On Morris Street

Up here above the noise
I am poised,

to hear the music of my street.
“Fuck you, you creep!”

a lady screams,
to a man who smells of Listerine.

I stand up here above the world,
eating my peeled apple curls

at 3am, and drunk boys sing
gathered ’round a trash can ring.

They whistle at the stumbling girls,
who stop to give their weed a whirl.

Sometimes, I see old Elvis stroll,
oozing bygone rock n’ roll.

College kids, moms with strollers,
homeless bums and rare high-rollers.

Caught between the rich and poor, it’s
perfect looking down at Morris.

Foghorn through the din

My Dad.
The Greatest Dad.
My champion and
my fan.

Hard on me,
but easy too.
Wants me to be
all that I can
and have things he did not have.

He’s silly and he’s kind,
with a poetic mind,
stellar business sense,
becomes incensed
if he feels undermined,

like father and like daughter.
From one unto the other
passes humour, moral fibre
and the value of a fiver.

We wax poetic with our minds
and then butt heads
in perfect time.

My model and my guide
when I lose my way.
When I need a way back in,
he’s the foghorn through the din.
His voice is steady,
always sure
that nothing’s certain,

except him.

One West

Plodding down the 1 West (in
a skitzy rental Lancer),
nursing a double-double
to snap out of this trance.

Eighteen-wheelers spraying mud,
my wiper fluid’s empty.
Squinting through the grey-brown streaks,
one puddle’s all I need.

Been on the road for hours, and
I’m so done with this drive.
But I gotta keep an eye out
for Exit One-Two-Nine.

Flooding and white-out conditions.
Yeah, yeah, I’m crazy. Got it.
But this girl has got a mission:

One more freakin’ audit.

The Sign

I still think of you.

One of the two “night nymphs,” as my father affectionately called you. The neighbour girls, who would dance with sparklers in the dark across the orchard, on Canada Day and New Year’s Eve.

You were so cool.

But kind as well, and you carried both traits so well. You seemed so much older than me, but never made me feel like a nuisance. Nearly twenty years ago, I was just entering the double digits, and learning to play the trumpet. We sat among the apple trees, halfway between our homes, and you helped me learn the keys. I’d blurt out squeaks, and honks, and blats, while you riffed and made your own trumpet sing.

I remember once, playing in your attic, while you and my brother listened to music. It must have been 1993, because you were both enjoying a “new” tune by Ace of Base. I’ll never forget it, like a move clip in my mind, playing over and over.

“I saw the sign…”

I knew nothing beyond The Chipmunks and Raffi then, but I liked it too.

Years later, in high school, I tried to learn guitar. Once more, you sat with me and taught me all the chords. You taught me G, then A, then D. Then you explained that those are happy chords. If I wanted to get moody with my bad self, I would need minor chords. Em, and Am. Especially Em, you said. And so we played the moody chords, grunted lyrics and pretended to be angsty. But we were too happy to be moody, so we laughed at ourselves.

God, you always made me laugh.

When I heard the news, it shattered me. How could it be so? How can the world go spinning on, without that hearty, infectious laugh? It can’t. I’m sure of that. The world is still spinning, so you can’t be really gone. In the four years since that news, I’ve heard that song more times than I can count. Everywhere. In the mall, on the radio, at work.

It follows me.

It’s a sign, alright. I hope you know I see it.

The Last Minute

She sweeps the brush across the nail of her right thumb, slowly, with a neat and focused rhythm. A thin line of pink appears. She lifts the brush to start again, slightly to the left. It has nothing to do with vanity. Her looks have never been more than a blip on the radar of daily concerns. No, the process is merely meditative, a way to forget the myriad things stacked high in the middle of her mind. She’d so very much like to light a match, and watch the whole pile burn to ashes.

Procrastination is rarely a matter of being lazy. It’s about fear. Fear that actually completing a task will prove one’s inadequacy, no matter how ridiculous that might be. Fear of failure, plain and true. It’s a powerful thing. But despite her false serenity, at 10 pm when the deadline threatens, she’ll jump into action like a general leading troops into battle. The overwhelming dread simmers within, but she quietly ignores it, denying the inevitable truth of time.

The last minute! Oh, how much she hates it, but lives for it, and is a slave to it. She will never be free of its enticing promise, nor its clever illusion of always being on the horizon until suddenly it’s not. Until in a heart-stopping instant, it’s underfoot.

No matter how many times she falls for it, she never learns.

And so she dips the brush once more, and switches fingers.

Limit

hkview

At what point does it
become too much?
When we finally raise our hands
and say

“We can’t build them any taller,
we can’t fit any more,
we have no more space
to put them anyway.”

At what point do we finally
stand up straight and ask
“Exactly how much green space
will you take away?”

“How important is it
that
we fit
another mall,” or

“How many more millions
do you need
when your tenants live
in squalor?”

At what point do we insist
The Man
doesn’t need another
dollar?