My odd little poem, The Last Episode, is live at The Daily Drunk. It’s about The Office, Lost and Dante’s Inferno.
I’m still writing, still publishing. I’ve been overwhelmed, so I’ve been forgetting to post. ADHD/PTSD in a pandemic is a heckuva thing.
BUT! I’ve had a few things published recently.
My short non-fiction piece, All Ten Provinces and Both Territories, has been published in Flash Nonfiction Food: 91 Very Delicious, Very True, Very Short Stories by Woodhall Press. This essay recalls a time I traded something precious for something necessary. It’s also about how delicious pizza is when your belly is empty.
My poem, In Patient, is featured in litmag Serotonin. It’s an oldie, written about 20 years ago while I was an inpatient at a mental health facility. Challenges related to my mental health contributed to the long pause between writing and publishing this poem. Publishing isn’t accessible to neurodiverse and disabled people, in part because it wasn’t built for us. Indie publishers like Serotonin are creating spaces built for us, by us and because of that, pieces like this can find a home. I’m grateful for the small shifts, but it does make me want more change, bigger change.
I will try to post again soon. Until then, may you find the eye of the storm and take a deep breath.
My short story, Golden Arches, is set at the Rexdale McDonald’s that I worked at as a teenager. It’s a story about class, poverty, and doing crime. Golden Arches has just been published, along with 22 other poems and stories, as part of Workers Write! Tales from the Classifieds. It’s $2.50 for the PDF, $12.00 for the print version, and $1.99 for the Kindle.
“I’ve made a deal with my anxiety,” I say to my partner.
He’s working from home, surrounded by screens. They are a living museum to all of the people he helps.
He doesn’t look up.
“I’m not going to worry about anything but keeping you and me alive and together.”
I’m a worrier, both by nature and circumstance. Before I knew him, I’d already been undone, been left unloved and unhoused. We met as teenagers and I brought him into the chaos with me. We lived nowhere, with fingers tangled together. We had no bed, but cushioned each other, blanketed each other, whispered good dreams in each others’ ears.
We sat on a balcony in a snow storm and we knew.
“This is good, isn’t it?” I asked.
“We’re going to get married, aren’t we?”
That was our proposal.
Still, I do not live with a sense of security. This house we’ve since bought belongs mostly to a bank. They might remember its more theirs than ours. Everything is temporary. Clothes wear out. Food goes bad. Cupboards can go from full to bare to someone else’s in no time flat. We could have nothing, again. We could be nowhere, again. I get that. I have to get that. I can’t count on anything.
Except him. Our balcony-promise has lasted more than twenty years. I build fences around him. Make him wear a mask. Clean everything. Put my hand on his neck and search for any trace of fever. I can prepare for losing anything — but not him.
I know that modern people aren’t supposed to love like this. It says something about my autonomy, my self-worth. But I do. I love like hunger. I love like I’m incomplete without him.
I know something else, too. All this insecurity, this planning for the worst, this anxiety, it won’t keep back a virus. The numbers say we’ll make it, but the numbers have never been friends of mine.
So this is my new proposal: if I keep my word, and keep him and me alive, I will learn to revel in good. (Yes, I know that bargaining is a stage of grief, but what’s to be lost by pointing toward what fills me up?)
If we see the end of this together, I’ll believe that we’ll always have a roof. I’ll believe that we’ll always be fed. I’ll believe that only good days are coming. I’ll stand up to my knees in Lake Ontario and shout out my happy to the clouds. I’ll overspend on birdseed and tomato plants and comfortable shoes. I’ll drink hot cocoa in the afternoon and toboggan down high hills.
If we see the end of this, I’ll have faith in our joy.
Or at least, I’ll try.
My poem, Like Cherries, is free to read at Malarkey Books. In it I explore one of the best days my partner and I had while experiencing homelessness in Toronto. It seems the right time for it to come out, as we are all of us trying to find our own best days in hard times.
Be well, and enjoy the poem.
I am writing this in my home. I am writing it indoors, with heat and clean water, wearing washed clothes, my skin not itching, my partner’s voice rising and falling in the next room. I am safely housed.
This is true now, but for some of my life, it wasn’t. I’ve lived in an unsafe home, a group home, a shelter. I’ve crashed on couches. I’ve slept rough, slept in my school, slept in spaces not meant for humans. I was me, the same me I am now, but alone and hungry, frantic and deadened all at once. I knew I was disposable.
Over 20 years ago, I met a person who was precious and amazing. He was disposable too. I knew him for weeks, not months or years, but I think about him all the time. He was clever and challenging, generous and creative. He caught TB in a shelter. Because of the nature of crisis-friendships, I don’t know how he is now, or if he is now, but I knew him long enough to see him fall apart. I knew him long enough to learn that illness will always come for humans in shelters, in care facilities, in prisons, in mental health wards. As long as it stays in those boxes, we don’t hear much about it.
And what can I do? I tell stories from my own limited perspective, from this warm place that coats the memories in gauze, making them less sharp. I am here in my home, safe, at least six feet from the world.
What is home, in a time like this? Home is an anti-virus. It keeps us safe. Home is personal protective equipment, covering our most vulnerable parts. Home is an avatar of community care. Home is, and should be, a right.
The Pandemic Chapbooks to Support Charitable Giving initiative by 845 Press and Collusion Books includes a poem I wrote called For Chandrahas, Who is Likely Dead. It is about my friend, about illness, and about home. If you donate to a charity — any charity — you can get a copy of the chapbook for free.
There’s a charity in Toronto called Sanctuary that is taking care of people, members of our community, at great risk and in the most challenging time possible. They are doing this in the face of immeasurable hardship and loss. I hope you will consider donating to them, and to the folks they serve.
I wish there was a way to pull all this together, to end it in a way that is satisfying, but much like the situation, there’s no easy conclusion. There is no bow to tie, just a hundred, hundred loose threads that require a communal will and concerted effort to begin to gather.
In all this, I wish us safety. I wish us a thing called home.
A good number of us are working from home and it can be hard for kids/partners/pets to know when you’re staring blankly into the void versus when you’re staring intently at the 37 people in your Zoom/Meet/Team/Skype conference. I’m not so much an artist, but I did draw this with a Sharpie and scan it in for you, because I love you. Yes, you in particular. Enjoy!
(And for my last batch of colouring sheets, click here.)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Inspired by the song Take Me To Church, and the video made for it, Dear Heavenly mother is a missive and a prayer that examines growing up queer in a fundamentalist, evangelical household and community.
To read Dear Heavenly Mother, click here.