Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Sixty: Ecstasy

Robert had little patience with these introspective bouts of mine. He never seemed to question his artistic drives, and by his example, I understood that what matters is the work: the string of words propelled by God becoming a poem, the weave of colour and graphite scrawled upon the sheet that magnifies His motion. To achieve within the work a perfect balance of faith and execution. From this state of mind comes a light, life-charged.

—Patti Smith, Just Kids

When young writers ask me what they should be writing about, I always say the same thing: Write about what you can’t get rid of by other means...Your obsessions aren’t there simply to fill your mind and heart with junk. They are the deepest forms of human meaning, even if they seem frivolous or shameful.

—Steve Almond, Let Obsession Be Your Ally: Be Haunted By It

On Wednesday I went to Kensington Market with a friend. We sat outside Ideal Coffee smoking and talking politics and design. It was overcast but warm. Calm. A man in rubber boots and cargo shorts wandered through the street strumming his guitar and singing random, mismatched lyrics. His lean and casual confidence was comforting somehow. A young woman swooped around him on an old red Schwinn and he paused for just a moment, calling out to her. Wow! You're like Laverne and Shirley all in one! As she sailed past us with wavy elegance and long, easy bicycle strides, his gentle guitar notes reached after her.

Beautiful, he said. Just beautiful.

You told me once that I was easy to please, but I am just as dissatisfied as the rest of us. Riddled with the complexity of being human---what to do, where to be, how to occupy my hands. If you were here right now, I would wrap myself around you, kiss your neck with open lips and pull you into something we both might want. But you are not here. And as I watched that bicycle ride away, I knew you never could be.

In you it was a way of being that I sought, not a kind of love. I wanted to stop pacing the corridors of my life searching for the thing that would quiet me. I wanted simplicity and wonder. Ecstasy in everyday things: the smell of coffee through an open door, a patio that looks onto a street in which beautiful people are living their lives under common circumstances. I wanted to sit somewhere I had never been, or somewhere I'd always been, and to appreciate. I wanted to find the courage to choose love over fear in every moment. I thought I could learn it from you. It never occurred to me that I could just sit somewhere, feel the longing, and allow myself to be amazed.

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Fifty-Nine: Bag

Sixty points for JADE, she says with a casual smile. That's a double letter, and a triple word. We are snowed in again, with no responsibility but to the potential of seven tiles at a time. She's got this one in the bag, but I won't go down without a fight. In actuality though, I've beaten her only once and she was ill at the time. I got lucky with OXEN and TORQUE.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Fifty-Eight: Yawn


standing naked in a strange house
full of memories
of people you've never met. Six in the
morning, wondering:
Will I get in my car
and go? Or crawl
back into her bed and surrender, place my lips
between her shoulder blades,
in the space where wings would meet

if wings
were what any of us
had to work with.

I have to go, I say
as she wraps me around
her body. Just stay, she yawns—

the only words I alternately
and never
want to hear.

So instead
we make breakfast: bean burritos, cowboy coffee,
and a joint. She shows me pictures
of her family. Necklace beads. Her snowboards.
She tells me stories,
and between us there is a
space. Our agreement,
she called it the other night
when I tried to kiss her
at the bar. Woo-ho-hooo there.
Hand on my chest, hot breath in my ear.
That's not the way to do it
if you don't want
to know.

But I'm not sure what 
I don't want

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Fifty-Seven: Tricycle

Often enough, in the winter months at least, Sunday dinner at our house involved lobster. My grandfather or my uncle Derwyn would arrive with a parcel pick-up bin seething with red shells crawling and clacking against one another, their thick wrists reaching in slow motion towards our faces, fat rubber bands catching against the sides of their confinement. That was when parcel pick up still existed though, having not yet gone the way of the complimentary in-flight meal. The courtesy of chauffeurring groceries to the car now lies in the hands of the consumer, of course, and you're as likely to find tricycles and barbecues in the cart, whole patio sets and a giant panda even, none of which would fit through the trolley gate at the front of the store.

