Real straight talk about souls

It was all completely serious, all completely hallucinated, all

‘It was all completely serious, all completely hallucinated, all completely happy’

Beginning July 9, a collection of my paintings, Real Straight Talk About Souls, will be on display at the Woodcroft branch of Edmonton Public Library.
The exhibit is part of a larger, ongoing body of work in which the titles of the paintings are borrowed from beat poet Jack Kerouac’s writings — mostly from Dharma Bums and On The Road.

The exhibition’s title is from On The Road:

“Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk — real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.” – Jack Kerouac

The show will be on display through October 2017. Woodcroft library is located just north of Westmount Shopping Centre at 13420 114 Ave.

The Ma-Wink fallopian virgin warm stars reflecting on the outer

‘Ma-Wink fallopian virgin warm stars reflecting on the outer channel fluid belly waters’


things that make me crazy

first crazy

snow in april.
snow in may.
snow that gets in my eyes, on my eyelashes,
in my boots
and under my skin
snow that gets into my heart
and refuses to melt
toffee when it sticks to my teeth.
magpies yapping.
chickadees mourning.
crows cackling.
dog hair on the rug.
white dog hair on black pants.
people who talk on their cellphones while driving.
people who take up two seats on the bus
and grunt when asked to make room for someone standing
buses that are late
buses that are so early you miss them
(rare but it does happen)
forgetting how i made a certain paint colour.
forgetting the names of people whose names i swore i’d never forget.
forgetting keys in doors
forgetting to lock doors.
feeding the cat.
the cat.
the cat’s indifference.
when there’s no milk for the coffee.
racism. sexism. homophobia.
anti-feminist assholes.
modern jazz that feels metallic and disharmonic and headache-inducing
and i know the reason it makes me crazy is because i don’t understand it
and i hate that.
not understanding makes me crazy. not getting it.
not being connected.
being too connected.
the internet
the computer
the cable company
the system
the election
the spammers
the spam
the starbucks baristas who ask if i want room for cream in my coffee
and then don’t leave any room.
(yes i once made one cry)
the chaos in the tupperware cupboard.
anything loud.
anything digital.

things that make me crazy in a good way:

cats and dogs
that perfect shade of blue, trying to re-create it
poems by just about everybody
‘the artistic temperament’
potato chips
coffee rings
coffee culture
sunrise. sunny days.
don draper.
ipod photo apps.
breakfast burritos.
road trips.

(warmup write, sometime in 2013)


The daughters wore saddle shoes.
The daughters read Nancy Drew and Freddy the Pig.
The daughers played with jumpropes and hulahoops.
The daughters got glitter paint sets and beads for their birthdays.
The daughters watched All In The Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
The daughters listened to transistor radios under the covers and bought Beatles 45s.
The daughters hung out in Keenans’ music store and didn’t tell their mothers
they’d bought Son Of A Preacher Man because they just knew there was
something about Dusty Springfield that would meet with disapproval.

The daughters rode around with boys in cars and listened to 8-tracks
and bought cokes and chips in the Woolworth’s cafeteria.
The daughters smoked Rothman’s behind the Mac’s Milk store
when they were supposed to be at the library.
The daughters rode 10-speeds to the private beach
and pretended their fathers were members of the club.
The daughters convinced their mothers to let them wear bikinis.

The daughters were told they could be whatever they wanted to be.
The daughters were encouraged to go to law school and Paris.
The daughters read Livesay and Atwood
and took Polaroids of their friends.
The daughters snuck into the bar with fake IDs
and got their family doctors to promise not to tell their parents
they were on The Pill.

