Janice has to stay late

I could tell at ‘hello’ that the day was not going well. 

My groceries barreled towards me.

The green, red, and blue crates bounced drunkenly as she approached.  

She let go of the handle and the cart continued to roll and barely winced when the rusted corner smashed into her calf. 

Without pause she launched. 

‘Day was average until 30 minutes ago. Then it went to shit.’

I grimaced then sympathized. 

‘It got hot out. Must make it tougher to hustle in and out of the store. Ya know, with the temperature change.’

I was struggling. 

She knew it. 

This moment has played out before. 

I check in, I get engaged, I get chatty then realize I do not have enough story to navigate the waters. 

It’s not that I misread the moment, more like a stumble. 

The jolt of being brought directly into the center of the story at light speed was jarring and raw, without recovery time.

‘The kid that is suppose to come on at 4:00 called in, he’s not coming into work.’

I want to commiserate. That happened to me countless times when I was running restaurants. 

There’s no chance to respond. 

‘My manager will expect me to stay longer… without asking specifically. He can’t actually make me stay though.’ 

She stared at me, dead-eyed, nodding, willing me to take a side.

I remembered that moment too. 

My boss would avoid a direct question.  

He would say things like, ‘We gotta all pull together.’

And that he would, ‘Remember our commitment.’

‘I won’t stay this time.’ She promises over her shoulder. 

I want to believe her. 


I stayed every time. 

And each time I swallowed a bait-less hook without hesitation.

Jen works on her days off

Tomorrow’s my day off. 
Well, my day off from here

She scans the green and red
crates with distracted ease.

I volunteer at CAMH on Mondays.
And Tuesdays I answer phones at
a respite home.

There are items missing from my
order. This has become familiar.
I will need to go into the store
to grab onions and apples.

She notices me noticing.
Onions and apples are missing.
She says.
Sorry for the inconvenience.

She hands me a blue card.
Bold script reads-

We value your business.
We apologize for the
inconvenience with your
order. Please use this
code to get $10 off your

next order.

I ask what school she attended.


She explains that the program
was good but it’s been a
challenge to find paid work.

She is bothered.
She dials up an edge of sarcasm.

Lot’s of volunteer options

A quiet space expands into
our conversation. Her sudden
story sharing has made a
transactional moment feel
like so much more.

We are caught in an eddy.

She breaks the silence.

Thanks for the chat.

I consider the service
rendered and bounce back
with a You’re welcome
that sounds more like
a question than an

job hazards

Post-its are squirrelled in every pants pocket

HB pencils leave jet streamed lines on my shirt like skyrockets

My fave marker I mark with leaks, squeaks, and runs

The pen I just lost will be found just after I start a new one

Whiteboards are stained with all my best lessons

Wifi could be back on in 10, 20, or 30 minutes I’m guessing

Where are my keys? I swear they were right here in my classroom

Ah shit they’re at home, in the upstairs bathroom

What’s that in my cup? Not sure what I’m drinking

It’s probably coffee from last week I’m thinking

My back and my feet and my gut are starting to ache

Should be fine though, if I can get a quick toilet break

I need to check voicemail but don’t want to take that chance

Cause that questionable coffee makes me think I might crap my pants.

you don’t say?

The silence,
deep and rising-
“I want.”
“I need.”
“I think.”
was never said.
“You should.”
“We should.”
“They should.”
Disguised us

The moment
begged for
but all
that we could
for sure
was that
we didn’t
more than
we knew.

I stewed.
of grew.
Became a

of quiet
would have
been better
mark my
path with
many tracks;

leave fear,
carry facts;
that we can
be beautiful
and we can
be useful
and we can
choose words,
while we
say nothing,
that might

what if we never were alone?

Just past the post,
keep walking.
Let your neck flex,
eyes raise, and
lock on a few future
Have patience.
Be gracious,
Then, step away
from devices.
Let loose
from disguises and
expect some fatigue;
face to face
is hard
with all of
this noticing

happy for what’s new here

the hand rail’s loose
but it’s never made my grip slip

and the window lets in light and 
i can read despite that small chip. 

there’s a next door nosey neighbour
who always gets under my skin-

so a fresh year, 
what’s the big deal, 
i don’t really get it. 

and what feels new right now
is that this is how it’s always been. 

thinking that tomorrow, with
a year change might bring me 
to a new scene. 

but if i’m being very honest 
i gotta choose a life 
that likely won’t choose me. 

and on top of that the wind pushes 
on my weak side no matter how i lean. 

so hoping to be saved by someone else 
likely won’t change me. 

and what feels new right now 
is that this is how it’s always been. 

with lots of hopeful small talk
about people needing big change. 

but skipping steps in the process 
makes for bigger falls in a losing game. 

what i’ve learned is that 
this thinking always leads me 
back to someone else’s shame. 

walking talking with myself 
on this same path not 
knowing who to blame. 

and what feels new right now 
is that this is how it’s always been. 

looking backwards while running forwards 
makes my ghosts grin. 

so planning without acting 
is a loop that i can’t get in. 

and complaining that things are shit
when it’s all my pile 
gives me no exception. 

it means that if i am working on it,
i’m winning even though 
i may be suffering. 

and what feels new right now 
is that this is how it’s always been.