As a child, my favourite part of grocery shopping was the hurling of bins. Those gangly boys with their bulky overcoats and frosty breath prowling the front of the store, tossing empty bins onto the ends of the checkout stands for the cashiers to fill and swinging the full ones onto steel rollers that ran the length of the store, firing them, with one loud SssssssssWOOOSH, to the end of the line where they careened around a sharp corner, through a heavy plastic curtain, and out into the cold. I would stand at the end just behind the corner guard rail and watch the bins hurtle towards me, trying to judge which one was fastest and urging the boys to throw them harder. Behind stealth grins and quick winks they responded with as much enthusiasm as could safely be afforded without getting fired. When mom had finished paying, we'd hustle out to the car—a beat up old VW Rabbit the colour of Orange Crush—and pull around front where we handed over the wooden tags denoting our bins, along with the keys to the hatchback, so one of the boys could swiftly load all the bags into the car and send us on our way with a pat on the roof and a Good evening, Ma'am.

I suppose if my grandfather were delivering lobster to us today, they would arrive in those blue Rubbermaid totes from Canadian Tire or Home Depot, not the hard plastic bins given to him by the man that runs the Save-Easy in Blacks Harbour, or Sobey's in the North End. Not that the lobster would care, destined as they were for screeching pots and Sunday dinners, into kitchens full of steam and cigarette smoke, children squealing under table legs and Grampy shouting about the DFO, or Trudeau, or the RCMP, all of them wasting taxpayers' money. And all the while winter would press into heavy storm windows and dark corners, the old balloon-framed house creaking in the wind, swaying under the weight of icicles crackling like fire.


Friday, 22 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Fifty-Six: Blend

On Valentine's Day, I have dinner with Denis, the Quebecois neighbour, and with no bilingual buffer, I am compelled to practice my ailing French. Ever the gracious host, Denis practices his English quite a bit more. He is a chef of French cuisine and refined experience, so I know I’m in for something memorable. It is an evening of courses, of themes and of wine, of cheese, homemade bread, delicate layers of flavour and music, and oil painted walls like gigantic canvases. Manners. Tradition. Courtesy. Culture. Communication. Documentarian by trade, he says, Communication is in my blood. Many generation, many variation. We discuss politics—it is impossible not to in Quebec, and religion, and passion, and logic, and...chickens.

We ate the rooster, which comes with a long explanation involving respect both life and limitations, but suffice to say I won’t recommend it. However, if you’re in a moral pinch or a struggle to survive, a few chanterelles blended in cream sauce go a long way. Still, Five hour, he says. Five hour I should have liked to cook this. Je m’excuse. But the rooster serves more as an appetizer anyway, to the cheeses and fruit and salad and bread and chocolate and wine.

"Des poulets" are a central point in our dinner conversation. The chicken, says Denis, I learn a lot of things here in this country (by which he means, out here in the country) from the chicken. He laughs. They are fantastique. No. I'm serious. Here is why... C’est l’equilibre en francais. En anglais, qu’est que tu dits pour ca? ah–

Equilibrium, I say. Balance.

Oui c’est ca. Vraiment. L’equilibre de poules. C’est un microcosme, ca. They are a female society, the chicken. and they work very well together. Always, always, they respond as a group. Together.

Though I want to, I have not yet asked Denis if he is a separatist. He votes separatist. but there are slight differences that I do not understand. It is here, in linguistic subtleties over dinner, that Quebec exists, and during a discussion of Stephen Harper and the proposed commemorative battle at the Plains of Abraham, I decipher Denis.

