Friday, 24 January 2014

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Seventy-Seven: Rejoice



The few words you wrote
about going back to Sri Lanka
were well packed, tucked away under the gentle fabric
of your travels thus far.
Nonetheless, the phrases hurled themselves at me
waving madly from the shores of your broken heart.

There are so many questions I haven't found the courage to ask
and so many ways to ask them
but a deeper knowing too that you can't possibly convey
what I will never understand.
Still, I wanted to see the shadowed creases
under your eyes as you typed those lines, pausing I imagine
but not for long, to beat back the tendency to explain yourself,
crammed in the corner of some internet cafe,
the fibres of your sandy hair tussled
with Varanasi's grit and clatter.

You spoke of it with me only once
The Tsunami
and not in details that would ever betray 
you for the writer you are
armed to the teeth with metaphor and meaning.

How to tell the story
that lines the walls of our arteries
and scuffs its heals across our souls?
The one that beat us to the punch
the one we see only in gusts
and never as it really was
knowing always
that what we won't write
inevitably writes us.

So maybe you go back
stand on the beach
That Very Beach
and stare for a moment
a lifetime
thousands of lifetimes
into the mouth
of what you never saw coming
breathing salt air and agony—
a quiet rejoice that churns
through every merciless truth
and every tender corner
of your still beating heart.




Monday, 6 January 2014

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Seventy-Six: Expanding



January.

From the stainless steel soup pot on the stove
expanding swirls of steam rise into the kitchen, reaching 
their long fingers past spice jars and utensils, pouring 
up to find the window, kissing 
the edges of frosted glass and spilling 
across the surface of a sunset framed 
between rooftops and tree lines.




Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Seventy-Five: Dip



The girls had heard someone mention it on New Year's Eve and by the next morning they were ready in bathing suits before the bacon was on the table. The swim was to be held at one o'clock, and as these things go, it was going to be quite a mild one—eight degrees and overcast. Not as crowded as May Day, someone said as traffic inched along the Spit. The tide was neither high nor low and one could take a fairly enthusiastic sprint at the water from the top of the boat launch. I suppose in the end it's the momentum that keeps you committed. I imagined the East coast as my mother had described it over the phone the other day: like a fairyland, she'd said. Every tree and bush looking as though it had been dipped in ice, and she lying in bed at night listening to the faint tinkle of branches outside her window tousled by the whims of breezes and cross winds. She'd said it looked magical. Meanwhile, my aunt in another holiday phone call saying, Oh it's just dreadful. Dreadful. That long cringing pause between syllables and the preceding rise in decibels. I couldn't even get out of the driveway for church on Christmas morning. On Chrisssst-----Mas. Just imagine. I explained that I expected the Good Lord would take weather into account and that exceptions could be made. At the beach I tried to imagine jumping into the ocean at 25 below, wrapped in nothing but windchill. Surely they don't still do it. Maybe an indoor pool with the temperature turned down low? I suppose there are those who view the ceremony of it more important than the circumstances, like Aunt Connie on Christmas morning wringing her hands at the sight of a glassy sidewalk. The girls stayed on the fringe of the polar group and made it up to their knees before turning back, rewarded with praise, hot chocolate, and a wooly blanket each, happy to have been part of it and ready for home.





The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Seventy-Four: Mathematical



Usually, she is the first one to say hello. The first smile in a crowd of faces at dinners I'm still nervous to attend. Last year for Christmas she gave me a Shel Silverstein, which she knew I would love because she cared enough to ask someone who knew I would love it. I had nothing for her except thanks, but she seemed not to mind—another gift, much better than the book. She knows things about me I'd rather no one knew because her daughter tells her everything, but she does not seem to judge, and still always, the warm smile, the welcoming hug. Perhaps she understands the trying, the nearly mathematical work of overcoming oneself and building anew. Perhaps she knows my love for her daughter is as wild and deep as the sea that circles around our island and our lives, anchoring us to ourselves and each other, here in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of everything we ever were and are and will become. Our home.




The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Seventy-Three: Arrow



During the two weeks she lives at his house, he takes her fishing, or hunting, or mushroom picking—Dad things. For her ninth birthday he bought her a bow and arrow set, and when it proved unsatisfactory he returned it and bought another. He lets her stay up to watch the hockey game with him, and when she went to her first real game in Vancouver he made sure she had her jersey with her and a giant poster that read, "Hello Quadra Island. I'm at my 1st Canucks Game!" During the two weeks she lives with her mother he keeps her up to date on important things, like how he got a deer or that he saw a wolf on the back road. Her eyes sparkle as she gasps into the phone, Reeeeeally? Where???. Sometimes, too, he'll come over and borrow her for an evening because the weather's nice and the water's calm and he wants see if there's any trout in the lake yet. He laughs at her jokes; he pays attention; he calls her monkey. And when she sees him after a long stretch of not seeing him, she runs to him and squeals, Daaaaaddy! as he grins and wraps his long arms around her.



Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Seventy-Two: Priority



She's made family a priority, no small feat in this age. I can hardly remember a more elaborate Easter dinner. She invited the whole, disjointed and confused lot of us, every corner of genetics properly represented, and a few extras tossed in for good measure, dogs and all. Time to put the function back in dysfunction, she'd said, slapping her leg as she leaned, grinning wildly. It was not really a joke: She knew that keeping lives sewn together takes work. Genuine effort and invitation. At dinner, each table setting was outfitted with a clothespin bearing each individual's name. No one was left out, no one forgotten; and at the end of the meal all of the clothespins were gathered and put away for next time.

The food came in waves, and I know for certain there were at least two full kitchens and two ovens involved, two basters squirting juices onto two turkeys. Possibly a neighbouring barbecue was called upon as well, though I could be confusing that with a different dinner. There were appetizers in abundance and dishes enough to supply a small army, as well as two platters of stuffing, mixing bowls heaped with potatoes, whole basins of gravy, vegetables of every colour and shape, chocolate eggs for the wee ones (before, during, and after) and more pie than any one family could safely manage. It must have taken days to prepare, and she barely batted an eye at the thanks. I'm glad you could make it, was all she said. This is what family is for.




Monday, 23 December 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Seventy-One: Penetrate



What happened to her, said Rat, was what happened to all of them. You come over clean and you get dirty and then afterward it's never the same. A question of degree. Some make it intact, some don't make it at all. For Mary Ann Bell, it seemed, Vietnam had the effect of a powerful drug; that mix of unnamed terror and unnamed pleasure that comes as the needle slips in and you know you're risking something. The endorphins start to flow, and the adrenaline, and you hold your breath and creep quietly through the moonlit nightscapes; you become intimate with danger; you're in touch with the far side of yourself, as though it's another hemisphere, and you want to string it out and go wherever the trip takes you and be host to all the possibilities inside yourself. Not bad, she'd said. Vietnam made her glow in the dark. She wanted more, she wanted to penetrate deeper into the mystery of herself, and after a time the wanting became needing, which turned then to craving.

—Tim O'Brien, from
The Things They Carried