Hey! I won a Canadian National Magazine Award . . .

For a POEM no less. Isn't it amazing that we still HAVE NMA's for poetry? I was also nominated for a personal essay called Washing The Body, which I will also post here in the coming months.  

Thank you therefore to the wonderful strange eclectic GEIST magazine for publishing the poem, The Speed of Rust; Mr. Geist also bought me my ticket to the fabulous glamourous cocktail party and (diet) dinner. I would not have gone if Mary S and Stephen O of Geist hadn't sprung for the ticket. Thanks, too, to Michal Kozlowsky, assistant publisher at Geist and dinner companion (who put up with some curmudgeonly behaviour, alluded to below.)

At the glitzy NMA ceremony, I wore a red and grey flapper dress, red heels, and so much attitude that I actually went up a second time to collect an absent friend's award--until the Reader Digest lady hip-checked me as I ran for the stage. (She was late getting up there, what can I say? Who could miss posing for a picture with Zaib Shaikh twice? He's handsome; I demanded he embrace me; he complied. You know, he was the imam on Little Mosque on the Prairie.) Anyway, I actually HATE award ceremonies (she said, ungraciously). The more hype, the more irritated I become. Then of course I revised my position briefly upon winning.

I was very inspired by richness of the articles, illustrations, essays, photo spreads that were nominated and that won for their various (more than 30) categories. For an industry that is struggling mightily against all kinds of nasty funding and techno/media monsters, the breadth of ideas and talent and energy in our magazine industry is really dazzling.

Let's read more Canadian magazines!

And even a poem here and there . ..  I spent 20 minutes trying to get the extra space out from btn the lines, but hey. I just gave up.

 

The Speed of Rust

 

It rains.

My heart disintegrates for other reasons

while the bald eagle gazes at me

from the lifeguard’s chair.

His head is not white but scuffed, dirty.

He may look like a bird of prey but in fact

he is a fifty-two-year-old man

who has just crawled out of bed

with a hangover and a wife

he rarely loved well.

 

Whatever

was fine weather

in his life has turned

into the swamp-sky of March,

rain in April, through June,

and tomorrow is the first of July

though it’s hard to consider

celebrating Canada Day

with anything but a scream.

Which the bald eagle does:

the serrated thrust of his voice

shreds the grey light as he opens

his wings and lifts, lifts,

heaves himself into the heavy air.

There he goes, flapping over our stunned heads

toward the jungle that stalks Vancouver

like a panther, the same jungle

I fought in cold blood this morning,

so much fierce bamboo.

 

You and I walk the wide sand flats,

slick pewter acres of seaweed,

cracked shells, crabs scuttling sideways

like our desire. We are so close

to the barges that we see

a modern galley slave moving

(no stanza break)

feverishly about on the long deck.

He is silent in labour, I am silent

in sympathy, listening to you tell

how you think maybe you can’t marry her.

 

I suddenly remember my hedge clippers

lying on the grass in the back garden.

Tools rust if you leave them out

in this rain. They teach us, every year,

not to do it again.

 

Why it's all wrong takes so long to explain

that the tide begins to embrace our cold feet.

You could save yourself by drowning

but do not: we walk back to the stony shore

littered with condoms and weddings,

one of which will take place in exactly

forty days. You ask, a tear in your eye,

How much longer will it rain?

 

I reply, You’re lucky enough

to have choices. Old lover,

surprise yourself and make one.

Useless advice, like all advice

must be at this moment. You wring

your heart on the beach while on the far shore

landmines explode, men labour on

prison ships, children drown in wet sand

similar in weight to this wet sand

but lethal, marbled with blood,

impossible to walk away from.

 

You say you cannot walk away.

I say I know, I know, and think again

of my clippers in the grass,

the speed of rust. I say, 

You are a good man

and she is a good woman.


Kissing you goodbye, I wonder if

that is how bad marriages are made:

the hungry shovel of the heart

wants to break the clean surface of goodness,

get to the rich filth underneath.

I like how mistakes wait in our hands

like the orchids we crave for their beauty.

And because we don’t know how to grow them.

I like that we want to learn.

I love how we fail.

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