It is ridiculous, he says. Absolument. Qu’est que c’est? Eh? Quoi? Hey. Do you know what happened after that battle? It was a war. Do you know what happened? They left Quebec (city), the English, and burnt every farm in sight. They piss on the people. Hey, this is war, I understand. It happen today somewhere right now. Je savais ca. Mais, Come on. We celebrate this? Tabarnac. Understand. This is not why I want a sovereign Quebec. I don’t think, "Fuck you Harper; fuck you Alberta; fuck you English." No one is better. You are brainwash; we are brainwash. Each different. But my culture, we are lost. You see? We need to work, for us, to some common goal. as with the chicken. You know. They are connect. Always together they work. Is this for us to learn. This simple life. We must. Hey. This crise economique, you know what? We are too much luxury. Too much independent. We cross to the U.S. for gas and what else. Vivre la Quebec? Hey, we do not care for the other. We are too much remove from what is it we are. Not technologique, Ou des ordinateurs. No. Les chanterelles. Les poulets. You. Me. We are this. La vie. It is the fault of us (by which he means , it is the struggle) to be free. To choose. I believe we have to build something for a long time. Les Quebecois. Together. Everywhere the community. Everywhere the chicken house. Me. You. Each of ourselves. The soul, it strives, non? It want to work. We cannot continue to steal. We cannot continue to want so big. We must make for our self the simple life. I believe that. It is work. Yes. To awake the conscience to this. But hey, you know, with the chickens, what is that they say, you cannot make the omelette—

—without breaking some eggs, I say.

I get the feeling from Denis that he has broken his share of eggs, and that even in saying so, now over Valentine’s Day dinner, he tries to reconcile this with himself. He lives alone here, and has since he moved from the city three years ago. He struggles with depression. He hikes the woods. He keeps chickens. A cat. He paints. He cooks. He works in film, though in a lesser role and to a lesser degree than he used to I think. He engages briefly and bitterly in an attack on the Quebec Film Board’s funding directives, but quickly abandons it with apology. He maintains a friendship, to some degree or other, with his ex-wife who still lives Montreal. He tells me it’s very good for him to have company on this night.

He teases me about the notes I am taking and tells me I should record instead. But it’s not always what we say that I write, Denis, so much as interpretations. You say chicken, I think of Napolean, passion, war, love. Or earlier you said, "In this travel we must know our limits." but I was uncertain whether you said travel, like journey, ou travaille—work, like what you do with film. Both are. The same but different. That's what I love.

Ahhh oui, he says, ca c’est la poeme, ca.

Exactement, Denis.

he says. We must create for ourself what we are.

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Fifty-Five: Destiny

Let’s go back.

What gets in the way? That was the question I just asked. When you sit, when you write, when you inhabit the beast of your body, what prevents presence? I was going to list the many thoughts that bluster into morning, washing up on shore: The intricacies of the wood stove and trying keep the fire going all night; the stairs I’ve been hired to build and how I’ve decided to settle the issue of the landing height; I could tell you I drank tea at five yesterday and it kept me up half the night; now I’ll be tired by two. I could tell you I made plans with myself to drink coffee on the beach as the sun rose this morning, and here it comes so I better hurry. I could tell you money; time; anxiety in general. But then it came to me as I was making toast, having thought I was too hungry to tap into whatever it is I’m looking for. Well, it isn't hunger, or money, or time, or sunrise.

The tide comes in; the tide goes out. The sun rises behind coastal mountains and probably the dog will get wet, even though she near froze last night after swimming. I drink my coffee; I breathe the air. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes they are the same mistakes over and over and over. Sometimes destiny scrapes your face across the sand until you beg for mercy, until you refuse to beg for mercy, until you become something greater than mercy.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Fifty-Four: Synthesis

Churning with existential clatter like,
What am I doing with my life? 
One can find solace in everyday things—

The potato
For example, peeled for stew.
What does it teach about life?

Grow underground, it says.
And fill your eyes with dirt.
Become something 
From nothing 
That anyone can see.

