Poetry

The last dream(er)

Starry Eye 2

RIP Bill Rundle/Paul Valliere, you will be missed.

The last dream(er)
By: Star Spider

I picture you:
eyes closed,
facing the long night,
with your head held high.

The sigh of your breath a whisper,
speaking the cosmic truth
only a mind such as yours
would dare to consider.
Behind those paper thin lids,
scribbling on the walls;
a mad poet, the last dreamer,
dreaming the very last dream.

maybe:

a field of yellow lilies,
pungent with a fragrance that recalls your childhood,
a sky so blue your heart bleeds,
at the thought of all that missing red spectrum.

maybe:

a future so green your appendix is rediscovered,
and the verdant taste of chlorophyll
traces a winding garden path
through the dark corners of your mind.

maybe:

a sky unfurling like an infinite backdrop,
swirling primordial gasses, the spilled guts of stars,
a billion black holes with a trillion celestial bodies,
all dancing, singing, calling you home.

Light,
waterfalls,
pulsars,
smiles,
poetry,
love,
biology,
grace,
heaven,
puns,
laughter,
pens,
pencils,
paper,
peace.

I would give you every one as your last.

“I feel safer knowing you’re out there,”
you once told me,
and I said I felt the same about you.
I mean it still.

So now I picture you:
eyes closed,
facing the eternal day,
with your head held high.

A mad poet, the last dreamer,
dreaming the very last dream.

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Story Notes

Amako

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I’m excited to announce that my story ‘Amako‘ is now available for purchase at Found Press, a delightful online publisher with a fabulous library of short stories from many outstanding and talented writers.

My collaboration with Found Press has been amazing, this is definitely the first time I’ve had a story completely edited head to toe with the help of an editor (a very talented one in fact – Byran Ibeas). We bounced the story back and forth many times and Bryan made loads of amazing suggestions that I feel polished my story into a gleaming sea pearl.

It was an exciting process because editing is awesome. It’s an art in and of itself (as I have been learning from the ongoing editing of my debut novel with my lovely agent) and if you are working with the right person it can be a fun learning experience. I loved getting the benefit of Bryan’s perspective and I walked away with a much better story because of his editing wisdom, thanks Bryan!

Another thing that’s exciting about this publication is it’s my first interaction with royalties. I put a lot of time and effort into writing short stories and it’s not often that I see much in the way of monetary reimbursement. Now I don’t write fiction with money as my starting goal, but I am certainly happy when I can make some (who isn’t?). So for the very first time I can say that with the purchase of either a subscription to Found Press or the purchase of Amako, you will be supporting me directly (and Found Press’s continued publication of great fiction)!

And finally a quick story note about Amako…

I was inspired to learn more about Ama (Japanese pearl diving women) when I read an article by a photographer who went home to Japan to document their lives. I can’t find his article now, but I wanted to link to some pictures that were similar to those that inspired me.

Writing Advice

I think it might be magic…

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If I believed in magic that’s what I would tell you writing is.



The firing of specific synapses, the chemical cascade that transmutes the scent of a particular perfume into a fifteen hundred word short story, the fall leaves into rhyming poetry, your brutal breakup into a seventy thousand word novel.

It’s an ancient magic, recalled from distant cold nights huddled around fires, trading tales of news from far off lands, keeping the shadows subdued and enchanted. It’s ritualistic: reliant on special pens, specific desks, a certain walking route, a routine we know by heart, that sweet annihilation of reason, a sip of wine at midnight, or the writing sweater we refuse to wash.

We seek out other’s magic rhythms too, the successful among us, we gather at their feet and beg for their secrets. Do you rise early, before the sun? Do work in the morning, or the afternoon? Have a light lunch? Take a stroll at 3pm exactly? Stay up late? Because we’ve heard that’s a sign of greater intelligence. And they kindly share their magic recipes with us; their steps to plot and puzzle, to know your characters deeply, meaningfully, to personify your settings, objects, animals, plants. They tell us of their habits, their secrets, and we absorb them, make them our own.

