the children

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i’m standing at the line wind in hair unclipping clothes pins, wood between fingers. the sun makes my face look like a strawberry. suddenly he’s standing there amongst the folds of linen, home from work. shirt unbuttoned, feeling the kiss of summer air.

“how are the children?” he asks, first thing, after kissing my belly where our own child lies.

he’s referring to the peppers and tomatoes we transplanted earlier this week. his forehead is wrinkled like the furrows in our garden. together, hand in hand, we step bare-footed amongst our rows of ‘children’ observing their colour of leaf, their tender heads struggling upwards from a bed of black soil.

“i think they’re okay,” i tell him softly.

“and mr. wilty?”

mr. wilty is our one tomato plant who was dry as cardboard upon planting. somehow he’d missed my daily waterings. we’d been taking extra care of him, since. “he’s getting stronger.”

i look forward to these afternoon moments of walking bare-footed in wet soil checking up on our little ones. soon we’ll have grown a different kind of plant altogether–a human plant–to nourish and feed, to pray for and love.  standing here in the garden, womb protruding, hand in husband’s, i know we can’t do this alone. i have to trust that God is with us now, and always.

the ultimate Gardener. the everlasting father.

tending the roots…

looking after our children.

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the final word

Please listen I say, in a scratchy voice through the wooden door, but they keep praying in high, fluted tones from their straight-backed pews. Pretending not to hear the naked man standing outside. They’d taken one look at me, shuddered; turned away.

It’s no wonder. I’m so hungry my ribs are splitting through my skin. So thirsty my lips are cracking dry. Not a pretty sight. All I want is a sip of wine from their communion table. A slice of their loaf of bread. But no, it’s holy. And I—an abomination.

Their words are gibberish to my bleeding ears. I’m so tired of words. So sick of people who say they’ll help you—who promise to be there until the end—and then leave when you need them most.

I begin to cry; hear the people inside slide the dead-bolt across, begin to pray in louder voices so as not to hear my wailing.

I turn, hobble back to the hill. Climb back onto the cross. The sky is black as I yell out with one final, feeble gasp, It is finished. A phrase which will enter the Hall of Fame as soon as I rise from the dead.

But what I mean is: Language is futile. Every sentence with its punctuation, finished. For I am the Word. And no one is listening.

yellow balloons

today, a yellow balloon drifted across my yard.

sometimes i feel like that yellow balloon.

as a self-employed writer and artist, i don’t know what each day holds. i’m merely drifting along, propelled by the wind of the holy spirit, hoping to bump into something meaningful.

i ask God what my purpose is. he answers, “to know me.”

so somehow, as i’m drifting, i’m striving to find that secret place of knowing the sacred. perhaps it’s in the journey… in this very process of ‘not knowing’. after all, isn’t that faith? to know he who is, in spite of all that isn’t?

Broken in Chicago

Words play me like a man his guitar on a lonely night.

I pick up my scrawny self, lean against the street lamp in my torn corduroy jacket, stick my fingers in the holes at the bottom of my pockets and let them wiggle. Momentary pleasure.

Then I pick up the magazine which had played me, like fingers smooth on oiled strings, and fling it at the man who calls himself my father lying sprawled across the sidewalk.

He doesn’t move. He’ll be out for the next few hours. The bottle lies empty in his loose grip. I pick up the bottle, throw it against the cement wall and it shatters, making me flinch and then grin, just a little.

Then I sit down again beside him, because at eight years old, I have no where else to go. And I pick up the magazine with its bright pictures of happy people and its words saying “light” and “hope” and “peace” and I wonder, What do they mean?

The sky turns deep grey. It’s night-time. I can tell what time it is by how ashen the sky. It’s never blue here in downtown Chicago. Only different shades of grey. Like a person about to be sick.

I feel like I’m going to be. I haven’t eaten since yesterday. I envy the fat rats scurrying. They have homes. Food. If Dad doesn’t wake up soon we won’t make it to the shelter in time.

