Thursday, 15 November 2018

graveyard shift revisited

this night ... I sat at the rime edged window of my childhood home
and watched my father walk away, in the moonlight of the velvet hour …
his lunch pail swinging – like a silent bell – hung from his leather mitt

my hands pressed against the frosted pane ... my heart ached ... as he
glanced back towards me and waved ... his cold face frozen in a mask
of resolve ... trudging ... trudging ... trudging ... until he disappeared

and I realized ... with that hard jolt of conscious thought that, often,
rescues us from sad imaginings of the mind ... that  I was in a dream …
for my father never owned a lunch pail ... and he never ... looked back

and so ... I slipped from that misty bitter and into the deep breaths of
my love, slumbering by my side ... and it came to me, upon the flutter
of a shiver ... it was his father in my dream ... and it was his story that I

had taken and cradled inside myself ... a story he had shared with me,
long ago, about his father's grave yard shift ... it began ... when his father,
would arise, in the hour before midnight ... bleary-eyed and rumpled …

he would eat the meal that had been prepared for him ...  bundle up and
head out into the dead of winter .... into  the icy blasts and white billows
of northern ontario ... in tough times he walked all the way to the mill

night after night, his son would run to the window, filled with anguish and
unshed tears for his father ... a boy, choking on the bitter pill of childhood:
too little to do work he longed to do ... helpless ... to have his dad's back

my love stirs ... and I can just make out his gray head of hair tousled on
the pillow ... soon, the notes of birdsong will, softly, pierce the predawn …
I pen a few reflections into my journal, and rest, now, in the gentle together

photo:  Worker's Meal (taken at the Port Moody Station Museum, Port Moody, BC) – W. Bourke 

© 2018 Wendy Bourke

Friday, 9 November 2018

On Looking and Leaping - a Tanka Prose Piece

Years ago, shortly after we had moved to Vancouver, I got on a bus ... to nowhere.  I thought it was going to the University.  Instead the bus tore off in the opposite direction.  Upon inquiry, I discovered, I was on my way to Maple Ridge.   EGADS ... I was being carried off to another town!   For whatever reason –  I had boarded a bus with the wrong number.  In my alarm, I did something, very stupid.  I pulled the chord for the next stop, and jumped off.  And there I was:  plucked from a reasonably pleasant commute, and abracadabra'ed into a discombobulated bag lady – sans bag – in one fell swoop.  I didn't own a cell phone and there were no businesses nearby where I might make a call.  I had not looked – before I leapt.  Straightaway, I knew, I had done a really dumb thing.  

No vehicle ... no phone ... and WOWZERS ... no sidewalk.  The road being more akin to a highway, than a street, I found myself set adrift, on foot,  in a  decidedly non pedestrian place.  I remember thinking:  somewhere in this world ... a pot of tea is steeping ... there is music and laughter and baskets of kittens .... there are books to be read and hugs to be given … and in this glorious moment ... I have chosen to do this.  What is the matter with me!?!?!

I began walking along the shoulder for what turned out to be a nightmarish distance, back to the bus interchange where it had all gone, horribly, wrong.   It was the morning rush hour and the traffic was wild.  And then as luck would have it  it started to rain.  Soon, I was stumbling in a blur of puddles and mud – bereft of umbrella – in downpour and car splashes.  The absurdity of the situation – a situation of my own making – has never left me, nor has my shock at the speed with which a bad choice can send life, spiralling into a torrential abyss.  Eventually, I managed to slog my way out of that miserable trek, though the specter of my recklessness would remain with me, from that day forward.  It has given me the gift of 'pause', whenever folly loomed.

walking in a storm
it becomes clear to me –
there are reflections
that were not there
before the rains came

photo:  Rainy Day Dice - W. Bourke

© 2018 Wendy Bourke

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

scene dissolve

this chilly Tuesday  in the slate gray demeanor of a late
October afternoon  wrapped in Beethoven's Moonlight 
Sonata … day's end yawns ... and begins to dim, as the 
vespertine hour … gently … seeps into scene dissolve

the heat is kicking in, for the first time this autumn …
I smell the dust of summer ... it huffs and puffs, exhaled
from electric coils ... as redolent as any scent that has
fragranced my life ... this one:  the nip of  'home in fall'

I had forgotten the cozy glow of safe-haven coming into
view at the end of a slow meandering play and dawdle
home from school ... a peak frean shortbread dipped
in fairy tea waiting for me ... just beyond the green door

trees outside my window have almost shed their gold ...
their wood bone arms, rise up … and crack the sky …
a wisp of reminiscence stirs in dust and lugwig's notes …
and drifts … on the … held breath ... of time gone by

note:  fairy tea - milk served in a teacup with a pinch of sugar and a splash of tea, to take the chill off.

photo:   Tonight's Halloween- taken in 2011 by W. Bourke

© 2018 Wendy Bourke 

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

you never forget the nice ones - a tanka prose piece

I looked up from my hometown's October obituary postings and murmured, " A girl I knew, years old, died this week."

