Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October Memoir and Backstory Challenge - Regret #2

The Arcade

As a young woman I enjoyed the video arcade
There was an arcade next to a laundramat
Quarters for laundry
Quarters for Pacman

One day waiting for newly-washed clothes
whirling dry in an industrial dryer
I entered the arcade to pass the time
Playing a machine I racked up some credits
but was glad to leave when my dryer stopped.

Next to me was a kid, maybe 10
He'd been watching me play and I offered up my machine
full of credits
for him to play to the end

With big eyes he took the controls and as I walked away
I heard a slap
skin on skin
and a threatening voice
never take money from strangers
and a man pulling the child by one arm rushed past me
in the doorway

Monday, October 28, 2013

October Memoir and Backstory Challenge: Regret #1

This week's theme is Week 5: Gratitude and Regret. The people, experiences, or choices you are grateful for or that you regret.


Down the hall from where her husband just died
is my aunt.
Stand-in mother for me as a child
she and I were close
at times
Friendly always
but never intimate.

She did not want to usurp my mother's position
She wanted me reunited with my family of origin
and in pushing for what would never be
we never really were either.

Now she is alone, seated on the edge of her hospital bed
Confusion dictates her thoughts
She has dementia or alzhiemer's or the shock of the loss
of her partner of 50+ years and as I enter her room
her face lights up.
Behind me my mother, her sister, follows.

As I sit beside her on the bed she begins to talk.
Things she's never talked about start falling from her lips.
My mother is trying to shush her
to control her
to tell her what to say and how to say it
and I am in shock
All of a sudden she has allowed me in
Here, in this moment, she completely trusts me and wants to tell me things
as my mother panics and tries to shut us down.

I am pulled between three poles
my aunt's need to speak
my mother's need for her to be quiet
and my own need to protect myself and stay open at the same time

In the end my aunt loses
I am unable to be there and to receive her gift to me
My mother is relieved.
I walk away saddened by my own limitations.

October Memoir and Backstory Challenge- roots and wings #3

My apologies to my fellow blog challengers! I have fallen behind but am catching up today. Here is my entry for Roots and Wings # 3.




Laying on top of the blankets on my bed
I am reading about Cher.
I am 12,
Cher is 29,
and in my hands is her biography

Reading the story of her rise to fame
her escape from Sonny
her glamorous life
I put the book down for a moment
laying it across my chest
and stare at the bedroom ceiling.

I dare wonder,
as if she can hear me wonder,
What is she doing right now?
Is she having guests over?
Is she making dinner?
Is she performing on stage
or getting ready to go out?
Is she spending money
Is she sleeping
or singing
or trying on clothes?
Is she walking around in those great shoes
like everybody else?

There in my bedroom in Sudbury
I tried on the lives of others.
Every biography
gave me a bit more life
more energy
the fuel I needed
to leave my roots
and write my own story
instead of following a narrative,
handed down from generation to generation,
with a predictable ending.



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October Memoir and Backstory Challenge: wings #2

This week's theme for Week 4 is: Roots and Wings. Memories/poems/pictures of home, of leaving or finding it, and/or of travel or journeys or changes. Where we have come from and where we are going: A theme that is often rich in imagery and emotion.

Traveling By Water

Crossing the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys
I couldn't help but think that the water down here
is exactly the same colour as all those postcards I used to see in thrift stores,
all the ads in the magazines,
all the romantic backdrops on the afternoon soaps.
It all really exists.

I didn't know until I saw it that I didn't think it did.

The impossible turquoise and the improbable blues
the sun warmly shining 
onto this endless swimming pool emptying into the Gulf 
and then into the ocean.

Eventually some of this water must travel the world,
joining the currents,
washing up on shores far far away.

Maybe some of that Keys water finds its way here
to the Rouge River, 
central Canada.

Maybe it's sitting in my town's reservoir
waiting to fill my tub for my next warm bath.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October Memoir and Backstory Challenge: roots #1

The next three entries this week are on the topic of "roots and wings". This first submission concerns my Sudbury, Ontario roots.


Licorice twist black rocks
scarred millions of years ago
as the earth ground itself
to a halt

Like the continents
I am stuck here
growing up in a barren environment
sulphur hanging in the air
like my grandmother's wash on the line

We can taste the work of the miners
everytime the Inco stacks exhale.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October Memoir and Backstory Challenge--Secrets #3

Body Talk

You lean over my table
the flimsy white cotton jersey material
at the scoop neck of your blouse

My mouth is open
caught mid-smile
and I hold it here

Your body is whispering
a secret to me
through the thick maroon smile line
muted by makeup
across the expanse of your neck.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

October Memoir and Backstory Challenge: Secrets #2

Market Day

Watching the crowds walk past my booth
I amuse myself with the variety of
dogs and owners on parade.
I even see a kid on a leash,
and even that kid is enjoying
the unseasonably warm October day.

