To missing

To miss the play of fingertips on ivories
To miss the release, the joy, the sound
The sensation of creating
Of comingling with sharps and flats and semitones,
Arpeggios and
Perfect fifths
To slide along the keys, caressed a thousand times,
Eyes closed, knowing every measure, coda, cadence

Or to struggle slowly through sheets
Still crisp, intact and unmarked
Phrases awkward at first, tentative.
To draw out the sweetness, the resonance, and
To finally feel the chords come
Together

To press harder, to go gently, to ease
Into a steady rhythm. Andante.
Graceful.
Firm.
Intent.
Climbing to crescendo pounding strong
Sense and sensation
Welling together ecstasy spilling over into the last
Few bars.
Diminuendo. Dolce.
Morendo.

To rest. To silence.
To breathe in the space left behind the sound.

To miss this is to miss a rib.
Functional without it, but never complete.

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Table for one

“Are you waiting–no?”
Whisks the second fork away;
Brings a single glass.

Eating lunch alone,
Busy conversations but
None of them are mine.

Loud woman on right
Really hates Porter, really
Likes to hear herself.

I don’t feel lonely,
In case you’re feeling sorry.
I like it this way.

Having lunch with me
No pressure to have small talk
No awkward silence.

Loud woman on right,
A lawyer don’t you know, still
Hearing herself talk.

It’s a bit strange though
Laughing at my own dumb jokes
No one else will hear.

I like it this way
But maybe next time I’d like
A friend even more.

The Hunt

We were not hunters, none of us. But once a year we trekked into the bush.

“Ready to go?” My Dad, the expedition leader.

I nod, excited. My sister, in her puffy snowsuit, is already wandering down the driveway with my Mom. My brother, 16 and too cool for everything, is not too cool for this. Yet. He pulls on his toque.

We are five figures on a frozen back road, the only sounds the soft zip-zop of our snow pants, the crunch of our boots. We always turn off at the same spot. Our spot.

Sometimes the snow is high and we’re sweating before we get too far, yanking neckwarmers up onto our heads and unzipping the bottoms of our coats. This year, though, we can still see the fuzzy tips of brown timothy poking through. We make easy progress. I walk with my Dad.

We hunt.

“I see one! It’s perfect!” My voice, barely audible.

“Too big.” My Dad, the ultimate arbiter.

“There’s another!”

“Too scrawny.”

“There!” I gasp. He sees. When he stops I know he’s considering it. He steps away from me and moves toward it, signalling to Mom. He catches hold of it and gives a vigorous shake, snow flying in all directions.

“Well, what do you think?”

We all agree it’s perfect. Dad motions for Mom to take hold and he pulls out his weapon of choice:

A small, well-worn wood saw. The perfect tool for this job.

Dad hunkers down into position. We all know what happens next. I hold my breath.

“OK. Here we go.”

With a flourish, Dad grabs an imaginary pull-cord and gives it a hard yank. The wood saw roars to life!

REEEeenyeyeyeyeeeeNYEEEnenenennene!!” My Dad, the human chainsaw. We laugh. My brother rolls his eyes, but he’s still smiling.

Dad gets to work, his ‘chainsaw’ revving and sputtering, cutting away what we don’t need. In no time at all he’s scrambled to his feet and our prize catch falls into the snow with a whumph! We’ve done it!

It is a perfect Christmas tree.

It was always a Perfect Christmas Tree.

Then one year, I was the eye-rolling 16 year old. Too cool, almost. Then 18, too busy, too self-involved to bother. I stopped going hunting. Then I was 20, and too far away. I missed it. With each passing year I would think of The Hunt and feel my heart stir.

“Hey, ready to go?” My husband.

Shaken from my thoughts I see our son, in his puffy snowsuit, is already wandering down the driveway. His brother, six and sure of everything, pulls on his toque.

I nod, excited.

“Do you have it?”

From behind his back my husband pulls out the small, well-worn wood saw, gives the imaginary pull-cord a little tug.

REEeenyenyenyenye!” The kids laugh. I laugh, too. Their Dad, the human chainsaw.

We are four figures on a frozen back road. We are not hunters, none of us, but once a year we trek into the bush. We hunt for the perfect Christmas tree.

It is always perfect.

To Gilliesville in Autumn

Colours hidden in mantles of mist,
Reaching to unseen heights,
Late green and burnished gold climb
Ever upward to the giants’ tables.
So too I climb.
Upon those autumn hills
Home awaits,
With gifts of sun-drenched mornings,
Olympus-like, above the frosty chill
of the valley.
Home awaits,
Its evening lullabyes breezes trembling
Through the trees and star-filled skies.
I am welcomed by the scent of earth and leaf,
rain and worm, rot and rebirth.
By the cheerful chorus of chickadee and finch,
The wisdom of raven; the inquiry of owl.
Burnished gold and sometime red
From lofty cliffs spread wide before me
Through me, rising and spilling over.
As salmon surge upstream, so will I
Always return. 
Ever upward to the giants’ tables,
Home awaits.
———
Inspired by the Traditional Scottish song, Chì mi na mòrbheanna (“The Mist-Covered Mountains of Home”) by Highlander and Bard to Clan Cameron, John Cameron, 1856.

