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.

Don’t Look, Charles

I pull on my boots, and shove the final notice in my pocket.

Halfway up Brenton Street, a couple stands still on the icy sidewalk. Heads turned upward, staring at the roof of an oddly immaculate house, beige, still sporting a Christmas wreath. On my approach, the couple walks away. I notice a sign at each end of the house. A warning to us, the car-less plebs.

“Danger! Falling ice!”

I walk quickly between the signs. Continuing up the street, my head is down, ears perked for shifting sheets.

At the counter, the young man checks my notice and scurries away. He returns with a familiar box, now with a bright orange sticker.

“RETURN TO SENDER.”

For fuck’s sake.

It’s the printer, one of two. Both shipped back to head office together, at the same minute, from this exact counter. One passed through customs, this one did not. Same contents, same documentation. How? Why?

The young man stammers and puffs out his cheeks. He can’t explain it either. “I’m sorry,” he squeaks.

I stare at him, and pick it up. The unwanted nuisance that it is.

And I put on real clothes for this.

I carry the God-forsaken box, again. Third time’s a pain. I pass the beige house, this time looking up. I keep my eyes aloft, as the houses move past like a colourful, misshapen train.

And then I see. Idiocy all around me.

The houses threaten to release long, sharp daggers, weakening by the minute as the sunshine hits. Like loose baby-fangs, they hang from a wide and shingled grin.

All of the houses flash their pearly dripping whites.
All except the one with Danger signs on either side. I sigh.

In my apartment again, I pick up my copy of “The Origin of Species.” I shake my head at this world

that so often selects against
now-uncommon sense,
and pat Darwin’s back as he turns to hide his justified distress.

The Ritual

Snow Day!
All’s paralyzed.
Boss calls to say “we’re closed.”

Pull on pants,
black Bean boots, wool toque,
and head to Atlantic News

to get supplies
of: lime Stewart’s pop, storm chips,
local poetry books and Spitz.

Such a perfect day,
spent chewing silky verses
and sunflower seeds until it burns.

Snow Day.

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.