Thursday, April 24, 2014

NaPoWriMo Day 20: Standards

I stifle in the corset of words
Society has created for me
Nipping in the waist
Of my behaviour, creating
A long line, an elegant silhouette
Shaping my perception like an hourglass:


Proper. Ladylike.
Tall. Beautiful. Slim.
Successful. Smart. Sexy.


Words, bolstered by steel bones
Of societal expectations
Unrealistic as carefully Photoshopped images:
A manufactured standard
Designed to control
To keep us in ignorance
Of the liberating power of being ourselves
And not giving a damn.


Monday, April 21, 2014

NaPoWriMo Day 19: Secrets

Four years of silence
Watching the girls
With graceful limbs
Articulate features
Revolve like constellations
Around your world
And I, an asteroid 
Caught in your gravity
Praying you would catch me
In freefall.



NaPoWriMo Day 18: My Grandmother In The Last Stages

Why.
I can’t even try
To understand. It isn’t fair.
To say otherwise would be a lie. 

Stay. 
Even though I pray
That all will be well, I know too soon
Inevitably, you will fade away.

There.
Delicate as air
I hold your comb, as you once did mine

Drawing it through your snow-white hair.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

NaPoWriMo Day 17: Intimacy

peel me
like a new-boiled egg
like birch bark for a whip
like a grape from its skin
until my thoughts are laid bare
an onion stripped of layers
an artichoke heart plucked clean


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

NaPoWriMo Day 16: Reclaiming No

As girls we’re taught to fear it
To believe that the root of all evil
Lies in saying: No
No this is not right
No I will not submit
No you will not have power over me
No no no no cries the woman who wishes
For a life of her own
And tongues wag and old wives condemn
Calling her rebel, calling her faithless.

Like a mantra we tell our children
Yes. Always, say yes.
Yes until the bottom of your well runs dry
Yes until blood flows and bones shatter
Yes until nothing remains
But a dried-out husk.

We tell ourselves that to say yes
Is to be virtuous
Not knowing that No is power:
Power to create negative space
To push away distractions
To regroup, to grow in the darkness
Like a germinating seed
That to reclaim the power of No
Is to begin to blossom and live.


NaPoWriMo Day 15: The Gift

She greets me with a quick smile
Bright as a sparrow’s eye.
Her taxi-driver husband
Unable to make my pickup today
Has, with rare kindness
Recruited her help.

Her name is Rosemary, her voice
Lilting and laughing, her chequered shirt
Yellow as  sunshine.

Her friend Joan, coffee-skinned and trendy
Wears pragmatism and sunglasses
Like antique pearls.
Around one mobile wrist
Her Pandora bracelet overflows with charms:
Statue of Liberty, a ship
A green glass bead
Glowing like an idol’s eye.

They banter, these two, with the ease
Of old friends, comfortable
As soft flannel pajamas
On a cold night.
No awkwardness, not even with strangers
Their conversation invites, even welcomes
Drawing me in.

Their gift of intimacy, their benediction of kindness
Stays with me long after the afternoon ends.
Having received, it is now my turn
To freely give.


NaPoWriMo Day 14: Elegy

For Robin, in memory of Shane Gibson

Earth and air.
Earth, warm and bold
In each smile
Each goofball moment.
No airs, no pretence
None needed.

Air. Aire. Music
Soaring like air to the heights
And beyond
Virtuoso skill
Drawing life, love, breath
From taut strings.

Troubled Apollo, crafting beauty
From the ashes of your pain
Who knew that your song
Would be silenced so soon.

Lay your weary head down
Upon your strings.
Earth and air:
From grief, from brokenness
Your memory rises from the pyre
From the fire
Like a phoenix, evergreen.


NaPoWriMo Day 13: War Song For Teachers

This is a song for the children
For the broken
For the ones who always hear
You are not good enough
In subtext, in words, in actions.

You are not the sum
Of anyone’s thoughts.
You are not defined by your mistakes
But by your actions and reactions
Your future is more resilient
Than one bad grade.

I will not give up on you.
Success and failure do not define
The sum total of who you are
And will be.
Fail when you try
Fall when you learn
But stand up and try again.

 I will teach you to believe in yourself
That there is nothing you cannot achieve
Through discipline, teamwork, and perseverance.
I will not let you give yourself excuses
I will not allow you to blame others
For your shortcomings.

