo…

or not to NaPoWriMo?

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit,
it seems to be the driving force behind
the ever-popular
“30-day challenge.”

I signed up for a 30-day
hot yoga challenge last winter.
After 27 days I hated yoga
and stopped for 3 months.

I started a running streak
on January 1st, this year.
After 14 days, I almost
ate my running shoes.

It also does not take 21
days, or weeks, or months,
to form a life-long habit.
Ask any smoker.

It took me one day
to start cracking knuckles.
One bite, to keep
biting nails.

21 seconds maybe,
is more accurate.

I worry then, that
30 days of writing poems,
will either distract from
other writing projects,

or I’ll feel the pressure
to rhyme a line
so great,
I’ll eat my notebook.

And it has metal coils.

A Word of Difference

I make more sense in writing. I have always known this to be true.

When speaking, thoughts leap-frog out of my brain, mocking the nice, ordered numbers I pinned to their chests in case they got lost. Rushing to my mouth, words crash through the elevator door all at once, squirming shoulder-to-shoulder to be the first one through. It is always a surprise which one will win, and come flying out of my mouth head-first at top speed, splatting against any eardrums in the vicinity. The surprise is mine as well, and quite often a challenge arises where I must defend or explain what I just said, when I neither meant nor agree with it.

I wish I could build a steep, narrow staircase, from the conveyor belt of thoughts, directly to my mouth. That way, the word queue must remain as intended, with their nametags reading in numerical order. Words would only be able to get out on the Self-Editing floor. No entries or change-ups, only dark and quiet exits. They would emerge blinking and docile from my mouth in a logical, unoffending string. Punchlines would come at the end of jokes, and I would never wish someone a good dight, or a grice day.

But as it is, the conveyor belt ends with a train platform where thoughts all mash together, elbowing and stepping on each other, getting distracted by buskers and panhandlers. They cram into the many cars that make up the train of thoughts, and they all get off at Vocalization Station, sprinting toward that too-small elevator which transforms them hastily into actual words. I wait anxiously at the bottom to see what horror emerges, hoping that for once, Word #1 is followed calmly by 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on.

It is always too much to ask. Even when giving a speech, having run my words through countless drills in order to prepare them for such an event to make sure that each one is aware of the protocol, one of them inevitably forgets his shoes, or her book, and ruins the system. The space in line where the straggler was supposed to be, is filled with the low uummmmm of the elevator instead, while the rest of us wait.

It is tiresome, supervising such ditzy riff-raff.

Luckily, thoughts headed for my fingertips love to form a queue. They march down my arms stoically, hopping synapses one by one, and walking onto the page composed and without vanity. While my spoken words seem to know they are temporary, and express this sense of futility without a shred of dignity in a hot-headed and fanatical finale, my written words know their permanence, and wear their pinned-on numbers with pride. They may not be the right words, or the best words, but they’re the words I chose. And for that, they are terribly happy.

And that’s why I make more sense in writing.

The Best Reality TV Show

I have been overwhelmed this week by my personal discovery of a CBC program called Canada Reads. It has been going on, each year, for 14 years, and I only just learned of it this week. Essentially, it is “Survivor meets Bachelor” of literature. Four days of debates surrounding five chosen works of literature by Canadian authors, championed by Canadian celebrities. The panellists vote off a book each day, until there is one left standing. This book is deemed to be The Book that all Canadians should read this year.

Only in Canada, eh?

We don’t give a shit about Kardashians. Give us books, dammit!

I started listening on Day 3, after reading all the comments on Twitter about how great it was. I watched the video of Day 1, watched Day 3 via livestream, and then had to go back and watch Day 2 to catch up on what happened. Day 4 was incredible. I had no idea what would happen. I am not disappointed by the winner, but I was surprised!

I must say, I found the debates interesting, riveting, hilarious, eloquent and informative. The panellists showed respect for their fellow competitors, and passion for the book they chose to defend. It truly was a joy and a privilege to witness, and there were certainly moments when Elaine (who defended “When Everything Feels Like the Movies” like a boss) actually brought me to tears. Each of the books dealt with issues we are currently facing as a nation, and I think the debates helped to bring the voices of various underprivileged groups, and the hard truth about certain deficiencies in our Canadian culture, into the spotlight. It was, without a doubt, enlightening and inspiring.

Since Day 4, I’ve gone through somewhat of a withdrawal. I have watched previous years of debates in the past few days, and added an obscene number of books to my wishlist. But aside from the effect it had on me as a reader, and the effect it will have on my bank account, it had a profound effect on me as a writer.

I share only a small fraction of my thoughts on this platform. Most of my stories are still brewing in my head, are scribbled in notebooks or remain locked up securely in my heart. What these debates taught me, is that these authors did not just write compelling novels that people could dive into. They also brought up controversial and uncomfortable topics, and some shared what could have been unpopular opinions. They shared their hard truths, things they care about, and it got them a coveted spot on Canada Reads. Even the loser wins, on Canada Reads!

I found that to be profoundly inspiring, and it got me thinking about my own stories, my own hard truths. What could I share with the world, that is not just a brief, light-hearted poem? What could I share that is truly meaningful, and that might one day add to that monstrous library of Canadian literature?

That is a big question.

So I better get writing.