Friday, December 9, 2011


Mom was a closet divorcée so to shield me from the awkward truth, she eradicated any trace of documentation linking her to her ex-husband, Barney the Beelzebub. There were no wedding albums, no annulment papers no mementos of any kind. Even her marriage license to dad had been strategically Exacto-knifed. Once I found a photograph of her and some coot pulling pints. She blanched when I asked who he was, but instantly recovered, “Just some man who let me behind the bar for a picture.” It was a rather uninteresting dive so I didn’t pursue it. Probably just as well.

Image: Found.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Purfect Storm

The plan was to leash Guinness and Dizzy to the porch where we’d enjoy a glass of wine and our indoor cats could experience the fresh summer evening without pancaking on Rideau Avenue. All was interspecie harmony until that truck released its air brakes. The pair flew off the porch only to be snapped back like two furry paddleballs. Within seconds Rich was hamstrung by the cat-leash trajectory and the wine sent airborne in a grapey arc of street theatre. Now twenty years wiser, we drink alone and our current cats get to go out whenever they damn well please.

Image: Ralph Crane, Time-Life Pictures

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

When Pussy Takes a Stroll

She takes pleasure in her grooming, spends hours on her shiny black hair. Does she practice that walk, one foot just so in front of the other, those feline hindquarters swaying? Ooh la la, the way she swishes that tail. It doesn’t just move: it swings like a treacherous pendulum. She is sultry, sleek, confident – and despite the gloss, a vicious predator, a feral tramp, a howler who prowls at night. Oh, yes: she has known many cool Toms – she loves her jazz. Bad luck for you, she scratches. But on the positive side, she is very fond of cats.

Image: Ralph Crane, Time-Life Pictures

Monday, December 5, 2011


I grew up in a bubble at Charles and Yonge, lived there with my mother, all through college and into my first fulltime job . . . with twelve bubbles outside when we first moved in—a whimsical relic of the ’sixties, I suppose—large plexiglas displays of the merchandise you could purchase from the once fine stores of the Charles Promenade, somehow floating still above the changing city, safely removed from the sins of the strip, until the day I came to find the first of them lying broken on the ground, the next day another. In a week they were gone.

Click here to see the full image by Citatus on Flickr.

Mod Pods

They were both beautiful and pristine from a distance. Like carnivals. Lucite orbs left by Extraterrestrials Who Liked to Shop, space oysters filled with the pearls of 1970 tat luring Aquarians away from the Eaton Centre. And there he was, sheep-skinned against the Toronto December, a Hoser-McCleod without his horse searching out her Christmas gift. He peered into each ball as if it were his future and decided that the mood ring in gold plate was the quickest way to get laid on Christmas Eve. But the choice was telling: Sure he’d do Mary, but he’d be thinking about Rhoda.

Image: Citatus on Flickr.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Their father had given them a quarter and five minutes to get some Doublemint in the hotel lobby and come right straight back. Tammie pointed out the window – “Bubbles!”
     Val squinted. “A fairy ring?”
     “A giant’s ring,” Tonya decided, “they had to cut it off with wirecutters ’cause it got stuck on her finger at Batchawana Bay and lotion didn’t help. If we don’t talk to strangers . . .” Holding hands, they snuck onto Yonge.
     When they got there, the bubbles were beat-up plastic. Tammie kicked one and hurt her sandalled foot. “Maybe they’re Art,” Val said helplessly. Tonya began to hiccup.

Image: Citatus on Flickr.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

All of Them

The interpreter faltered, then stopped. Ana nudged for her father to tell her the words in English. But his eyes were locked on the speaker – a small man in a too-large suit – who continued with stumbling dignity. Some women with braids, like in the Old Country, began to rock back and forth, covering their faces. A young man stood. “All of them?” he shouted. “All dead?” The speaker stopped. He took something from inside his coat. Held it aloft – a torn shoe – and broke into dreadful tears. Ana’s father covered his face. Ana felt a stone close up her throat.

In an Exquisite Parallel Universe

All four of them posted before deadline, each on the same photo-prompt. Laurie, misty-eyed with memory, recalled the A-bomb drills at Saint John of Patmos Primary, where Sister Thérèse sang “Alouette” to the kiddies huddled beneath their desks. Kathy penned “Armageddon,” an achingly dreamy poem that rhymed “Russian leather” with “nuclear tether.” Roy (recycling a previous composition) focussed on rumours that the CIA had doctored the photo. Finding inconclusive evidence on the Internet, he concluded that Khrushchev had not pounded his shoe in anger, but to crack a walnut. And Ron, the shallow one, extolled the virtues of comfortable shoes.