That moment of inspiration is magic as well; a conversation overheard out of context, a furtive look on the face of a passerby, a thing out of place in an ordinary setting. It would strike like lightning if that wasn’t so cliche. Instead it’s a burned finger on the stove, numb with shock but unforgettable.

And finally there’s a flurry of magic words, scrawled on paper or composed on the blank screen, a flashing cursor moving endlessly ahead of letters forming perfect incantations, designed to cast a spell, a trance. And when it’s over we awaken, unsure of what we’ve done, feeling a satisfying loss, an emptying out. A bruise on our knee we never noticed before. How did that get there?


Maybe it’s unhelpful to say it’s magic though.

Maybe it’s too easy.

It’s a craft, you say, a practice, a discipline.

But I think there’s something worthwhile in believing in magic, just for a second, even for an unbeliever like me. Because magic is the world of make-believe and that’s where we, as writers, want to be. Magic reminds us of the unknown, the yet to be invented, the mystical, the sacred, the beautiful. Magic reminds us we are all connected to our imaginations, to our memories of things that never were.


Also, maybe magic can allow us to believe in ourselves.

 To believe that moment of inspiration will come again, even if it’s been gone for years. To believe that we have a whole universe inside of us that’s waiting to be written, that we are connected to those ancient ancestors of ours who told stories because that’s what humans do. Maybe believing it’s magic could help us when we’ve hit the wall, because with magic we can walk through walls, or move them, or fly over them on our broomsticks, or turn them into cotton candy and eat our way through. Maybe if we believe it’s magic when things get hard we can remember why we opened that document to begin with, why we put our pen to paper.

Maybe magic can be our placebo, the pill we take to tell ourselves our the headache is all in our heads.

I think it might be magic, so go on, write me a spell.

Random

Random Conversations: Our cab driver

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Me: Hi!

Driver: Hi! How are you tonight?

Me: Good, how are you?

Driver: I’m 1000% better than I was last night!

Me: Wow! Really? Why?

Driver: Well two weeks ago I went to bed…if you’re interested I’ll tell you my story…

Me: Of course!

Driver: Well two weeks ago I went to bed and I laid down on my left side, I started feeling all dizzy. On my right side no, but my left side so dizzy. I think it’s called vertigo…

Me: Wow, yikes!

Driver: So I ran to the pharmacist because I thought maybe I was having a heart attack…but no, my blood pressure was fine.


Me: Whew!

Driver: So I went to the doctor and he looked in my ear and I had an ear infection and ear wax! So he gave me some drops…

Me: That’s good! Ear infections are bad! I get wax buildup too, it’s bad.

Driver: So then I had this head pain…

Me: Oh no! Like a migraine?

Driver: No, like…I don’t know how to say it…like my head is empty…(laughs)

Me: (Laughs) Oh that’s not good!

Driver: No! So I went and had my ears…well they put a thing in and lit the end on fire…

Me: Candling?

Driver: Yeah candling! There was so much wax (holds up fingers to show how much wax). And my head feels better!

Me: Oh no, I think that’s not real. I think it’s a scam…you should have your doctor clear the wax out for you. They use this big metal syringe and fill it with water and shoot the water into your ear. It’s not very nice, but it works!

Driver: It’s a scam? No! I don’t think so! (Looks weirded out)

Me: Yeah I used to do it, but then I found out it was a scam!

Driver: No!

Me: Did you ask your doctor?

Driver: Yeah. And my naturopath.


Me: (Internal sigh) Oh, well I could be misinformed, I’ll ask my doctor, but I’m pretty sure it’s not real.


Driver: (Shakes his head)

Silence.

Driver: Well I was on Facebook the other day and I saw something about India…you know they were going to hang a prisoner.

Me: What?!


Driver: Yeah he was a criminal, so he was going to hang…that’s what they do there.

Me: Yikes!

Driver: Yeah, so they asked if they could do an experiment and the government said yes, so they took him and said instead of hanging, they were going to kill him with a cobra. And they showed him a cobra. Then they blindfolded him, because that’s what they do when they hang you, and they took two needles…they wanted it to feel like a cobra bite and they ‘bit’ him. Then guess what? He died! And they found cobra poison in his blood!


