Thursday, 31 October 2013

On the Menu

Overheard: Everything bagel! Cup of ice!

Where it took me: I’m always amused by the things people order, even more so when I realize that some orders sound like personality traits. Since I’m a writer, I get to make things up anyway, so even if I’m guessing at those traits, that’s part of my job. And it’s Hallowe’en, a good day for considering the costumes in which we present ourselves to the world.

The poem

On the Menu

If we could order up people
like we order coffee:

Tall decaf. Blueberry scone.
Tall, not too excitable.

Blueberry; can be both wild and cultivated.
Scone; has some history. Sweet, but not cloying.

Everything bagel.
Overeager. Wants it all.

Bottled frapuccino and a pumpkin muffin.
Doesn’t care to wait. Gourd-shaped.

Grande caramel macchiato.
Open to possibility.  Pushes boundaries.

Tall banana latte.
Blonde. Unconventional.

Iced venti latte.
Cold, direct. Needs a lot of coffee.

Cup of ice.
Sexually frustrated.

Viennese coffee.
European, arty, distinguished.

In here, people don’t look like their dogs.
They resemble their drink orders.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Lowering the Bar

Overheard: I made broccoli yesterday and I didn’t forget to turn off the pot.

Where it took me: Another exception to the usual process; this line was a line a friend said to me in response to a conversation she’d overheard. She may have felt a tiny bit inadequate about her own cooking; though she should not, especially given that she spends her days bringing compassion to people at the hardest time of their life. We set the priorities that let us be content in the world. When I am content, I am a better person, friend, partner, and parent. Anything I can do to achieve that works for me.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Safeway, 17th and R Street

Overheard: (Woman on cell phone) I changed the text inside and I changed the picture to make it more modest.

Where it took me: I heard this in the grocery store and just had to write it down. She could have been anywhere having this conversation, for instance, at home rather than in public. I used the scramble technique to write down the story; then put all the first lines, second lines, and third lines together before editing to make some sense out of them. Taking apart the story this way allowed me to move back and forth between the physical fact of the woman in the store, and the curiosity I had about her conversation.

Thursday, 17 October 2013


Barista: Can I get your name, please, for your coffee?
Customer: What do you need my name for? I’m standing right here!

Where it took me: Giving the barista your name at Starbucks has spawned a culture of its own, with fake names, hilarious misspelling and mis-hearings, ongoing jokes between customers and baristas, and more. Obviously, this woman just needed her coffee. The prompt got me thinking about the power of naming; how names have the power to make something exist. I tried a scramble poem (writing the scene then reordering the lines) but ended up liking the scene itself.

The poem


Why do you need my name?
I’m standing right here.
The old woman refuses

to unhand the only power
she still holds, this name
her parents gave, the one scripted

on the marriage licence,
inked on the papers that proved
her babies alive;

the one who did not survive.
The name her husband still murmurs
in the safe cave of their bedroom.

In fair weather she rides the back
of his Vespa, imagines through her helmet
the stir of the sky in her hair,

wishes to be reckless though she won’t,
yearns to know
how the breeze really feels.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

My Apologies, Professor

Overheard: What’s the worst that could happen?

Where it took me: Everything that came to me right away was too obvious with this prompt. So I used one of my poetry guides for a challenge to help me shape this extremely open line into something more focused. The challenge that seemed to fit was to write an outrageous excuse for being late for class. What’s the worst that could happen?

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Art of Poetry

Overheard: I don’t know how much of it is the anxiety.

Where it took me: I used this line in conjunction with a poetry challenge to find a metaphor for writing poetry, but without naming poetry in the finished product. As it turns out, I didn’t exactly use it as a metaphor, more as part of a recipe for what goes into a poem. 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

I've Mastered Critical Thinking

Overheard: I’ve mastered critical thinking.

Where it took me: The audacity of the statement made me laugh, but the statement itself was a good prompt for a list poem, which I’d been in the mood to write. The last one I posted here was “Everything’s Carbs,” so it felt like time for another one. This line gave me a chance to put together a list of the outrageous claims people make in an effort to prove their life is better than yours.

The poem

I've Mastered Critical Thinking

Also classical French cooking,
tai chi,
table manners,
conversational Spanish,
business Mandarin,
effortless small talk,
all the digits of pi,
the theory of relativity,
my whole-home remote,
zen meditation,
motorcycle maintenance,
wine tasting,
how to make artisanal cheese,
the ukelele,
impeccable knife skills,
basic plumbing repairs,
social media,
the Rubik’s cube,

Thursday, 3 October 2013

X-Ray Judgement

Overheard: I know what she’s getting out of it, but what’s in it for him?

Where it took me: First of all, you know other humans can hear you, right? I’m pretty sure what’s in it for either of them isn’t your business. But now it’s my business, too. And I can’t help but wonder, as I often do, why we spend so much energy trying to decipher other people’s lives.

The poem  

X-Ray Judgement

Maybe he was tired of cooking for one.
Not that he could really call it cooking,
after a while. An apple. A can of soup.

Maybe he gave up polite conversation
for the chance at one baby,
and hit the jackpot
when she stuck around and gave him two.

Maybe you see the money,
the house, the cars, the beaches;
and not the chest torn ragged
by things she lost
or left behind.
Maybe she has her own money.

Maybe in the quiet that settles
when children are in bed
and kitchen counters are wiped clean,
when the fridge hums like comfort,
he offers backrubs
that unpoison her arrows;
she tells him she is sorry.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


Overheard: They don’t want superstars because they can’t afford it.

Where it took me: The people I overheard were talking about a company’s hiring practices. I wondered what kind of ad they might write to get the kind of person they could afford.

The poem


Mediocre sales person.
Must be able to converse about weather,
children, and the last time
a given sports team won its
highest honour.
Must have a favourite colour.
Outside interests should be minimal:
said sports teams, mystery novels,
travel within Zone 1 of a typical
credit card loyalty program.

Should not paint (houses are okay),
read poetry,
listen to indie music,
eat kale or quinoa.

Must be likeable.
But not too likeable.
Fashion sense may run
from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s.
May speak any foreign language
taught in the local school board
or that reflects personal heritage.

Avid television watcher preferred.