was just shy of eighty
when she travelled by car
with her Great Aunt Jane’s
handmade quilt and her
fifty year-old niece Katy
to the Antiques Roadshow
as it stopped in the emerald city
of Seattle, Washington.
The sky held off on its ominous promise
of a downpour just long enough
for her to run the twenty pound patchwork
into the Washington State Convention Centre.
Rainy, a five foot two, hundred pound
spitfire of a woman, insisted
on carrying it in by herself, folded up
against her narrow sparrow chest,
even though this further jeopardized
her already precarious balance,
a mishap of some sort.
Roadshow textiles expert Titi Halle
appraised the finely stitched heirloom,
signed by Jane Richards (nee Jamison)
in 1942, as having an auction value
of between three to four thousand dollars,
adding that the textiles market
was down right now,
so hers was a conservative estimate.
Retail value was anybody’s guess.
Rainy brought her prize home
Laying it out on her double bed.
She slept that night
Under stars dead and dying
and the fabric of family long gone.
“Time spent with cats is never wasted”
Most of what Freud said was shite
But once in awhile he got it right.
Penis envy? There’s a joke
No betty wants to be a bloke!
True, there’s better wages paid
(He’ll never be a hotel maid)
But who would choose testosterone
When you could have progesterone
And estrogen for making babies?
Step right up! Embrace it Ladies!
Who but women claim sole right
To bearing every human life?
No machine is so inspired
To grow the DNA required
No man can conjure up a room
As perfect as a woman’s womb
We grow and carry, bear then feed
Providing for the every need
Of every child, who could deny?
A woman’s body is divine!
Man is mortal, Freud a fraud
Woman is the one true God
Worship, free from hateful taunts
That is what a woman wants.
What makes me think I can accomplish
this Sisyphean task
in about an hour and a half?
What deliberate blindness,
what willful deaf ears do I cup
Eh? EH? EH!? What’s that you say?
Can’t be done?
Words will not arrive in time for
that perfect snappy comeback
but they always come eventually.
Art is always there, metaphors confirm
mythic import (hidden) and pull us along.
It’ll all work out.
I believe that whenever I can.
Did you see the photograph of that African baby,
alone on the burning sand, patient vulture waiting?
Art may be salvation and I its willing slave
to outrageous demands but would I drop my Nikon
to comfort that dying baby?
Would I save the kitten or the Van Gogh
from that burning building?
Hypothetical questions are a cinch.
I brave on, crazy, into every corner of this world
precisely because I am a coward.
I like the feel and the fit of my old shoes.
This world’s too busy, too efficient, too reckless.
I’m getting old and oh so cynical.
That’s why I talk to you.
We’re all in it deep now, 7 billion of us.
More men than women, more young than old
More poor than wealthy and all this,
amid the countless carnival clowns
who spill from their corporate cars
ever-hungry for theirs, scurrying ant-like
in a solid steady stream,
accompanied by the slick sound
of Nero’s latest, epic remix.
They take the money and run like hell.
But I digress. Boy do I ever.
The path is overgrown with these damned
Blackberries, they are a dangerous bush.
They’re everywhere and utterly unstoppable.
Let’s face it…the stones beneath my feet
have always been loose. I still carry them
(in my pockets)
but don’t worry about me.
I’m too lazy to walk down to the river these days.
More coffee? It’s fair trade, shade grown, organic.
Try not to worry. I would never leave
without saying goodbye.
I piece together remnants
Of who I was hoping to become
I re-enforce failing seams,
Patch up my past,
My dress well-worn and
I, too clever by half, am
Now indentured, cursing
Pattern pieces made of
Tissue torn and taped up to
Previous prints of cloth found
In the bottom drawer
of my childhood dresser.
Wrinkles don’t bother me
As much as my narrator’s
Non-stop whinging, these
Neurotic under pinnings,
Too tight too loose too much
Take it in or let it out?
Alterations are always needed
Yet somehow my design holds up
As I wear down to pink thread
And ivory-colored whalebone.
The summer I turned seven
I wore a floral cotton dress
Made by my mother’s mother
The first woman to dazzle me
With her fine and tiny stitches.
Her every waking breath was
In service to her savior. At her knee
I learned to sacrifice new fabric
To the necessary measure of
A small cut first, then a mighty rending
Pull! The tear extremely satisfying still.
I watched my Grandmother
Seated at the alter of her old singer
Work the treadle, her thread pulled me
Into the tension of her fabric even as
Her life folded away from me.
Now I sew away everyday
With what I have at hand
I create a mid-life tapestry
That tells my story for me.
I attempt to tailor meaning
Into my motives, born by chance
Made by a maker I never met
Now lost to me for good.
It’s no easier working
On someone else’s costume.
Dress yourself in patience, friend
So that the hems you have to let down later
(And there will be many)
Come away as they will
Leaving barely visible holes, like so many
Good friends gone into satin-lined boxes
Burned up in their Sunday best.
We go too, you and I, but not before
We wear our finest every chance we get
Pull out our ridiculous hats and stretchy silk gloves.
