if the bruising

if the whiskeyupside-hrts
flowed back in the bottle
if the bruising
branded the abuser

if the bite
if the cold
if the rip cord
if the night

if the sleepwalking
if the fist
if the charm
if the knife

if the wishing
if the dance
if the seduction
if the snake hair

if the pleasure
if the shock treatment
if the conjurer
if the memory

if the death card
if the half moon
if the fallen
if the believer

if the screaming
if the nail
if the kind word
if the redemption

if the mercy kill
if the tainted
if the bleeding
if the comfort

if the breathless
if the standing
if the quicken
if the mask

if hand on mouth
if broken bone
if strip mine
if purple rage

if jealousy
if smacking lip
if hatred
if the obscene

if the baby
if the connection
if deliverance
if the hard kiss

if the “go faster”
if the forbidden
if the bad touch
if the hurricane

if the perfection
if the tiger eye
if the simple truth
if the forgiveness


home again

what a country.

the drive from toronto to edmonton is horrible. at least that’s what i always thought, based on the first time i drove it back in march of 1980. but i was only 22 then, and … well, it turns out i didn’t know anything at that age. in fact, the drive this time around was hardly painful at all. which tells me that i was just a real impatient, self-absorbed dumbass when i was 22.

now that i am much older, i like to think i’m at least a teeny bit wiser; and i’m pretty sure that in my blind wanderings since then i have managed, in spite of myself, to become more compassionate, more kind, more aware.

which is neither here nor there, really. but one does have a lot of time to think when one is behind the steering wheel staring at tundra, pine trees and prairie skies for hours at a time.

i think i’ve got it pretty good.

go home lake, minnedosa, minnewanka, wawa, nipissing, neepawa, nipigon, short road, long road, ball park road, post office road, baptist church road …

what a country, indeed.

somehow the world

superman’s dead
and so, now, is moses
and cool hand luke
and our brokeback fantasy
along with, some might suggest,
every soothing shade of blue that ever used to exist
and somehow the world still turns

they’re building another ice rink in this frozen shinny-obsessed city
but new orleans is still under water
and well-intentioned kids are still comin’ back in bodybags
and my sister
my sister just found a stone in her left breast
and somehow the world still turns

we meditate & self-medicate
over-eat & super-annuate
we’ve lost our ability to articulate
but not our inclination to hate
yet somehow this world still turns

we forget how to play
forget we ever knew how to pray
find ourselves craving human touch
then we wonder why we drink so goddamn much
and somehow the world still turns

we start to wonder if we’re losing our minds
— or is it just our credit that’s slipping away? —
as we install plasma screens in every child’s bedroom
and cell phones for every plugged-in waking moment
of every toxic shrink-wrapped day

we ask what’s the catch?
what’s the deal?
what’s the point?

why don’t we go out dancing any more?

and yet …and yet … and yet …
the believers still find reasons to celebrate
and the romantics are still howling at the moon
and you and i
you and i are still on our feet

and the liars, they never stop pretending
and the bombs, they never stop exploding
and the poets
the poets are having trouble sleeping
and somehow
this world

barrie me not

“how can a free spirit ever possibly take flight living in a place called BARRIE?”

i scream this at my mother who cannot seem to understand why i am packing up my ’75 datsun b210 rustbucket and driving 2,000 miles away to take a job in alberta.

my mother isn’t getting it, but my 22-year-old gut knows that after three years as darkroom technician and general reporter at the bi-weekly bugle, it’s time to move on.

barrie soccer shirtbarrie is suffocatingly safe. it’s vanilla. it’s boiled potatoes and wonder bread and piano lessons on monday afternoons. it’s church rummage sales and junior B hockey. vodka smuggled into high school dances, labatt’s blue at the underage skating parties. april wine and foot in coldwater at the college pub night piss-ups. it’s an excruciating hour’s drive from toronto, which at least has a pulse. it’s waking up greasy and groggy after all-night poker games with the guys in the bullpen.

barrie is so boring that we don’t actually play poker at our poker parties — we play hearts and euchre. but we do eat chips and drink beer and smoke cigars in an attempt to invoke the sleaziness quotient of poker. still, barrie is so boring that we don’t even smoke real cigars, we smoke colts — which involves very little actual smoking and is more about sucking on the wine-flavoured tips.

my mom doesn’t seem to get this but barrie is so boring, we drag ourselves down to the lake and sit on the dock and just sit — sit and watch motorboats pull up to the docks and wonder why anyone with money enough to buy a boat would bother to come aboard at kempenfart bay. because there is sure nothing to do in our sleepy little town. no good restaurants — unless you LIKE cigarette ashes with your sweet & sour chicken balls from lem cho’s — and only two rinky-dink movie theatres — the roxy and the imperial, which never show anything good, just sappy walt disney stuff like hayley mills fighting off some guy trying to kiss her, or hayley mills smoking cigars in the boiler room of a convent. four-star bopperfests.

barrie is so boring, there isn’t even a mall. all we have is mother’s pizza and towers department store. when i was in high school we didn’t even have a freakin’ mcdonald’s, just root beer and teenburgers at the dub; and it was all we could do to convince the waitresses at the crock & block to serve us draft beer in their frosted mugs, because we were only 16 but not bad enough girls to have fake I.D.

back then it was firenze pizza and tom collins chasers, and midnight tokin’ with our steve miller LPs in molly jackson’s basement. back then the air was always oppressively humid and even the liberals were frighteningly conservative. now it’s jogging on the track at the Y after work, and lunch with harris and timer and richie every wednesday at the town & country lounge — where the soup is always french onion and the special is always beef dip — except on fridays, when god help you if you don’t want fish & chips.

no, a free spirit couldn’t possibly take flight in a boring place called BARRIE.

but my mom still doesn’t get it.

“you remind me of me,” she says. “when i was your age i wanted to move to alaska and have six kids. i never did that. but you …. you figure out what you want and you go after it.”

then why won’t she let me go?

i may not know exactly what it is i want, but i do know what i DON’T want: i don’t want to live my entire life in a white-bread, tim hortons-and-beef-dip town and end up sixty years later being buried in a place called barrie.

i don’t want alaska or six kids, either, to be sure … but whatever it is i do want might just be waiting for me in alberta.

i hear the weather’s good there in the fall.