This is both war song and love song:
I will fight to break those words
On loop in your psyche:
Failure, stupid, useless, ugly
I will not measure you with these standards
But by the yardstick of your capacity.
I will stretch your horizons and show you
Worlds beyond, for you to explore. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

NaPoWriMo Day 12: To The Person Who Stole My Shoes

May your feet rot in everlasting agony.
May gout strike you and keep you prone
And may your liver sicken with unknown cancers
And give up mysteriously on you.
May your hair drop and your eyes blear with cataract
And may your thieving, greedy hands 
Thicken with arthritis and atrophy in two weeks.
May you never know a month’s wage or even a day’s pay
Because no employer will keep you for longer.
May everything you care about
Be taken from you and may you be destitute
For the rest of your mean, useless life.
May nothing you set your hands to prosper
And may everything you touch wither and be destroyed.
May every traffic light turn red for you
In your worst hurry
And may diarrhoea strike you in the middle of a 4-hour jam
With no lavatory in sight.
May roaches infest your house and mice your kitchen
May your children be devoured by snakes.
May your blood vessels burst and give you aneurysm
And may you not reach hospital in time to prevent brain damage.
May your skin crawl with the pain of shingles
And may you find no rest nor cure.
Be stricken with terminal illness, and be unable to die.
Be humiliated, and unable to defend yourself.
Be cuckolded, time and time over, in public
May pain and suffering strike you over and over again
May you be paralyzed and unable to move
And may you have not a single moment's peace or relief
For the rest of your blighted, unsightly, unproductive life.



NaPoWriMo Day 11: Drawn Threads

A tiny snip. The careful separation 
Of warp and weft.
Drawing out threads, meticulous 
As a weaver bird crafting its nest.
With needle and thread
Fashion patterns from negative space -
Intimate, delicate, lovely.

Teach me to endure:
To see each hardship and pain
As a drawing forth of threads
Making space in the close fabric of a life
To exhale – to breathe –
To create from its sparseness
Transcendent beauty.



Friday, April 11, 2014

NaPoWriMo Day 10: Challenge To A Self-Styled Indiana Jones

Archaeology: the study of human activity
Through clues and artifacts
Left behind from the past
A puzzle to interpret
A key to understanding.

Excavate me
Like a geological strata
Like an archaeological dig.
The clues are there to interpret
The artifacts open for understanding.

NaPoWriMo Day 9: The Secret Life Of Phone Booths

Note: I know I read a poem ages ago about levitating phone booths, and I cannot for the life of me find it anywhere online - the book's in my hometown. So, apologies to the poet whose name I can't remember - this is a fond tribute, not a rip-off because I have very fond memories of that particular poem.

The secret lives of phone booths are complicated.
They stand, solitary street confessionals
Inviting telephone confidences.
Unwilling eavesdroppers of conversation
Each graffiti mark has its tale:
Marz luvs Joolz. Call Me xx-xxx
U sounded like coordin8s 2 avoid were an invitation 2 bed
Down with taxes! right next to Have more sex, it’s free.

Phone booths hold the weight of the world
Within their cramped, four-walled confines.
Close, heavy air laden with secrets
Claustrophobic with anxiety and sweat
The rank odour of dead dreams and stale food
An insistent, insidious permeation.

Such gravity is hard to carry.
Last night I heard a phone booth whispering to another
Through the telephone line:
A soft, dull patter like the rustle of directory pages.
They stopped politely when I made my call
Coins dropping through the slot like cheap marbles.
When I finished, I heard them resume
Before I put the receiver down.

When I exited, I swear I saw my phone booth float
Two inches off the ground, then lift off quietly
Into the air where another phone booth waited
A silhouette against the crescent moon.
But in the morning, it was back in its place
Solid, unmoving, a perfectly ordinary phone booth
On a perfectly ordinary day.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

NaPoWriMo Day 8: Love Letter To A Girl

At eleven you might have showed promise of height
But genetics defeated you.
By thirteen you sat at the front 
Of the classroom again.
Awkward, sharp-tongued gypsy with just vocabulary for defence
You built book castles in the air
With thoughts for companions.
At sixteen the whole world knew you'd never attract the boys.
Too many angles. Too outspoken.
Too self-sufficient to be easily charmed.
Too much the lone traveller on uncommon paths.
You buried your pain in words
In letters to a man-boy who'd break your heart in college
Though in hind sight, it was inevitable.
Back then your rage moved mountains
Fuelled by wounds that had no voice
Save through paper and keyboards and online games.

In the dark of a summer's night you wrestle with loss
Future balanced on the point of a kitchen knife.

Little one, I reach through the glass of two decades
Hand on your ghostly shoulder to tell you:
Your world did not end.
Your heart will break a thousand times more
Before you find your footing
But the past will not drown you.
You will make mistakes
The darkness will come again, many times
But you will fight, and you will live to sing the survivor's tale
Like lilacs in a dead land, your roots will go deep.

I will tell you, future to past:
Forgive your failures. Love yourself
A little more.
This is not the end, child with the face of my girlhood
It is only a colon.
In the end of this, is your beginning:
You fade into me, and I become you.

NaPoWriMo Day 7: Resurrection

Yesterday's pain will not dictate today.
One step forward culminates
Several backward steps past
The past does not hold the present
In its death grip.

Rise soldier, from the ashes.
Stand.
From the embers of grief and pain
Blaze forth in pure fire.