Ben: (Quietly) Maybe he had a heart attack.

Me: (Louder) Maybe he had a heart attack!

Driver: No! But they found cobra poison in his blood!


Me: Well maybe he got bit by a snake earlier!

Driver: (Laughs)

Me: I don’t think people just randomly have snake venom in their blood without getting bitten.


Driver: Well the body had lots of things in it, so maybe…

Me: Probably not venom…we would be in trouble if we were just walking around with venom in our blood!

Driver: (Laughs) Yeah…

Me: I’m surprised the government let them do that experiment.

Driver: Oh you can do anything you want in India. The government doesn’t care, they just want to get rich and for their friends to get rich.


Me: That’s kind of scary.

Driver: Yeah.


Me: Is that where you’re from? India?


Driver: Yeah!

Me: Oh cool, how long have you been here.?

Driver: 25 years.

Me: Oh, a long time then! Do you like it better in India or here in Canada?

Driver: Oh here of course. It’s much better here.



Me: Do you ever visit India?



Driver: Oh yes I went last month. We visited my wife’s brother…

Me: Nice!

Driver: Yes.

Long silence, Ben and I talk amoungst ourselves.

Driver: (Eventually) You talk about scams, you can’t trust anybody you know…you know even Volkswagen scams people!

Me: I know, it’s very hard to trust people, you have to be so careful. Oh! It’s a right up here and just drop us on the corner! Thank you so much! Goodnight!

Driver: Goodnight!

Events

Upcoming Reading: The EW Reading Series

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On Tuesday the 8th of September I will be sharing the stage with some fabulous writers at the Emerging Writers Reading Series in Toronto.

The reading is in a pub on Bloor St. West so you can get some food and drink. I will be hitting the stage last at 9:30pm but there are three other readers before me, so come at 8pm to get in on all the literary action!

I hope to see you there.

Date: Tuesday September 8, 2015
Time: 8pm
Location: Duffy’s Tavern – 1238 Bloor St. W. Toronto
Facebook Event

Random

How we won at summer

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It started with Auggie’s Ice Pops.

We picked a couple up from our awesome local cupcakeitorium Life is Sweet and headed back to our place to do some good old fashioned summer stoop sitting with dripping popsicles. It was epic. The sun was beating down and melting the popsicles to a perfect drip down the stick and onto our fingers. The day was hot and there was a lovely breeze rustling leaves of the big maple tree out front of our old apartment.

We live in a hundred year old walk up with about eighteen apartments in it, right next to a twin building with another eighteen apartments. The place is full of ‘character’ but it leaks like a sieve so it’s stifling in the summer and freezing in the winter. The amount of character in it is a fair trade off though and we stay because it’s pretty sweet digs, the rent is cheap and it’s a block away from the beach.

Back to the stoop. We’re eating our ice pops (crammed with fresh Ontario fruits with some crazy delicious flavours like Ontario blueberry lime mint and strawberry basil lemonade) and they’re melting all over the place. We’re on the concrete front steps of our building and I say, “This is some pretty good popsicle eating/stoop sitting” and Ben says, “Yeah but wouldn’t it better if we had some nice Muskoka chairs?”

Ben’s the kind of guy who always wants to get just the right bit of equipment for the moment. That’s one of the many things I love about him.


It just so happened that we’d passed some of those Muskoka chairs on the way home with our ice pops at the local hardwareitorium Home Hardware.


So we finished our ice pops, smacked our blueberry stained lips and took off to grab the chairs.

I wanted to get purple, but after a lengthy discussion we decided on a nice, tasteful red. Ben said it was more Canadian and ultimately (although I love purple) I agreed.

We lugged them over our heads to get them home, much to the delight of our neighbours (the Beaches is like a small town, very sociable and everyone has a comment when you are doing something slightly odd).


