one-hundred-fifty-four.

how hard it must be for you
to dress yourself in your best,
each day,
thinking your charm, broad shoulders
and your expensive taste
will make the world bend their knees,
let go of personal beliefs
and fall into you and over you,
fall for whatever
you want us to believe is truth.

how hard it must be for you
to laugh and flirt out of error,
to give up your seat,
and be the “gentleman,”
simply to bypass glass ceilings,
that were never even installed
for people like you.

you’re not used to people like me,
questioning your activities,
encouraging humility,
so you spend more time wishing me
a good morning, a lovely weekend,
thinking it’s working,
thinking you’re as smart as your suit.

a crooked smile,
a few shiny teeth,
but you still haven’t figured out
that while i’m sipping on tea,
saying, “have a good night,”
i’m furiously analyzing
how you secured a job
at a higher level than me.

you invest in your business relationships
the same way you buy your belts,
leather stitched together
by an underpaid worker
in a third world country,
all to make you feel important.

and you’ve never had to use your brain
to succeed.

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one-hundred-fifty-one.

untouched and stale,
crusty and undesirable.
hard pink icing
bulking,
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
connection, representation.
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,
over impact.

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.

one-hundred-fifty.

dear:

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.

one-hundred-forty-nine.

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 by the body
of its previous cuddler.
cleaned for years with white vinegar,
lavender extract.
now on a rack for sale
to start another chapter,
to kick off round two.

bloor west village.

one-hundred-forty-seven.

icicles on semi-detached roofs,
christening triangle attics,
both at risk of collapsing,
for how frail they are.
but hang in there,
stay still,
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.

dufferin grove.

one-hundred-forty-six.

definitions seem static.
they’re published in stocky books,
collecting dust at the back of my shelf.
but what defines someone as
rich, beautiful, strong on paper
is not equivalent to anecdotes,
lived experiences
or personal identification.
definitions are meant to be applied
not literalized.

one-hundred-forty-five.

“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.

one-hundred-forty-four.

a dark room,
morning light through the skylight.
branches peaking, brittle and still,
it smells like muffins and old bookcases.
a cobweb dangles from the highest point on the chandelier,
the free-standing coat rack could be from a movie.

a bed and breakfast, small town dreaming.

one-hundred-forty-three.

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 hurdles
and journeys uncovered.

one-hundred-forty-one.

“does ‘corporate’ just mean a place
where people talk about their juice cleanses
and the number of times they almost ate a donut?”
it sounds like it,
so i will sit here redefining the word,
informing my colleagues that i ate a donut on sunday,
filled with hazelnut cream.