I Wonder How Many People

nighttime-city

I Wonder How Many People in This City from “The Spice-Box of Earth” by Leonard Cohen

I wonder how many people in this city
Live in furnished rooms.
Late at night when i look out at the buildings
I swear I see a face in every window
Looking back at me
and when I turn away
I wonder how many go back to their desks
and write this down.

Migration

The geese have flown south for winter.
V-formation steadily directs away from me
until only a speck in the sky.
Echoes of their honks linger long after
birds are out of sight.

I am left alone in a frozen landscape,
surrounded by mounds of dirty ice
untouched by a teasing Chinook passing through town,
its gift of warmth followed by cerulean skies and cold nights.

I awaken to a pink, glowing sunrise,
eastern clouds painted brilliant shades of golden orange,
bittersweet apricot and tints of tangerine.
I am startled from my daybreak reverie by enclosing silence.

Absence of my feathered friends
creates an absence of purpose.
Instead of scattering harvested grain to supplement
diets of my feral flying fowl,
I collect my ricocheting thoughts,
settle into an overstuffed chair, warm cup of tea in hand,
and a book I have been wanting to read.

Black print on a white page cannot distract my longing
to hear from my friends.
Sadness puts an arm around my shoulders,
shadows me throughout my days.

Sometimes I sprinkle kernels of grain atop newly fallen snow
for shy ptarmigan that look surreptitiously at me from afar.
I am happy to provide a treat in this harsh climate
but my heart remains true to the geese.

I yearn for the first honk that will reach my covered ears,
a raspy, grating sound demanding attention,
unlike the gentle coo of a dove,
a honk to announce:
We’re Home
We’re Back
Spring and renewal are just around the corner

Despondent

Air is charged
electric
stifling
Try to breathe but can only gasp
cannot inhale deep enough
cannot draw air in

Want to lay down
want to run, escape
want to read
to forget
dive into someone else’s story
so do not have to face own

Tears surface but refuse to fall
accompanying lump in throat
swells
contributing to difficulty breathing

Count…
one – two – three
one – two – three
one – two – three

a polka that needs to be taken down to a waltz

over and over again
count repeated until moment passes
and calmness returns

Energy is drained
but have survived
did not drop into bottomless pit
Great sadness closes in
yet life can go on

A little piece
the tiniest sliver
of self
has been restored
and can go on

But the monster comes back
furious
angry to have been kept at bay
Thrashing
consuming

All that can be done
is ride the wave of tears

tumble
roll

one – two – three
one – two – three
one – two – three…

Feel the pain
acknowledge guilt

Breathe

Look for the shining little sliver of self
hold on tight
despite bleeding hands
and shattered heart
hold on
hold on
to go on

Waiting

“You make a life out of what you have, not what you’re missing.” – Kate Morton

disappointment

again

lump in throat
waiting for a call that doesn’t come

mind racing
to account for reason why
thoughts toss and tumble
adrift on rough waters
of stormy emotions

tears surface but do not fall
a blind barrier
camouflaged by past hunts
to make sense of behaviour
has arisen

resignation
sadness
suffuse the room
blocking sunlight
covering all with a blanket of grey melancholy

although much has changed
much remains the same

My Baba with the Babushka

My Baba with Babushka

Comforting aroma of fresh bread
beaten, kneaded, punched down
frustration of monotonous existence
Sticky dough serves as punching bag for emotions
allayer of mood

Metallic tang of well water
dipped from pail on counter
smacks of earthiness and strength
necessary to draw it forth
to sustain others
How many pails have you hauled in your lifetime?
Buckets balanced in each hand
scales of impartiality measuring judgment in your mind?
Sloshing, spilling despite effort to save each precious drop
Water for washing, drinking, cooking
lever pulled and pushed
pumped up and down
brought back and forth
dogs nip at heels
white geese with orange beaks
honk indignantly as you cross their path
oblivious to your resentment with this plodding, repetitious task

Sweat on brow
hard working hands
calloused, hardened from toil in
garden and field
yet soft and welcoming
ready to lift and embrace
a teary tot or boisterous child

Mother Goose apron
fashioned from flour and potato sacks
full of seeds
or hand picked eggs
fresh from chicken coop nest
warm to touch
fodder for family meals
base of nutrition

Surrounded by relatives
Baba quietly goes about her business
stirring pots and pans
on wood burning stove
As she listens to conversations
raucous children
scurry about like
field mice underfoot
dart here and there
rustle her skirts
swishing movement
as little hands grab food
off the table
before dashing back outside
wooden door swinging in their wake

She patches clothes
sews patterns
in a mud chinked room
lit by kerosene lamp
electricity a luxury that she did not enjoy
until late in her life;
labours long after dark
heavy breathing, soft snores of family
nocturnal accompaniments
for this tiresome composition she is
performing

Ukrainian accent held in check
broken English strange on the tip
of her Slavic tongue
hair held in check
by her dark babushka
sombre color
an echo of her
dispirited mood
stray locks of hair
attempting freedom
are pushed back
with weary hands

Her family grows
one by one leaving her behind
to pump water
and knead bread

Returning with their own families on weekends
a growing brood gathers
continue to drink metallic water
continue to eat fresh baked bread
flour dust clouds
hide
Storm gathering behind Baba’s eyes

While the world progresses around her
her environment remains bleak and unevolved
pump and hold
pump and hold
pump
and
hold

Dimly lit
slowly fading
until one day

She leaves

She walks away
Her shift is done

She enters a home
for seniors
for those unable to care for themselves
for those unwilling to care for others

Some say she snapped
call her crazy
cuckoo-nana

She grew tired
this beautiful “Aunt Jemima” Baba of mine
Tired of serving others
Tired of the well
Tired of the back and forth, up and down,
punching and kneading

It was time for her to be served
and that’s how it was
until she passed away
No more time on her primitive farm
Her sentence had been served

 

Helpless

I saw a photo of you today
and delighted in your smile
until I looked carefully

I recognized this pleasant appearance
was not endorsed by you entirely
there was a sadness in your eyes

The white flag of surrender
was being flown
under the pretext of a happy expression
By looking closely
one could see
the unmistakable masquerade
of your melancholy

What has driven authenticity away
what troubles lay on your path

I wish I could cross
the barrier of the image
to help ease your sorrow