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

storage solutions for emotional baggage part 2

When crisis arrives,
it's often in svelte boxes.

Generally it
needs loose parts
to become not-nonsense;

without invitation,
it reaches into the edges
of my brain,
shuffling and disturbing
odds and ends,

lifting and
divining meaning
in the miscellanea
only found
at the back
of that shelf.

Arriving unfastened,
and held in place
by sheer tenacity,

words and
meanings of words
tumble from its grasp.

I hear my mom saying-
use your words honey.

If they could
be kept from falling
and rolling under
tables and chairs,
I would.

She also has told me to-
hold my tongue.


And funny that poetry
still came from
impossibly form fitting
tensions like these.

Memories never
back into a box.

And sometimes
will not
fit into each other

I have so many of
these moments
shelved with impunity-
as-is section

near the bathrooms
just around the corner
from the café

where you choose
between bitter truth
or mushy metaphor
your last loonie.

With little paste
to connect ideas,

every line
needs to have en
to make sense,

stressful that one thought,
might never end...

The grammar of poetry
writing has always
been negotiable.

Entitling also.

It's purchase
often made
with words that
my ass is not really
prepared to pay for.

There are
just so many things
that do not fit
back into boxes.

Or on to shelves.

And when they come out,

like broken instructions
for living a
fixable life,

they avoid

Storage solutions

instead of

problem solving.

Their intentions
masked and shadowlike
are troubling.

forged figurative
and fearful,

not eager
to become prose.

hopeful list of ethereal needs

1. if mood down, then head up, eyes wide open and wondering 

2. light enough to read, words enough to think

3. space between the reflection and me

4. courage for things that scare off my needs

5. waking up with dawn, moving with intentions

6. open car window, breeze, and night sky

7. circadian friendships with seasonal sensitivity

8. weekend mindset for weekdays, sometimes vice versa

9. autumnal smears of red, orange, yellow, and green on hilly side road spaces

10. more crispy crunchy crusty edge than filler

11. time


My girlfriend was always angry. I apologized a lot, thinking it was my fault. She was angry that the person she was actually angry at, didn’t notice. I noticed. I received her anger. I was learning about love. 

After we broke up I filled a page with woe-some verse about the gnarled piece of driftwood I noticed on the beach the day we mutually said goodbye. I analogized the shit out of my confusion. I made it granular, portable, macroscopic, invisible.

I stopped writing poetry when it betrayed me. A teacher told me that poetry expresses what words cannot. I wondered how that could be. Poetry is words. 

At the time, metaphor and simile were not tools I could direct. I thought in pictures, so I drew letters. Sometimes words formed. Sometimes sentences. Sometimes they were only spillage of sloppy paroxysm. 

That same teacher punched down into my persuasive essays pathologizing my teen pathos. I was an easy target. Empty ethos and loose logos always fell short in the marking scheme.

Now I see that learning to write poetry meant that I was learning to hide my feelings in plain sight. Camouflaged and contrary, every anthem I scribbled out, no matter how loud, was destined to be bottled up, shaken, disturbed.

When my mom read my poem about my girlfriend she looked at me quizzically, but what is about? She said. I got scared. I was called out. Wasn't it obvious I didn't want to talk about it? Was she seeing through my veil? I thought that a poem, my poem, would speak for itself. I truly believed that poems were above scrutiny. Should they have imbued impunity? I had no defense.

If I had wanted to tell my mom what was going on in my life, I would have just said so. Maybe. How do you read between the words that are already written between the lines? More problematic, how do you share them?

Figures. Every figurative step I took towards learning actually swept me further from being understood.