Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

Liquidation World?

August 9, 2007

Let us browse, slow moving

in this emporium of unsold, soiled goods,

quietly search and scan

under the neon high-noon glare for

innumerable useless objects to

deaden unrequited wants

always lurking at

the margins of an unsatisfied self,

in momentary abeyance, now,

only to flare up whenever the

need for material padding prevails.

What desire do we have for a remaindered

oil-lamp with a china penguin base,

reams of orange construction paper

left behind from last October’s sales, or

desiccated frozen meats from the freezers?

GM, November 2005. Setting rules for constructing a poem, in this case deciding that Whatever the title, the poem is constructed with lines beginning with the letters in the words of the title, in sequence. I like working within restrictions – it helps me to focus.


July 20, 2007

Is it possible

 that this short,

truncated coil of silver wire,

bent back upon itself,



three times, was once

an endless extrusion and now

clasps meaning in a tidy pile?

Now, it holds together love-letters,

collected passionate exchanges,

recipes for soup clipped from the papers

and reminders of payments past due.

What workman, minding his machine,

stood by


for this endless metal hair

to cool,

to apportion it given lengths,

idling his thoughts

of papers to be compiled, at home,

into discrete piles of similar information?

One never has to buy this elegant inch

of triple-looped pinch.

It arrives daily in the mail

from the offices of bureaucrats.

It outlives ephemeral pages of importance

when carelessly


into a stoneware bowl.

GM, November 7, 2004

This is in response to a writing workshop prompt to write a poem about an object.  I like paper clips!

Laundry stories…

May 24, 2007

Degas made a series of drawings of women ironing – strong, sensitive images that show the depth of a woman’s physical engagement in such a task, of her immersion and concentration in skillfully carrying out of such a necessary mundane chore.

In my role of “Lone Arranger” I had to find a model for our Sunday afternoon sustained painting session. People seemed to be quite bored of painting a model plunked down in front of a draped cloth, looking languid and merely sitting with hands decorously and gracefully placed. Yet another “woman sitting doing nothing” scenario was one that did not make me eager to drag my easel and equipment to the hall where we did our painting. I wanted something a bit more toothy!

Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis had been sitting for me fairly regularly at home, and she was well broken in as a model. So, I posed the question to her that she consider sitting for our painting group for four weeks. “You know how you have such a love-hate relationship with laundry” I put to her, “and, especially how you absolutely loathe ironing?  How about you model for us doing ironing?” This tickled her curiosity and she agreed this might pose some challenge for the painting group, and much to my delight she agreed to be our ironing model.

I loaded up my largely unused ironing board, and OLPC brought her brand new, space-age, never before put into service iron. At the first session as painters were setting up their easels curious as to what  situation they were to paint, OLPC stood up the ironing board, plugged the iron into the wall socket and placed her daughter’s skirt onto the board and launched into a fairly relaxed pose.

Soon, sotto voce grumblings from the painters emerged into the stillness of the studio. “Who on earth is going to want to buy my painting of a woman ironing?” “This is too complicated!” “It’s going to take too long to establish the relative proportions of the equipment and the figure!”

I was very happy with this challenge and tackled the whole process with intent pleasure. The question of selling the resulting painting didn’t even occur to me, I just wanted to take on the business of looking and painting.  After the fourth week of painting this ironing study, members of the group insisted politely and firmly that our next model be a nubile young woman in a nice dress who just simply sat there looking sultry and decorative – no more zaftig middle-aged models doing boring mundane chores, please! The “Lone Arranger” was being demoted! Ah, well – such is life.

The following month, a number of us, all local painters, were requested to take part in a fund-raiser for the local women’s shelter. We were to set up individually and spend four hours painting, during which time an audience could walk about drinking cocktails and look at the process of taking a painting from beginning to completion. At the end of the four hours, each work was to be auctioned off and the proceeds were to be donated to the women’s shelter to help outfit families who had left behind abusive situations. This seemed like a worthy endeavour toward which to bend my energies, so I agreed to take part.