I'm surrounded by my paintings and pins,
cards and crafts.
I've been in a market since the Spring of '92
and I am used to not selling much

On this Saturday of a  holiday weekend
I sell a mottled gold cat pin.
Ten dollars total for the day,
but the promise of bigger sales
keeps me hoping for the future.

Walking to the car after I tear down my booth
I drag my canopy behind me with one hand,
and cradle my two trays of greeting cards with the other.
I am ready for this part of my day to be over.
I feel the blue plastic containers slipping
and as they are about to fall
a man from behind offers me help
With relief I accept it.
He takes my canopy
and I carry the card trays securely with both hands.

"Are you a vendor?" I ask
"Yes", he says.
"Did you have a good day today?  The weather was great."

He stops.
I stop.

Quietly he leans in toward me and whispers,
"We made $2000.00 today!"

While telling me this his eyes fill with astonishment
and his body barely stops itself from leaping into mid-air.
(Good thing he's weighed down by my canopy, I muse.)

"That's fantastic!" I reply,
as I'm never going to tell him what I am really thinking.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October Memoir and Backstory Challenge: Secrets #1

Secrets is the topic for the next three poems in the October Memoir and Backstory Challenge.


I once gathered secrets
in a box.

They were quiet in there,
inspite of all they had to say
they kept their own counsel.

To look at them
they looked the same
on the surface:
black ink on white paper.

When I read them
I wondered how the heavy ones
didn't sink to the bottom
under their own weight.

Friday, October 11, 2013

October Memoir and Blog Challenge: relationships #3

Please Call First

I used to have a casual relationship with Death.
I'd invite him to show up in my artwork,
my writing,
my wondering about where we go next
Death brought me design ideas
skulls wearing hats
and big black sunglasses
Skeletons carrying suitcases
ready to travel
Death takes a holiday
was a recurring motif
These days my relationship with Death
is more intimate
I no longer feel he's a distant destination in a
tourist brochure
This year he seems to be waiting at the stops along my route
This year he's visited several familiar venues
and left his calling card
I'd like a formal relationship with Death now.
I want him to understand he needs to call first before he drops by.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Downtown Markham Voting Update -- keep on keepin' on

I was informed by email that the top three contenders for the $5000 commission prize are as follows:

Once again, I thought that I would drop you a note to update you on how the voting is going and to encourage all of you to continue your campaign.  Be reminded that voters may vote once a day but may also vote once a day on any given device.  Therefore, a vote sent via a computer may be also sent via an ipad or iphone on the same day. 
As an added incentive, I've taken the opportunity to advise you who is currently in the top 3 positions.  They are as follows;
1st        Olga Morschchinina
2nd       Susan Qu
3rd        Sean Andre Thomas

So, faithful voters/friends/supporters I am not in the top 3. But we can't be deterred! So we need to keep voting. This new information, that we can vote more than once per day on different devices is also intriguing. If this is something you can do, please do.

Vote for me at http://downtownmarkham.ca/publicart

October Memoir and Blog Challenge - relationships post #2

Familiar Strangers

Sociology has a theory
about the familiar strangers we see everyday
how it comforts us to recognize
those we pass by, stand at the bus with,
or buy our smokes from.
The coffee shop gang,
the grocery store cashier,
the guy who lives in your building that you run into
when you get your mail from the mailbox.
I went to the museum today and viewed the ephemera
of a pop star
as I stood in front of his handwritten lyric sheet
I was deeply moved
it all starts here I thought.
Without these words there would be no song
no fame
and no retrospective gallery show.
This familiar stranger who is known to me,
but will never know me,
in that instant connected me
to my newly dead brother
when he excitedly told me
one long ago lazy afternoon
sitting on the floor of his room
you have to hear this song!

Monday, October 07, 2013

October Memoir and Backstory Challenge - week#2 - relationships

October Memoir and Backstory Challenge -  week#2

The theme is Relationships.
Memories or incidents involving our parents, siblings, friends, romantic interludes, marriages, even our children or grandchildren. 



I first meet Bob over the phone
Do you have any books about sex? he asks
Yes. Who are you looking for?
Maybe I am looking for you, he says
Maybe you are, I think.

We meet for dinner at a vegan place
He is twice my age and twice as animated
Life, he says, flows through him,
a gift from Brother Charles

Last summer, he tells me,
he traveled to Virginia,
and not to the cottage,
and stayed with Brother Charles in a trailer park,
with other seekers.
He shows me a photograph and points himself out
I'd never recognize him in the clown makeup
He was spiritually freed there, he says wistfully

One night as I lay in warm water in his downtown apartment bathtub
he challenges me,
Standing over me he demands to know why I follow a dead prophet,
Arms folded he steps back to lean against the wooden door frame.

We have our first ridiculous fight.

