If I Ever Liked The Night

If I ever liked the night
If it ever liked me back
That was so very long ago
So long ago
In fact
It may have been
Inside the womb
Ripe with the smell
I remember it well
Of his cigarettes
And her ice cream cones
The sound of their fights
The frenzied tones
Through the thin skin walls
I remember it all

If I ever liked the dark
When we lit sparklers
In the park
Enough, ablaze
To scare away
The nighttime
To convince the day
To stay (which was impossible)
At a festival in the early fall

If I ever liked the moon
When he visited my room
Cool like the fights
Inside the womb
An exploration of my
Skin
Thin, like hers
Afraid, like him

by Heather Emme

To read all the #verseday poems, click here. To read my twitter poems, click here.

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In Christie Pits

The wading pool is emptied out
The trees have left their leaves about
You wear no coat, but breathe a cloud
In puffs that float, above the crowd
At play in Christie Pits

Last night the swings were flipped around
You try to reach them from the ground
Your sister climbs to set them back
While father mimes a heart attack
Brought on at Christie Pits

You snack on fruit and carrot sticks
On cans of pop and peanut mix
You heed the words from all the mums
To feed the birds but not the bums
Who sleep in Christie Pits

The swing is swung, the slide is slid
The climbers climbed, the rides all rid
It’s time to go, you beg to stay
A second NO! You turn and say
Goodbye to Christie Pits

by Heather Emme

To read all the #verseday poems, click here. To read my twitter poems, click here.

 

On Family

IDevonianfishes_ntm_1905_smit_1929 miss them like a creature misses seas
After shedding gills
Sprouting legs
Pop pop
Scratching belly on sand
Inhaling nitrogen
Exploding like burst buds in my lungs
Pop pop
Alone on the beach
Cursing stars
Longing for cool water on my skin
Waiting for fur to grow
Pop pop
To keep me close
To keep me warm
Until the sun comes up

by Heather Emme

To read all the #verseday poems, click here. To read my twitter poems, click here.

Breaking Up With The Mall

One of the wonders of my poorer childhood was our love affair with the mall. My family lived in the mall. I called us Mall Walkers. We didn’t buy much (perhaps food one day, cheap plastic shoes the next, toilet cleaner, a coffee, a pack of large Du Maurier king sized, a bag of milk that, when carried home, left plastic bag marks dented into our hands like a temporary stigmata.) Most mornings, we would gather there. “We” meant aunts, uncles, grandparents and about a half dozen kids. As a family without money, we visited the shrine to it like hopeful disciples. We split our time almost equally between the house of god and the house of inexpensive plastic toys that smelled like Christmas in their newness.

While the parents sat in the food court and coupon swapped, we, the children, were free to walk around the mall. We usually bee-lined for either K-Mart or Woolco, both department stores. K-Mart had three toy aisles and an old fashioned sandwich counter that served “choc on the rocks” – chocolate milk over ice – for fifty cents.

Since fifty cents was a high order some days, we usually skipped K-Mart and all its temptations for Woolco which had, rather than three measly aisles, a full toy section. Up the middle escalator we’d ride (the ride was part of the fun, of course) to the second story of Woolco. Around a corner and straight to the back, where My Little Pony Shrinky-Dinks and Wrestlemania figures were on display, like cardboard sheathed works of art. Well trained critics, we trolled the aisles, examining the art, but never touching (as long as adult clerks were around, anyway.) Our eyes and minds were full of colour, scents, the sound of music not allowed in our conservative Christian household.

The mall was heaven. I mean this literally. When I imagined heaven, I imagined a golden version of Woolco, with diamond encrusted blenders, escalators of silver, and God at the counter, telling us all of it was free. Even choc on the rocks. Drink up, my good children, for you have been saved!

