Born to Be

I am Not Afraid; I Was Born to do This -Jeanne D’arc 

Joan of Arc

is the greatest story I have ever been told.

I remember being fourteen

-with scabby knees and wide eyes-

reading tales

of this woman warrior.


Joan rose above her station

to fit the pieces of her war-torn nation back together,

the same way you would solve a jigsaw puzzle, blind.

She trusted nothing more than the voices ringing in her ears

and the puzzle beneath her fingertips.

Her trial by fire consumed her

until all that remained from the heat

was the spark of defiance she left to her people.


That same spark caught within me;

to this day I want to be Joan of Arc.

I want to be strong and brave,

but, more importantly,

I want to know what I stand for.


Now this is more complicated than it seems,

because while everyone has hopes and dreams,

not everyone has something they would face the flames for.

Not everyone has their soul carved into their backbone,

bracing their chin up to meet the gaze of all who hunt them.

But Joan did.


At fourteen I knew this to be true,

and in silent moments, in quiet pockets of time

I would talk to her.


“Dear Joan, grant me courage.”

“Dear Joan, make me brave.”

“Dear Joan, I want to be untouchable.”


I had no real reason to want this other than to have it,

and at fourteen all I knew

was I wanted my soul carved into my spine.

In life, she had called out to her saints,

and in death, I swore she became mine.


When she was seventeen,

Joan of Arc broke through the siege on the city of Orleans

like rolling thunder from the mountains.

Her angels sang her into history

as she turned the tide of a war that had left her people gutted.

Though she heard whispers of the end in her ear,

all she could see before her was her duty

 to God and her people.



when I was seventeen,

I tore through my last child years like wildfire.

Unlike Joan, I did not heed the warning of the end.

Instead, all I saw was duty to myself and my ambitions,

a voice goading me on for  more.


At the age of eighteen,

when she tried to free the city of Paris,

Joan was captured by her enemy and eventually left to rot.

For a year they held her on trial,

until finally the fire by which she had burned so brightly

came to lick her bones.


Dear Joan,

I am no longer a child, but I still look to you.

I know in your last moments

you called for our Saviour,

and as I stand here petrified,

I see you as a lifeline.

I see you as I see the sun.

They handed you a verdict, slandered you heretic,

as though the voices in your head,

the truest truths you have ever known,

could somehow be false.

They demanded that you renounce everything.

Sign your name to a document declaring your actions to be sinful,

even though you are nothing more than a farm girl

who cannot write her own name.


I see the cracks in the glass of your skin Joan.

I see you waver, and it reminds me

of how torturously human we all are,

how I am.


It will be three days and four nights

before you are able to breathe again.

And once you have found yourself,

that breath will only draw in smoke.

You will be nothing more

than a spark above a burning bush,

just a girl with hands clasping for deliverance.


Dear Joan,

What I am finally coming to understand,

is that I am not fireproof either.

I am finally coming to recognize that I have had something stolen.

My childhood has been spent

and I cannot take it back.


It is not even that I feel regret,

but the knowledge that I have lost a part of me.

When you were seventeen, you were a hero.


When I was seventeen,

I was…waiting.

As though the world were a train refusing to be on schedule.

The whistle is insistently impatient.

Now that I have all I was waiting for,

now that I move to leap,

my legs betray me with a stubborn insistence to want to stay behind.

Dear Joan,

When you traded life for your name,

did you ever look back?

And as you went down,

and the flames went up,

did you ever ask yourself if it was worth it?

Or did you know that you would shape the world in your echo?


Dear Joan,

You shape me in your echo.

I call to you because you know the fear of oblivion.

The fear of consuming flames which choke you in the night.


I do not know where my life goes from here.

In a years’ time I will outlive Joan of Arc.


Dear Joan,

For all that I love in you, I cannot be you.

For all of your fight, I must heed caution.

For all of your fire, I must learn to not burn myself out.

I see you and your funeral pyre,

sending out sparks to other little girls with wide eyes and scabby knees,

and I know that someone must carry on

all the work left to be done.

I intend to take

what little of your fire I can,

and keep it close to my heart.

