Article Category Archives: Poetry

For the Journey / I Know You Remember

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For the Journey

Grown up and living back near home
carrying only the weight of myself
and a job verging on career, with travel.

An immigrants’ daughter
with no memory of birth, place, or family
save a Nova Scotian childhood starting at five.

Today I’m training to Toronto
(yes, they say that here)
with a vegan attaché of important papers

appointments to keep, and snacks for the road,
including a plastic baggie
of cut carrots—not those baby missile cores

with their white blush of imitation,
but real ones, dug from ‘the’ garden
yesterday, during a February thaw—

so fresh, they aren’t even peeled.
Of course, I’m thinking of place
and roots and hands.

My father’s broad ones scooping back soil
and my mother’s, thin and cool
rinsing carrots at the kitchen sink—

homesick for all they still hold.

geden_cropped

Garden of Eden (quilt) by Marilyn Preus

I Know You Remember

It starts with a summer
A sun in the sky, a girl in the grass
The sun is yellow, the sky is blue, the grass is green.

And there’s always a house
Always a door, always a path to the door
Always four windows, a chimney smoking.

And most of a family, stick figures standing
Half the size of the house
All with two eyes and smiles that say nothing.

But the girl?
The girl, the girl is flat in the grass
Drawn last with that stumpy black crayon

Always used up first, its wrapper
slipping down.
Yes, the one you still taste

Tearing into the ends with your teeth
Spitting paper bits and wax
To keep drawing in black.

Going Home / Somewhere Borrowed

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Going Home

Pay attention.
These are not the windows
of the red-light district
smeared against the sky,
the snow not unusual
in place of tulips.

Once they gave great joy.
(Pay attention!) Familiarity forgets

the truth sometimes, the vowels dulled
by train wheels, your ghosts
preceding you. Cue
the prairies. Cue the Gangetic plains.
A condition of the skin to hold a carriage
that holds language that holds you.

lynda_diamond

Marriage of Da Vinci and Van Goghby Lynda Diamond

Somewhere Borrowed, Somewhere Blue

I thought I knew where I came from,
but I lied. I shift my truths
like furniture in a rented house.
Cumin, coriander, tuberose: what does it
matter if my memory draws
blanks? Even perfumers are anosmic.

Everywhere I go
belongs to other people.
I must be careful with my words:
they are borrowed currency.

Nowhere

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In a town where everyone
knows everyone
the girl who never connected is
an outsider.

School, recess, friends:
I do not belong here.
Family, holidays, gatherings:
I do not belong here.

My own mind, never operating right:
I do not belong here.
My own body, uncomfortable and ugly:
I do not belong here.

How do I get better
survive the day
when every place I go, every choice I make
feels wrong?

In a town where everyone
knows everyone
and everything about each other
I know surprisingly little.

People ask, Are you a small town person or a big city person?
I just assumed I was a big city person
considering the smothering town
I am escaping.

But now the city
is dizzy
and lonely
and swallowing me
whole.

I do not belong here.

mirror-jlm_scaled

Mirror by Justine MacDonald

My Mother’s Wounds

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جراح والدتي

زاحفة على بطنها ويديها الصغيرتين ملطختين بالغبار، تلتفت نحو الطرف الآخر وهي في حالة ذعر كبيرة منتظرة ساعة الإنقاذ. وبالقرب منها كل من أختها وأخواتها يتأخذون من الأرض مسندًا لهم، وفي أذنيها صدى الأصوات وصراخ تدعو الله أن تتوقف.
يوجد تحت فخذها ندبة طولها 8سم، كما يوجد شظايا لقنبلة إستقرت تحت الجلد على طول معبدها.
هذه هي الجراح التي أصيبت بها والدتي عند إندلاع الحرب الأهلية في لبنان. أهذه جراح؟ هذه مجرد آثار مادية ولدتها الحرب، أمّا جراحها الحقيقية هي تلك المخاوف اللامتناهية التي نتجت عن سماع الأصوات العالية والإنفجارات بشكل مفاجئ.
فلا يغيب عن ذاكرتها ذلك المشهد الذي رأت فيه كيف ألقيت شقيقتها الصغيرة مسافات بعيدة من تأثير الإنفجار كما أنها لا تنسى ذلك الإحساس عندما رأت أصابع خالتها تنزف دمًا شكلت بركًا على الأرض.
أما جرحها الأكبر هو لوعة قلبها على شقيقها الصغير البالغ من العمر خمس سنوات، الذي فقدته صباح عيد الميلاد.
إضافة إلى ذكرى والدتها التي أصيبت بحالة من التوحّد والإكتئاب لسنوات عدة جراء ما حصل مع إبنها الصغير وأصبحت منذ ذلك الحين مدمنة على الفيكوتين ومنطوية على نفسها ومشلولة.

jacinta

Daily Lebanon News by Jacinta Chater

My Mother’s Wounds

Laying on her stomach
her small hands on the dusty floor
and head to the side,
panicked and waiting.

Her sister and brothers next to her,
their palms against the tile, sweat beneath them.
Her ears are ringing, she prays for it to stop.

A scar down her thigh eight centimetres long
and metal shrapnel lodged
under the skin along her temple.
These are my mother’s wounds
from the height of Lebanon’s Civil War.

But these are mere marks.
Her true wounds are never ending anxieties
from sudden loud noises,
the never fading memory of
seeing her sister thrown
from the ground to building balconies
by the impact of explosion.
Her aunt’s fingers lodged deep
into the tissue of her thigh
to slow down the pools of blood
spilling onto the concrete.

Her wounds are the loss of her five year old brother
on Christmas morning
and the memory of own mother, depressed,
in an unresponsive state for years
addicted to Vicodin and withdrawn from what was left.

The Pedicurist

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I pass by the spa each morning
when it is empty and I can see her
placing fresh fruit at the feet of the Buddha
in the little red shrine she keeps by the door.
She lights the candles that surround him.
This is part of starting the business day,
alongside counting the money in the till
and turning on the OPEN sign.

When I come in for a pedicure,
she doesn’t look into my face.
She bows her head and bends
her body toward my feet.
This is a strange posture of power
that she and I do not like, and we both spend
the next hour pretending it is not happening.

But she is tiny and powerful.
She is very good at what she does.
She barely has to think. I trust her.

She is sweet and rude. To the other pedicurists,
she speaks suddenly, and seemingly angrily
in their language, though she does not turn
her body to them, and her body expresses no anger.

One time, she tried to speak in English with me.
“How many kids you have?” she asks me.
“None,” I say. “How many do you have?”
“Three,” she says. “All boys.”
“All boys?” I ask.” Yes,” she says.
She shakes her head.
I shake my head, too, in support of her.
She bows her head and bends her body
toward my feet because of – and for – these boys.

She rolls up her sleeves,
and I see for the first time that there is
a long white scar along her left arm.
I wonder what could have happened …
I can see where someone has folded
together the two banks of skin and,
in and out, sewn them tight to dam the blood,
leaving a deep dry river bed,
footprints of holes along the banks
where the government needed to know something,
and then where her boys, perhaps, played
childish games, digging for treasure,
without knowing
how much she suffered for them.

Deb Wiles Genuflect_scaled

Genuflect by Deb Wiles (30×37 cm; oil on board)