i need to let go

but i don’t want to

it’s only a reflex


it’s only a reflection

of a need long ago


like when you were waiting

that time

at the airport with the sign

with their name on it

but they never came.

That fear of abandoning

the thing your heart


in case it forgets

how to want something else.










Gastroliths and goodbyes

saying goodbye to people places and things. it’s like eating pebbles, it’s that hard– but apparently some birds do that because it helps them digest. I am just a featherless chicken… and clearly balking at the need for gastroliths… that’s what the swallowed pebbles are called. whoever invented goodbyes probably never had to use one. just like it was probably a man who invented the corset. it was probably someone with no heart and eyes in the back of their head who invented goodbyes.

seeking writing pad

I’m planning to go live somewhere else for three months in the fall, and I’m scared. Scared I’ll be lonely and unproductive, scared I will feel miserable and question why I decided to do it. I love Halifax and Dartmouth and I love my friends and I’ll  miss them like crazy. I’ll miss my family and swimming at the pool at my friend’s apartment building and being able to hop on a bus and just go somewhere and the CMHA and the coffee shops.   I’ll miss  having a familiar routine of sorts. My new routine will incorporate several hours of writing a day, walks, reading and a good deal of solitude I imagine. Most of all it will involve getting caught up in my novel again, and hopefully finishing a rough draft.

That sounds a little like heaven,hell and purgatory all mixed up together. It isn’t going to be easy clearly. But is it the right decision to go away to write? People do it all the time. But for three months?

I will need music. I will need to cook and eat well, exercise enough and sleep enough. I will need appropriate clothing for the weather which will be edging toward winter at the end. Honestly I am not sure I am entirely cut out for this adventure but I’ve done something like it before and managed alright. This time I am sticking closer to home for a lot of reasons, some of which I don’t have words for.

I’m looking for a place to do this thing. I’ve decided it needs to be near water.  Does anyone know such a place? I can pay rent or cat sit. I can do  my own dishes and keep to myself. I need laundry facilities and wifi, and  it needs to be non-smoking. I’m going to see a place this weekend, but it might not be the right place. It needs to be.






trying to think about what’s happening out there


So it comes down to this. Someone takes a life, and someone takes another life as retribution, and someone responds by taking another life, and so on and so forth. It’s not really difficult to see why that doesn’t work out well, doesn’t lead to lasting change, and doesn’t end. In fact, to think otherwise is a little mind-boggling and more than a little unscientific. People in favour of violent response to violence and war might think they are the realists, but they are in fact the polyannas of the world.”I will just apply this little bit of violence and destruction to this particular issue and everything will be better.”

However, people who feel themselves to be under threat will defend themselves and their families. They will fight to survive, and this seems like a reasonable thing to do. Black and brown people are under threat on many fronts in North America. It is not an opinion but a fact. The stats on who dies more often at the hands of police, who is incarcerated at higher rates, whose health and homes and livelihoods are most jeopardized by poverty and insecurity, you will find it is not Caucasians. And if you point the finger at the people who are most at risk of death and misery because of this situation– dark-skinned people– then that too seems like a rather ludricous and irrational conclusion to jump to.

Would people who truly have an equal opportunity at happiness and success for themselves and their children turn it down in favour of lives where they struggle to survive, or are threatened by violence? I don’t think so. Not by choice. It doesn’t make sense. In fact the whole picture seems weirdly surreal and inexplicable until you factor in systemic racism. Then a coherent picture begins to emerge.

These are really broad strokes. I guess i’m painting them that way because I am beginning to see things that way. If you get up close to the picture you will see a lot of bewildering details, some of which seem relevant and some of which seem arbitrary; but when you stand back you can see the swaths of colour. whole communities, whole ethnicities, that have been painted with the same brush.

I am as racist, as biased and  as dumb as the next person. I say that while believing in the essential goodness of humanity, because although I think of myself as an individual with a free mind and free will, I am only free within certain limitations and parameters. I am a part of  this painting after all.  But I have been squinting at this picture for awhile now. That’s me, the little pale yellow dot trying to float free– like a balloon, hoping to get a bird’s eye view of this place.