Image found on Mother Jones’s.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Dance

Nothing came close to the day that Betty asked Jeremy to dance. She asked him, not the other way around. A daytime dance, held outside in the schoolyard taking advantage of the first warm days of May. Her canary yellow dress sat easily against her brown skin, a flower nestled in her black braids. She was beautiful. A public school Billy Holiday. Jeremy couldn’t remember the song; it didn’t matter. For this he’d have danced to the school band. They moved in a little circle, her arms straight out and glued to his shoulders, his feet floating above the asphalt.

Photo collage based on “Fist” by Daniel Haynes.

Mr. Blue Sky

The sun is shining in the sky, there ain’t a cloud in sight, and here’s me, stuck again inside on the first nice day of Spring because of a stupid project I’ve put off for too long.
     And you don’t have to tell me I’m only making things worse listening to my music instead, because even on this beautiful new day (hey, hey), more than twenty years on, the final cut on ELO’s Greatest Hits can still leave me feeling I’m missing out, and it really doesn’t matter if it’s actually 2011 or 1980, website or essay, MP3 or vinyl.

Photo collage based on “Fist” by Daniel Haynes.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Invention of Paint

Maker-of-Things was trying to present his latest creation to the elders of the tribe. “You say this stuff will protect,” said Thrower-of-Stones. “Will it protect us in battle against the Lowbrows from the Valley?”
     “That’s not what I meant,” said Maker. “This paint is simply a mixture of ochre and tallow—although I suppose we could use other pigments—and we can use it to decorate our wooden structures and protect them from rotting so fast.”
     “Decorate?” asked Thrower. “Does that mean I could use it to make a paint from the time I saw that Lowbrow fucking a bison?”

Image: The Sciolist.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

L. H. O. O. Q. Ugg!

Thog just doesn’t appreciate true art. I was spitting red ochre against my hands years before he was even a glint in the flint-napper’s eye, thought Krok, petulant as he searched for his charcoal sticks. His twenty-nine year old bones aching from advanced age and damp. Where were his tools? Thog preferred the new-fangled method of urine and pigment, so he was sure that up-start didn’t take them. Dusk had already brought darkness to the cave when he left for the stream, his ancient eyes missing the group of stealthy youths who quickly drew a willy on Krok’s noble hunter.

Image: The Sciolist

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cave Art School

Thog’s mind wandered as Master Krok droned on about figurative representation. In the guttering light of a bear-oil lamp, the other students listened attentively; but as Krok turned to sketch a hunter on the cave wall with his charcoal stick, they made monkey faces behind his back. Krok’s hunter was nothing but a stickman, but one of the students asked an ingratiating question about perspective. Thog snorted and shifted impatiently. Old Krok was too beholden to the Establishment. He had no vision. Thog tuned out his answer, thinking about the vibrant, raging bison he would draw next to Krok’s stickman.

Image: The Sciolist

Blood, Bird, and Stone

Alone at camp, Lucy cramped and bled, making a new person, rabbit-soft in the grey light. It mewed at the thunder, but when lightning cracked, she saw its eyes – rabbit-fringed and dead. She lay down in the sodden ashes of the fire and wept. A little bird peeped, the one that always wanted berries. Farther. Nearer. Louder. Lucy rose, stumbling toward it, holding the new person. The bird peeped them into the hillside. Lucy took the new person’s hand, pressing blood and rain, tears and ash against the old stone. The bird peeped again. The new person gasped into life.

This is Part I of a serial story. Part II - Part III - Part IV.
Image: The Sciolist.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Auntie’s House

Lucinda and William dined off of hand-thrown pottery. In fact, their home was filled with the artisanal—weavings and ancient quarter-sawn oak, sculpture and paintings from friends. Treasures that took fifty years to amass.
     The funeral was thin. Afterwards, the nieces returned to the house.
     “This is a nice cup,” said Hy, placing the squat and solitary little mug into her cardboard box.
     Jackie looked up from the silverware drawer, “Oh yeah, Auntie Lucy smashed the other one when Uncle Bill died.”
     But Hy had already moved onto the wooden bowls, picturing the big one on her IKEA shelf.