Enjoy each texture, every weight, the creases even
All these defining lines that tack us together
They fashion and fasten our remaining days.
observe your impatience,
let it amuse you this,
your true nature
pearled up in the oyster
of your own forgetting.
practice non-attachment, remember
you are here for a heartbeat
the difference between
enlightenment and forgetfulness
is about a minute and a half
understanding lies coiled
in each choice , subatomic but real enough
choose peaceful contentment
non-resistance to life
in a blink it will be over
funny that we choose
to question why
we are here
My moth-eaten memory
surprises me on occasion
with flashes of the days
when we settled down
to farmhouse life
in Woodlands, Manitoba.
Must have been ’65 or ’66
I was pre-kindergarten.
Our neighbours, the Dorians
those country folk who
became our family,
welcomed the three of us
to their boxcar cabin
old black and white photos
of Grandpa’s regiment hung
proud upon wood panelling.
They walked us up weedy
tractor paths to rock strewn fields,
introduced us to
their fine Appaloosa stud
and their ancient mare
Goldie, my first true love.
Tea was always served
in old country roses teacups
dainties on worn matching plates,
teaspoons of sugar.
Uncle Jim, Sharon & Reuben,
Grandma’s gentle smile.
They loved us completely.
We sang “Beulah Land”
as we travelled prairie highways
all windows down, hair flying
back when life was only sweet
and summers drifted out with
the scent of burning leaves.
Our voices carried us
To wish for what once was
is a fool’s game I know
but those days gave us
our true north,
our best hope of belonging
to something simple
yet somehow grand.
Now our autumn is upon us
We look to the old photos,
We dream of those endless days
When we were saved
By the goodness of kind hearts and
Blessed by the trembling
blue and green panorama
of our prairie life.
My poor Memory, my rich Imagination and I
like to stroll together through the deep forest
of my mind most days. We compare notes
on how things were and how they are now.
We come up with versions of events
we can all live with.
The shadow of a Great Blue Heron
passes overhead, so close we hear the soft breath
of blue-grey wings soaring just above the tree line
yet below the worst of our ever-changing weather.
We each take turns speculating on
the varietals of blue birds, we conjure up
mixed media images of various species
and their feathered brethren, we thrill
at the thought of their migration routes,
try not to think of their declining numbers.
Imagination chimes in declaring it
some obscure occult practice:
ornithscopy of the highest order!
Memory is lost in reverie while Imagination
suggests we recreate a ritual that might align us
with the spirit of this mythical messenger
(then yammers on about what meaning
may be found in the timing of things).
Memory and I wander off in search of a grassy field
while Imagination drones on, happy with itself,
sounding like so many summer bumble bees.
What is normal anyway?
We return home to a glass of iced tea
and begin to tidy compulsively
but not without a modicum of satisfaction.
We think out loud, putter around
as we tend to when we are vexed
by some question beyond our ken.
Now that god is a poem and not a person
We find each moment even more astonishing
than the last, we’re downright giddy somedays,
awash in the great good fortune
of this lottery win called life, though now
we see no magical motifs in daily happenings.
We find no butterfly and opine it to be
a friend from a former life.
Still we find it hard not to fall
into the old, superstitious ways
so entrenched is it in us to
avoid stepping on the cracks.
We still pray inexplicably, when we’re
lost in the dark wood of our own making
and we despair quietly, regularly,
having lost the comfortable armchair
of reassuring notions of god.
Memory recalls some piercing pain from the past.
Imagination plans for some fond, hopeful future
and I pour myself a glass of red wine
then wander around the garden.
Our cat follows as far as the blueberry bushes,
finds the perfect spot to spy on us, then naps
in the amber drift of late afternoon sun.
Friends now say serious things that
are laughable, though once we would have
solemnly agreed with their magical thinking.
Memory serves only to fade and falter
when reaching back for the sensibility
we once shared while Imagination remains
preoccupied by delusions of grandeur and
just wants to sit quietly in a book-lined room
reading poems and writing down the crazy
while dogs sleep on the floor, dreaming
of faster rabbits and unsuspecting squirrels.
Please forgive us for not attending your
We no longer remember why we should go and
We can’t imagine why we would. It’s not your fault.
We no longer believe we met so we could
work something out karmically.
We no longer feel obligated to explain.
Memory lets us go and Imagination
waves goodbye, dreams of the day when
we’ll look back on all of this and laugh
(like we knew what it meant).
This day breaks early
With chickadees calling
With dogs sleuthing and
spent leaves falling
This world says welcome
With arms extended
Dreams are forgotten
now sleeping’s ended
This sky is now changing
With work that is waiting
The harvest is pending
and gardens are fading
This path is now sunlit
With spider threads glistening
With news of what’s coming
(for those who are listening…
This slug is enormous
By anyone’s standard
Tall as a Tree Frog
and long as a lanyard
This poem is digressing
A Stellar’s Jay cackles
in cheeky derision)
This dog’s face is laughing
Tongue panting and lolling
I’m back in the yard
with the chickadees calling.