OLPC agreed to be my model, and she and I looked at  my big book on Degas, so we could find a reproduction which might serve as a basis for a variation on a theme.  We found the marvellous image of Madame de Valpincon resting beside a big bouquet of flowers.  She looked a bit tired and slightly bored, as if the chore of collecting and arranging the flowers had taxed her and she needed to take a rest.  I proposed to pose OLPC beside a huge laundry basket filled with a variety of flowery sheets, with a box of laundry soap and a squeeze bottle of Shout de-stainer, given how OLPC loathed her never-ending cycles of laundering.  She agreed that this might be fun to do for a four hour pose.

On the day of this painting performance, OLPC and I carted a carful of equipment – Photo-floods and their stand, electric extension cord, tarp for the floor to prevent making permanent stains, laundry basket, sheets, box of laundry soap, Shout bottle, easel, paints, brushes, solvents and gessoed panel and a bottle of good red wine for OLPC and me to share in order to dispel performance jitters.  We set up very efficiently and taped a large reproduction of the Degas “Woman with Chrysanthemums” to the edge of the table supporting the pallette and paint tubes, leaned my painting of “Woman ironing” next to it and laid a small notebook and pen under a sign requesting onloookers to share their laundry stories by writing them into the notebook ( as yet another way for viewers to participate in the process, rather than passively looking on).

OLPC was wonderful – she sat holding the pose, engaged visitors in conversation and encouraged them to write their laundry stories into the little notebook. I collected my personal bubble around myself, inside which I hid and worked largely unaware of having my activity monitored by many strangers. Sounds abated, except for the scrape and scurry of my paintbrushes, the activity of mixing paint, making marks obliterated my nervousness.  Drinking the wine also helped numb any feelings of sheer terror I may have had, the painting proceeded. Four hours went by in a flash.

I did not stay for the auction, but OLPC did.  She reported that my friend Kay bid up the painting and ended up taking it home. I was outside nervously nursing a cigarette and sipping a glass of wine while reading the curious laundry stories people had written into my little notebook.  OLPC came out, excited, and reported to me that someone wanted to buy my painting of “Woman ironing”.

Who’d think that such prosaic subject matter in a painting would capture someone’s imagination, compelling them to part with a sum of money for possession of it? Amazing too is the fact that images are so powerful that they unleash a personal connection in viewers strong enough that they would provoke them to mine their own memories for remembrances of situations surrounding simple activities we generally think of as ordinary, unimportant and which yield such a trove of stories which pique interest.

Thank you OLPC, and thank you Degas for propelling me in this direction the outcome of which was so rich!


May 16, 2007

Eleven years ago, Candy died from leukemia.  She was an abandoned black Lab we adopted after taking her for a week’s worth of daily walks, her respite from being cooped up in the pound.  Daily, she greeted us with great enthusiasm and grasped the rope in her mouth to indicate her eagerness to go for a walk in the woods adjoining the pound buildings.  We couldn’t resist her and gladly took her into our lives.  She was then 9 years old, and we were to find great joy in her for only two more years.

At the outset of this adoption, Rumpole announced rules for tolerable doggish behaviour – no being fed at the dinner table, no lounging on couches with human folk and, most definitely, no getting in bed with people to cuddle. Naturally, as such things go, he was the first to breach all of these permissions, in spite of trying hard to be firm and stern.  Candy had the most endearing habit of mugging with grins, so that his rather serious side slid away to be replaced with increased permissiveness. Candy became our 80 pound, grizzle-faced, four-legged child.  She sat beside Rumpole at the dinner table, patiently waiting for the choicest bits of meat he would slip to her. She reclined on the couch with her head on his knee as they read together in the evenings. She snuggled her bulk up to me in bed at night, heaving great, contented sighs.

