My One Hit Wonder

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I spent last night with my step-mother.  She took me to her favorite stores in search of a dress I needed to wear to a wedding this weekend.  We ate food, laughed and talked. So much talking. But it was all a dream. My step-mom passed away almost ten years ago after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

In my dream, she help me pick out the perfect dress which of course was a pant suit.  The mall where we shopped was filled with stores that were all about her: an old school ceramics store/studio with tons of bisque ware and glazes, a Ports store, a Canadian fashion house and her favorite place for clothes, and an entire shop selling her signature fragrance Chloe.

She insisted on eating at a trendy salad place which didn’t exist in her lifetime but is my eldest daughter’s favorite eatery.  I think those two would have been wonderful friends with loads of shared interests and inside jokes. And she would have been my youngest daughter’s biggest cheerleader as she rides horses and takes on new adventures.  

This dream was bittersweet.  It was so vivid and real but has left me with a sad ache and a longing for a good long chat with this beautiful woman.  In 2011, three years after her death, I saw a box of her favorite perfume on a department store shelf and I wrote this poem. My One Hit Wonder was originally published in Time and Place.

My One Hit Wonder

I see Chloe.
Not the neighbour’s kid.
Not the co-worker.
The fragrance.
The small peach box with white lettering sitting on the department store shelf.
The box brings the scent.
The scent brings her back.

Not the last her.
Not the her of morphine and methadone listening to the looped music of her life.
Not the her of drains, bags and stints tying her to this world.
That was not her.

She was purple silk dresses,
And floral wallpaper.
White wine spritzers,
With pretty toes.
Bone dry chocolate cake,
And succulent meat pie.
A pixie cut,
With earrings and necklace to match.

She was training bras and rat tails.
Road trips and silly songs.
A nail biting spooner.
And queen of the kaftan.
My cheerleader and secret keeper.
My so bad it’s good decorator.
She was that wacky Christmas ornament.
And the perfect birthday card.

The fragrance.
The box.
The scent.
The woman, the daughter, the sister, the aunt, the partner, the friend.
She was my one hit wonder.
My other mother.
And still this was not her.

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An Empathy Yarn

 

1

You pull your empathy from the drawer,
And tug it over your head like an ill fitting sweater.
A sweater you knit for just such an occasion.
But the wool is itchy and distressing.
You move perversely.

I loathe your sweater.
And in turn I loathe you.
You make a mockery of my heart.
I ask for clemency.
You are impervious to my demands.

One day I will boil your sweater in scalding water.
And when you next pull it from the drawer,
It will strangle your vain attempts at compassion.
You cannot become something you are not.
A fool at play and nothing more.

But this is not a game.
Empathy is not a sweater to wear at your whim.
No!  Empathy is the yarn itself.
Yarn wound so tightly around the heart,
It constricts with each new affliction.

The yarn entwines itself through the body.
Strangling all logical thought from the brain.
Rupturing the circulatory system,
Spewing emotion from every artery.
An erratic puppet on a string.

Empathy is woven into the very fibre of my being.
It pulls tighter and tighter until I can no longer bear it.
And now as I unravel you with my words,
The yarn grips my lungs.
With every breath I struggle to accept your deficiency.

Beautiful Broken Bits

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I admit it.
I’ve wanted your
Slick angled haircut
Flawless skin
Horned rimmed glasses
And wrap around pants.

I’ve wanted your
Perky breasts
Sculpted triceps
Tattooed back
And perfectly pierced nose.

I’ve wanted your
Beat-up station wagon
Mid-century house
Eccentric husband
And carefree life.

I’ve wanted your
Kindness
Grace
Fierceness
And tenacity.

I’ve wanted your
Creativity
Confidence
Depth
And desire.

I don’t want you.
I only want bits of you
To replace my unhappy bits.
And you want bits of me
To replace your unhappy bits.

Admit it.
We shout, proclaim, preach and teach.
But we don’t love us any more than before.
We are two-faced liars.
Selling our wares but never buying.

I will fight myself to love.
To love every ordinary, damaged, imperfect bit.
Every bit of me.
Every bit of you.
I will fight to love all the
Beautiful broken bits.

Words

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Photo by Juan Osborne

Words.
They torment me.
Anguish
Torture
Pain

There are so many words.
There is no right word.
Precise
Exact
True

They stare back at me.
I am at their mercy.
I think.
Analyze
Study
Examine

They are distorted.
I lose meaning.
They punish.
Me
Myself
I

I walk away.
They quietly follow.
They change.
Shift
Morph
Transform

I rush not to lose them.
They are not perfect.
Splendid
Sublime
Pure

I am forever one word away from beauty.

Not My Whole Story

I am adopted.
My parents divorced when I was 10 years old.
I have an older brother that I don’t ever see or talk to.
I have weird big toes that don’t bend so I can’t wear high heels.
This is part of my story but not my whole story.

A boy was mean to me.
He hurt me with words every day for a long time.
He made me feel bad about myself to make himself feel good.
I have different boys in my life now who love me right and treat me with respect.
This is part of my story but not my whole story.

I have been sad.
Sad about the way I look, feel, think, am.
I have felt alone in my sadness with no way out.
Then a beautiful someone loved, inspired and encouraged the way out.
This is part of my story but not my whole story.

I have felt trapped.
Trapped by people, place, circumstance, expectation, life.
Trapped because I’m not enough.
Enough!  I’m more than enough.
This is part of my story but not my whole story.

I have wanted to be someone else.
I have wanted to be prettier, cooler, smarter, thinner, taller.
And then I didn’t.
Because if I wasn’t me, who would I be?
This is part of my story but not my whole story.

What have you wanted to look like?
To sound, feel, love, live, be like?
And you weren’t.
But weren’t  holds no power.
This is part of your story but not your whole story.

This moment, the next moment, the next million moments are not your whole story.
Your story is a life long work in progress.
Each moment a new page.
Each day a new chapter.
Each year a new volume.
Write it.

*This poem was inspired a group of powerful girls I mentor at Rebound.