Synthesis does not always occur
In the light. Answers don't always
need to be seen.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Fifty-Three: Bone

Tonight as I was brushing my teeth, I caught sight of a photo of my father and I. I remember pulling it out of a box just after I’d moved in and, not knowing what else to do with it but wanting it somewhere, I'd put it on a shelf just below this mirror. It wasn't a particularly significant placement, just a decoration, an ornament to fill one space with another.

Sometimes it makes me sad, though, that photo, that space. Why do we keep such things? Why are those the things that matter? Because it's important to be sad? Because being sad reminds us too of our happiness, of our humanity? Yes, sometimes. I am alone in the house tonight, and right now that seems to signify that I am alone in the world. I don’t know what I felt before my father died, if I thought I belonged to something, or someone, but I learned from him that whatever you love can always be taken. That is a fact, and not a bad one to know, by any means. It's how we negotiate that fact which determines our level of freedom: Either we celebrate our own liberty by tying ourselves to no thing, no person, no feeling—we embrace impermanence by accepting the risks of vulnerability and loving what we love despite ourselves—or we perpetually complicate our lives by living in fear of (and trying to avoid) the burden of loss.

Sometimes sadness is a habit that must be broken. Sometimes it must be shaken off, outrun, beaten back, laughed at. Some days it is unwise to reflect on loss. Today was one. I looked at the picture of my father and I; I looked at my six year old self looking back; I looked at the brown Osh Kosh corduroy overalls meant to match his brown Levi corduroy pants; I looked at his long, thin hands brushing paint onto boards the colour of bone, and my small wrists swimming in gloves too big for the task. I thought, Thank God for that time—for gloves that didn’t fit, and clothes that matched his, and the work of painting boards for a fence. Thank God for the time before everything else.

Friday, 15 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Fifty-Two: Quench

Burroughs—now there’s a story, and one I won’t tell here, but there’s this: He had an apple, a gun, and a wife. It was a trick they’d done a hundred times. One small error, that’s all. One. Small. Error. He fled to Mexico immediately after, that very night I believe, taking only a typewriter and a memory that must have torn him to ribbons till the day he died. Still, the keys beat down, words flying off his fingertips like moths to a flame, quenching his thirst with ever more thirst.

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Fifty-One: Pitchfork

Not a common one, I expect, but not an altogether unlikely weapon either, the pitchfork.

It had something to do with horse dung, though it would be difficult to say what exactly sparked the dispute. Indeed, what sparks anything between sisters? Something to do with a boy, undoubtedly, at that age. A harmless bit of teasing, perhaps? The very last chores of the day before dinner, mucking out the stall, and maybe, too, it was dark and cold. Maybe the flinging of dung was accidental, though I wouldn't bet on it. But what perfect symmetry of circumstance and timing could place her mouth just so and open to receive, at that very moment, a fist full of it? You can’t even make this stuff up. And who could have blamed her, then, for the tears and the wailing and the reach for whatever item was close and could serve a vengeful purpose? Trust a pitchfork to find its way around a barn—four sharpened teeth designed only to bite, a bit rusted but well versed at piercing, and ready at a moment’s notice to attack. So it is that we sometimes find ourselves, very young and very stupid, in complete endorsement of a terrible idea and fully equipped to execute it. As luck would have it in this case, both the sister and the vaulted implement reached the barn door at precisely the right moment.

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Fifty: Convoy

I’m thinking about the house on East 17th. We moved in around this time of year, just after Halloween. We’d been fighting almost daily for over a year, but decided to keep going anyway in a new location, a block and a half away from Charles Dickens Elementary School. The irony was lost on my then; I didn’t know Dickens didn’t much like children, or that his own never met with his approval. But a man needs to work I suppose. Our sacrifices leave such holes in the lives of others, but then where would we be without them? At the time, I took Dickens School as a good sign. Very writerly. I barely wrote a thing in that house, as it turns out, busy as we were with first holding our lives together and then tearing them apart.

