In and out of Spain


Spanish gardens, donkey trails.

Up steep dusty mountains we went, the four of us,

then we walked along rocky ocean cliffs, poking long sticks

in the waves. Whether it was an octopus’ play or anger,

tentacles wrapped tight around the tree-limb,

my brother screamed with excitement, pulled for a while

then let go.


Under surveillance at the corner store, we were

government-spied on

while buying popsicle rockets, licking,

lazily skipping back to the pool. I snuck

behind our apartment building

to feed dinner scraps to the desolate feline strays.


My mother bought us dyed pink chicks at Easter,

chick-feet running across a tile hard floor.

My father brought them back to the market

to face their inevitable doom.


Baby teeth, my brother’s and mine, tied to a string

tied to an open door.


Grandmother with her long

boney brown fingers, her fearful sins and Lucifer

always behind our backs, up elevators,

fueling the first of my many nightmares, and also

my morality.


A white Volkswagen. A massive pinkish sun,

making friends with Spanish boys breaking

bread beside Flamenco dancers.




There was a shark in the water.

I was lifted onto my father’s shoulders,

as he ran fast, past the menacing fin to the shore.


A diving board, lessons in breathing

and earning a swimmer’s endurance,

lessons in lifting my double-jointed arm to gain

front-crawl perfection.


Mother’s blonde and blonder hair.

Everynight parties.


Holland shoes

instead of stockings at Christmas.

Learning math at the kitchen table.

My father’s arms carrying me home

after a late night gathering of strange comic-book creatures,

laughing, making us little ones sit at the smaller table, ignoring

our just-out-of-toddlerhood need for adult attention.


Kindergarten handwriting at Bambi School,

Rice pudding everyday for lunch. Naranja-head,

children pointing, making fun because of my orange hair.

A pencil jabbed into my upper arm –

40 years later, the lead is still visible.


When we drove across the Denia boarder, into France,

then landed for months in London,

I could see my father’s memories coming back, his disappointments

overtaking. Maybe it was because it was in London

where his own father died, left India for, only to die

two weeks later in his wife’s arms,

leaving five children behind.


The first year back in Montreal,

my father started drinking heavily while my mother gave up,

got involved with her celebrity journalism and multitude of friends.

I remember going to get breakfast, my father passed out

on the kitchen floor. I remember

in and out of Spain.



A weighted bliss in the lonely light


Love is a mountain inside a stone,

a lightweight singer finding purpose in a mourning choir.

Love is broken, mutating into falsetto, breaking,

then layering a new underbelly. Love is something

to wish for – moving, movable with just the right

amount of softness and substance, just the tips of fingers

coursing over a body. Love is a mind free enough to know

compassion as a coping method. It is body unbearable alone,

but under love’s touch, able to mark off conclusion after conclusion –

constantly budding, lasting ease

lasting elation.



When The Storm Hits


Above the breeding belittlement

of  experience that drives

my means of survival

and ushers in the catastrophe (now locked in my genes)

like a rat ushered in

the plague, someone outside is

waiting, away from pathos or understanding,

away from security and agility, just

waiting to hold my hand and help me make

it through.

Beyond the tightening lungs and the cheerless

decay of my dream system,

a second event unfolds, where faith

is my rapture and I am spinning above

the precipice without a net, but joyfully

turning, my face tilted toward God,

whispering an unshakable anthem, one

of beauty, and of trusting the mettle of my beliefs.


Before Atonement


At night I was full

like others are in summer,

myself, just a silhouette at dawn

part of a church, but never part of

a calling.

I would look for owls as I canvassed unfamiliar roads

in winter, when everyone was lonely and the vein

of fulfilment pulsed obscure. I would knock on doors,

smile as though I was innocent, young in my hope

and inspired by ideals. Sometimes I would have tea and talk

as though I understood something, secretly carrying my

pink powder in a small golden tin, desperate for any kind of magic.

The smell of that powder – sweet, unusual and old – the feel

of that powder – like rubbing thick blood between finger and thumb –

I was someone with that powder – maybe a witch, maybe a prophet –

someone who communed with cats, the gangs of cats that would

emerge past dinnertime; sit under cars, behind tree trunks

watching me as I watched them.

At night, the van would pull up and I had so little to say –

except to the driver – We loved our silence, the awkward closeness

of agreed non-personal communication.

For me, there was only those nights and books,

there were only incoherent surreal images

storming my brain, longing to be redefined,

submerged in hard hard substance.



I was not a bird


or a bride

but wedded to the thick masculine

thighs of war, a priest of the dead –

myself a small idol that gathered a

kingdom of followers. I had but one lover,

a soul drenched with my own – long hair

and pretty eyes, a man of calm devotion, while

I enjoyed my blonde hair soaked

with my conquered enemy’s blood.

I enjoyed the cries of pursuit

and the galloping of hooves on foreign sands.

I was not driven by the robe or the snake charmer’s

deep throttle. I was fresh, never a victim of fear,

writhing with rage like a piranha plucked from the waters.

In the daylight, I was whole. At night, my lover

kissed my ring, my arms and forehead. We made love

with everything left to give to only each other –

two, dying young in a tent, just

before dawn on the brink of battle, never ones for

soft goodbyes.

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