Image: Mylittlethriftstore.

The Poopsidedown Adventure

I address this to The Usual Gang of Idiots, regarding Harry Plodder and the Sorry-Ass Story (MAD #412): Really? That was the best could you do? Whatever happened to titles like Botch Casually and the Somedunce Kid, A Crockwork Lemon, or Rosemia’s Boo-Boo? I wasn’t even old enough to see those stupid movies, but I still found your parodies funny . . . I guess.
     So, before you mess things up again, here’s what I’m proposing for the forthcoming sequel, with a title I spent some time workshopping with an actual eight-year-old boy: Hairy Plopper and the Chamber Pot of Secretions.
     You’re welcome.

Image: Mylittlethriftstore.

Friday, November 18, 2011

We Reached The Lucky Seven

(to the tune of The House of the Rising Sun)

Warren ran down barefoot
Ginny knelt and gave me tea
And pulled the rusty cat away
From the hole that was Rafe’s knee.

They set him on the table
Four sharp screams and then none
Ether and the hacksaw blade
He’d reached oblivion.

My hand went for the ether vial
Four inches left, then three
Sweet Ginny kicked me in the shin
Can’t you leave that ether be?

Warren told her keep on stitching
Said drink your tea down, son
I lay staring in the rusty mug
For sweet oblivion.

Image: Mylittlethriftstore.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Found one!

From July 2005 to July 2008, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey photographed the same region of space every other night searching for supernovas. Computers identified the likeliest candidates, astronomers confirmed the discoveries, and an army of so-called “citizen scientists” combed through the data posted online looking for stuff the computers had missed.
     Which I suppose is all well and good for the advancement of astronomy, but I certainly hope, should our sun ever blow up, that humanity is spared the indignity of having its last moments witnessed 52-million years later by some extraterrestrial nerd surfing the Internet in his underpants.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beneath a Celestial Blanket

Lights glitter on shore but the bay is dark. The Zodiac drifts, rocking gently, its bottom clunking and slapping on the swell.  They lay on their backs, eyes wide, looking up. “Do you know any constellations?” asks the Swedish girl. Her name, he remembers now, is Carla. Do I know constellations, he thinks. Forgetting his beating heart, their solitude, the sensation of wet trunks clinging cold and clammy to febrile skin, and the pervasive smell of Coppertone (slightly ridiculous in the circumstances), he tells her about Andromeda and Perseus. She listens attentively. After a moment she snuggles closer for warmth.

This is the sequel (we are serial writers) to Family Memories
Photo:  Sloan Digital Sky Survey

Monday, November 14, 2011

Red Dwarfs are Scary

“Oh Mon Dieu Seigneur, le bon Dieu!” Lauretta screamed, her knuckles white and soldered to the polyester armrests. What was I thinking bringing her to the Mclaughlin Planetarium? She was petrified of a lot of things: Insects, heights, tornados, Satan, but especially Space. She’d never travelled beyond Michigan so the idea of living on a spinning planet surrounded by billions of other spinning things was just too terrifying. Gravitational pull really bothered her, given the chance that should Jupiter fly off into the ether she, like Dahl’s Enormous Crocodile, would barrel head-first into the sun and sizzle like a sausage.

Image: Sloan Digital Sky Survey

The Vacuum

He was comparing star photos, looking for supernovas, when his new neighbour’s vacuum started again. He calmed himself, counting his eggcups. It didn’t work. He went downstairs and knocked. The vacuum and a backbeat whammed through the door. He knocked harder, once for every eggcup.
     A woman answered, laughing, with a little curly-haired white dog that bounced up. “Down!” she told it, wiping her forehead, laughing again.
     “The vacuum, um,” he said, smiling shyly. She was pretty.
     “Vacuum?” (Now she was puzzled and pretty both.) “Oh! My treadmill! Down, Astra!”
     “Astra,” he thought, and wondered if she liked the stars.