When we were breaking up, the landlord decided to do some foundation repairs and had to jack one corner of the house. All the walls cracked and bits of plaster fell onto book shelves and into plants and dishes. A large chunk of my office wall yielded while you were home visiting your family and I was sleeping with another woman. I found the symbolism, the meaningfulness of it, something of a relief. As if everything was just as it should be: The half naked body of a new lover pinned against the corner of a crumbling life. I knew then that we’d all lose, but I didn’t know what that meant really, or what it would feel like, and so convinced myself I didn’t care. 

The best thing about that house was the Vietnamese deli on the corner of Fraser and Kingsway, between the Laundromat and the video store in which not a single video was English. The only thing on the menu I knew how to order was the coffee—thick as molasses, sweet and strong, and coming only in one size and only after I had waited at the very back, far from the convoy of symbols and words I couldn’t pronounce, for the throngs of busy mothers and screaming children to peel out into the parking lot, arms loaded with mysterious packages. I'd point shyly at a glass shelf holding individual stainless steel coffee filters and with a sharp nod and a tangle of dissonance at the counter boys and their peach-fuzz mustachios, the coffee would appear, flawless and steaming from a Styrofoam cup.

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Forty-Nine: Cactus

Every rock has a story it whispers to the ocean floor; every seedling speaks of home—the Midwest, the Middle East, Africa, Japan. The new kitten, Siamese and recent, knows this to be true and skulks across the windowsill investigating potted plants, one of which is a cactus and, I would wager, his least favourite thing to have learned about potted plants. All the while, the dog, undeterred by our decision to ignore her, claws and pleads with the bedroom door. Can no one hear me? Don’t you see? I’m stuck! She is bursting with pressing matters, information about potted plants perhaps, or stories from the ocean floor. Maybe she has something important to say about kittens too, one of which is winding himself up in the blinds, dampened soil and tall tales leaving toe prints on the glass. 

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Forty-Eight: Static

In a phone booth outside the dépanneur:
Sheets of frost veer around headlights
as your voice comes through in gusts 
of static and longing. 


Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Forty-Seven: Verbal

Yesterday was not my favourite day. Is an understatement. And really, there's nothing to say about it now, just that it was heavy with things I don't want to carry anymore, and who doesn't have those days now and then? This morning though I awoke, in spite of myself, more or less content and already I have seen the first proper sunrise from my new home. While yesterday was an uneventful sort of daybreak—a shady exchange of dark grey fabric for lighter ones, fitting for a Remembrance Day, for the wail of bagpipes and reverence—today cracked open like an egg. Amazing what a little colour will do. Pink and yellow streaks over a shiver of orange. We’ve been up for hours now, the sun and I, and it’s been a pleasant start thus far, both of us with our best feet forward. Meanwhile, the ocean breathes softly and rolls back against a blanket of fog, now encroaching on a barge, now swallowing the far shore; my coffee brews, the wood stove crackles, and a lone seagull carries on a verbal exchange with a loon, it’s hollow warble drifting through stretches of nothing. Tabula rasa

Friday, 8 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Forty-Six: Confound

Today the BBC speaks of Typhoon Haiyan "sweeping" across the Philippines. I only caught snippets—380 km/hr winds; 15 meter waves; devastation, though not as much as they'd expected. Expected. Imagine, waiting for such a thing. A 747 leaves the ground at about 290 km/hr. Picture a wall of jumbo jets battering the shores of your life. Ok, someone says on Facebook, I'll stop complaining about the weather now. Perspective keeps us kind, I think, and humble.

And what do we do with that? Who do we blame? —Global warming? —Fukushima? —The downstairs neighbour's dog? —Ourselves; each other? —God? I don't know, really, except that if aliens are watching the news even half as much as I do (which isn't much), it's no wonder they haven't come for us yet. This is the world we live in: Weather that plots to annihilate whole countries, the mayor of Toronto high on crack, and the premieres of Alberta and BC making pipeline deals while nobody's watching. You take the good, you take the bad? Everything's bigger in Texas? Batten down the hatches? There's a catch phrase in there somewhere, something irresistible to captivate and confound. 

