Monday, October 1, 2007

Guatemala -Then and Again

Walking down into the valley, the streets are littered with people's lives, garbage.

Another day is done.

A man struggles to mount his bike, upon which many pounds of material are strapped, protected by a black trash bag, protected from the rain that pours on all the people who are trying to find their way home.

Behind him a small boy walks, shoeless and dirty. His dusty cheeks smile as he kicks an aluminum can, and his mother watches him with tired eyes. She balances a basket on her head and he reaches for her hand. The baby on her back looks on, past the garbage and the rain and his eyes are not fighting anything. He plays with his mother's hair.

An old woman sits crouched in the corner, beckoning for me to come to her. Small withered hands reach into a woven basket and pull out a lifetime of colour, so much colour that I wonder why we are ever needing anything else... this is all there is but it is beautiful and generous and I smile.

Behind her another old woman carries a pile of wood, held by a sash that pulls against her forehead. She is crying, and it is heavy, and her hands are also full.

I look down at my own empty hands and feel the sun on my hair, which is free to wander, pulled toward the sky. The sky is cloudy and it's eyes are angry, reaching with infinite hands, down to an earth that has been built and rebuilt.

Always shifting, the land hums and sighs, never quite settled.

Lovers sit in concrete bowls, tangled like the roots of ancient trees and I hear laughter beside me. Their eyes look past me to eachother; there is no one else around.

The men stumble home, following the shadows of lanterns and candlelight, and little boys are close behind, noses running as quickly as their tiny feet.

I hear these sounds and smile, knowing that to some this land is as familiar as anything could ever be.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

bus love

People sitting on stoops in front of houses where all the windows are broken

Some people sit inside of houses with no broken windows and I realize that

Freedom comes in all kinds of clever disguises

I keep my eyes open every second of the day

A man walks in the middle of the street, unaware that the bus follows him like a rabid dog

Another man gets onto the bus, talking loudly to everyone. The people stare at him like he is an alien

Some of them shake their heads. I turn down my Ipod so that I can hear what he is saying

I try to make eye contact but he will not look at me

His hair blows in the wind from the open window

Sometimes when I take the bus I close my eyes because I don't want to see anything.

Sometimes I look down at a book that I can't concentrate on, or focus on the music I am listening to.

But most of the time the bus is my muse.

A lot of my questions about life are answered on the bus, and when I have no questions sometimes I sit by a window, open it, and feel the wind on my face, pretending that I am somewhere else.

Sometimes I pretend that I am traveling through time.

I love the bus.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

laundry day

"It is incumbent upon us to understand everything in the universe."



I am sitting in the laundromat, listening to the same song over and over on my head phones.

Thinking about poverty, about how we all experience poverty in different ways. There is a man sleeping in the corner, I can see him in my peripheral vision; I have been watching him. The air around him is viscous, thick with the smell of alcohol and sniff. It is leaking from his pores, travelling with his blood, fuelling him for another day... another kind of sunset, a different kind of dawn.

When people walk by he opens his eyes and pretends that he is not sleeping. I watch him struggle to be comfortable in his chair, in his skin.

A woman walks in, alone, with ten or so garbage bags overflowing with laundry, huge sunglasses covering her face. She is anonymous, she keeps her head down. She reaches into her bags and pulls out her life, mechanical and grey, and I have to look away.

And my clothes spin and spiral beside a child whose mother is talking quietly on a cell phone. The child rests languidly on a chair, hypnotised by the humming lullaby of a world of machines.

Outside a man kicks a peice of garbage down the sidewalk, something that I remember doing when I was a child. His face is hidden by a hood, his own defense against the assault of a bitter winter wind. He too is alone.

There is a werewolf, a shapeshifter, at the pinball machine. His face is scarlet with frustration as he shouts at the glass in front of him.

Fuckin thing, he says, over and over again. In his mind someone is taking the one thing that he has left.


I think about a friend of mine who sits in her big house near the river, wishing that she was somewhere else, anywhere else. I think about her children, tucked snug into their beds by a mother and a father, surrounded, like this child beside me, by machines. I think about my own children.

The machines hum and help us sleep; without them there is the noise of love, we can hear our own hearts beat. Too much blood, we think, and feel faint. Flesh and tissue, liquid and energy. This is too real.

Poverty. We are all impoverished. Right now I am deprived of touch that I am craving, and the man in the corner is waiting for sleep. The woman in the sunglasses seeks invisibility and my friend, in the middle of all the noise, is praying for silence.

I dig into my pockets for another quarter.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


my house is in a shambles, and past the sunlight outside there is a river of darkness, just down the street from my house. yesterday i walked alongside that river, following it to the playground. i had no children with me, so i sat on a swing and looked around at all the women who had the courage to be mothers.

i sat on the swing and looked at the children, playing beside a river that held every answer to every mystery in this world.

it stretches alongside this sad, sleepy city, like a dark blue ribbon tied around a bouquet of dying flowers.

the snow drifts

embankment, a word that i know means fortress or mainstay, this snow protects me from the earth. snowbank.

the sunlight and then moonlight turn the snow to a dazzling, glittering river of a different kind. the kind that i could bury myself in, rubbing it on my cheeks until the dark-river smell left my skin. sometimes i forget that it is cold.

and once, at that very same park, beside that very same river, the water lapped at the dead grass as the snow melted, and the children played anyway. pieces disappeared and were never replaced, and in the morning, when the world woke up, so did the men who slept in the dirt. and on this day i sat on a bench and waited for the sun to come out

and there was a woman on the other bench, who was there with many children, and as the dark fingers of the river lapped at the swingsets and at the shitty slide, i watched as she was swallowed up by the water. she fell asleep under the clouds, her head supported by one of her hands, and her children played around her, speaking their own language, trying to wake her up a couple of times but they couldn't.

i watched and then walked home, between the cemetary and the river, careful not to get too close to either world.