As I get older my mind becomes less sharp it seems, less acute, less able to find the key, but I do see things differently. Even if I am not able to envision a different world, I can at least I can see this one from a distance better than I could before when my vision seemed so dazzlingly clear. It helps to keep telling myself the truth about myself and about the world as I see it, to start with that small step. I can do that in the shelter of my own mind, with my heart churning away in the background, the engine that drives the whole thing.

In the end I think we will only survive as a species if we stop doing stupid things. And the stupidest thing we can do is to think that things like love  and justice and truth are just pretty ideas that don’t have any power. If we ignore them, out hunger for them will grow;  if we do not satisfy our hunger for them they will consume us;  and if we continue to deny them they will destroy us.





Coming clean

I just read an article on someone coming clean about their first suicide attempt. If I count the times I’ve taken overdoses or tried something else, I realize it’s about 5. I can’t really remember. My last was a little more violent on the surface, but probably less dangerous in reality. My suicidal fantasies are  a little more violent too, but given my track record I think I’m fairly safe.

Still when I think about the fact that I have actually really wanted not to be here so much that I have tried five times to go down that road (before aborting my mission each and every time) I realize that that is not what most people would think of as a “normal” way to proceed. But it has been my normal.  I have just been following my brain down a certain path before intense fear drives me back.

I’ve been really afraid of pain and of dying for much of my life.  So much so that fear has overcome the worst of my misery and psychosis and kept me alive. I guess I should thank it but I don’t. I am not a fan of fear as a motivation for living.  However it has protected me, the way fear is supposed to, and gave me the opportunity to live and find there was much to enjoy, to hope for, to dream about and make a reality.

I had a friend (one of several) for whom fear was no protection. Nothing was. I was so hurt when he died. Mostly I thought, what a waste of a potentially beautiful life. He was so smart and funny and well-loved but he was also an utter mess. My part in his life was strange and I didn’t understand it because I didn’t think we were that close, but I blamed myself  when he died, as people do. And I wondered if, after I found him the first time ( the first of our acquaintance anyway) , whether I could have done more to prevent the second, and  last, time. I had thought of asking him to be my roommate, but I didn’t know how I could keep myself healthy with him in the other room. So I chose self-protection, and in the end, he chose something else.

I am tired right now and trying to figure out how to be happy.  Not suicidal but the possibility is there lurking in the background.  I have a headache, which feels like a huge weight. And I realize some of my patterns are playing out again. But what does it mean to be so public about it? In the past I’ve written about feeling lousy from the vantage point of feeling well. Right now. I’m feeling lousy and it is possible I will feel ok tomorrow, like did not long ago today and then lousy again because that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Eventually though, if the past is any indicator, things get better for me.

I can’t think my way out of this, or talk my way out or even feel my way out. I have to breathe and wait and accept something. And I need to get rid of this damn headache.  Wish me luck.

In honour of World Poetry Day

This is my latest poem, still in progress…


And what is it?
What is this?
The glow of a cigarette
falling to ash
in the dark?


It’s a fire fly before
a thunderstorm

the cat’s eyes
before a fight

it’s the lit fuse
on a stick of dynamite

a solar flare, uncurling its baby
fist in the dark

It’s what we’re mesmerized by
before some sweet disaster,
and the horror and the sweetness
of what comes after.

Polar Bear

Wrote this poem in 2008 for the CBC Halifax Poetry Face Off. Seemed like a good time to post it.

Polar bear

The water’s cold
As a hammer head
It’s liquid nitrogen
and a needle at the dentist
It’s as cold as the church bells
That ring every Sunday
In the iron air
and squeeze the breath from me
like an accordian.

But it’s beautiful, in the dark
Milky, metallic
Heavy and soft
As snow that lulls
Lost travellers to sleep

I’m following the polar bear
Where there’s no more ice

He’s only ahead by a body’s length
His small head just above water,
Bony beneath the seal-sleek fur
He looks like a dog I knew
who almost died eating rat poison
in Shubie Park. After that,
the muscles in her head just
Dwindled to nothing.
You could see her skull,
Shining through.