Candy’s great joy was to take long daily walks with me on the dike, where she had her favourite swimming hole populated by frogs and turtles that basked on floating logs.  We always started with a long leisurely walk during which she chased her ratty tennis ball and brought it back for more throws.  Whenever she heard the noises of birds down near the river, she would make a mad dash into the thickets of tall grass and flush them out. She would return from these little exercises bearing a great satisfied grin, and occasionally a large stick which she then would carry to the end of our walk’s destination, the swimming hole .  Here we would play for an extended time, me throwing the stick, her fetching it back to shore. When she tired of the stick fetching, the tennis ball would go into the same service, and as she grew bored with this, she would find a pebble and bring it to me, indicating that she wanted to play fetch with it. Amazing, no matter where I tossed the chosen stone she would find it under water and bring it back. When she grew tired of all the running, swimming and fetching, she stashed the pebble in her cheek, grabbed the stick with her teeth, waited for me to retrieve the soggy tennis ball, and led me back to the car for the ride home.  Once we returned home, she deposited her found treasures in her customary little pile of collected sticks and stones beside the back steps and waited patiently to be rubbed down with towels.

We were bereft when she became very ill and died. Our familiar black companion was no longer shadowing us around. There was a huge emptiness in our daily doings. I kept up the daily walks on the dike, sat by the edge of the swimming hole throwing stones into the water, recalling the pleasure Candy had taken with her activities at these places.

One day, on the drive home, It suddenly occurred to me that I had to make some art work to celebrate and memorialize Candy’s impact on our lives. On returning to the house, I was completely abstracted and aimlessly wandered about outside and inside, casually assembling stones, sticks, studio materials and got hung up on the idea of maps as a way to show where our meandering walks had taken us in our little shared corner of the world.

The very next morning, I beetled down to the Municipality offices where in planning and engineering I asked to look at site maps of my immediate neighbourhood, and of the diking systems.  The clerk printed out a number of largish blueprint maps which I then carted home.  These treasures, spread out on the dining-room table, the coffee table and the studio table were available for Rumpole and me to study, to follow routes taken on walks with Candy.

On my solitary daily walks I carried a trash bag to collect samples of vegetation from places where Candy would stash some of her rocks. These samplings I would press in wall-paper sample books, then take to my local printer’s to colour xerox.  I collected cuttings form the local newspapers – anything to do with activities on or near the dikes, leisure and agricultural. I applied layers of powdered graphite to stones Candy had amassed at the side of the house.  I painted with white paint to look like ghost-sticks some of the sticks from her collection. Brought a bucket of sand and gravel back from the marge of the swimming hole.

For eight months, the maps became a departure point for a series of collage paintings.  The making of these was a meditation on the time and places which the companionship of this wonderful four-legged entity made as an indelible experience, to be savoured for a long time. Every act of selecting and combining materials became a small ceremony.

I learned much from making these map memorials.

Caryatids with teeth…

April 15, 2007

Picture, if you will, a building like the Erechteion, where a decorous row of demure, gowned maidens bear the weight of the entablature at the tops of their heads.

The other evening, during our visit with “Mousey”, “Glasgow Girl” and “Renaissance Man”, “Rumpole” was much amused to observe “Mousey” standing at the edge of the coffee table, chewing her way along in gay abandon. Right now there is a strip of soft, foamy plastic around the table’s perimeter.  This is there to protect “Mousey” from bashing her head in, due to her numerous falls and mis-steps. This protective rim is something she loves to chew on, as she is teething.

“You should have seen how funny the four baby girls looked, yesterday, as they clung to different edges, each madly chewing away”, said “Glasgow Girl”. Her pre-natal  group has kept in touch after the birth of nine babies. The mothers and babies visit together every Thursday, the moms to discuss their adjustment to their new roles, and the babies to play together, after a fashion. Four of the baby girls are at the crawling and standing-up stage.  According to “Glasgow Girl” they clutched onto the table and chewed away at the edges in unison – a synchronised chewing team, she compared them to.

