Attah was out late last night

There are
to waking up 

Check that. 

There are
to getting out 
of bed early. 

What I love most
about it
is the feeling
of being ahead
of the world. 

The quiet

The light slowly 
cat stretches
across lawns
and curbs.

At any random
in the week,
if asked,
I would probably 
complain that I
feel like I am
behind in something. 

Except between
the sheer
hours of
5 and 7,
ante meridiem.

In that 
2 hour span
streets are empty,
the gym is spacious,
my coffee never 
completely cools,
my mind is suspended
lightly between
now and then. 

My phone chirps. 

It’s 6:45 AM. 

Text says 
my order is ready,
so I check in. 

I tap
Spot #4,
blue car. 

A dude wanders
along the curb
on my left. 

He wears 
work gloves 
and an orange 
reflective vest. 

His garbage bucket
sways and heaves
paper cups
and pizza boxes
onto the asphalt. 

a stray 
piece of plastic
repeatedly with
industrial pincers
results in 

He looks around 
with a shade
of shame
then resorts 
to picking it up
with his hand. 

I smile. 

I vacuum like that. 

When repeated passes 
over stubborn strays 
of lint fail,
an earnest shove
with a toe
that the fuzzy
bugger ends up
in the 
vacuum’s maw. 

On my right,
Attah appears suddenly. 
She is out of breath. 

‘Sorry, sorry.’ She offers. 

I check my watch.
It's 6:55 AM.
Staff usually
don't start
until 7.

'Last night was 
a late night with
my family.'

The remaining
5 minutes
of me-time

She starts
then stops, 
then considers
her stack
of packed

Shaking her head,
she opens a crate.
'I am moving
a little slow

My watch
it's 7:00.

I want to 
tell her,
'S'ok' or
'No problem'.

Instead I say,
'I get it.'

And in doing
I merge
with a
single lane

that leads to
the off-ramp
from my morning

Cliff called me Cliff

‘Are you Cliff?’

Startled, my phone stumbled beneath my thumbs. The voice burst from my blindside.

I forgot that I had changed my usual pick up spot. A delivery could come from any direction.

In the jolt, a text got sent mid stride. Someone at home thinks that ‘I will b ho_’

His name tag said Hi my name is Cliff.

In moments like this, it’s hard to think of the universe as anything other than a poetic post-it note tucked into my daily lunch bag.

A mirror full of reminders, metaphor, simile, assonance, alliteration and definitely a dash of cheeky humour.

What is it called when a moment, threads across time and space, echoes over and over, so much so
that it simply and quietly shifts from coincidence to pattern to recurrence?

Nope, not my name.
Did he just introduce himself or address me?

But those are my groceries. So I stay quiet then get lost in my own fractional back story.

For years now, new acquaintances, at some point call me Cliff. Other prodigal peeps only know me as Cliff. Some I have corrected, others I have let slide for so long that I figure- Why bother?

It’s not my name by birth, but I gotta admit it appears often enough that I gotta vibe with the fact that some higher power beholds me in this way.

Cliff Cluff.

All of this wonderment crowded out my immediate task. I should be watching the dude unload my groceries.

I must have nodded when he asked my name because when I return to my senses he is closing the hatch on my car. Nice touch, I think to myself.

15 minutes later, I’m chilling on the couch, my kids are unpacking the haul.

5 minutes more, one of my kids is asking why half of our order is missing.

5 minutes after that I get a call from Walmart. They are apologizing for the error. It was Cliff’s first day. I smile and think about his and my connection.

The manager asks if I would like the missing items to be delivered.

‘Nah’ I say because I have already requested a refund on the app. ‘Thanks though’.

Mika noticed

The first one sounds like an old timey doorbell. 

The second is more of a ‘tink’.

Then the device actually rings. A tone warbles- a pulse, laser, then a metallic clang all in succession.

It is vexatious and designed to draw attention.