Meanwhile, we're all just doing...well, if not our best, then at least what we know how to do. Paying our mortgages, trying not to eat carbs, keeping ourselves informed. We quit smoking, we quit drinking, we quit getting fat. We have a cigarette, we have a drink. And, as it turns out, we happen to like carbs. It's not what we expected. There's no question about that. And maybe we're not who we'd hoped to be, but we're something and we're here. Together, I'd like to think. 

Ever tried, writes Samuel Beckett. Ever failed. 

No matter. Try again. Fail again. 
Fail better.

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Forty-Five: Tranquil

A dictionary resembles the world more than a novel does, because the world is not a coherent sequence of actions but a constellation of things perceived. It is looked at, unrelated things congregate, and geographic proximity gives them meaning. If events follow one another, they are believed to be a story. But in a dictionary, time doesn't exist. ABC is neither more or less chronological than BCA. To portray your life in order would be absurd: I remember you at random. My brain resurrects you through stochastic details, like picking marbles out of a bag.

—Edouard LevĂ©

A writing prompt from a book I'm reading asks, How did you get here?
I drove; I flew; I walked out of the sea. Maybe...

I think of a friend writing about her time in the Congo. Gunfire and Land Cruisers. Road blocks and outrage. White foreigners; the failure of the UN; the importance of remaining neutral so everyone would make it home alive.

How did you get here? I think of Mike and I scouring the Downtown East Side, listening to anyone who would talk to us.

How did you get here? I don't know what I expected the writing life to be. Early mornings and strong coffee, an ocean view and a comforting hearth? Late nights and expensive scotch? Tom Waits? Ernest Hemingway? Something romantic, probably. Not glamorous necessarily, just more cohesive, tightly knit like high-thread-count sheets, without the confusion and doubt—should I just tear them up, turn it all into rags, buy new linens? Is this what I ought to do, what I'm meant to do? What does it matter anyway when there's bills to pay and dinner to cook, and the answer buzzing inside you like an angry swarm of hornets.

How did you get here? I jumped off a banana-seat bicycle when I was five and threw my fists in the air—my father holding the bike steady until he knew I could balance, and then his quiet triumph cascading behind me all the way to the corner; I ran up a hill; I slid down...let's say, a few times; I took a train, a bus, a merry-go-round; I decided I didn't like ferris wheels, or hot dogs, or low-budget ale; I waited in line; I learned to ask questions; I paddled a canoe; I bought a dog (he got me further); I fell in love; one foot in front of the other; Upstairs, Downstairs and Are You Being ServedPBS with my grandparents on Saturday night, short glasses of port on a TV tray, the volume turned as loud as it would go and my grandfather, blind as a bat, humming along to the intros; I listened to his murky breath lingering too long on Amphora tobacco—in and out, tranquil behind heavy drapes and long winters; I payed attention.

How did you get here? Mr. Donavon reading our stories out loud to the whole grade six class and then saying to me, Don't ever stop writing.

How did you get here? I told a beautiful woman at a party that I loved her. A stranger. I never saw her again. I was 19. 27. 32. Her lips were cold and she smelled of leather; her breath was hot and she tasted like cinnamon; she turned her head and walked away.

And on and on. You know how it goes, this life—meaningful, nonsensical, the most important, the least likely. 

How did you get here?

I wrote.

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Forty-Four: Zest

If I had to guess, I would say that my love of cooking, of fine food in general, did not come from my father. I absorbed many of his passions—woodworking, for example, and laughter—but mercifully few of his dietary preferences. People joke about Spam, but in our house it was Flakes of Ham. And Chicken. Not that my mother or I ever ate it. She added the requisite Miracle Whip and somehow managed to turn it out onto bread for him, but I couldn't even stomach being in the kitchen when she opened the tins. I shudder to think, even now, how food achieves such a status: Flaked. At the least, it was an atrocious misuse of homemade bread.

