The Mess

The Mess


My house is always a mess.
How can one person
have so many words strewn about?
I wake up, a whole story is jumbled
next to my pillow,
the’s and it’s
sticking to the sheets.

I once got to brush my teeth
squeezing toothpaste with
pulpous and semisolid mushed in.
I washed my hair with
moistened, slippery and mango-scented.

illustration by Skylar Cheung showing a cereal box spilling out letters in League Spartan font

League Spartan Crackers by Skylar Cheung

I’m tired.
Tired of the words
crunching underfoot, cheerios
smushed into the carpet, never
devolving to earth.
Of climbing over
boxes of disconnected words
belonging once to poems, essays,
fiction and non,
in the kitchen, in my chest
of drawers, everywhere.

An old friend came over today,
Ann’s words are
stacked neatly in one corner
of her work or
in a cupboard or
tied up with string and cord
to hold them
to preserve them
for future use.

She stepped through
vestibule, narthex and portal,
sloshed through the word waves
to the couch
which included antechamber.
“Hoarding words, gold coins in your eyes,
useless unless you use them,”
Ann admonished me
as she stirred her tea
with spork.

I confessed my secret
These are the words left
from vain attempts,
from unpublished stories,
from plays with no actors,
from essays with no voice
to fight for them.
How can I treat them as garbage
even if others did?

“You use to write poems
you use to write verse
you use to write rhyme
sonnets and ballads,
why not this time?”
(Ann is not a poet and she
knows it).

We swept the kitchen for
rune and song
odes and lyrics.
The basement. Oh.
The piles of sagging tropes and titles
even found a farce long dead
I wrote in 1999.
We laughed so hard reading
our guffaws re-attaching
the narratives.

Merriment glues
and chortles bring back
what stories once were.
After hours of hard work
dirty graphite hands,
we had at least one poem
ready for removal.

And so,
here in your hands then
is my attempt
to clean out my house.


Listen to Tereasa Maille read “The Mess.”

About Tereasa Maillie

Tereasa Maillie is a writer, historian, and consultant based in Alberta. She has a very un-secret life as a poet, creative non-fiction writer, and playwright. Her current focus is on the history of the LGTBQ2S+ community in Canada as a form of advocacy and social justice. Her upcoming book is on the many people who changed the history and culture of Canada as Queer people.

About Skylar Cheung

Skylar Cheung is a Toronto-based visual artist who works in the mediums of yarn embroidery and oil painting. She strives to call attention to environmental damages and the need for protection through her art. Her work is inspired by the activism undertaken by her mother as they grew up in Scarborough. Skylar’s work has been shown in juried art shows such as Workman Arts’ Being Scene and at venues like the Ada Slaight Gallery in OCAD.

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