I will do all that I am able

to take your light into the unknown with me.



I have spent my time flying towards the sweeter things in life.

This incessant humming in my head

drives me to work in microscopic details,

collecting powdered bits and pieces of whatever I can

in order to build something bigger than myself.

There are days when I feel that I am nothing more

than a vessel for my work;

my body a hive for words that stick to my insides

and drip from my mouth

glowing and golden.

My stripes are the lines of black font and fortitude

I press into flower petal pages.

They serve as a warning: Beware of Writer.

Be cautious of me, for when I am at work, that’s all I see.

Do not try to stall or stop my wings.

Instead, marvel at the garden I leave behind.

I am a collection of

pastel petals and rich nectar,

along with all the beeswax and elbow grease it takes

to bring them into being.

My buzzing is a sign I am alive and a song of joy.

How happy I am to be at work with purpose

that keeps the world turning.

To pollinate the earth with pockets of words

and whatever optimism I have to offer

is enough to propel me upward.

How glorious it is to kiss the sky.

Requiem for Loneliness: An Emulation of Dr. Seuss

The following is an emulation of Dr. Seuss based on an excerpt from his book 
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! As graduation approaches, I find this work strikes a chord in me about my fears as to what I am about to leave behind. The following emulation is an attempt to comment on that. All words are my own, with the exception of the first stanza in italics, which is the work of Dr. Seuss himself. 

All alone!
Whether you like it or not,
alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.

At first you won’t like it.
That’s simple to say.
Alone is something we’re taught
to avoid every day.

But sooner or later
you’ll be by yourself
and find that there is
immense value and wealth
in sitting in silence
and learning to listen.
The world breathes in with a sigh
and out with a hiss.

And then comes a calm,
of a most glorious sort,
where you are king of the castle,
queen of the fort in your heart,
and the master of your mind.
In quiet we learn
to be patient and kind.

By yourself you can learn
how to get to know you,
and really
that’s the only time you get to.

So learn to take loneliness
into your arms as a friend.
Sooner or later
it will come to an end.

And after,
as you step into the sun,
you’ll hear all hearts of the world
beating as one.

A River Walk

Author’s Note: The following is an account of my visit to the banks of the Bow River in early April. The image is my own . 

The river is cold. Of course, one expects it to be this time of year, what with the winter melt flowing down from the mountains. Despite this, I am still surprised by how quickly my feet go numb when I dip them in the water. The majority of the river is still frozen, but CfKYRtjUAAASF4Othere is still a thin layer of water over the ice that has bridged the little island and the shore. Someone has moved larger smooth stones to create a path and I make quick work of crossing it.

I always cross the river barefoot. I have a much better grip that way, and I cannot stand walking in wet shoes. Of course, this does mean losing feeling in my feet for a short while, but it’s a small price to pay in comparison to a squeaky trudge home.

It’s the first time I’ve been to the island this year and the water is bluer than I remember. As I sprawl out along a log near the shore my feet begin drying in the April sunshine. It’s the kind of light that you can feel kissing your skin. I close my eyes and the whole world is engulfed by the roar of the river.

I love my country most at moments like this. Truly, we live in a place that looks as though it has been plucked from a child’s storybook. In a world where resources are scarce, Canada is a land of plenty. And perhaps it is selfish, but I am exceptionally thankful for this. I cannot imagine what my life would be like without clean air or fresh water. I have heard stories of children growing up in America who do not even have trees in their neighborhood. I, on the other hand, am blessed enough to be able to walk through a forest to the river from my backyard. Not only this, but the water is so clear I can see through it like glass. Few in the world are so lucky.

A bird call breaks through the silence. I crack an eye open to see the sun hanging low in the sky. Time seems to have melted right before my eyes. I know I have to get going soon, unless I want to walk home in the dark. As I step back onto the ice and rock, I take one last look back over the island that seems to be a world entirely unto itself, I cannot help but smile despite having to leave it. Soon it will be summer, the ice will melt in the lagoon further down the bank, and it will be warm enough to swim.