In time I note his tolerance does not extend to other drivers in rush hour traffic,
and he despairs,
that his beat up old station wagon is a reflection on him
and in spite of all his inner work,
he still wants a new car.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

October Memoir and Back Story Challenge - childhood - post #3

Make sure your grandmother is ready when I show up

the phone rings and it's my aunt
she's coming over
we're going shopping
I'm getting a knot in my tummy

I'm to get my grandmother ready
she doesn't have a lot of time to waste
I'm told

my grandmother has rushed to get ready
many times
only to sit there
in her peacock blue wool coat
black brimmed hat and
black leather shoes with the 2" heel that I help her lace up
and fit over her stockings
with the bandages beneath them
She has her polka dot scarf and as she sits
and waits
she slowly snaps
and unsnaps
the metal clasp on her black handbag
with each snap
my anger rises

we sit and wait
my aunt is late
my grandmother is getting angry
I try to take her mind off of it
she is ignoring me

I swallow my fear and say anything I can think of to keep my grandmother calm
lying right to her face wishing my aunt would just get here
I secretly support my grandmother's rage
but it would do us no good to show it.

in spite of my efforts
she takes off her peacock blue wool coat
casting it onto her bed
the hat comes off next
she gets irritated
when it catches her black bobby pin
undoing her carefully crafted pincurl
near her ear
She pulls the scarf off, balls it up
and places it alongside her purse on her floral bedspread

I tug at her dress
plead with her not to
I tell her Barbara is coming
and she'll be mad
so mad
if she is not ready
my grandmother doesn't understand
she doesn't know
it's my job to make sure they don't fight
I'm going to fail

I promise her
that at any moment
my aunt will appear
and we will go
right away
and we'll have fun
and so my aunt arrives
opening the front door
moving into the house forcefully

again we are not ready

again I have not done this one simple thing

again there are raised voices

again I try to calm things down so we can just go
we can go, can't we?

Friday, October 04, 2013

We've Created a Monster! New Works by Tim Hunt and Katie Argyle.

We've Created a Monster!
New Works by Tim Hunt and Katie Argyle
Dovercourt Community Centre 
October 4th-31st, 2013

Tim Hunt is showing his urban masks alongside my linocut prints, woodblocks and paintings.

Given we both collect material, the concrete and the abstract stuff,

on discussing this new show and trying to conjure up a title for our work, 

the idea of Frankenstein's monster kept creeping to the surface.

If you are interested in having a look and you are in the area,

drop by the Dovercourt Community Centre, 411 Dovercourt (in Westboro), Ottawa  

Thursday, October 03, 2013

October Memoir and Backstory Challenge - #2 childhood continued...

Green Thumb

Every Sunday morning
there is a white ceramic bowl in the sink with
beef shanks soaking in water
until the meat is grey
and the water

My grandmother drains the meat
pushing it from the smooth bowl down into the cold water
of her tall aluminum soup pot on the stove,
burner set on low.
She adds peeled whole potatoes, and carrots,
and round yellow onions with their skins,
for their golden colour,
leafy celery stalks are bundled with string
so they won't get loose.

My grandmother stands over the pot
steam rising, wooden spoon stirring,
small sieve on the counter to skim off the scum.
Her face moves through shades of pale to bright pink,
as she stirs,
from a small glass filled with Dominion store ginger ale
and Hungarian pear brandy.
I know she is done when she places the lid on the pot,
a small crack left open for steam to escape.

She can turn her back on the soup
for now.

Moving back to the sink
she lifts the ceramic bowl
the one with the watery blood,
carrying it through the living room,
right over the Persian wool carpet
and around the pale blue velour wing-back chairs,
out the front door and down the stairs outside,
right hand on the railing,
bowl balanced on her left hip.

At the bottom of the stairs
she opens the chain link gate,
walks over to her robust purple delphiniums,
and empties the bloody water at their root.

The neighbours marvel at her green thumb.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Pushing for the Perfect City - vote vote vote!

 In a perfect city, the view from your window would be both calm and exciting.

Cast a votre for today my mural to win the @downtownmarkham mural competition. 

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Every Odd Numbered Day -Memoir & Backstory Blog Challenge, - 1 of 16 - TOPIC: childhood

Today begins a month's worth of blog posts on the topic of memories. 
This blog challenge will have me writing on all the odd numbered days in October. 
This first week we focus on childhood memories.


Malted Milk Bars

Taking me by the hand
Frank Bower leads me to the kitchen.

We walk past pictures in black wood frames
high above me
careful to avoid white shiny
breakable things with gold edges
perched on flowery crocheted doilies
an endless expanse of
end tables lies ahead

We pass through
lemon Pledge furniture polish scented air
on our way to the
giant white refridgerator
whose door
with its heavy rounded corners
is like a low lustre photograph
Frank's old worn hand
pulls the long silver bar toward him
and it opens slowly,
the blast of cool air wakes me

Malted Milks.
two bars
snuggled side by side on a plastic ledge
waiting for my visit

all the energy I need to make it through
this Sunday visit with my grandfather's friend.