"Did you know her well?" M asked, glancing from his book.

"Not well ... not very well at all, actually.  She was a couple of grades ahead of me in high school.  Now that I think about it, it's kinda odd that I knew her at all.  I remember once, she was at the sink next to me in the girl's washroom and she said, "You write a column for the school newspaper, don't you?  I love your writing."

let the words flow
a stranger
has cheered my pen to paper …
how can I not
take inspiration

"Another time, she mentioned that I looked awesome in turquoise,"  I chuckled, more to myself, than aloud, lingering  momentarily bemused  somewhere between the inexplicable  and the extraordinary ... to have recalled such a tiny smattering of conversation, over half a century.
"Later," I continued, "we both worked at the university  different departments  but, periodically, I'd run into her and she was, invariably, so ... lovely.  She was like that ... just a lovely girl ... so nice ... she had that sunshine-twinkles-in-a-sea-of-blooms 'thing' going on ... and I smiled.

autumn garden
amongst the dying flowers
bittersweet gratitude
for what was …
always - it rises as a revelation

"I really didn't know her well at all, but ... you know ..."  I paused to contemplate my words, astonishing myself at the depth of loss that I suddenly felt sweeping through me.   What was this loss, I was feeling? ... Grief:  at the passing of a sweet girl ... Sorrow:  at the disintegration of a congeniality that I have come to associate with a gentler time; when kind pleasantries were scattered round, customarily, like petals down a bridal path.  Or was it, simply, a selfish portent, that my own mortality drew nearer with every death of a peer.
"... you never forget the nice ones," M remarked, after a time, finishing my sentence for me.

"No, you never forget the nice ones," I reiterated in a sigh of remembrance ... deeply drawn, with a wistful ache ... validation to  the truth of it. 

nearing journey's end …
I begin to discern
there is wisdom to be gleaned
in the profundity
of what remains

photo:  Along the Road Near the Exit to Stanley Park, Vancouver - M.S. Bourke

© 2018 Wendy Bourke

Friday, 19 October 2018

that part of the street

that part of the street was a dazzling labyrinth of fine filaments ...
an enchanted tapestry – assiduously woven – in ever altering
stitches of moments, faintly flecked in glum and glow and gleam

there was, about the place, a sense of community, as if intrinsic 
– a gossamer eloquence in nuance and depth of caring, gently 
given – that quietly bolstered resilient strength in troubled times

for all of the people who lived there ... the street was a layer of
identity ... it was home … it was 'just right' ... and it was as comfy 
as a wool coat old and worn but still, far too dear, to cast away

the neighbourhood abided eternal change ... sometimes, it was
splashed in gray drizzle ... sometimes, it shimmered in sparkles
of snowflakes – making it appear much prettier than it really was

but it always fascinated ... with its ebb and flow and blossoming
and transmogrifications ... its canvas colors multi-splendoring
by hue of day – or the state of the world – or the spirit of the soul

comings and goings, on that stage, had an odd aspect of improv
theatre … the ripple of laughter on whiffle winds – a dog barks –
a door slams – a child is summoned, by name, home to bedtime

eyes closed ... you might know you were there by the fragrances
it effused ... fir trees and whiffs of sausages – grass and lilacs –
fresh tar – burning leaves, in the slap and holler of street hockey

as the years passed, the houses acquired little 'custom' qualities
and quirks ... relics of diy inspiration and individuality and thrift –
marks of those who had inhabited that patch of earth ... for a time

and though, I doubt, that I will walk that part of the street again …
now and then, I come upon my old wool coat, and – in redolent
threads of memory … as sure as my heart beats … I am there … 

photo:  That Part of the Street – W. Bourke

© 2018 Wendy Bourke

Thursday, 11 October 2018

I was the one

I was the one who was first – in my class – to get glasses.
I was the one who memorized snippets of poetry – and
lied about it. I was the one, my father called 'Bird'. I was
the one who made tissue paper poppies in all the wrong
colors and had imaginary sword fights and practiced
yodelling, while I dressed for school. I was the one who
wouldn't step on a crack and gagged at the smell of oranges
and walked on my toes – though it hurt like the dickens.

I was the one who crossed my eyes, whenever I was taken
by surprise – and – despite my granny's fervent predictions
they would stay that way, forever ... I was the one spared
that googly-eyed fate. I was the one who didn't catch
the baton. I was the one who had to stand in the corner,
when the boy behind poked me in the back to ask what
page we were on.  I was the one who tripped into a hornet's
nest. I was the one, most often, told to 'Sit still' and 'Shush'.