Feb. 12, 2011



i filched quarters from my dad’s change pocket
saved them in my baby blue plastic coin purse
i kept letters from a high school boy for far too long
i still have my mother’s thimble
long after my father tossed her recipes
i rescued a purpleblack magpie feather from my cat’s backyard
preserved it in a crevice on the stucco landscape of my little house

i kept my aunt verna’s poodle pin
and the niagara falls teacup from my grandma (another verna
but from the other side of the family)
i cherished the pewter candleholder my mom brought
from finland in 1974 and the brown corduroy beatles cap
my brother surrendered that same year.
i still have the candleholder but gambled away the hat
somewhere between barrie and alberta

for months i saved beer caps that my first love mailed to me;
mementoes of parties he’d been to, 12 years after he first asked me to marry him
under the grapevines when we were five and betrothed for life
eventually i threw out his beer caps
with the cool white jeans i’d bought with my inventory money
to wear when i finally saw him again
i never saw him again

i saved a memory of the polkadot curtains my mom sewed
for my room on no. 2 sideroad; the first room i didn’t have to share with my brothers.
yes, virginia, my first room of one’s own.
my daddy built me a desk for that room and painted it white
and i cling to memories of that furniture, still.
we moved one year later and i wondered if another little boy
or girl would sit at the white desk my daddy made for me

i rescued a wounded baby rabbit
but it was not destined to live a long and happy life
i have hung on to rodeo pins; pins that say schol and copenhagen on them
because those are brands that cowboys chew. baseball players chew, too,
they call it dip, and i will always hold memories of tobacco juice
like grasshopper blick
ending up on my batting practice stenographer footwear.
i have retained the olfactory experience of the clubhouse
its weird blend of liniment and shoe sanitizer, shower steam and old spice
i am cloaked in memories of john ducey park and its dilapidated press box.
a year after i stopped covering that team they tore ol’ ducey down
and replaced it with a new diamond: telus field.
it lacked character and cachet, and instead of hot dogs and popcorn
those cold steel bleachers just smelled like money

i have kept my dad’s red tartan christmas shirt
and my brother’s soccer jersey
they all think i’m a fool for saving these things.
i have trouble letting go.

july 2014

There is a pall over my city

There is a pall over my city today.

The end of any year typically combines a look back over the past 12 months – an accounting of good times and bad – and a glance ahead at what we hope will be an unfolding of easier, breezier days. I catch myself smiling over the all-too-fleeting joyful moments of 2014 even as I ponder the stresses, the mis-steps, the difficult conversations, the attempts at graceful living that I wish I could have back to do over.

Today in Edmonton, anticipation of New Year’s Eve festivities has been overshadowed by grief as we try to comprehend an unspeakable act of domestic violence that has left nine people dead.

Ten days ago the winter solstice marked the beginning of a return to the light; today in Edmonton we are reeling from an act of darkness that defies explanation.

We grieve for the past as we turn to the future. We ask that 2015 bestow health and happiness on us and on our loved ones. I believe that as we stand on the lip of any new year, what we want most out of whatever time we have left is to continue to love and to be loved. Sometimes that means allowing our chests to be cracked wide open when we least expect it, and to simply trust. Trust that the right people and the right paths will find us when we are ready to be found. Trust that we will be protected, guided, nourished and held – fiercely and gently – in caring, loving arms.

2014 was a difficult year for many of my friends. Being touched by death is an inevitable part of life but it seems, this year in particular, far too many people I know lost a parent, a sibling, a child. And what seems like a statistically impossible number of my friends said goodbye to beloved pets this past year.

I don’t want this to turn into a list of personal gains or losses. Or on a broader scale, a gloomy compilation of the soul-crushing atrocities committed by the human race. We know it was a shitty year of continued injustice, corruption, racism, misogyny, poverty, war. And yes, the tragedy of domestic violence. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. 

I want this to be a celebration of spirit and human kindness.

Almost 30 years ago, a pastor who’d never met my mother said he could tell she’d been kind after talking with my brothers and me on the morning of her funeral. We were clearly ‘recipients of kindness,’ he said. Those words have stayed with me all these years. I’m not convinced it wasn’t one of many stock phrases he pulled out of a notebook of helpful hints whenever called upon to eulogize people he didn’t know; but still, the idea of having kindness bestowed upon me, of having been a ‘recipient of kindness,’ warmed me. And it still does.