Yes, my mother taught me to cook, to love cooking, and bread was a cornerstone in her culinary repertoire. Saturday mornings in our house revolved around grains, and by the time I was out of bed the Red River cereal was already soaking in a bowl of molasses and water on top of the iron radiator in the kitchen, it's sweet warmth hovering in the hallway outside my room. When she'd returned from her morning run, the dough was ready to punch down. This was my job—the only part of bread-making I ever cared to learn, and my favourite part of cooking at all—and I executed the task with a sort of luminous zest.

Swinging like a boxer (I learned eventually that such gusto was not required), I'd sink my fists deep into the first bowl, deflating it like a balloon and allowing the suction to swallow my wrists; then, recoiling quickly and imagining myself to be Mohammed Ali, I'd jump around to the second bowl and plant a strong right jab into it's doughy centre. After replacing the bowls back on top of the radiator, I'd head off on some other Saturday activity—The Smurfs, maybe, or He-Man, or swimming lessons at The Y—until payment was offered: One warm slice, fresh out of the oven, slathered in butter and drizzled with honey. Not a flake of ham in sight.


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Forty-Three: Person

If you were to question me on plausibility
and likelihood, or if you came
with no question at all
just smug disbelief
and a roll of the eyes, maybe

I would tell you
about the darkest night
of my life

and how the moon still
crossed the sky
and the alders
still gathered it up
in their long, slender arms
and held it there, safely
till dawn.

There are so many ways to learn
about greatness and triumph.
Go ahead, ask the eagles, ask the goldfinches,
ask the hurricane—

We did not come here to be shy
and afraid. We came only
to rise above ourselves
and be held there 
by our own magic.

Who is the person of my wildest dreams?
Who will I become?

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Forty-Two: Practice

A haiku:

Patiently waiting
for practice to make perfect,
the violin shrieks.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Forty-One: Sizzle

tru luv 4ever.

Jodi was here; kris is a playa; Melanie & Trevor 4eva; a gigantic 3D star facing the toilet—all of it suddenly lunging towards her. Like a pendulum she swings out, half-drunk glass of wine sloshing past a toilet paper dispenser. She could write a book on what she's learned from bathroom walls. But not now. First she must steady herself, face the tunnel of a glassy eyes and low cut bras, bump and sway across the dance floor. Sizzle for her man.

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Forty: Chop

Southwest Turkey Lurkey with Chorizo Cornbread Stuffing

Step One: Jalepeno Jack Cornbread
This is the recipe I used. It's a good one:

I doubled this because we had a big bird and let's be honest, you can never have too much stuffing. Use butter instead of shortening, and add a little brown sugar. I cooked the bird, Ferdinand, on Saturday, so made the cornbread on Wednesday, cut it into one inch cubes and left in a bowl with a ted covering it so as it had time to get stale/dried out.

Step Two: Brine
On the same day as the cornbread, you brine your bird comme ca and place inside a Tupperware tote. Clear out some space in the fridge and be careful you don't break your back wrestling him in there:

1 cup kosher salt (make sure you use kosher because the intensities of salt varies considerably so if you substitute with sea salt or iodized it will not have the same flavour in the end) per gallon of water—whatever it takes to cover the bird;

1 cup of sugar per four gallons of water;

a couple of each: oranges, limes, lemons, all sliced;

I also threw in poultry seasoning and some paprika. What the hell;

Mix all the salt and sugar with some boiling water, enough to get it dissolved, then add ice cold water to the mix until the water is as cold as you can get it before you fit the bird in there. Then sit it in the fridge for at least 24 but up to 48 hours. You need to pull it out of the brine about 12-16 hours before you cook it. Don't rinse, but do pat dry and then stuff back in the fridge. I talked to him the whole way through this, obviously. And named him. And thanked him. We listened to the CBC. He seemed to like this.