I was the one who worried for days, that a tree was growing
in my tummy after I accidentally swallowed an apple seed.
I was the one who talked with an English accent when we
played board games and tied my shoes with bunny-ears and
and couldn't snap my fingers. I was the one who got hiccups 
from pop ... that threatened to never stop. I was the one
who held time in my hands, catching the sunlight  – just so – on 
the crystal of my mother's watch, a lifetime ago ... that was me

                                            … I was the one

Photos: Me:  Now and Then (top photo with Ed).  

© 2018 Wendy Bourke 

Thursday, 4 October 2018

empower the girl

It has been a very bad week for women ... a very bad week.  Something I never could have imagined happening:  has happened.  The world's most powerful leader, has seen fit to step before supporters and cameras and launch into a diatribe that openly mocked and demeaned a victim of sexual assault - seemingly ridiculing her for having the audacity to come forward, as part of the constitutional confirmation process - with information that she believed drew into question the suitability of an individual seeking appointment to the highest court in the federal judiciary of a democratic country.

What a sad, sad spectable.  How does one raise a woman, in such times as these?  I really don't have a definitive answer to that question.  Several years ago I wrote down a few impressions.  I would be interested if readers have any thoughts to add.

~  ~  ~
empower the girl:
Teach her to light a lantern and hold it high, to tell the truth, to own up to her mistakes, to listen and never stop questioning, and to be respectful, empathetic and fair in her dealings.

empower the girl:
Encourage her to find serenity in solitude and introspection; but, allow her to explore her world and be exposed to – and tolerant of – new ideas, so that she is inspired to think, create and innovate.

empower the girl:
Talk to her about making intelligent choices – with an open heart – for a strong, nurturing woman, never surrenders to being a victim.

empower the girl:
Sprinkle positive affirmations throughout her life so that she remains true to herself, puts forth her best efforts with confidence, and recognizes the good qualities in others.

empower the girl:
Seek her counsel and advice, admire her laughter and her wit, tell her that she is wonderful and give her unconditional love and respect.

empower the girl.

[Published in the Voices Project: Empowering Women through Self-Expression:  9/10/15.]

~  ~  ~
"The story of women's struggle for equality 
belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization
 but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."
- Gloria Steinem 
~  ~  ~

note:  Yep, that’s me pictured, walking the line, at a legal Canadian Union of Public Employees job action, shortly before my retirement.  CUPE is Canada’s largest union and women comprise over half of the membership.  Pictured with me, is the WONDERFUL all-grown-up-girl in my life – my daughter, Brynn (probably the most empowered woman that I know) joining me, in solidarity.  She is a feminist, an activist and an organizer on several Provincial and Federal political campaigns – and (the picture says it all) she is a dedicated Labour Unionist.  I really do believe, in the words of Hillary Clinton:  It takes a village.  In the Acknowledgments in her Master’s Thesis, Brynn paid tribute to the many, many people who have influenced her life in a positive way.  She wrote (in part):  “I would like to thank my mother, father and brothers, for believing in me and always making me feel that I had the strength to achieve anything that I put my mind to.”  What a joy it is to have such a woman in one’s life!  AND she and her husband host the most incredible dinners – to boot!  Thoughtful, empowered women Make Good Things Happen!

photo:  Mother and Daughter – Walking the Line in Solidarity.

© 2015 Wendy Bourke   

Friday, 28 September 2018

Thoughts on Winter's First Snowfall (Penned: In the Long Await)

The idea behind this piece came to me, as we approached October.  Growing up in Northern Ontario, in the 50's, we often had our first snowfall, by the Canadian Thanksgiving (the second Monday in October) – and thus, I find my thoughts still running on that timetable ... though, living on the West Coast, as I do now, I feel fortunate, if we manage a snowfall once or twice, over the course of the entire winter season.  I admit, I do miss that first snowfall of the season, very much.  In my childhood, it was magic.  It made the world whiter, brighter and (perhaps, surprisingly) – lighter.  It changed the sights and sounds of our little town, dramatically.  And it gave us the 'heaven sent' opportunity to confer snow angels EVERYWHERE ... on EVERYTHING.  Recently, I have been hankering to take on a bit of rhyme and (loose) form, having fallen away from that, lately.   So - while I didn't consciously, decide to take this piece in that direction - it found its way there, on its own.   

