The long cold silent winter
stretches out like a thin blanket
on a loveless bed.
I trust
life is breathing –
a barely beating heart
in hidden leaves and sunken acorns
frigid bulbs.
The silence menaces me.
No birds
no dogs
no screen doors slamming.
No ribald teenage calls
at two in the morning
from the bus stop across the way.
No songs
ringing out on six strings
sung with laughter
and too much red wine.

The sun colours the sky as it rises.
The bleakness blushes
and I am reminded
this too shall pass.
The patience taught by winter
cold but not frozen
nor forgotten.

From Poems from the Chatterbox

California Cold

I flee outdoors
to the sun.
in California
where the altitude
or latitude
or some other damn thing
like oceanic air
renders caffeine neutral
in my blood.

and drunk on words
from my host’s stack of books
or read
in our parallel universae
a year ago
or ten.

He laughs at me
‘cause I am cold
and reminds me
You’re from Canada!
as though I could forget.

And I marvel at this
October morning glory
and blooming
a violet trumpet
in the Hallowe’en sun.

A golden copper bug lands
on my fingers and
I am warming
to this country.

Memories of a Sister

A Spaniard in the Works
I sold it
not worth much now
on eBay
Would you have kept it?

You bought
at the United Cigar Store
a yellow lion coin bank
honeysuckle incense cones
and a tiny carved box
with a hidden panel

I remember your hamster
in his glass fish bowl
and smelly wood shavings

I remember the banjo
I broke
into a stringless

I remember the scarf
you knitted
on number one needles
so long
it unfurled across the basement floor

I remember the smell of vinyl wallpaper
in your forbidden bedroom
paisley and teal

That’s all

I was your sister
Do you
remember me?

Linked to the Open Link Night at dVerse on July 26, 2011

I declared “I don’t think the universe intended for me to be a retailer.” It was a glib comment. And when I thought about it, possibly untrue. I’ve had the itch to sell stuff since I was a child.
When I was seven or eight I dragged the piano stool out of the house onto the lawn and set up shop. One of the first items sold was my eldest sister’s first edition copy of John Lennon’s A Spaniard in the Works. Boy, was she cross. In my defense, it was the 60s, and no one knew all things Beatle would become collector’s items.
For inventory, a few years later, I made stuff. I created crayon pictures. I don’t know where I learned my technique but I would draw a picture and cover the entire paper in waxy colour. Then I would outline each colour with black. My mom had to buy me whole boxes of black crayons from the art supply store. I wish I had some of those pictures now, particularly one series which was a depiction of the four seasons. Honestly, none of these pictures remain in the family archives because they were hot sellers!
I also scavenged leather scraps from stores on Yonge Street and sewed them into wallets and purses. Rounding out the inventory was a collection of painted beach stones, sometimes “lucky stones” which had holes right through them and could be sold on a leather string.
My first jobs were in stores, a bakery, and a head shop. After university, where I studied English literature and dreamed of becoming a poet like my professors, bp nichol and Michael Ondaatje, I took up retailing. I bought the head shop and turned it into a popular home decor and gift store. It was exciting and I had a tremendous amount to learn about running a business. Buying items for the store fed a shopping and selling addiction beyond compare. It was fun and satisfying, and I rarely thought about poetry. Sometimes I pondered the meaning of my life and decided it was noble to provide aesthetic beauty to my customers’ lives.
When my business failed after 18 years I went to work at the University of Toronto Bookstore as a marketing and merchandising manager. Friends and family thought it was an ideal job for me: I like stores, and I like books! But I didn’t like the job. The universe, however gave me the opportunity to learn about book retailing, and peripherally about publishing. As I scanned publishers catalogues, wrote book reviews, and fingered newly minted volumes of poetry a whiff of a desire rose in my mind. Write, Sandy, it whispered.
So now, a couple of years after leaving the University, I am holding a copy of my own book of poetry. My desire to “sell” Chatterbox is not the same impetus I have to sell dog halters (which I do as a part-time job). It is a desire to share my story. To share my writing. To connect with a readership. It is a different desire than my entrepreneurial streak. And I think the universe meant me to be a writer.

An Apology to Poets

Shakespeare portrait
Da Bard

True confession. Yes, I have a degree in English literature. Yes, I’ve read the “Faerie Queen” and “Leaves of Grass”. No, I don’t read poetry.

Why? Like most readers, I don’t get poetry. It’s difficult to read. It takes effort and time. I like to read stuff I quickly understand. Stuff which enters my brain and instantly computes. Granted, I’ve enjoyed poetry, sometimes. Especially when it’s explained to me!

But wait a minute, I write poetry! How is this possible?

I started writing poetry as soon as I learned how to use a pen. Poems just came out of me. How did I know what a poem was? Well, I was read to as a child. Bedtime stories were the poems of A. A. Milne and Robert Louis Stevenson. My mom disapproved of Dr. Suess, but she read me many other books like the long poem, “Madeline”. This doesn’t entirely explain my knack for writing free verse, but it will have to do for now.

So my apologies to all the poets in the world, alive and dead. I do read your stuff from time to time. Especially when you thrust it in front of my nose. And if it’s easy to read; if it flies off the page and into my brain and gives me that “Ahhhh” feeling, which a brilliant combination of words tends to do; I thank you! And I keep on writing in my quest to pass that feeling on to you.