Image: Sloan Digital Sky Survey

Friday, November 11, 2011

While Disease Had Come to Live at Lowood

While disease had come to live at Lowood
     Death its frequent visitor
While gloom within the passages
     Steamed with hospital smells
While drug and pastille strove all in vain
     Against mortal effluvia
 That bright May shone

Unclouded over bold
     Hills and woodland out of doors
As the garden glowed, hollyhocks sprang
     Tall as trees, lilies opened
Roses bloomed red, little bordered beds
     Were daisy-blithe with pinks
Sweetbriars scented morn

And evening with their spice
     Of apples – treasures fragrant
Useless all
     For most of us in Lowood
Except to furnish, now and then
     A blossom handful
To leave inside a coffin.

Text based on Jane Eyre (1847) by Charlotte Brontë. Image of Helen and Jane from Posted to dVerse Poets.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Those Famed Ohio Beaches

While the rest of us were stuck in Toronto, Chase got to spend his spring break in Florida. He told me he’d met a girl there, from Ohio.
     “The funniest thing,” said Chase, “was that she’d heard of Canada, but didn’t really know where it was.”
     “You do realize Ohio’s just south of Lake Erie?”
     “I know,” said Chase. But she was pretty cute—”
     “In fact, I’d bet you can even see Canada from one of those famed Ohio beaches.”
     “—and those parties get pretty intense.”
     “Oh, Chase,” I said. “I didn’t think even you could fuck someone that stupid.”

Inspired by a much nicer story by Ron Thompson and illustrated by a postcard from Faith Fabric.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


At six I lived in a state of perpetual hope that I, like Ginger Grant, might find myself on an uncharted island, drinking from coconuts and wearing grass skirts. Walking barefoot through sugary sand would replace my daily Kodiak trudge from Webbwood Estates to St. Gregory’s. I wanted that combination of blue, white and green. And the shells. Nubby conches and smooth-speckled cowries—’way better than our pedestrian St. Clair Beach clams. And Elvis in his Blue Hawaii phase. Those Aloha shirts so cool I could see past his tiny ukulele. We’d make a go of it all right.

Image based on a photo by Visual Panic on Flickr

Family Memories

They lean in to see around the glare on the album’s shiny pages, which squeak as they are flipped. And there is the place in Minorca where they vacationed, that year in Vienna. Dad snorts, remembering the hot climb up the hill to take the shot. Mom liked the beach but never understood how Europeans put up with such crowding. Susan recalls finding a starfish. Paul remains silent. He sees only the yellow Zodiac, remembers sneaking away in it one night with that Swedish girl (what was her name?). They’d paddled out to be alone, under a blanket of stars.

See the sequel to this at Beneath a Celestial Blanket
Photo:  Visual Panic on Flickr

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Marlie on the Beach at the End

When the end comes for the world, it’ll be slowly. Ants that have slid into a pitcher of Kool-Aid will neither swim nor sink but blur, each thorax drifting in its own direction as possible worlds each slip the surly bonds that have held them – and us – together, in glossy focus. The last astronaut will look down from his yellow space skiff, an O-ring of fragile wonder forming on his lips. He’ll remember the pines, a day of sunny furlough, Marlie waiting on the beach, her hair in pigtails, or an updo, silver, or cropped flat like a beautiful boy’s.

Image: Visual Panic on Flickr.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


She was moored, tied up for good, bogged down, laid low, swamped, flattened, vegetable and mired. Cathy came to her funeral, and Heathcliff, the sisters Brontë, and even – it was said – the reclusive brothers Bell, who wrote. Thrushes sang to cover curates, who talked behind the church about their livings. Her admirers subscribed to lay a wreath upon her stone and, ’cross the centuries, acorns leapt up into oaks to view it. The scrollwork pleased them, as did the little stone leaf canopy that shielded her from the coral spread of liverworts and lichens. Her vessel rested in peace.

For other writings inspired by this image, visit Magpie Tales.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Terra Simianus

Again I get into it with the Grade Two Ursuline. Looking at the world map stuck to the blackboard I asked, “So what’s on the other side?”
     The B-side of the earthly album.
     With a furrowed unibrow she asked, “What do you mean?”
     “I mean . . . what part of the world is left to discover?” Honestly, it was like talking to an enormous, thick Penguin.
     But she had the last laugh. “Oh, they know where everything is now . . . .” And with those words Sister Mary Diane destroyed my plan to discover the glorious continent of Laurasia, a catechism-free land full of monkeys.


