November

On the first, she handed me her notebook
and laptop. I sat down in the living room
while the waves continued to break on the rocks
outside and the creek swelled a little higher,
wrapped myself in layer upon layer of blanket,
and began to edit. A comma here, a deleted word there,
these two fragments stitched together.
 
Her life opened before me, page upon page
upon page. She offered it to me, her life,
to read and to work with. At times, she sat
with me, and coloured, and answered my questions
and added more stories, more detail.
She gave me her days, her existence, and I met healing
through the breath upon breath of her story
weeping and whirling its way across the years.

First Couple Paragraphs of a Short Story I’m working on

On those dark winter nights, long after the final wisps of smoke from our candle stub had drifted out of the room, the serpentine trails of the stories my sister told would weave themselves together like tapestries in the air above our heads. The imaginings of dragons and queens and enchanted gardens threaded through the dark attic, and our chilled and childlike bodies forgot the scratchiness of our blanket and transported themselves to glittering islands in the East, to a tree house in the depths of the Black Forest. A faint sliver of moon would shine in through the porthole window above our heads and make us believe that we were Peter Pan and Wendy, flying away from our house and into a starlit night.

If my tired eyes had not fluttered closed before the end of the story, I would beg my sister to tell just one more story. Her voice would come firm and fearful in the dark :”Quiet, Madeline, they’ll hear us!” But I would plead on in my songbird voice, and my sister would relent, and we would feel weightless as our feet again wandered miles away from Hamilton, free at last. And as our braided heads jostled for space on the single lumpy pillow at the head of our bed, she’d board us again onto a tall ship bound for the ends of the universe.

Most nights, the rustling of our feet beneath stiff bed sheets was enough to draw our mother’s attention up to our room, and when she came up we would squeeze our eyes shut and pretend to be asleep. There were nights, though, we were so enveloped by the stories that we didn’t notice her footsteps on the stair, or her hand at the door turning her handle. We were only aware of her presence when her voice came, cold and strict from within the murky fog of the hallway. On those nights, Frieda tried to suck the sound of her voice out of the air above us and back into her lungs. I willed the creatures under our bed to come out from underneath and scare her. I willed the fairies living in our ceiling to come and carry us away.

Psalm 27 (in the Spirit of Langley, BC)

I return into the spirit of Langley, BC
My parents’ backyard, that former small town
Whose side streets and goat fields now balloon,
Reel under the weight of thirty thousand more people in seven years
Eighteen more Starbucks and
A Porsche dealership under construction on the Bypass:
The Bible Belt of BC that has come to care more
About its own personal salvation into health and wealth
Than about the 99%,

And I am unsettled.

Between the summer’s U-Pick shifts and sorting strawberries in the back of the market,
I try to keep the concrete faith that the greats in the Bible seemed to possess
I make goals, write poetry, try to untangle my thoughts
And try to not be consumed by either frustration at wealth
Or the pacifying current of its apathy.
I have dreams, want to go upwards, to reach the holiness of heaven,
But God calls me out upon the waters,
Out into the monotonous confusion of my increasingly foreign hometown,
And I wonder whether his hand has been trapped in the concrete.

In all this chaos, I want to ask questions like David did.
He, human, experienced turmoil,
But he wondered that the Lord was the stronghold of his life,
So of whom should he be afraid?
And this sounds very comforting:
Questions with concrete answers.

But he is not my fortress!
He is my earthquake, avalanche, mind flood
He turns the dry ground to liquid pavement beneath my feet
He is beauty and truth, but he is also confusion, destruction
He is a temple, he is a man overturning tables in the temple
Unsettling expectations.

Do I perceive him to be unsettling because I am unsettled?

Lord God, teach us to be confident of this:
That we can see and experience your unselfish goodness
In Langley, BC, amidst the chaos of this concrete-filled suburb.
Lord God, teach us this:
To wait for your goodness, your action.
To be strong, to take heart, and to wait for you.