On the way home after our visit, ” Rumpole” and I had a good laugh together, after I jokingly mentioned that some contemporary sculptor should make a new model version of the Erechteion on which diapered baby girls hold up the entablature by their hands while chewing along the edges with their teeth and gums.  The new structure could be called “Caryatids with teeth”. A very post-modern riff this would be, I think!

Naked Lunch, the David and the Birth of Venus…

April 2, 2007

Eight years ago, our life drawing group here in Suburbia limped along with fewer and fewer committed members and sought more participants. We needed to have steady funds to afford to pay a high enough modelling fee to entice models from downtown to brave long travel times and find it worth their while to come here and sit for us. The local Arts Council subsidized our makeshift studio space, but we were to scrape up the weekly modelling fee. There was a core group of 6 people willing to commit to the weekly sessions, but often several members had prior committments which caused them to miss  some, so we could never be certain of not having to scrape our pockets, week to week, in order to come up with the fee we promised to models and which we were obliged to cough up.

One evening, after a particularly low attendance, several of us and the model repaired to the Lone Wolf Pub to quaff a glass of wine and toss around ideas about how to increase our numbers. I arranged for the model to stay the night in our spare bedroom, a situation which “Rumpole” agreed to, and which he rather enjoyed because he then felt included in my activity in a more direct way – he found this particular model to be a character, full of stories and experiences neither of us had ever had, and even more so because this chap had been in the British Army in his youth, and now was a “Remittance Man”.

The glasses of wine served at the Lone Wolf revived us after the three-hour drawing session, and we madly brainstormed about how we could attract more members to the group as well as gather donations to give to the building fund for the proposed new Art Centre, as a formal thanks for the years of subsidized studio space.

People here in Suburbia tend to be quite conservative; they also revere tradition in the Arts,  and fear controversy. Therefore a “tasteful” happening was required – no scandal, no nudity, no offense of PUBLIC MORALS. However, we also had to put out an appeal to local artists – one which would encourage them to willingly fork over money on a regular basis in order to take part in the life drawing group, and to share the joy and pain of the weekly work-sessions with like minded others.

So, in order to make a nod to tradition, we determined that a reference to the Renaissance might be a good hook.  The Renaissance was a time of great figurative work, and of Major Art Heavies like Michelangelo, and Botticelli (among others), who would be familiar names to many suburbanites.  But, of course, living at the end of the 20th Century, we had to make connection to more contemporary culture as well. So, we bandied about a title for the Happening, and decided that “Naked Lunch” (a William Burroughs  book, and, in recognition of the transgressive nature of drawing from the nude, in our born-again conservative community’s estimation [never mind the numerous sex-toy shops, x-rated video stores and peeler-bars that exist here in suburbia]) might do the trick.

So “Naked Lunch” was theme, but how to emphasize this idea with live models? Monet’s “Dejeuner Sur L’herbe” with its offense against bourgeois morality, was discussed as a basis for doing a “mis-en-scene” with live models.  We dismissed it as not having far enough remove from prevailing moral codes. We deliberated about the “Fetes Champetres” compositions as having a certain possibility of being recreated with models, however it was not until we bandied around how we might reinterpret a classical composition with contemporary props that we hit upon Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” as our favoured point of departure.

As we sipped our wine we allocated who was to do what to make this happening come about. Since I had been dubbed by our group as “The Lone (Ar)Ranger”, I was to come up with the venue and co-ordinate the efforts by various group members in their chores of signage painting, poster design, publicity, and gathering the models and artists for the occasion.

It was decided that where “Rumpole” and I lived was central to activities down-town and would attract the most drive-by traffic. As well, our yard was huge, with handsome shrubberies and trees amongst which we could set up the models so they would not die of sun-stroke, and in the shade of which we could set up easels for the artists. We decided that we would provide a “lunch” of watermelon and other fruits, and lemonade with ice for visitors. “Naked Lunch – A Feast for the Eyes” was to be the header for our posters and signage, and we co-opted the image of” The David” as our mascot. He was to stand in all his Renaissance naked splendour and coyly hide his genitals behind a board advertising our header.