Hadrian had little patience for the particulars of geography, but the empire was expanding and this particular geographer came well recommended.
     “A little more time,” said Ptolemy, unrolling his map. “And I could’ve added more detail to the Land of Silk.”
     “Never mind,” said the emperor. “What’s that boundary on the left?”
     “That’s the meridian running through the Blessed Islands. From there the Ecumene extends east 180 degrees, with parallels through Thule in the north and Meroë in the south.”
     “That’s everything?”
     “Heavens, no!” said Ptolemy, “I’ve calculated approximately three-quarters of the globe remains unexplored.”
     “Excellent,” said the emperor Hadrian.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Terra Incognita

Where have you gone? To an unknown fate. I know you’re somewhere there, on the fringe, at the ends of the world we knew, some barren gale-blown hellhole scant of fire. Is there mortal peril? It is said that scorpions abound in undiscovered lands, that infinite serpents slither beneath the deadly gaze of basilisks, that painted cannibals and jackal-headed men with horns and tails do roam and yet, you left, you chose to go, you left me here. There be dragons there, and torment here, where I remain without you. Terra incognita or the known: which one should I prefer?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Celeste plucked her harp as her fellow angels bickered about whether to play spitball down the fold of the Worldly Map. Of course they’d play. It was about the only game any of the Sanctified could remember once St. Peter had done cleansing them. Plus, it made for rain Below. Of course Gabriel would win and prate - of course - about how horn-playing kept a muscle moustache buff. It was looking to be another afternoon of syrupy angelspit and backbiting, when Celeste glimpsed Nisroc’s out-the-corner-of-his-eye expression and hushed them all. “I remember another game,” said Nisroc, dreamily. “We called it War.”

Image: Based on Ptolemy.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


He staggers and he falls. A fanged imp, drawn by fresh hemoglobin and gunsmoke, splatters through the wall, clamoring that men’s blood is less than sweet these days, that molasses taffy has lost its shine. A goldfish of crumpled paper puppet-swims against the grain, laying low to spy beneath the Coronet for MI5. Soon it’ll sense the currents that swept the sheets stage left. Hear the footsteps of the maid who’ll make up that bed and lie. About stealing her sweetheart’s pennant that had once hung the rented wall. Leaving one nail stuck off-key, driving a dead man to distraction.

For other writing inspired by this image, visit Magpie Tales.

Friday, October 28, 2011

My Final Deposition

Behold the toilet of the future, the Palermo two-piece from St. Thomas Creations. Watch as its patented Quattro Flushing Technology whisks away two-and-a-half pounds of carrots . . .
      . . . three-and-half pounds of dog food
      . . . eighteen large hot dogs
      . . . twenty golf balls!
In fact, I am convinced, given a little patience and the proper tools, there is nothing you cannot flush.
     Install one of these marvels at home and you can ride out the next garbage strike in style. Install them throughout the city and, I promise you, we will break that union and forever consign the garbage man to the dustbin of history.

Inspired by the most awesome toilet video on the Internet, and that photo up there, taken by Laurie Leclair in the Ladies loo of the Dover-Calais ferry, August 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Survival of the Fitest

If language is evolving, then signage in Old Blighty must be the gall bladder of English. Public notices are as good an example of the Use It or Lose It theory as a tailbone or superfluous nipples. An example: Percy from Head Bourne Worthy must “Be sensible and place dog waste into the receptacle provided.” While his Toronto confederate is pleased to “clean up after” his pet. But the Cheboygan pug-lover must simply “Stoop-n-Scoop”. It is as if words leave Portsmouth with the appropriate robustness, start to flag along the St. Lawrence and completely pack it in by Lake Michigan.

Photo by Laurie Leclair, taken in the Ladies loo of the Dover-Calais ferry, August 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Making a Splash

After the triumph of the référendum septième in 2082, the work of expunging historical humiliations intensified. In taking its sovereign place in the world, la nouvelle nation assumed certain obligations internationales, including its fair (eight percent) share of the defunct oppressor-state’s contributions to the International Space Agency. Le pays will participate in a signature manner, its gouvernement proclaimed. Accordingly, an inspector from the Office de la langue française was dispatched to the launch centre in Bechtelistan to ensure that no further linguistic travesties were inflicted on franco-astronautes. Soon, confusing and humiliating affichages étrangers were consigned to the tas de poussière.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Dover-Calais Ferry Sign

     Sara entered solemnly, cupping her front tooth in her velvety change purse. Daddy had said leave it for the Tooth Fairy, but she’d agitated to ride the ferry to Calais again. Where she’d read the secret sign.
     Bita found she’d taken the pregnancy test to the ferry wharf. On board, the darlingest little girl, clutching a velvet purse, held the loo door open. Then Bita saw the sign . . . another omen for the queasy five-minute countdown. 
     Viv’s been waiting her entire five-minute break for the stall. She doesn’t flush the grey hair soon, she’ll fucking set the paper towels on fire.