‘Sorry, sorry.’ Each apology frames a stop and then restart of work.

The ringing continues even after she tries to tap tap it away.

Head down, she mutters, then sighs. ‘Some people use the app. Some call it in.’

Just over her shoulder, two different people are nestled in their cars, on their phones.

One of them stares at us.

‘S’ok’ I offer. ‘I bet you wish you could just turn off those notifications!’

Her look up is sudden and stark.

I know this look.

It’s like that moment of glancing up and seeing someone staring at you.

Or staring out your car window and gaze locking with a passing driver.

Being observed by a stranger has a nervous effervescence to it.

The woman in the blue car is still eyeballing us.

How long have they been watching?

What did they notice?

What did I just do?

It blows open the landscape between fight, flight, and freeze.

Time slows then speeds as your consciousness handshakes with reality again.

Mika dead-eyes me. ‘We are not allowed to mess with the scanners.’

The device chirps as if in agreement.

‘I didn’t mean…’ I blurt.

With a dismissive wave she turns and takes the call.

something to write about

This is why
as fingers meet keyboard
cravings release all that's stored
in feelings about things and what's more,

listening and searching for 
one more reason to walk through that door [and]
one more way to hit the floor.

like a leap in this ballet
like an act in this play
like another rule to disobey; [I'm]

Obsessed [with]
thinking about every rhyme
counting every beat and line [and I won't stop]
measuring every word not mine.

courage that's drained from pens 
fear that tries to cleanse
compulsion that wants to end [making it]

to creep up upon without scaring
to leave unturned stones despairing
to notice life without caring [that]

never get better without the fight
rarely become clearer without some light [and]
often once found take flight.

a favoured over-estimation

Calmness leads to claws
flexing, with eyes
closed or keenly
narrowed and fixed on
the sleightness of
disturbed air between
my incoming finger tip
and his whiskers or

An assumed cute boop
results in bloodshed
or rough abrading licks,
my hand or his meal
depends on whose needs

A strange noticing
paralyzes my next
action, any reaction
either way, staying in
or leaving his clutch
will be painful and
forgotten and
forgiven before
dinner time.

Regardless, I assume
ownership of him,
his care, and any
injury that results
from loving him as
I do.

Aidan’s ethical dilemma

‘Nobody likes grape!’
I leaned out from behind my car,
a whirlwind approached.
‘Doesn’t matter!’ Another voice answered 
from somewhere across the lot. 
‘If it’s not in stock, then it’s not in stock!’
The rain had picked up. 
‘…not my point. 
Not disagreeing but...
not my problem to tell customers 
about inventory issues.'
My person paused beside my driver side door 
then added-
‘It's Mike’s job to make sure people know.’
He checked his device. 
It blurped quizzically. 
‘You Chris Cluff?’
I nodded and tried to find my opinion 
about grape flavouring.
A fading voice continued-
‘NOT worth it. Why d’you have a beef 
with Mike over this? It’s not worth it.’
He looked at me for a second then
got to unpacking the goods. 
Items moved quickly 
into the back of my vehicle.
He was deciding something, then offered- 
‘Mike is our manager.’
His tablet pinged again. 
'He ordered too much grape.'
The device's pleas were muffled. Distant. 
'He doesn't want the head manager to know.'
Aidan had set it inside a red crate, 
while he was emptying a green crate.
'So we are supposed to sub grape for lime
and tell the customer that we are out of stock.'
Now a blue crate sat on top of the red. 
There was momentary panic, 
I pointed to the bottom box. 
Relief, then-
‘You got one of the last lime Bubly.’
He pronounced it Bublé 
and smiled to himself. 
‘The next client that orders lime
will get a sub of grape instead.’
Non issue for me. 
'Even though we got stock.'
I waited for more,
then filled the silence-
'Dude I am good with grape or lime.
It's all the same to me.'
It definitely wasn't the same for him.
He was dismayed.
With a sigh he advised-
'It ain't right.'
And left.