Tamela designed our mascot “Dave”, and the posters. Sherry (of “Sharold” fame) enlarged Dave onto large sheets of Coro-plast. As “Lone (Ar)Ranger”, I lined up the models, where they were to bunk and be fed, and the necessary props which would provide a contemporary twist on the “Birth of Venus”. Roger enlarged a colour photo of the  Botticelli reproduction at a local printers. I sent out press releases to the local and city papers, as well as the alternative press. It was no problem getting artists to come out and draw at this happening, since they didn’t have to pay, and also because they could have a lawn exhibition of paintings and drawings based on the figure.  All that was required was that they would pay a 30% comission on any sales they made, money which would go toward our group donation to the Art Centre Building Fund. The models donated their time gratis, and were wined, dined and housed at our expense. What we were hoping for was a clear and sunny day for our mutual effort.

Co-ordinating all this was quite a bit of fun, and we were very excited and quite well organized. The Sun God heard our anxious hopes, smiled on us and provided a gorgeous sunny day. We set up exhibition, signage, models, props, easels, artists, sun-shelters, refreshments so efficiently that one would have thought we did this regularly.

The mis-en-scene was situated in the shade provided by an apple tree on one side and a large holly tree on the other. There, Venus, a statuesque blonde young woman wearing a flesh-coloured body suit, stepped into a green-plastic child’s frog pool. At her feet, to keep our Venus cool, we placed a frog sprinkler which sent up intermittent arcs of water to bathe her lower legs. At her right stood an upright electrical stationary fan, connected to power by a long extension cord.  Zephyr(our ancient Remittance Man), wearing fancifully embroidered cut-off shorts, aimed the fan at Venus, while also puffing out his cheeks to suggest he was also providing added breeze.  A Sprite, in bikini and semi-draped in a sheer cover, wrapped herself around our Zephyr, as if supporting and also accompanying him. On the other side of the frog-pool, a bathing-suited handmaiden, casually swathed in a flowered sheet, readied another, more ornately flowered sheet, in which to receive and wrap the arriving Goddess.

Artists took their places at easels, and drawing began apace. Visitors started arriving; they wandered around looking at the work displayed, lounged on the lawn, watched as drawings were progressing, helped themselves to refreshments, and engaged the artists in discussions as to why they were doing all this. Martha, our photographer, took many shots, of the set-up and also visitors.

At one point in the afternoon, a couple of young men arrived in a little beat-up Japanese car.  They had come from the city, and had seen the advertisement in the alternative press, and being Naturists were quite intrigued about possible nudity on a suburban lawn, or that even people in the suburbs might have an inkling of how controversial a book “Naked Lunch” had been in the 60s. They seemed completely charmed by our set-up, and stated they understood why we chose the title for our happening, and why we translated it through a Renaissance reference.  They actually laughed while discussing with us the reasons why we determined to go about our activities as we did. They wolfed down a fair amount of our water-melon, and lounged about chatting up visitors.

Many visitors came, some as singles, couples, and also some families with children of varied ages.  We sold some work, signed up new members for our drawing group, sweltered in the sun and hid out in the shade for five hours.