This polar bear is a bone
Covered in fur

His body has eaten itself,
Like a seal,
Because the seals have

It’s foolish
But I want to put my arms around him,
devoured by guilt,
and carry him

His blood speaks to mine
Like this.
“Why are you here?”
Great paws churn the water beneath him.

My blood circles my organs
to keep them from freezing
And has no voice.

His head turns to look at me
Black rimmed mouth
A mile of fangs
His bloodshot eyes
See a seal.

He smiles
A doggy smile.

My heart, aching, aggrieved
I put my head in his mouth
I’m sorry, my blood chatters

The bear is melting
Like an iceberg
The great body under the water
And the small head.

I feel the warm glow
Of the sun, rosy, on my back

Cold escapes
Like the air from a balloon
My skin turns pink
And the water is on fire,

Dwindles to nothing.
And I walk in a desert
Littered with the bones
of walrus and seal,
whales and polar bears.

A white harvest
I build an igloo of skulls
And sit in their shadow
The sun looks through
Their eye holes at me,
”Why are you here?”
My blood asks
I’m sorry, the sun
The heat has the tail of
a scorpion,
the eyes of a dove.
And squeezes the breath
From me like a cobra.

2016… meh

2015 was such a shit storm that 2016 can’t help but be better. that’s what I tell myself when I look out the window at the oval and the commons and that city at large . I’m gonna tend to my gut microbes, make more things, exercise regularly, take care of cats, stage manage my stress, read some novels and poetry, and engage my spirit.  I may attend some protests, rallies, craft shows, concerts, support groups, kitchen parties. I may do some banking, work a little and think a little. Mostly though I want to  prepare for 2017 which is  a year I feel rumbling in the distance. I don’t know why but 2016 seems like a year that’s just in preparation for something bigger coming down the tracks, Does anyone else feel this way? it’s a little ominous but something else tells me it’s ok.

Unpacking my backpack.

I started writing this long post about Love. I didn’t really know where I was going with it. I think basically what I wanted to say is something like: we all want it because we all need it. Try living without it. And by Love I don’t mean some feeling or even some ideal.  I mean being seen and accepted and valued, with all our gaping, unsightly needs and wounds, in a concrete way that involves  having those needs met, or being offered the opportunity to learn how to meet to meet those needs ourselves. and the opportunity to exercise that knowledge in a way that doesn’t interfere with someone else meeting their own needs.



More words

Sittin’ here, with my eyes dry as old newspaper, trying to stay awake. My novel waits patiently and achingly, like a woman whose man has gone to sea. But I am not going to make my novel happy today, just going to try my best not to implode before my training shift at a new job.

A new job… I’ve had too many, because I like change and movement, or the illusion of movement and change. But I realize it’s exhausting to  keep pursuing novelty and freedom, and I wonder, why so restless?

Likely because what I really want is to hole up with my words and never go to sea again. it’s just hard to bring myself to my writing when I am tired and cranky and ungrateful and undercaffeinated. But that is of course just an excuse. it is hard to bring myself to my writing no matter what, or when.

Only at first though. After a while i get in the rhythm of it, and then I don’t need what other people call inspiration. I just write. I love my characters and they say, screw inspiration, listen to ME, pay attention to ME. And so I listen and hope they tell me what to do, and that it won’t be too difficult or unpleasant or impossible.

Kind of like the work I may be doing this year. I hope to work with clients of a home care agency– seniors who need a companion, cook, cleaner.  I hope I’ll get someone who wants me to read to them and have intelligent conversations. But in reality, they will be telling ME what to do.  And if they want their toilet cleaned and toe nails clipped, it doesn’t matter how much I’d rather hear their views on Mozart or climate change. And that’s as it should be.

People telling me what to do. I never liked it much but it’s different when you know you are being paid to listen. Which is pretty much what I do as a writer except the pay is more in satisfaction than dollars and the listening is.. well, the listening is similar…characters only a few hours old  may still have a  lifespan that’s twice mine, and being ordered around by them is something of a privilege.