I think about how many people I’ve been truly kind to, over the years. As one of those who has trouble letting go (of people, things, feelings, hopelessly outdated clothes) I can remember all kinds of occasions when I was truly unkind. (Yes, Virginia, even people who publish books full of love poems have their mean, spiteful, stupid moments.)

Like many people on this planet today, I am clumsily chasing zen and attempting (at least some of the time) to live an authentic life of calm, compassion and kindness. And yes, in the back of my brain I do fully grasp that chasing zen is like chasing butterflies. Stupid human tricks.

It is impossible to say what 2015 holds in store. What I can say is that parts of my 2014 were truly, undeniably remarkable. After a year of medical challenges, I got healthy; I got published; I got some new writing done; I got to meet amazing new people; and I got to travel to places where I breathed salty sea air into my desperately grateful lungs. For all of these things I am thankful beyond words.

2014 reminded me that I have an infinite capacity to give and receive love.

Peace, Edmonton. Our hearts are heavy today but there is lightness ahead. Let us be kind to each other.

May 2015 bring loving, healing, forgiving energy to us all.

Happy Hogmanay.


Prompt: Why should you turn? Louise Glück, ‘Portland, 1968’

is this about the earth,
this planet we have come to know and weep over?
why should the earth turn?

why should you turn? for the same reason you should tango
for the same reason you should quiver with delight
at the sight of the northern star, the first robin,
at the way the red and white polka-dotted dress
hangs off your 14-year-old’s confident girl-child hips

why should you turn?
why shouldn’t you turn.
why shouldn’t you stomp.
why shouldn’t you race to the edges
and screech to a halt
just before the cliff meets the sky?

why shouldn’t you kiss the stranger on the train
why shouldn’t you drink the deep-fried carnival koolaid
why shouldn’t you trust in gravity and the tides?
why shouldn’t all the songs be sung
and the dishes left until later?
why shouldn’t the nightingales?
why shouldn’t the dogs go on barking
and the cats go on ignoring
and the morning go on perfecting that precarious hue of crazy blue
just for you?

why should you turn?
because you are the key, the wheel, the corner.
because the crux of the turn is the sweetest hullabaloo.
because turning the turn is living the question
not being slave to the answer.

of course you should turn.
you should turn, and turn again,
and turn again and again and again.anna turn
and when the turn
becomes a spin
that begets a fizz
that whisks a twirl
into your most familiar pounding tribal whomp,
you should turn again.
to the dawn,
to the light,
to the circle,
to the wind.
turn to the great self-sustaining bonfire
burning inside of you
and gulp that blessed flame.


catching up / coming up

i have not exactly been under a rock of late, but people have been asking me what i’ve been up to in the painting and writing department. so here is a brief summary, with links to various cool and/or curious things:

i spent the better part of a year working on pieces for this.

(update: amy willans and i have been asked to take fighting normal on the road. which is exciting. and terrifying. at the same time. stay tuned.)

on sunday, april 21 i will be performing in this, to help kick off edmonton poetry festival 2013, word nation. the artery, 2 p.m., hosted by holger peterson. yes, a blues mashup dealio and yes, you need to find a way to get there.

i got a nice shout out here (praise be to malaika aleba)

and two of my poems were featured here (thanks to the lovely shawna lemay)

and i signed up for this  WriteRight-Sending_Headers-06

in june i will be hangin’ around at this

and, oh, i sent a poetry manuscript off into the wild blue yonder (see terrifying, above)forget subtlety c

and i have been a collaging fool:

and as i am currently fixated on (gentle term for OBSESSED WITH) the intersection of image and text, i am laying the foundation for a body of work inspired by the dharma bums.

“Happy. Just in my swim shorts, barefooted, wild-haired, in the red fire dark, singing, swigging wine, spitting, jumping, running—that’s the way to live. All alone and free in the soft sands of the beach by the sigh of the sea out there, with the Ma-Wink fallopian virgin warm stars reflecting on the outer channel fluid belly waters.” ― Jack Kerouac

also? i shoveled a hell of a lot of snow.