Our most unusual visitor arrived near the end of the day, close to the time we planned to stop. A large van pulled up alongside the grass verge.  I was busy taking a breather,  munching away a piece of watermelon, near the periphery of the action. The side door-panel of this van slid back. Long, skinny, black-hose clad legs, sporting blood red stiletto-heels emerged from the shade of the van’s interior followed by a woman in mini-dress. As she sought steady purchase for her ridiculously high heels, she had turned her head down to look, her face obscured by a long mane of blonde hair. Finally, having got her footing, she tossed back her hair to reveal a carefully trimmed red goatee. She collected herself, tugged down her skirt and picked her way carefully across the grass toward me. “Welcome”, I said, “make yourself at home.” She gave me a gracious smile, then wended her way around the displays, looking at all the art work.  Then she took up station behind the artists and settled in to take a good look at people drawing, at the model set-up, and chatted with visitors gathered there.  I caught sight of Martha skulking around trying to take a picture of this person without being herself noticed.  I felt like going up to slap her away, but didn’t want to cause a scene.

There were no impolite double-takes, or snickerings behind up-raised hands from those assembled as this woman made her way around considering the whole scenario. The models maintained their professional mien. The woman stayed for some fair amount of time, bought a drawing, said her good-byes, disappeared inside her van and drove off.

We dismantled the set-up, removed easels, drawing materials and unsold work to various vehicles. Once the tidying up was completed, we all sat on the grass, tallied up the sales and donations, and debated as to which pub we would repair to for our evening meal. The Lone Wolf Pub became the destination for our well-deserved revelry, as it nicely book-ended our happening, after all it was the place where our idea for the “Naked Lunch” was born.

And there, at the Lone Wolf, truly pleased with ourselves, we began to plan a future happening for our group – “The Three Graces on Concrete – Naked Lunch II”.

Itching powder…

March 24, 2007

The pictures of  Lenin, Stalin and Malenkov, the Holy Trinity of Communism, projected their benign paternal smiles from their place high on the back of our classroom wall. This was 1954. It was our Russian hour. We were learning to sing “Volga”(Volga, Volga, matyradnaya, Volga, Ruszka, yareka…Nyevigyela tu pudarka, koddanszkova Kazaka…. is my bad Hungarian translated memory of this song). It was a lovely tune, full of love and longing, on the same level of feeling as “Isten Elti a Magyart” our Hungarian national anthem. I was 8 years old, one of the many faceless kids in our form. My neighbour and playmate, Tibor (Tibi) was seated quite far away from me, because we were conspiratorial and got into a lot of trouble over all kinds of stuff.

Our teacher was a drab lady, intensely serious, earnest – a real drill sergeant, I now realize trying to remember her. She didn’t demonstrate one flash of humour, ever, although she was basically kind and didn’t make extreme comparisons about our performance, to our faces, at least. However, our parents had an inside line into the classroom, it appeared, for the slightest falling down on our job as student mysteriously greeted us as a “What did you do! Why must you get singled out for blame?” on our return to home.

During recess our group tended to go absolutely wild and manic.  We badly needed to let off steam! We gossiped, plotted, teased, bucked up each other in little sub-groups. We ran around yelling and laughing.

One of the trouble-makers in class, a clever and inquisitive boy, drifted around from group to group in the schoolyard. He quietly whispered, sotto voce, and groups would grow around him. He said he had concocted some “itching powder” guaranteed to drive even the most self-controlled and calm one of us wild. Loudly we deliberated and argued as how there was no such thing, and where did he find this stuff?  He produced an envelope. It contained a mysterious white powder, which he assured us would have us all convulsing with fits of scratching if we but put a little pinch down the back of our shirts. He proposed to pass it around to all of us to try, once we were back inside the classroom. He promised the reaction of our teacher would be quite hilarious to see.

In orderly line-up, we marched back into the classroom, quietly excited that the next hour would provide some relief from the constant and repetitive drilling we had to endure while at school. Lenin, Stalin and Malenkov looked really pleased about something. Our teacher resumed teaching us fragments of the Volga song. She wrote the phrases in Cyrillic on the blackboard, then the translation in Hungarian. We copied these down as she kept repeating the correct pronounciation over and over again.  Every time she turned her back on the class to write a new phrase on the board, the envelope was passed from hand to hand, surreptitiously, the powder disributed among us all. Many kids tucked the powder down the back of their neck, while the more serious and “good” ones just passed on the envelope without taking a pinch.