No racism. Just straight honesty. And the things I wanted to say.

Recently I posted an ad on kijiji attempting to locate a person I’d sold my van to, but forgot to exchange numbers with. He hadn’t picked it up after nearly two weeks and I hadn’t been able to track him down by other, less public means. Within a few hours of posting it, this happened:

1

Bannon is a very common Anishnaabeg (First Nation) surname in this part of the province. So, what this random person I don’t know, but who felt compelled to respond to me is actually saying is, “Native people are super unreliable and you’re probably screwed.” Hahaha, soooo hilarious.

There were many things I wanted to say. Many things I started to say and deleted. If you’ve ever called out someone like this, you know the outcome. It’s never pretty. I contemplated not responding. This guy’s clearly a troll, I thought. He just wants attention. But I couldn’t let it go. So I tried to reproach him in the least confrontational way possible. I settled on this:

Racism2

I hoped that would be the end of it. He would feel sufficiently cowed, or at least get that I didn’t appreciate his unsolicited opinions. I would wash that particular stink from my hands and carry on with my day.

You’re hrrumphing knowingly right now, aren’t you? Because you’ve been here before, too. And you’re right.

Five minutes later I received this:

racism3

Funny about this kind of honesty. It comes from a place where people say things like:

“I’m not racist, but [insert racist generalization here]”
“it’s just a fact that [insert gross stereotype here]”
“Of course the criminals were [insert non-white identity here]”

It’s the kind of honesty that reeks of privilege, of unexamined assumptions, of historical ignorance, of pure laziness.

I didn’t respond again, because I know that in the end it would be me losing my mind with rage, goaded into a righteous fervour by this random stranger’s bigotry. It wouldn’t change a single thing for him. And it’s not really about him. It’s so much bigger than that.

But you know what?

Fuck the assumptions that led you to think that all people believe as you do. Do you say these things assuming I am white? Why? Because white is the automatic default? Because I was selling and he was buying? Why did you feel the need to email me in the first place? To prove a point? What point, exactly? I could list a hundred and one reasons why you are wrong, but I suspect you’d have a hundred and two refutations, all based on the same tired white people mantras that have been spouted for decades.

Fuck the sense of entitlement that led you to such laziness that you cannot bother looking beyond the same old sterotypes. That leaves you too comfortable in your unearned privilege to do any of the work that is needed to bring about real understanding. That leaves you content to have a scapegoat to blame so you and your worldview can remain safely unchallenged. Are you blind to the reality of the people you deride so openly, who are rising up all around you in protest, in celebration, in support, in being. In just living their lives. Visible.

Or maybe you do see it. And that’s why you feel the need to make your horrible not-jokes to strangers on the internet.

Two days later, the man picked up the van, and I felt an insane, childish urge to email my truth-telling penpal just to say “I told you so!” Just so he would not have the last word. So he would not carry on thinking he was so fucking clever and right, so “just plain honest.”

But I didn’t. Because I could give him a hundred and one reasons why he was wrong and he would have a hundred and two refutations. Because at heart he is a troll who gets his kicks by being mean to strangers on the internet.

But perhaps I am the one making assumptions. Perhaps he would have been open to constructive dialogue. If so, by all means call me out. And I, in turn, will call you back in.

Girl Toy

To the woman at McDonald’s
who served my son his Happy Meal with a side of
sexism

You need to know
how a single word made him falter,
doubt,
question what he knew moments before as
truth.

You handed me the bags and said those
words
I specifically avoided when I gave you our
order
“This one has the Girl Toy.”

You did not linger to see what followed.
I did.
You turned away.
I turned to him and saw him go
rigid,
just for a second;
In his eyes a momentary flicker of fear that gave me
knots
in my stomach, though I smiled like nothing was
wrong.

Later, brow knit, gaze downward, suddenly
suspicious
of the pink and purple plastic, he told me
no asked me,
tentative,

“there are no colours just for boys or girls…are there?”

Inside I crumpled, cringed at his sudden
discomfort
with the choice he’d made, now
searching
for a justification, a reason, anything to restore his
conviction.

He was looking to me.

Thank God he is only six and
I am still his voice of
reason.

You are lucky I carry enough
conviction
for us both.

He was looking to me. I did not falter.

“No.”
I said.
“That woman was wrong.”
I said.
“There is nothing in this world that is just for
boys
or just for
girls.”
I said.

“She was wrong.”
He echoed. Pacified.

But not convinced.

Your small words followed him through the afternoon they
followed him and
grew
those niggling cutworms more powerful than my assurances
like tender shoots that snap when you grasp them too hard.

All through the night and into the
very next morning
your words followed him.
Whispering. Tugging on his
Truth
once absolute, now shaken.

“She was wrong.”
He said,
staring down at the pink and purple plastic.
“She was wrong, wasn’t she?”

“She was wrong.”
My turn to echo, trying not to sound
hollow.

To the woman at McDonald’s
who served my son his Happy Meal with a side of
sexism
you should know
how he described the virtues of the pink and purple plastic
out loud on purpose to push your words away.

You should know that every time time this happens
he has to push back a little harder
and one day I fear he will
stop
pushing
back.

But for now, he looks to me.

For now, you should know
I carry enough
conviction
for us both.