Then we plopped the chairs down on our tiny slice of front lawn and wrote our address on them with a Sharpie (to dissuade someone from stealing them because they would have to look our address every time they went to sit in them and feel the burning guilt of the theft).

In our desire to eat future ice pops on Muskoka chairs though, we couldn’t have known that our simple purchase would cause a building revolution.

Word spread fast that we were the bringers of the chairs and people started congratulating us when they saw us around the building. “Amazing chairs” they would say. “They raise the property value of the building!”. But what’s more, those chairs quickly became occupied. And the next building over got some chairs of their own and soon the whole front of our building changed into the place to be.

There was food and wine being exchanged, people hanging out with beers and guitars. The building cat became an active presence by the chairs and neighbourhood dogs on their way to the beach were treated to dog cookies by the guy across the hall from us.

People thanked us and offered to somehow (in some obscure way) return the favour of the chairs. The chairs (and us by proxy) gained a bit of a celebrity status. Someone brought out a chain to chain them together to make them harder to steal because “Those are our chairs”, the building loves them and has claimed ownership.

Somehow these two red plastic chairs changed summer for us in the building. People hang out with each other more, because they have a nice place to sit. It’s amazing what fifty bucks and a whim can accomplish.

Personally, the chairs have improved our summer too. There was something about the communal outdoor activity of it that made me crave more summertime fun. We went swimming in the lake for the first time the other day, bought ping pong balls and paddles to play at the table they installed at the park down the street and I jogged for the first time in my life three days ago and kind of loved it.



The chairs were a gateway drug to summer.

And now I’m hooked.

Random

The oddity of (very) minor celebrity

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Ben and I are (extremely) minor celebrities.

We’ve been on TV a couple times now, once on a game show where we won cash for complying with a talking ATM and the other time a reality TV series where we talked about watching TV.


When we were first on the game show we lived in Etobicoke and apparently everyone in Etobicoke saw the show because people were constantly coming up to us and saying: ‘you were on that show!’. We would smile and say ‘yup!’ because what else can you say to such an open ended statement?

And now that the reality show we were on is playing on repeat on every possible channel we’re getting a lot more recognition on the streets.


Being a celebrity, however minor, is weird.


Because people don’t really want to talk to you. They want to say something at you and then walk away. Some people even come up to us and start talking as though continuing a conversation we were just having, launching into something random like we’re the best of friends. Then, when we’re thoroughly confused, squinting at them like we’re trying to see them better, they smile and say ‘I saw you on TV last night’.

They want to wave at you too, we’ve had some of that. But surprisingly no random stranger ever wants to, you know, have a conversation.

I’ve never fully understood the appeal of talking to celebrities. Sure I’ve had my moments as a kid, starstruck and hugging Drew Barrymore or Kurt Browning (woot woot professional figure skating), but as I got older I started to realize the people we see on TV are just people and I don’t really have much to say to people unless I know them or am forced into a socializing situation with them. 

So I guess that explains why people don’t say much besides ‘you’re on TV’ when they see us. Because ultimately we’re people and unless they’re planning to actually try to befriend us, we are strangers and they don’t really have anything to say to strangers.


But it begs the question of why they even bother to talk to us in the first place. Sure some people tell us they like the show, or that we’re funny, and the other day we had some kids who wanted us to do a shout out to them if we were ever on the show again (hi Adrian!). But some people don’t say anything about it, they just point out the fact that they recognize us and leave it awkwardly hanging after that.


So why do they do it? Is it just for a story to tell? Like are they going home and talking to their friends about how they saw those wacky kids from the TV? It seems unlikely, but possible. Or is it just a knee-jerk reaction to seeing someone vaguely and distantly familiar. Like that person across from you on the subway who you know you know from somewhere and you smile at just to be sure you’re not being rude? Do people feel it’s the polite thing to do to offer recognition to the recognizable?

It doesn’t bother me, it’s just kind of weird sometimes and fascinating (because humans are always fascinating to me).

And ours is only a very minor celebrity. I can’t even begin to imagine the strangeness or the disconnectedness of actually being famous.