Monday, 14 December 2015

Ode to the waiting area of the Chelsea Piers Skating Rink

he dies bravely, in battle
the white wooden table smeared with blood
or ketchup maybe

moments before,
a claim laid to his seat
two overwrought mothers and a Korean nanny
they bring with them five children
their pepperoni pizzas dripping grease
that scalds him

he cries out in pain
math homework strewn across his lap
reading comprehension piled atop his head
a muffled scream
he is not heard

three iPads ignite
their war cries blare
all options of escape have passed
muddy boots mangle any remaining calm
a herd of rhinoceros children
puddles two feet deep

he drowns in cell phone conversations
the nanny cannot turn off voice dictation
she stabs at her phone with flexed index finger
it pierces his heart

each amoeba child splits and multiplies
now twenty hands heave snot,
he can no longer see
two of the children have farted probably

the end comes quickly
all daylight fades away
he is swept under the table
the nanny still cannot turn off voice dictation

Friday, 11 December 2015

Light into the darkness

Sarah, the pint-sized eight year-old girl I take care of, had a couple of choice quotes yesterday:

The first was,

"I give my parents a gift every day. The gift of me."

Fair enough.

It's the second thing she said however, that struck an interesting chord with me:

"Isn't Hannukah just about giving gifts and receiving gifts and being thankful that you are getting gifts?"

Well, in my experience, not really.

Growing up we never really exchanged gifts on Channukah, save for little things here and there, probably thrown in so that we children wouldn't feel left out when our friends came to school bragging of their Christmas present hauls. To this day my most frequent Channukah present from my mother is simply a calendar; one year she got me one with different types of chilli peppers on it which was quite exciting since I really like spicy food.

But I digress.

Within the space that could be filled with the exchanging of presents, we were free instead to focus on the traditions, rituals and themes that accompany this holiday. I've always loved Channukah; the songs and blessings are pretty, it's fun to light the candles, the stories we commemorate are great and there are few things better than those wonderful, warm latkes my mom makes. However, it was only after I moved away from home that I began to really identify with one of the central messages of Channukah- spreading light into the darkness.

I've taken a lot of pride over the years in lighting my small menorah, watching the glow spread from the waxy watchmen on my windowsill. It's always felt easy to be connected to my family when I light the candles, since the whole ritual is meant to symbolize spreading light into the world. This message has always seemed very universal to me and appears all the more poignant with such a dearth of light in this world right now. The powers of evil stemming from middle eastern deserts are casting a thick blanket of fear and hatred, while at at home domestic terrorism has more than reared its ugly head. So the idea of filling the world with a little light-that a tiny flame can penetrate even the deepest darkness? I can certainly get on board with that.

Further more, I've always found the process of sitting by the candles once I've lit them to be an extremely meditative, calming experience. This particular Channukah however, it occurred to me that I had been missing an even deeper message lying within this concept of light displacing dark. For as I sat on my bed looking at the candles, I realized that yes, anyone in the apartment buildings across the way from me could see my menorah, and that I was succeeding in illuminating some darkness. But even more so, I noticed that the glow that was filling my own room. I began to think that maybe rather than just sending light outwards on Channukah, we should be reminded to send it back inside as well. That when are depressed or sad or anxious or angry or whatever black tar might be seeping into our subconscious that day, we can allow a little flame of positivity to illuminate our mind- to know that even when we are at our worst, there is always that tiny little light inside of us, that small voice telling us to keep going, that we'll be alright.

Often it's so hard to trust that such a little light could possibly make a difference when faced with overwhelming negativity or darkness. And so we ignore or extinguish those hopeful thoughts and don't even bother trying to do the little things that cheer us up, thinking to ourselves that "something so small couldn't possibly make a difference." But it can.

In one part of the Channukah story, despite being greatly outmatched, a tiny group of Jewish soldiers manages to overcome the far larger and better outfitted Greek army; here are our little candles, sending light into the chasm out our windows. And here then is our own hope, our own small, positive voice, shining its little flame into the darkness of our bad days. All we need to do is sit with our candles, trust their ability to displace even just a little bit of night and whatever armies may march against us, won't stand a chance.

So this Channukah if you are feeling  sad or anxious or angry, and you have begun to doubt that those small remedies even work, place a little faith that even the simplest of actions- like kindling the lights of a set of wax candles- can help dispel your clouds. So do that 5 min of meditation you worried wouldn't make a difference, take that walk around the block, go see the new star wars movie- do something small that makes you happy. You'd be surprised how far that little bit of  light can take you.

Happy Channukah everyone!  

