if we talked about anxiety then,
the way we do now,
in our separate lives,
in different cities;
with our separate pals,
in different threads,
would our worlds have continued
instead of disrupting over
not for the letters at the end of your name,
but for the self-reflection and questions:
“why does this experience cause me _____?”
blame. shame. pain. gain.
a long drive
way into the trees,
so high the sky
is barely visible
until the break in between.
the stream trickling
under the paved bridge
to an open body of aqua,
fresh, rocky water.
a quick glimpse of the scene
before you speed by
and the forest looks like a blurry photo,
not enough time to check if the
river was running dry,
but enough to recognize
it was flowing fine.
at first glance.
at first probe.
at first inquisition.
the passenger’s seat.
untouched and stale,
crusty and undesirable.
hard pink icing
on chalky chocolate-chips.
cream cheese filling, once gooey,
a bold, cold contrast,
now smushed like the
moody clementine peel
renting the space
at the bottom of your bag.
this is what you sound and feel like,
when you don’t invest in
an unwanted, deserted cake.
a slab of dry, choking dough.
a wall of rotting egg yolks.
you had the potential to empower,
until you let it slip:
you prefer titles and looks,
like sprinkles and candles,
you prefer the sound of your voice,
like a singing, cringing hallmark card,
over growth and working smart.
still, even though you’re deep,
in the shallow cardboard box,
opened by colleagues just curious
enough to see what you are,
you’re a mockery of a treat,
and yet the system says
you’ll forever make more than me.
gender pay gap.
in time, you will not fear the shape of your face,
or the hair on your arms,
or the bump and crook of your nose.
soon, you will not wait for his approval,
because you will learn the only acceptance you need is your own.
in a few years, you will get better at laughing at yourself,
ignoring when others laugh at you.
you will build barriers around things you know will hurt.
i know you will learn to say no, or yes,
and not feel guilty.
the world doesn’t end for you,
you’ll want to create for it, with it, in it.
the only thing missing in this neighbourhood
is a thrift store;
a collection of goods and clothes and stories
from lives before today’s.
the smell of vintage perfume
and baby powder fabric softener –
like the scents in an old blanket
soaked in the thread from the love
of its previous cuddler.
cleaned for years with white vinegar,
now on a rack for sale
to start another chapter,
to kick off round two.
bloor west village.
crunchy steps up a hill,
a partly snowy sidewalk.
no headphones today,
enjoying the sounds of the stray bird,
the feeling of flurries beneath my feet.
in between the shade and light,
like window blinds.
a change of scenery. a january afternoon.
icicles on semi-detached roofs,
christening triangle attics,
both at risk of collapsing,
for how frail they are.
but hang in there,
at least until the season ends,
and the wind slows,
and the rain feels warm,
and the weeds grow between cracked bricks.
’til it’s next winter and new icicles drip
on the same roofs, frailer still,
but pointing upwards,
just the same.
“on which nights are you restless,
tuned into every toc of the clock
and every scratch of the cat?”
well, on the nights my eyes are closed,
but i can see through the lids
and listen to every crack and creek.
well, on the nights when i can feel
the draft from the vent
like waves from the sea.
well, on the nights when i am laying,
but my brain is moving
on its own two feet.
i thought i wouldn’t get through you.
i was stuck at the start, in a pool of hot
tub water, stuck to one of those water jets.
you were attacking me —
or was i letting other people do that?
my friends said, “your eyes are dark,”
and, “i’ve never seen you this low.”
i was drowning in that pool of hot water,
i was stuck there,
dreading the air free from my bed.
i learned: i have to be strategic
about what i give myself to.
i love so hard and so deep that
when i’m forced to give something up,
i crack more than a broken joint.
i learned: i define, “career,”
and my job doesn’t define me.
i learned: i can still do good and do well,
without being hollowed in hell,
surrounded by people who won’t lift me up,
who will tell me i’m failing, only because
it will guarantee them the raise
and me: the same job with bad pay.
i learned: you’re just a year and you aren’t forever,
but with lessons
and journeys uncovered.