Step Three: Day of cooking
Ingredients for stuffing (I made up the amounts): dried cranberries; sliced apricots, apples and chanterelle mushrooms; chopped onions, garlics, celery, cashews, and pecans; poultry seasoning; cubes of cornbread; chorizo (I only made half with chorizo—the half that went in the turkey—on account of vegetarians needing to eat something too).

Rub: I made this part up, so I'm not sure what to tell you in terms of measurements. Wing it. I think I used about a half cup of butter, three chipotles, a tablespoon of cocoa, half a cup of honey, and the zest from one orange. Melt butter, toss everything in the blender and whirl it around till smooth, taste test, sit overnight in fridge. When I put it on the bird I only used about half the rub because I didn't want to overwhelm people with the spice. In retrospect, I could have used more.

Bastey Baste every hour. Some people say you don't need to but I think that's bullshit.

I had wanted to do a cranberry salsa but it didn't work out (I recommend it though) so I did cranberry sauce with frozen and dried cranberries, dried apricots (diced), candied ginger, and ground cinnamon.

Step Four: Eat!
And enjoy.

Friday, 1 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Thirty-Nine: Sulphur

I imagine it had something to do with the seductive intrigue of power. Undoubtedly, it had also to do with defiance. Boredom. Working parents and slack afternoons. Be home by suppertime and don't get hurt. That was the only real spoken rule. There were a number of other rules, of course, that went unspoken, so we snuck around when necessary and didn't ask obvious questions. In our defence, we were ten and eleven. And anyway, Scott's older sister, Patti, smoked duMauriers and topped up pilfered vodka bottles with water before tucking them away again at the back of the liquor cabinet.

So. We weren't that bad.

It began in the park up the street with a few books of matches that Scott's mom kept at the back of a kitchen drawer. Then the sizzling burst of a whole box going up, the large ones his dad stashed on a basement shelf for power outages and campfires. The sharp crack of sulphur against the back of our noses made us squirm, but that particular curiosity that children have for dangerous things—like high speeds on steep hills and licking frozen flagpoles—outweighed our better judgement. Soon we'd created a whole industry of fire, incorporating plastic bags, rubber soles, forsaken GI Joes, nearly empty paint cans, and just about anything no one would miss.

Safety was our only oversight. It never occurred to us to have water nearby, or a plan. As much as we found the introduction of new elements thrilling—a spray can of WD 40, for example—we did not anticipate wind.

And so, one clear and breezy afternoon in October, the hillside behind Scott's house went up like rocket. A forty meter swath of brittle yellow grass and squat shrubs twisted into whirling tendrils of flame and heat waves. With one strong gust, a massive body of fire stood before us, shoving its shoulders into a canopy of maples and licking its lips at rooftops and power lines. Translucent wings of orange-red feathers and sparkling blue shadows thrust open and closed around us, fanning thick coils of smoke out into the neighbourhood. The threatening beauty of it, the magnitude, was mesmerizing. If it hadn't been so perilous, we could have stood and watched all day. Except—

Ooooh. Shit!... Scott hunched down low away from the heat and smoke as Patti screamed at us from somewhere nearby. What in the FUCK are you little shits doing?! Jesus! She'd been smoking out her bedroom window, thankfully, and was pointing at us with her cigarette hand. I have to go, Greg. My asshole brother is trying to burn the fucking house down. She at least told us to run before the fire department arrived, probably because she was in some way meant to be responsible for us.

When Scott's dad came home from work that evening, he let us walk out behind the house with him to assess the damage. Even the dirt itself lie in scorched tufts, with charred fingers of shrubbery poking up through it. Looks like someone gave it a buzz cut, eh Dad? Scott grinned eagerly. Jimmy shook his head and patted Scott on the back. This is no joke, son, he said. I'm glad you kids were nowhere near. Someone could have been seriously hurt. He pulled a pack of Player's Lights from his chest pocket and turned back towards the house. You two be safe now, ok? Half an hour till supper, Scott.