In Grade Six Sister Leo Patrick asked that we stand up in turn, one row at a time, to tell the class what we wanted to be when we grew up. The girl ahead of me said “A mommy.” Another, two rows over, offered: "A nurse." My turn came. I stood and said, too loudly, “A poet.” My classmates’ laughter was boisterous and seemed interminable. Being stubborn, even then, I have no doubt their heckling helped fuel my lofty ambitions in ways untold. Poetry remains my church, my unrivalled passion, even at times my redemption. It sounds lofty, granted, but it is the truth. I feel quite certain that without writing as a place where I can figure things out, I would not have navigated my life nearly as well. I publish my work online and off wherever I can find good homes. I am particularly proud of winning the member-voted poetry competition at goodreads.com a total of three times, along with an Honorable Mention. I'm a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Huffington Post Blogger, and the author of two books of poetry: "The Music of Leaving" published in September 2014 by Toronto’s Demeter Press, and "Nothing Gold Can Stay: A Mother and Father Remembered" (2011). My poems are about commonplace things, but they are not necessarily simple. The abstract never drew me. I don’t think in those terms. The day-to-day world and all its supposedly mundane detail provides me more than I need. To me it's not mundane, To me, it is magic. I always write in longhand first, usually on whatever is handy, as ideas occur... on restaurant napkins, drugstore receipts, yellow legal pads, and once, an airline boarding pass. Interestingly, that one had nothing whatsoever to do with flying.
I have chosen three of my poems to share with you here, with wildly different themes... Thank you for listening in. Thirst The sun was hotter: You can tell. Look at the people squinting against it in photos then. Everything washed out by glare: Faces, thoughts, nuance, all detail surrendered. We could be anybody. The backyards are parched, Look at them. It hurt to walk on the grass. We lay in barren backyards chain-smoking and eating fluorescent cheesies, swilling scarlet soda. We slathered butter on our chests. Everyone was burned raw. Everyone looked happy. Nothing could go wrong. Caution was ahead of us, Men were above us, landing on the moon. *** The Things I Learned as a Bartender There is no such thing as the perfect martini. Jazz musicians make lousy tippers. A couple can walk in fighting and after two shots of tequila hold each other for dear life on the dance floor like they did in high school. A woman doesn’t notice her date’s drink order as much as how he treats the waitress. No matter how cool the pickup line women want kind. Even with nothing to gain people can be small and mean. A table of plastic surgeons can be more obnoxious, abusive than a convention of professional wrestlers. The plain girl alone at the end of the bar has an achingly beautiful story no one will hear. The busboy with the bad skin. His will also go untold. Some people cannot be reached. The hulking cab driver who climbed the back stairs for his double cheeseburger every night at 8:30, month after month, stayed mute, no eye contact. He’d pay with a twenty and wave away the change. Leave without a word. From him I learned it’s impossible to imagine all the damage done. *** At Rest He can be found at the cemetery most afternoons for as long as he can stand the heat, or the cold. By the hour he sits there on a small iron bench in sight of her grave. It is inscribed in memory of another, yet it seems meant just for him. On the rare days we share the bench I am always the first to grow restless, to suggest home. For me it is an ominous place, unkind. I talk to her, he says warily, searching my face for signs of judgment, worry. Talk away, I tell him; take comfort where you can. Together they had forged a life in a country not their own, bathed their babies, taken joy. She was the only one who knew him when he was young. I read my poetry on You Tube from time to time. You can listen, here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClCiX1haAILgODuu2OV7DKQ
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