This love of the mall carried over into my teens. The mall was one of my many escapes, along with school and the library. Baby sitting jobs, camp counsellor gigs at the church, a McJob – suddenly I had money when I went to the mall. I became, much like my mother and aunts and grandmother, an expert bargain shopper. Cassette tapes missing their case? They still played. Shirts with a button lost to too many try-ons? I could mend a button in seconds flat. After Christmas, Halloween and all the holidays in between, I scoured the just-out-of-season bin for things I squirrelled away, filling my room with books and dolls and music, precious only to me. I could enter the mall with ten dollars and leave with my arms full.

Even as an adult, I loved the mall. For my birthday, my husband, who grew up in a farm house and understood the value of quality, would take me to the mall and help me bargain hunt. We’d pick up treats and buy overpriced coffee. He’d picked up on my habit of calling it mall walking and almost every year (save the one in which we were homeless and a few where we had other plans) we would visit a mall and tour just for me. At the end of the day, bags of two for one t-shirts and fifty percent off books clamoured for space on my lap as we bussed back to our apartment. I loved it.

I loved it less and less every year.

As a child, we did not go to museums. We did not take day trips to see the wonders of the world. We did not go to the cinema. We did not, usually, go to cultural festivals or performances. We went to church. We went on yearly trips to the beach. Mostly, we went to the mall.

As an adult, I worked as a nanny. Being a nanny has challenges and it has perks. One perk that changed my life was that the children of monied people do not go to malls on quiet days. They go to museums. The family I worked for had memberships; they had memberships to places where history and art and ideas were revered and organized and placed behind glass. Much like my childhood, I was able to walk aisles and look at brilliant things that I could not touch. There were colours and sounds and so many lovely things. The children and I visited museums until we had them memorized. We did art based on what we’d seen. We cooked meals inspired by civilizations. The fact that we couldn’t take the shiny objects home wasn’t sad because no on could. They were in their home, waiting for us to visit again and again.

The more I visited museums, the less I loved malls. The museum gave me everything the mall had, but without the jostling crowds, the garish ads, the push to purchase. Instead of hunting for bargains, I hunted for stories. I found them in the Print Shop at Black Creek Pioneer Village. I found them in the Moore Gallery at the AGO. I found them in the textile section of the ROM. I found them in the 30+ museums and galleries that fill up the city I am lucky enough to call home.

Last week I was Christmas shopping for my niblings when, exhausted, I called my husband.

“I think I’ve fallen out of love with malls.” Hiding in the back of Toys, Toys, Toys, crushed by strollers and listening to Disney teens massacre Little Drummer Boy, I couldn’t keep the sadness from my tone.

“Woah!” He was, after 20 years of knowing me, genuinely surprised.

“Right? What’s happened?” I tried to find the joy in rows of plastic and cardboard, in bargain bin Spongebobs and half priced Barbies.

“Maybe…” I could tell he was thinking because he went silent for almost a full minute. “Maybe now that you have most of what you need, now that you’re free to get the things you want, maybe now you’ve found you don’t want everything anymore?”

My husband, the man with an engineer’s brain and philosopher’s heart, was right. My world had gotten bigger. It had grown and changed and left something I used to love behind. It had happened before with religion and family and even my need to live far up off the ground in apartments. I had left so much behind, but I was clinging to the mall, one of the last bits of nostalgic joy I had, well past the point of actual happiness.

I extricated myself from Toys, Toys, Toys tightly packed aisles and walked out of the Eaton Centre and on to Yonge Street. Preachers and Imams and the newly converted shouted into the air, trying to save my soul. A musician played plastic tubs with broken drumsticks and a masked man did breakdancing for five dollar bills. All around me was art and noise and history.

I dropped a five in his bucket and watched an artist dance. It was the best bargain I’d found all day. Worth it, as the ads used to say, at twice the price.

A Small Bit of Good

I made a decision early on that when it came to my writing on this blog, I wasn’t going to ask for money. Partly, I made that decision because I suck at fulfilling obligations and as soon as someone has paid me, I feel obligated.

Don’t worry, I’m not asking for money now.

But I am telling you about somewhere a small part of your money could go that would do a huge amount of good.

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The chicks love him

First, some history: I am a gosh-mama. A gosh-mama is like a godparent for folks who don’t believe in anything (except our mutual ability to do good things.) I am gosh-mama to a wonderful kiddo who I love very much and don’t see nearly enough.

