Tuesday 29 December 2015

One Afternoon in the Grocery Store

I'm one who eschews the triangular barriers meant to separate my sector of the conveyor belt from yours. As a result, my 30-pack of toilet paper rang through on your tab. "No, no, that's mine," I called, and the correction was made. 
"I thought I didn't recognize that item," you said. "It's toilet paper," I cried. End of episode one.

By the time you showed up again, behind me in the line now, I'd claimed to the cashier, a spike-haired woman named Bonnie, that "I like to buy my vegetables without the bag." I gestured to splashes of water they created on the belt. "Makes me feel more European," I said, a joke.
"Um, what?" Bonnie said. End of episode two, your role confined to silent witness.

Then she rang through your cucumbers on my tab. You and I reacted at the same time. "He's like me," I said to Bonnie. "Doesn't use the barriers." 
Bonnie looked sour. "Do you collect stamps" she asked finally, hoping episode three was almost over. It was. I walked off with a plastic bag of parsley, coriander-cilantro (a combo new to me, as I'd said to Bonnie, episode 1-b), green onion and red pepper, and another bag of corn and butter, and the toilet paper. 

Thirty-three bucks even.

Saturday 26 December 2015

Christmas Shuffle #3

Having received a new pair of slippers for Christmas from my daughters, I put on these old ones one more time for their farewell photo op:

I'd had them repaired several times. Even tried to stitch them myself when I found Doris McCarthy's sewing supplies during my recent residency in Toronto. (But the repairs didn't take.) They were dad's slippers, too small for me when I took them over in '92 after he died. But the leather was so good that it adjusted to my feet and kept them warm and dry for most of the years and most of the miles, here and abroad, since.
Other things: The other day I drove my son Tom and his girlfriend Amy, who will soon set up house together in Vancouver, to Amy's place in Edmonton. Tom picked up some stuff he'd stored at my place and his mother's place. And a few extras, like two giant cushions I'd bought when I moved into the Frontenac five years ago. He left his boyhood archive--a trunk's worth of school projects, jerseys, toys, and I forget what-all else.
Although I know things don't much matter, I know that they do, if we want. 
Today I'm working on draft 16 of Occasional Cities, a manuscript of poems. I'll keep the hard copy of draft 15 and ship it over to U of R Archives eventually. 
Dad's slippers I think I'll chuck.

Saturday 19 December 2015

Christmas Shuffle #2

I took a walk through downtown the other day. It would be the last solitary moments of the day.

Most days I have many solitary moments. That's the way it goes in this life of mine. I'm used to it. It may also be true that that's the way it has to be for what I do.

As if to serve as counterweight for my chronic solitude, I've always loved peaks of relatively intense socializing.

This day I was off to meet my son for a beer. We had an hour before he'd drive me to Bushwakker where I'd set up a rendezvous with the writers for 5:00. He was off to a show. We'd meet again in a few hours.

I don't want to tell about the rest. It was all great fun but I drank too much beer and did not eat. My friends had to look after me. When I did meet Tom later, he didn't stay and I didn't remember it.

"It's all good," as one angel/friend told me a day later. And as I indicated above, I accept the rhythm of peak experiences and the depths they imply. But man, I've been feeling ashamed. And grateful for my loved ones.

Sunday 13 December 2015

Christmas Shuffle #11

Three would-be nurses, studying for finals, take seating for ten in Naked Bean, a coffee shop. Their voices and laughs use up another half a room. That leaves a couple of square feet against the south wall for me, trying to be yours, and truly. The study session breaks down frequently into chatter that admits every single word of their lives. 
Just when I got used to it, it ended. Two left--even they tired, I think, of the third (now slumped in her seat)--with a "Thanks for helping me out with my questions."
So I didn't have to complain to the three of them about dominating the coffee shop. At the gym earlier I didn't have to complain to a guy about not wiping down the machines when he's done.
That kind of thing is why, as I compose my hobo's fantasy-style address to be delivered on my official unveiling as Poet Laureate at Government House on January 6, I include among the fantasies the certainty that I will not turn into a miserable old bugger sooner or later. 
It feels an odd December, this one. Lucy and Tom won't be home at Christmas (though after and before, respectively). I am not coming out of a teaching semester. And I've been plenty buffed lately about the Hicks competition and the Poet Laureate announcement and the launch of my history of Globe Theatre (available here). Believe it or not, I'm about to ask not to be congratulated on anything for a while (and oh yes, I'm thrilled to be part of Talking Fresh in March).
About an hour after my latte with the nurses, I enjoyed an espresso, courtesy Marlo and Chad of Mata Gallery, where I bought a--well, I cannot say at this time.
And I'm lugging poems around wherever I go, trying to keep the good times rolling with the summer/Toronto work. Playing my Christmas shuffle all the while.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Pool After It's Over, or, Geese Again

The day was run by Canada geese, like other days the last ninety or so. The geese stood around on a lip of ice and took off low or swam, practising always.

I waited for glide, thought it might teach me how to sink when it's time to land, how to sound

(which was: like a grateful dog on a park bench calling),
how to take water, when to know.

They flew their own shadows in drifts of twos and threes.

Their signals ran tighter than ever, any move tied to others, no call alone.

None of these words have meaning for geese but utter calm.