Inside the magazine is a picture of bread which makes my mouth water. Beside it, a cup of wine and a man with a beard, smiling. In big angry letters it says, “Eat; this is my body broken for you.”

Suddenly I look down at Dad’s body broken across the asphalt, and once again I throw the magazine. Hating it for its mockery of my life.

(written for Geez magazine, commenting on the fickleness of words)

slumdog millionaire now homeless

The child star of Slumdog Millionaire never won a contest. He never won millions. He remains, to this day, in his Indian slum. Which was bulldozed this morning.

Who didn’t fall in love with the little boy that climbed through the bottom of an outhouse in order to beg for the autograph of his favourite actor? The boy who drew us into the slums of India, who pulled us forward into dirt and grime with shining eyes, as if he were above it all?

But he wasn’t. That was his home. Hollywood, or ‘Bollywood,’ used this little boy and his very real life, as Nike uses child labour, to pull at our heart-strings.

$326 million and eight Oscars later, the boy remains in his slum. Which makes no sense at all.

Oh—for a while he was showered with fame and gifts. But no one considered taking some of the movie’s profits and providing a better life for the now homeless star.

And to think, I fell for it. Along with the rest of America. I sat there eating popcorn letting the movie make me believe in ‘happily ever afters.’ Distracting me from the ever unjust system we live in.

I walked away from the movie feeling okay about my laptop and leather couch and lazy evening at home. After all, life was cozy. The little boy was safe now. No more slums.

I went to sleep that night believing a bold-faced lie. Woke up to the news that a bulldozer had knocked down the little boy’s home. With no one trying to stop it.

We were duped. And so was the child star of Slumdog Millionaire.

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apple cinnamon pancakes

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what have i done to deserve you, oh gift of a man who makes me laugh till tears roll?

man who stands like little boy in knitted slippers and pyjama pants, game in hand, wanting me to play. to drop my work and spend time, being.

man who watches me try to do up my pants with new bulging-womb, and pulls me close, calling me sexy.

man who tip-toes, early morning mother’s day, making me apple cinnamon pancakes, bringing them to me in bed.

who holds my hair as i relieve supper after supper, my womb a throbbing sea of evening sickness.

man who hurts when i cry.

i fall to my knees, womb and forehead touching floor, and thank God for you, oh man of my life.

together, we’ll grow old in years, young in heart. my man and i.

my mother in her garden

mom in her garden

i remember watching her, gentle hands in soil, flushed face covered by wide-rimmed hat. her blue eyes never wavered, her soul never faltered in its out-pouring of garden-love.

her flowers. petals soft, whispers of fragrant beauty. she cradled them in the same hands that cupped my face at night; spoke to them with the same lips that kissed my forehead and shed prayers of blessing over my bedside.

my mother’s gardening was a daily, maternal prayer. she’d bow low, penitent in the dirt from which we’ve come. rub knees raw in endless toil for the beauty of creation. feel proud as her well-tended plants rose high into the light, fed and watered daily, anxious about nothing. free to grow.

now as i put my hand on my womb where my own little one is planted, and crouch low to the earth, feeling the soft soil slip through my fingers, i utter my own prayer…

grow well, sweet flower of mine.

true value

I was raised to believe that value paralleled cost. If something was inexpensive, it held value. Period. We didn’t have much money, and the money we did have was spent sparingly. “How much is it?” was always the first question to cross my parents’ lips.

While I admire frugality, I don’t want to teach my children to equate value with a price tag. Rather, I want to instil a host of other questions: Is it good for the environment? Who had to hurt in order to make this? Is it more loving to buy this, or something else? How does this honour and respect creation? Will I feel guilty when I use this? And ultimately, who am I supporting/what am I condoning by buying this?

I don’t necessarily mean, go organic. Much of the organic industry is bogus. I do mean, go fair trade or go local. Promote sustainability as much as possible. Stop worshiping the almighty dollar, and instead, learn to put people first.

For me, love is what’s truly valuable. No matter the cost. And that is what I want to instil in my children.