Part of the reason I don’t see him is because his wonderful parents, Nick and Deni, moved out to the sticks to start a homesteading and educational facility.

I love the city. I love being able to stumble out my door and see at least three convenience stores. Nick and Deni wanted something a little different for their brood. They wanted to discover sustainability in a world of waste. They wanted to learn to grow their own, while raising their own. They wanted to reach out to a community and pull it close and help that community’s kids learn about food and sustainability and the ways we were, are and could be as a Canadian society.

It was noble and pretty and, well, they’ve been hit by every possible piece of bad luck one could imagine, from basement flooding to spinal surgery (kid you not) to a neighbour who decided to off their livestock.

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Apparently not pigeons.

Here’s the thing about Nick and Deni, though. They are more stubborn than all the bad luck in the world. They are more loving than all the fates can chuck at them.

I am cynical as f*ck, but when I’m with these guys, I feel hope. So I’m hoping that maybe you can help.

If you can spare even $5, go to their Go Fund Me page and chip in. If you can’t, share this blog or their Go Fund Me page and hopefully we can help them restore their homestead and grow it to include a whole community of kids who will be able to learn about farming. There are way, way more details of their plan on the page. It’s pretty kick-ass, just like they are.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

I promise to go back to complaining about injustice and moping about crappy life stuff very, very soon.

Done Waiting

When I was a child, I liked a song by a group called Edward Bear. It was called Last Song and, coincidentally, was one of the last songs the group recorded together. You can listen to the rather pretty ditty here. Summary? A boy waits two years for a girl and finally decides that, despite his abiding love, he’s done waiting. He will make one last effort, his last song, and he will stop waiting for her.

My mother was probably also not fond of the fact that they were clearly hippies.

My mother was probably also not fond of the fact that they were clearly hippies.

While I enjoyed this song, my mother despised it. Every time it played on Oldies 1050 CHUM, the only radio station welcome in our apartment, my mother would make the same essential comment:

“If he really loved her, he wouldn’t give up.”

My mother loved movies from the 40s and 50s. The sort where love won out and the patient and good woman was always rewarded. If I am being honest, I loved those movies too.

In these movies was hidden one of the defining lessons of my childhood. When people hurt you – when they break you and leave you or force you to leave – it is up to you love them still and to wait.

Earlier this week, I was sitting in front of my SAD lamp, sipping some very good coffee and thinking about a conversation I’d had with someone I’d just met.

Through a series of mental dance moves, my brain cha-cha-cha-ed to thoughts of a friend that I lost touch with last year. We had been very close, but there were things about me he could not accept and, I’m sure, challenges I brought to the relationship. In the end, he stopped talking to me and that, as they say, was that.

Except it wasn’t because, unlike in the song, I am still waiting. Not just for him, but for other people too.

I am waiting on my family. I am waiting on my parents. I am waiting for I’m sorry and I love you and I see the value in you.

My waiting is not passive. My waiting involves constant self examination. What is it about me that has been rejected? Can I fix it? Am I good enough yet? Do I deserve to be invited back in? My waiting is draining. It is depressing. It uses me up.

Never, until this week, did I ask the question, why am I waiting?

I am nearing 40 and have never entertained the notion that I may not want them.

(but that is not even to be said, intones the whispers in my head. what right have you to think that you are anything but a rejected and flawed human? how presumptuous to assume that the person missing out is not you…)

220px-Pompeo_Batoni_003

The Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni. With hugs.

What does a body do when it is not waiting? What does a person do when they are not supplicated in preparation to more than forgive, but to celebrate their return home? I loved the story of the prodigal son growing up. I loved the idea that patience was a virtue and it would be rewarded. With hugs.

I feel almost silly that I’ve traveled so far into my life and never once asked myself why I am waiting.

So, as of now, I am done waiting. I am writing it down because I know this is important. I know it is something I cannot forget or let pass without imprinting it solidly on my brain. If I put it here, then hopefully I will not go back to waiting.