Image: Laurie Leclair.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Vince’s Car

two years now in Phoenix, but back for a visit,
on the road downtown,
cursing the streetcar tracks pulling at the tires of his SUV,
his sister’s truck really,
but on this morning my ride to work,
door to door for a change.
lost in directions,
the distractions,
the attention paid to pilot this broad beast
through the fitful city traffic,
while I sink back into my soft untroubled trip,
past the crowded streetcar stops without stopping,
dreaming of the day ahead,
my only responsibility now
and for the next twenty minutes
to keep the conversation
moving forward.

Photo by Lee Friedlander, from America by Car.
For other writing inspired by this image, visit Magpie Tales.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Winter Sprite—Part III

The nurses were still talking about it, hours after Sid left Dr. Kerwin’s office. Yesterday’s tests could not find even a trace of the cancer that had ravaged him to a skeleton for the past several months.
     This would be a miracle Christmas. He rushed through the door, a scarf for his wife and a toy horse for Baby, both brown paper secrets nestled under his arm.
     In their indescribable joy they forgot about Baby. At last when they searched for their child they found only a trail of tiny footprints leading out back and disappearing into the silent snow.

Part IPart IIPart III
Image: Cold Shoulder by Shawn Jurek.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Winter Sprite—Part II

Weeks passed and nobody came for Baby. Sid smiled, hoping nobody would. “It’s like the child came out of thin air!” Jess agreed, secretly believing they’d been given a gift. Looking after Baby let her sometimes forget about Sid’s sickness. Baby never spoke, not even a whisper, but appeared quite content to be around them silently blending in with the rhythms of their day. Sid loved evenings with Baby settled on his boney lap. How after each coughing fit, those black eyes met his and tiny hands so warm they were almost electric would reach up to coddle his neck.

Part IPart IIPart III
Image: Cold Shoulder by Shawn Jurek.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Winter Sprite—Part I

Sid was partial to standing out on the porch, breathing in the crisp November air. It soothed his cancer-ridden throat and he liked to make believe it was healing him in some way. That’s when he saw Baby, then just a tiny lump covered in a thin dusting of early snow. “Jess!” he called to his wife. She threw down the dishtowel and rushed to the back of the yard.
     Their’s was a small town and Gary the cop said that it would be fine if Baby stayed with them until they could figure out where the child came from.

Part IPart IIPart III
Image: Cold Shoulder by Shawn Jurek.

A Plot Both Great and Grand

I walked past the plot where my great-great-grandfather lies buried, the Masonic plot at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, established in 1883 by Brother John Ross Robertson to provide for the internment of indigent Masons . . . my great-great-grandfather, the indigent who in 1894, had arrived in style at the Queen’s Hotel, who’d once sung lead tenor in the “Messiah” at Massey Hall, taught at the College of Music, and seen his brief tenure here end at the Home for the Incurables.
     No stone then for Thomas James Burley, so I stomped around long enough to be pretty sure I’d made contact.

Image: Cold Shoulder by Shawn Jurek.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Kid in the Coat

They dress me in this fluffy coat, with fake fur trim on cuffs and hood and oversized mittens with three skinny stripes. (Why three?) Then they put me in a siwash toque (so politically-correct!), roll up my chichi OshKoshes, and make me wear shoes even Shirley Temple wouldn’t be caught dead in. How do I attract chicks like this? I mean the ones that dance dirty, not gush and call me cute or adorable.
      This is not me at all. I’m an individualist. When I escape these people, I’ll get some piercings and a tattoo, and wear nothing but black.

Image: Cold Shoulder by Shawn Jurek.