Monday, 19 October 2015


There are fairies inside your mouth.
I know they're in there
because you keep your lips pressed together so they cannot escape.
I hear them beat their tiny fists against the backs of your teeth.
I see them try to squirm out the corners of your mouth,
which sometimes looks like you're just smiling at me a little,
but I know better.

There are fairies inside your mouth.
They each want to tell me something
but they can't find a way past your lips,
so they jump on your tongue like a trampoline
and bang their little heads on your hard palate.

There are fairies inside your mouth.
You sigh them out with little huffs of breath;
send them tumbling down your arms,
but they disappear into your hands before they can deliver their message.

I wish you would stick your tongue way out,
let them march down to the very tip
so they could leap softly into my ear.

For the fairies that are inside your mouth
are the ones that I want to hear.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

White Stone Walls

Once, while wandering through a forest far from home,
I came across a palace amidst the trees.

Its walls were made of smooth white marble
and its ivy covered gates were tall, at least three stories
high. I had never seen such a beautiful palace before
so I approached its great doors, only to find them bolted shut-
locked tightly against the wind and rain I supposed.

Each day I returned to that spot in the woods
and tried the hardest I could to open the gates.
I stroked their great stone, fiddled with their locks
but still I remained outside, alone.
Weeks passed and I began to wonder more and more
at what lay beyond those walls.
It soon became the focus of my every day
as I tried hard to find a way to steal inside.

Until one evening, as the sun waned over the trees,
I looked up to watch the breeze
flutter the great flags atop the milky walls;
The marble was white
and yet it blushed, a living, breathing pink in the light.
I was so struck by what I saw before me that that without any warning
I spoke to the great gates themselves:

You are the most beautiful palace I have ever seen,
I said to the walls.
Your turrets are tipped in silver,
your ramparts spiral high,
and yet each day when I come to meet you,
it seems there's even more there than what meets the eye.

And with a creak and a shudder the doors suddenly opened wide.

Just inside there was a garden, filled with purple aster and sunflowers galore.
A bright light filtered down through the trees finding fairies flitting from one plant to the next.
Each singing sprite seemed to have something important to say
and so I sat and listened to the secrets of the white stone palace.
I heard stories of the cracks in the walls
and the princes who once roamed its halls
and I remained in the light with the fairies through the night
and all the way until the next day came.

Each afternoon I returned to the palace and it gently opened its doors
so I could enter its lovely, warm garden.
As far as I could tell I was the only one allowed past the great gates and walls
and quite quickly I began to fall in love
with the light and the fairies and the flowers.
Each day I swept all the towers that had grown dusty and cold,
pulling weeds, raking leaves and polishing the smooth white marble.

All the time I spent in the garden made me believe in magic again
and so I couldn't quite tell you just exactly when
it happened, but one day I realized I hadn't been home in weeks.

My cheeks were rosy and my heart was full
but I knew that if I left my house alone for too long
its paint would chip, its wood would rot
and the grass in my own little garden would grow wild.
I suddenly felt like I'd left a child all alone
and I knew right then that I had to return home.

Don't go! the magic garden begged, I need you to stay.
It's not often that anyone comes through the forest this way
and I've begun to rely so much on your company each day-
won't you please stay just a little while longer?

I can't, I said sadly, I must take care of my home
it wasn't fair of me to leave it for weeks, all alone.

The garden was quiet and in that moment I felt that something very small had changed.

But I made a promise to her that I'd return very soon
and with with tears in my eyes I bid the garden goodbye
as I began to trudge back home through the woods.

When I finally reached my house I found the floors a mess, dishes in the sink,
and the plants in my garden looking like they could use, well, a drink.
So for a whole seven days I watered the grass, I cleaned and I dusted,
even oiling the rusted hinges of my little blue front door.

It did made me happy to be back in my home but
I missed being inside the palace's walls
so without the slightest hesitation at all
the next day I set out again into the woods.

It took me a while to find my way back
and when I finally arrived at the tall stone gates
I noticed that they did not swing open.
I told them they'd been missed,
even dared to plant a kiss on the white marble walls
but still they remained tightly shut.

The forest was quiet, though the trees seemed to sigh.
And the gates remained closed as many hours passed me by.

Sad and alone,
I circled the palace walls,
when suddenly I noticed a tiny piece missing from one of the stones.
The hole was quite small but gave a clear view inside
and so I pressed up my eye against the wall and looked.

There was the garden.
All filled with flowers and a lovely warm light
that danced across fairies who flitted from sight
and the air was still touched with magic.

I could just faintly hear the sound of the fairies' sweet songs
and I stood there at the wall for a very long time indeed.

Just, listening.