there is no snow
in this strange place
no snow
to softly shroud and drape
– in swags of drift and hoarfrost lace –
dead branch and bloom and withered weed,
in barren garden, gone to seed …
there is no snow

there is no snow
in this strange place
no snow
to cushion a hard fall
– and disappear, with scarce a trace –
footprints where footprints should not be,
in stumbled steps ... and blind folly …
there is no snow

there is no snow
in this strange place
no snow
to blunt or shush the sound
– of cruel words wildly spat in haste –
nor quell the angst ... nor cloak the squall …
nor lift the heart with its enthrall …
there is no snow

there is no snow
in this strange place
no snow
for angels 'round the home
– to spirit forth, bright peace and grace –
in lantern moon ... in hushed twilight …
no snow to bathe the world in white …
there is no snow

photo:  Thoughts on Winter's First Snowfall (Penned:  In the Long Await) - W. Bourke

© 2018 Wendy Bourke

Friday, 21 September 2018

that part of the beach


when we, plodding walk  along the ocean's edge ...
our vanishing footsteps, in wet sand … invariably,

we find ourselves –  he and me on that part of the beach

that part of the beach that sinks cast down and lonely
in the damp … for it is always – inexplicably  so misty
cold and mud claggy, whenever we are there

it is it seems to me 
a barren gothic cliffhanger of a space

framed by ocean, sky and mountains … a good place
for a 'fallen' woman, clutching a threadbare shawl about

her tiny shoulders  to peer with fixed vacancy at ships
coming in:  waiting for her lover to return to her and for the
life she should have had  to begin  on that part of the beach

or so, it comes to me … drifts to me so easily, standing at
her story's edge … in the salt sea breeze of a thousand years ...
I alone … I alone … routing for her happily ever after …

occasionally, a robust jogger bursts, out of nowhere, 
incongruously flabbergasting the plotbefore barrelling off 
back-to-the-future in top-of-the-line athletic wear heading in

the general direction of the concession stand and the parking lot …
usually, when that happens, I smile and he asks, bemused, with 
an inquiring eye: what's with you … and this part of the beach?

and I realize, he looks at my face at least, now and then when
I am unaware ... and I smile, again for real, the second time …
a tiny lovely, in all the centuries of women's sadnesses 

note:  A cliffhanger is a plot device in fiction which features a main character in a precarious or difficult dilemma.  It is thought to have originated with the 1873 novel A Pair of Blue Eyes, by Thomas Hardy (which originally appeared in serial form in a newspaper, as was common at the time) in which Henry Knight, one of the protagonists, is left literally hanging off a cliff.

photo:  That Part of the Beach on the Burrard Inlet - W. Bourke

© 2013 Wendy Bourke

Friday, 14 September 2018

a little ritual

I am become a creature of rituals in my dotage ... little rituals, I find, bestow a measure of order and calm in the chaos of all that, which cannot be controlled

my favorite ritual is my after supper lemon balm tea ... as I make it tonight, the girl with the sky blue bag, beaded with butterflies, comes to me

several years ago, my back went into spasm ... that, by way of explanation,  is how I ended up in a hospital emergency ward sitting next to the girl with the beautiful hand stitched purse

I noticed her breathing – great spasmatic gasps – before I put it together that she was in an agony far beyond mine – which had not wrung a single tear from me

when she caught my sideways glance she shrugged and wiped her eyes and whispered ... 'Life.'

I nodded – my spirit – deeply sympatico having, myself, not entirely, been spared the hard blows of anguish and despair ... silently, I wished I could make her a cup of lemon balm tea or, possibly, camomile would better suit for drying tears

~ ~ ~
there is a ritual to tea …
there is the whistle of the kettle, which in my house is bright red …
there is the pouring of hot water over leaves …
there is the fragrant steam – wafts of transportive magic in the enchanted still –  
and in that moment, for all I know, The Bloomsbury Group could be a breath away from my front door – just in time for tea and biscuits and a rousing read through a passage of A Room with a View or, perhaps, Mrs. Dalloway

then, of course, there is the cuppa ...
the cozy warmth that it imparts cradled in hands ...
the aromatic tendrils of vapour that have wisped round every snug and mellow scene ever painted on canvas or on page …

and finally ... the finale-of-the-sips, that are said-by-some to restore the harshest day and soothe the jaggedest of nerves – a reputation I subscribe to with single-minded resolve, lest questioning diminish the potency of assuaging properties

~ ~ ~

'I wish I could make you tea,' I spoke gently, by way of acknowledging her pain …

she smiled a wet smile, then, and said: 'Do you think it would help'

'Sometimes little things help a little bit,' I responded, my finger alighting momentarily upon one of her butterflies, perched on the arm of the chair between us … 'and a little bit is better than nothing'

she tilted her head slightly, thoughtfully, it seemed and sighed, 'Yes ... I think so, too … A little bit better is better than nothing' 

Photo: A window of the Bloomsbury Park where Mike and I stayed on a trip to London  - W. Bourke

© 2018 Wendy Bourke