Finishing the writing portion of our exercise, the teacher had us place our hands behind the small of our backs, sit up straight and begin following the written phrases on the board to sing the song. Over and over again we did this, until we really sounded quite good, I thought.  “Sing with emotion”, the teacher would exhort. We did! “Really feel the song and what it means!,she said. We tried to do this, really getting into the spirit of things.

Soon, kids sitting in front of me began to move one hand or another up their back, scratching. Others would squirm. Some pressed back into the chair and writhed about subtly. A few gave up the pretence that they were all right and began to scratch with vigour, quite noticeable. Tibi, sitting  a few rows in front of me cast back a quick grin. One girl beside me started to giggle and just couldn’t stop. Teacher looked  about the classroom and demanded to know, “What’s got into you all?” More wriggling, scraching, chuckling and giggling. The instigator piped up and said “There must be something wrong here, I feel awful and very itchy… can I please go home?” Teacher walked over and looked at the back of his neck, then proceeded to the next scratcher and did the same. She began to look concerned, worried even. Then she left the classroom and brought back the Principal. He looked over several kids’ necks, scratched his head with a “My God” kind of expression as he thought and debated about what to do with us all.  Finally, he announced that we had to leave the school and walk home quickly. “Don’t linger on the way! And stay away from people on the street”, he said.

Sure, I itched, but this was a huge bonus – freedom for the rest of the school day.  Tibi and I skipped home, singing!

Mother was drinking ersatz coffee with Tibi’s Mother.  We ran in and reported what happened.  We gave clear details and the complete truth. Our mothers checked down the backs of our shirts and discussed the red rash they noticed there. Tibi’s Mother dragged him off home. My mother was furious and ordered me to bed, no talking, no reading, no singing, no playing. So much for freedom, I thought!

As I lay grumbling in bed it occurred to me that maybe Lenin, Stalin and Malenkov really had something to smile about, up there on the back wall of our classroom.

I am still chukling about this situation, even after so long a time. And I wonder if Tibi still does too!


March 23, 2007

I know what I want to say.

You look at me, befuddled, while

I repeat over and over again

that which I want to acknowledge,


I am telling you I am afraid

of this gradual numbness

up my right side where my skin prickles,

a half of me faded away.

My tongue, a fat slug in side my mouth,

writhes,  to form the words

crowding my mind.

I repeat over and over again

all that I want to say!

I am panicked at

the look of bewilderment and concern which

registers on your face.

Clearly, you don’t hear

what I struggle to tell you!

I repeat over and over again.

Please hear me…

This is a sketch I wrote a couple of years ago in the poetry workshop given by my young poet friend, and as in drawn sketches  have erased and substituted a word here and there to clarify things a little for myself.  This is a germ of an idea based on a memory of a TIA(Transient Ischemic Attack) I experienced 14 years ago and which so frightened me.

I have posted this sketch for Jade Park  ( who is a woman writer describing her feelings about her stroke (at a young age) and her journey of recovery.  We are not alone!

A gift gone wrong…

March 22, 2007

Back in 1996 Mother was in her late seventies, and had recuperated from a major operation on the frontal lobe of her brain. She was fortunate. The lesion found in her brain was benign.  She could still read, which she loved to do and continued to do. And she had cause to celebrate her continuing in this life.  Her youngest daughter, the one born here in Canada, was pregnant and about to present her with a gift – her first real grand-child (Mother didn’t consider “Renaissance Man”, my son then 26 years old, a proper grand-child. I had had him out of wedlock. He was “illegitimate”, a “bastard” and had arrived on this earth in the wrong manner, and he reflected badly on the family and particularly was a public reminder of bad parenting – hers mostly?)

I was happy for her eager anticipation of this new grand-child.  She had revered her own Grand-mother who I also had been fortunate to know for a few years as a growing child and had found great delight in. Here was my Mother about to embark on an experience of yet another stage in her life, as a loving and loved elder.  This was something to celebrate!