Waiting is not moving and I’m tired of standing still.

Motherless Child

Hello Interwebs,

If you’ve just started following me because of my political posts, you may want to skip this one. It falls into my navel-gazing sub-category and with good reason. It’s about my mom.

So depart now and pretend this blog isn’t here – or enjoy my navel.


I am at a loss.

I am in a loop.

I blame Eminem.

On Mother’s Day, he released a music video, directed by Spike Lee, for a track called Headlights found on his newest album MMLP2. It features fun.’s singer, Nate Ruess, on vocals. Admittedly, both Eminem and Spike Lee are problematic creators. They’re both love ’em or hate ’em artists and they’ve both tasted a lot of foot. They also speak to me. Loudly. There’s something oddly therapeutic about the products they create. They are violently honest yet hyperbolic. Their imagery is moving, but a lack of subtly means that it is also discordant. When I am sad or hurt or raging, I consume their art because it’s healthier than the alternative.

In short, their work makes me feel less alone.

The came Headlights:

Don’t worry. I’ve considered the arguments about the authenticity of his feud with his mom. I know it may all be story-telling. Still, his story-telling built scaffolding around my collapsing psyche when I needed it, so I’ll take it as told. I’m selfish that way. When this song came out, though, I immediately loved it, hated it and watched it about 20 times.

My first thought: “Am I the only person left in the whole world without a mother?” See? Selfish.

I know that the world is full of motherless children. And admittedly, I have one out there. We just haven’t spoken to or seen each other in about a decade and a half. You can understand why I hated this video. I’ve treated the persona of Eminem like an angrier, more violent and faster talking version of me. He was a celebrity avatar for things I couldn’t express. Cleaning Out My Closet? I was all over that. I’m clearly not alone. It has more than 50,000,000 hits on YouTube (and despite distancing himself from it, he still has the song on his official VEVO feed, so it’s possible it’s all BS.)

That doesn’t change how raw the last few days have left my innards. If Eminem can reach out to his mother, what does that mean for me? Nothing? Everything? That’s where the loop comes in. It’s going around and around my brain. It’s a clog in the system, holding up everything else. I can’t shake it.

It comes down, I think, to two truths:
1) I miss my mother.
2) She’s not my mother.

Oh, she’s my biological mom, alright. I just need to look in the mirror to confirm that. I’m even greying in the same pattern. The circles under my eyes are the same shape. Cheekbones. Chin. Eyes are different. Forehead.

Still, I don’t call her mom (I have here, for clarity, but I don’t in casual conversation.)

There’s history there. You can see some of it in my sorely neglected webcomic. There was violence (a broad word that here indicates so many layers of injury) that I continued to enforce long after she’d kicked me out (she would say I ran away, but history is told by the victor and there is no victor here.) There was the sort of psychological damage special to the children of young mothers who make bad choices. There was the not seeing. The oblivion. The obsession. There was also the glee, the clever conversations and oh so much candy. People can be dichotomies, but mothers are not given such permissions. They are allowed one side of the binary and my mother failed to fill her niche.

I’m bitter about it. I was raised by Pentecostals, so forgiving or forgetting plays like sloppy dogma to me. There is no absolution. Time does not undo, like laces tied too loose. (I’m still in knots.) I have never been petitioned, so forgiveness hasn’t been mine to give. In my mind, we exist in the place between the infraction and the apology. It is homeostasis and if it’s mine to change, I haven’t yet sussed out how

I guess I found solace in someone who was equally un-mothered. I’ve always done this with song. I have a small collection of tunes that I call on to exorcise my self-pity or, as the flawed logic of homeopathy goes, feed it more of itself until it is forced to self-cure. Paul Robeson’s Motherless Child, Tracy Bonham’s Mother Mother, Cat Steven’s Father And Son, each song feeds a different hunger.

I know (don’t worry, I’m sometimes sane) that this song has nothing to do with me. It is not related to my life in any way. Except that it is and I miss her and I cannot have her and I am not sorry.

And that is all I have to say.