Spring meant cold hands full of violets and the little yellow lilies with leaves dappled like a trout. Summer brought wild blueberries, sneakers, leeches of majestic length. Come fall, trees shed and skies shone through again. But winter? Legs were sausaged into leotards and stockings, cords and skidoo pants. Feet were buckled hopelessly into boots, then snowshoes, to trek the borders of our thirty-three acres of bush. (“Remember how your father was a prisoner of war?” Mama once explained.) Clumps of traitor snow would seek and gnaw my ankles. “If we lived in the city,” I thought, “it’d be different.”

Image: Cold Shoulder by Shawn Jurek.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Midnight in Bangkok

He staggers through the teeming crowd, drunk but thankful to be out in the open. The Cage aux Folles had been a mistake. He had been repulsed by the clichéd floorshow, a can-can performed by look-alike dancers. Boy, girl, it was impossible to tell, but the hungry-eyed tourists ate them up. The real action was at the dimly-lit tables, in the curtained recesses, upstairs. Now, out on the street, hawkers, whores, everyone is selling something. He pauses to look through a brightly illuminated window; inside, a macabre line of fowl, and through a gap, a pair of knowing black eyes.

Image from Ursula’s Weekly Wanders. For other writing inspired by this image, visit Magpie Tales.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Made in Japan, ca 1908

By 1908, Japan was ensconced in the imaginations of Americans, their bathrooms, their kitchens, their fields. Sears-Roebuck imported “elegant” toothbrushes, “neat and sanitary” woven-grass kitchen matting, and (again with the woven grass) a suit serving hunters as both duck blind and raincoat. 100 Colored Stereoscopic Views extolled a 1904-1905 siege against a Russian port, proof that Japan itself “could never be invaded except by the extermination of every living man.” Other Views showed everyday life – a medley of fox worshippers, geishas, and a humble potato dealer’s stall in “Yakohama”, a misspelled city America would bomb to smithereens, come May 1945.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Reading Ayn Rand in High School

I sit on the daybed skimming soft pages, tuning out Laverne & Shirley on TV. Like Dagny, the thin studious heroine, I miss Francisco d’Anconia, the childhood friend who’d returned in a smashy-tennis-leads-to-hardcore-sex scene. I’d eaten a roll of Butter Rum Lifesavers rereading it, poking my tongue through each to stroke surreptitiously along the inside of my lower lip. Hank Rearden, Dagny’s second boyfriend, gave her a boring green bracelet. No comparison. Now Dagny’s met John Galt. Whoever he is, he talks a lot. (Oh, Francisco.) At supper, my mother had said she despised Ayn Rand’s politics. Um, there’s politics?

Augurs of the Passeggiata

As the nightly passeggiata unfolds, the elderly find a place to rest outside its steady stream. It may be on the piazza, or in an outdoor café or bar, where they nurse an aperitif or glass of wine. There, they gaze with beneficence upon the promenade and shrewdly observe who is strolling with whom, who is besotted of whom, and who is destined to fall in love, discerning before the victims themselves the first glimmer of that fateful condition in a glance, a raised brow, a smile. They sit and gossip endlessly at each portent, to ensure its eventual realization.

Image: Together old in Italy 06, Miki De Goodaboom

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Red as . . .

Red as wagons
As Nana’s box that Squirrel came in
As fat wax candles and first nail polish
As stripes on ribbons in typing class
As filing folders, print on sugar packets, Persephone’s
        three-seed lunch and Diet Coke
As in walks an office fantasy . . .
Red as the east, eight hundred million little books and all
        the signs that time in Chinatown
As blood, as an apple, a Gala, Campari, a slapped cheek,
        the veins of a Jonathan and recklessness

As eyes at sunrise

And his eyes, years later, from the blood-thinners
As a tea found only in Canada
As pity.

Red Rose Tea, advertised with the slogan "only in Canada, pity", used to include a Wade figurine in every box. Figurine image by permission of Fabulously Fun Finding on etsy. Posted to dVerse Poets.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Sea of Dreams

Plums and cherries hang clotted on the trees, spilling jam onto the lawn, luring wasps from as far away as Mississauga. But the house sticks out its asphalt tongue and pulls its curtains down. Time enough for plums tomorrow. Now is the hour for stars to pierce whitely through the cracks of lawn and sky. For the sea of dreams to pour over roofs and walls, awash with possibilities that a boy still bargaining for his third Tom and Jerry video – a boy who still signs his name with a thick brush – doesn’t yet need to tell from dry reality.

Painting by Daniel.

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