19

Maybe I love you like
I love a friend’s photo albums:
distantly; a story apart from mine,
adoringly; happy for their happiness, or
curiously; questions I don’t
know the answers to.

Maybe I think of you like
a dream forgotten
by coffee brew.

But every afternoon at 3:39pm
hitting that midday wall
my sleepy yawn ignites a memory:
hard hands holding mine
dress shirts, hung neat
the clink of unmatched glassware

Dreamt dreams reminding reality
of a fever I couldn’t sweat out
of a nice heart I couldn’t melt
of a boy I swore I hadn’t met
but knew, somehow.

My mother warned me about him
while tucking me into
princess palace sleep:
“A hyena doesn’t always have
flesh in his teeth. Know enough
to stay away.”

But when the mercury rose too high
on that temperate thermometer
my mother also used to
keep me near a pot,
rolling boil, saying
“Stay as long as you can,
and you can sweat the toxins out.”

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18

A story I’m ashamed to tell:
of red dots under eyes
popped blood vessels
counting the minutes left
after delicious dinnertime
to keep myself in check
to a schedule I created.

The unabridged tale
of satisfying my hunger with another’s envy
“Whatever you’re doing, keep at it!”
“You’re looking better everyday!”
“You’re so small!”
so so so so small

The strive to be size zero
my superficial goal to be
the bottom of a spectrum
to be loved, not revered
not an economist or a journalist,
just skinny.

On display: my greatest play
if the numbers on my plate aligned just right
it would create constellations of compliments
and everyone would finally
love me.

Every morning, I wished to lose more
even if it meant
the weight of my mind.

The Sparknotes of a novel I wrote
where flattery was food
and everyone wanted to know my diet secret
but no one cared to read cover to cover,
only the summary I fabricated
so I could fit into the clothes I thought
they wanted me to.

17

The overwhelming ache in your stomach
of missing a memory in real time:
summer camp planetarium
status: away from keyboard
phone left at home
sorry, no wifi
looking for: validation
arising from stoking my own flame

August night, northern town
guided telescope
they told us using red flashlights
keeps our night vision unhindered
and boy, could I ever see

Salt shaker, spilled
stars, meteor shower
car splashes pothole
stars like mud splatter on my jeans
and I’ve become the canvas.

An archive of my life spent
trying to get sons
to like me
that starry summer, I prayed
those dead suns were proud of me, instead

Boys used to tell me I gave them a hard time, boasting,
“I’ve never met a flame I didn’t like,”
but they didn’t know I was fire
or maybe I was that red flashlight
doing exactly what was needed,
on my own terms.

16

The anatomy of confidence:
be as brave as wolves
who call out in the darkest nights
when they know they need help.
Grasp loneliness by the reigns
and never bring it home.

Trudge the unpaved paths
grab your tools from the shed
and build your own defences.

Be unapologetic and call it
self preservation.

You don’t have to be a soft blanket
others find refuge in
when they’re too cold.
You’re allowed to be knitted of the same
kind fibre fabric
and also be brash to those who
kick you off the bed once they’re asleep;
who only hold you when they need you.

Wear your past and shortcomings as a quilt
you remove when it gets too hot.
You are a nation of white blood cells
defending yourself until your dying day
So tuck into your own blankets
put your phone on silent
ignore your door, knocking
and fall back asleep.

15

Pivoting personalities
doing your best to be everyone
for everyone.
Mother, daughter, wife
cook, cleaner, companion
putting on apron after apron but
never having time to dirty your hands.

A revolving door of weak, disappointing men
men who don’t pick you up from the airport
or pick up after themselves
those who demand recognition for chores
while you silently scrub the stove.

You’ve become the saddest slaughterhouse
a pair of hands, a mind to boggle
he asked for your opinion,
took it to the office, but still to his colleagues you are
boardroom businessman and wife.

May your tears turn to windshield raindrops
your daughters and nieces chase
for the rest of their lives.

May you be a maternal role model
of every girl’s massive mind.
May your apron be smeared by the tears of all the narrow men
who never believed in the strength
you always knew you possessed.

14

“If you were still here,
we could’ve become something.”
“I know.”
“I could’ve made you happy,”
“I know.”
step on my feet,
slow dance

We walked together everyday
after school stroll
cobblestone cul-de-sac
I went the long way
so I could match your stride

We walked each other home
our whole lives
but as we grew older, we never
walked into a home
we shared.

So let us toast
the saddest speech:
to all the childhood loves
who loved each other,
but never at the same time.

13

A measure of success:
family to love
feast to feast
warm cable-knit hugs
mistletoe, misty eyed

Overflowing guests
pouring in the front door
wreathed in balsam scent
nose hairs sharp
breaths puffed.

H’or d’oeuvres line the linen
pine tree, immaculate
tangled twinkle lights
creaky bathroom door
dinner bell ding.

The first quiet when all the guests
kiss goodbye
the nice China plates back in
the nice China cabinet.

I want this
the din of tinsel and bulbs
like December twenty-six
to twenty-nine
when I’m too happy to
take the tree away
when we have
no where to be, but
in our house, with each other.

 

 

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Thank you for providing a creative medium for us to share our lives with each other.
May your holidays be blessed with softness, kindness and health.

Love,
Elle