Dear 16 year-old Danielle

You have an innate ability to survive
what some people refer to as cockroach strength.
Don’t take it the wrong way; the reference is correct.
Think of its indestructibility.

You survived today, as scary as that was.
I still don’t know why our street was blessed with a high
cop to house ratio or why their residencies
seemed triangularly planted around our house.

Don’t be too hard on him. He might have been stressed,
living a forced life that really wasn’t him or
maybe there was something with the job that he had.
It’s too bad he couldn’t be honest with us all.

You will meet someone; you will bend over backwards,
do everything to make him happy even when
it means you have to leave your family, yourself behind
and work on things that unnerve your confidence.

You will struggle with working, dealing with people,
getting work done on time, handling multiple loads.
You will always feel left out, by colleagues and spouse,
until you see your walls have always protected you.

You will be dealing with conditions that take the mind.
When you first meet that mind, you’ll see your dreams for it change.
It will push you to the limit, make you realize
how little the world changes over the years.

You will be fighting death every step of the way.
I guess a birth shrouded in death leads to that life.
Death of brother, then father, then mother. Yourself.
Hang in there. People will be needing you.

You have an innate ability to survive
with a smile, with kind words, with ears that listen.
You observe quietly from your corner in hopes
no one finds out what you lived. But I must warn you.

Holding it all in the way you do constantly
is damaging. Someone will still find out your life’s
struggles and pain the day you can’t stop the tears
from flowing freely. Better to be an advocate.

Remember the old folks home. Remember Georgina.
Remember you taught her to colour in the lines.
That is where you need to work. You will with your child.

Work with people. Not machines. Not droid-like humans.

Most of all, don’t forget to laugh. Look to the sky.
Answers are written in the clouds

Hurried Vacation

Between the fog and the damn fir
that stood wider than a house,
there was no way to enjoy
the colours of the crisp night.
If I were to have a chance,
I knew I’d need concrete
to build an anchor in the lake,
two by tens of some kind of wood,
and rope so the dock would not float
away from me every day.
This is how I spent my days
working under the sun and spray
until my final time there had come.
I went to the nearest canteen
and bought what I could find there:
a turkey sandwich and coffee,
and a book they had on the shelf.
A hush slept over the lake
as a single moonbeam cut
through the fog to light the words.

 

The Birds That Stay

Spring brings birds from far away
back to my yard; in nests, they stay.

Fall sees birds prepare to fly
off to some place, but some ask why.

Some have thought, figured it out:
they can live through flood and drought,

avoid the trip where there’s gunshots
aimed at them, yet left to rot;

They even find by staying here
the homes they build can disappear.

Still, it’s easier to withstand
to rebuild homes than to be hanged

by old decrees of fly away
when times have changed. It’s now today.

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb

Rings on fingers
Rings on thumb
I could wear
only one

And I wore it
Every year
Until my finger
interfered

Turning blue
It hurt my head
Parts fell out
i felt unwed

In a small box
In my drawer
I can’t wear it
anymore

Now my finger
And my thumb
Remain naked
every one

 

Staying in her day job was not something she enjoyed:
it demanded speedy thinking, speedy translation to zeroes and ones, speedy response times
with hours upon hours that took her away from her family and herself.

Quitting her day job was not something she desired:
it demanded quiet resolve, quiet mediation among family members, quiet obedience
with lack of funds that drove away her family and even his love.

Either way, she was doomed to be alone.

Meditation

Steady rhythm in the walk
Pass by the same dusty roads
Stroll past all those fences breaking and rotting from the wind, snow, ice, rain
Stop at the corner
Look up to the sky
Blue skies that warmed you fight with the dark clouds the wind insists you need
Hindsight takes over
Remember broken dreams
Create your own future that holds you up and voids will be filled

Lock Me Out

When I was little
I stood along the wall
and watched the other kids play.
Teachers would pry me off
and throw me in the throngs
of kids who did not want me there.
I learned to walk away
and stand on the hill
where no one was allowed
and watch the scene from that distance.

Now I am older
I stand along the wall
and watch the other adults talk.
When I see the danger
of passive aggressive words,
I know they do not want me there.
I walk away
and stand on a hill
where no one dares approach
and ignore the scene from that distance.

And the Bed Snapped Itself Closed

The bed sandwiched the child
sleeping in the servant’s quarters.

She wiggled left and right,
reaching for the mattress’ edge

any edge she could reach
before she lost her tiny strength.

She had hoped to slide out.
She had hoped to pull herself free.

Sweat dripped from head to toe.
Tears built a storm inside her head.

Would calling even help?
Did anyone know if she could speak?

Exhausted, she called out,
not a word uttered, just a shout.

Her mother ran in.
She screamed at the sandwiched bed,
tore it head from foot.

Her mother held her close,
rocked her with frightened tears.

She looked up to her mom.
Hungry bed ate me up.

She looked up with a smile.
Funny hungry bed.

Torn Between Home and New Home

Stand an umbrella at the bus stop
Head back home
Stand an umbrella beside the umbrella
Head back home
Place a potted plant with the umbrellas
Head back home
Place a potted plant with the umbrellas
Head back home
Up the stairs
Down the stairs
Staying level
No progress
Two plants left
Time enough to save only one
Up the stairs
Down the stairs
Plant pot grows heavy
Up the stairs
Down the stairs
Vine needs to be carried
Up the stairs
Down the stairs
Place vine across shoulders
Up the stairs
Down the stairs
Vine follows
Up the stairs
Down the stairs
Out of breath
Catch breath
Cross street
Pull vine
Pull vine
Pull vine
Pull vine
Pull vine
Bus comes
Vine wrapped all around me
Board bus
with vine
with umbrella
with umbrella

They Fear Those Who Read

They knocked her over with taunts and catcalls.
They beat her daily with wood rulers and
sticks. She dared continue day after day.
She’d sit where she could and read every book.
It mattered little if it were bad or
if it were good. The language unimportant,
the pictures all spoke. We will never know
all the knowledge she held. She is lifeless
on the floor in a modern-day cloak and
her book upside-down, ignored just as well,
holds the secret to living as we should.