Her birthday was coming up and I racked my brains trying to come up with a really good gift. Clothing items were out. Perfume, which she sprayed about her and on her she had more than a few years supply of, especially her favourite “4711” which was becoming more and more difficult to find. Aha, books were called for!

Surreptitiously, I browsed her bookshelves. There were many books of classic contemporary literature.  Many had been on her shelf for numerous years and she kept adding to them.  The only trouble was that they showed little or no sign of having been read.  Whenever I asked her to tell me what she found with “book x”, she would say “It was all right, but not one of my favourites.” And she’d change the subject and pull out the latest Brother Cadfael mystery and express how much she had enjoyed it. So, I waited for the next book in the series to be published and bought it as one of her upcoming birthday presents.

While browsing in Chapters to see what else I could unearth by way of another book for her, it ocurred to me that she may have some fun with reading some current children’s literature, that she may find it amusing and interesting to read some fun books that are also instructive as well and which she may enjoy sharing with her anticipated grandchild. Aha! I thought – Shel Silverstein – a writer of inspired goofiness and someone who celebrated the individuality and quirkyness of children. I looked at the titles on the edge of the books filed on the S shelf. One entitled “Falling up” caught my eye and I pulled it out to look it over.  Found it absolutely engaging and thought about how much “Renaissance Man”  would have enjoyed being read to from it as a 5 year old. “Perfect! Mother will get a huge kick from this, I think! (There were some fun and silly poems that she could use to engage this new  family arrival as he or she grew and started to converse)” I bought it for her!

On her bithday, I travelled loaded down with the two books and a flowering potted plant to have  a visit and tea with Mother. She was like a little child at Christmas – just couldn’t wait to open up her presents. The plant she could readily see, and admiring its pretty blooms swiftly set it aside to get to the fun part of uncovering the wrapped package. The “Brother Cadfael” hard cover was lying on top of “Falling Up”. Her eyes lit up with pleasure, then she took it to her bookshelf to check the novel was not one she already had read and possessed. Satisfied, she came back and pecked me on the cheek.

She then picked up the Shel Silverstein book and asked “Why did you buy me this?” So I went through the whole song and dance of why I thought she might find the book amusing and fun to read to and with her new grandchild. She looked at me with suspicion. Then I said, she may find it a useful gift for someone else’s child, and that it just might give pleasure if not to her, then to whoever she chose to give this book. “Propel it forward.” I suggested.

The “Brother Cadfael” mystery took its place in the growing line-up on her bookshelf. “Falling Up” simply disappeared, never to be seen again, never discussed. I hope that she at least read some of this book before she made it disappear, and perhaps got a glimpse of illicit pleasure from it even if it may have embarrassed her to put in on her shelf for anyone to see.

I think that I will go to the local old book store where two weeks ago I unearthed a Hunter S. Thopson book now out of print, for which”Renaissance Man” expressed  great surprised pleasure as I pressed it in his hand on one of his drop-in visits with us.  The lady there will probably find me a copy of Shel Siverstein’s “Falling Up”. It can come home and sit in pride of place, waiting for my new grandaughter and for me to discover it together, one day soon.


March 20, 2007


he knows a curious fact about

the half-melted sun, and yet

his fortune is to find

the bloom teasing inside the flame

which sheds light on young

pine trees at whose feet recline

boulders with grace.

This is a resulting sketch from an exercise in a poetry workshop given by my young poet friend. We were to choose at random from a bowl 10 slips of paper, each bearing a different word. Then we were to use all of the words to generate a sketch. There were amazing, varied sketches written by everybody there.  I think it might be a good way to encourage writing in children, and wonder if there are teachers in intermediate and secondary grades who use this, or a similar method, as a way to play intentionally with language and encourage kids to generate their own imagery and statements.