I am the words you put to me.
Just as a song becomes a symphony,
a book becomes a trilogy,
a drop of water pools and pulses at the center of the ocean,
I am a sum of my parts.

And every title, every label, every clothesline of words
pins to my heart and billows in the wake of my breath.
Words are inescapable.
They are the most invasive of house guests, as they pay no heed
to call times of convenience when they kick the front door down
and take it upon themselves to remodel your house.

And then there will be times where they won’t appear at all.
They vanish so fast you’d swear they were smoke,
only the detector tells your mind it is lying to itself.
All that is real is what we can hear, see, and feel,
and this absolute absence haunts like a ghost intent
on pushing all my furniture an inch to the left.

I try to calibrate my property worth,
but my addition signs become ellipses as I search for
a common language between
mathematics and poetry.
There are times when they translate like twins, and times when
they could not be more polar.
How do you find the value of ‘x’
when all you can quantify it as is
the negative value of a poltergeist?

I am the words you put to me.
The words I put to myself count as well,
but I am sorely lacking.
All I can hear is the memory of a creaky floorboard 
that has long since stopped squeaking.
So, I am waiting to be haunted.
Waiting for a train to rumble down the track,
to blow the whistle
that will wake what makes lights flicker.
Waiting for the ghoul in the basement
to beat out a rhythm on water-pipes that I can dance to.

I wait for love.
I have known it most when I am possessed by some
otherworldly force, so I try to replicate what it means
to be a host.
The doors are left wide open in hopes of something settling in,
but I am robbed instead.
This is not an exorcism I asked for.
I was content with all that would
drag me to the rooftops and let me dangle there.
The view is lovely.

I am the words you put to me.
All I can see are ‘For Sale’ signs.
With a fresh coat of paint and some elbow grease,
I’ll be good as new.
Just another house-number along a generic string
of mahogany doors and terracotta tiles.
Miles upon miles of respectable neighborhoods,
void of originality.
But I am not content
to exist without my soul.

I miss my ghosts.
I miss the way they would shake my bed
as they rocked me to sleep the only way they knew how.
I miss their breath on my neck, and the caress of their fingertips,
urging my pen to move.

There are times when I get so lonely for them,
I climb up to the rooftops and just
dangle there.
Waiting for my body to contort as I let myself drop
into the safety net of words I have pulled taunt
on the clothesline.

Writing is a tide in how it ebbs and flows;
I don’t doubt its return to me.
Still, I cannot survive without depth for much longer.
As I bake in the sun, all I can recall
is the cool touch of spirit fingers.
I cannot be anything if I am lacking
the most integral part of my blueprint.
Houses cannot stand without walls to brace them,
and I have found my footing in
the voice that spills from my mouth.
To be a medium for the muses, and then just to be
is an unfinished sentence.
The song that could have been, cut down to
disjointed notes and a pitch out of tune.
The book is an anthology of empty pages now.
Existence is the  daunting white space of page breaks
that loom, consequently fracturing my soul.

Who am I without my phantoms?
It is an honest question.
How do I stand when I’ve lost my grounding?
Can my design be rewritten to work without walls?
Do I even want this?
Happiness and haunting
have become synonyms for me.
This lack of words births a limbo so slick
that I claw myself a few syllables away from escape 
only to fall back into silence,
gutted and hollow.
I’ve spent so long in haunted houses,
I can’t appreciate silence in the home.
The blankness in the void it leaves,
scares me more than any horror movie I have ever seen.
Give me kaleidoscope floors and a rattling roof any day.
I will take them without question.
The collection of bits for who I am solidified
by all that is put to me, and hopelessly in love
with the glowing eyes under my bed.

(In) Fact, (In Fiction)

I am (not) what you think I am.

(In) Fact
I am entirely what you think I should be.
(Except there is a twist.)

I am the water of a lake,
as smooth as glass.
(The calm that comes before the storm.)
You can see the bottom (but it is deeper than you think.)
The light reaches the bed of rock (but cannot fill every crack.)
It is teeming with fish (and sharks too.)

(In) Fact
(there are whales and walruses and mermaids,
for this is not a lake; it’s the ocean)
life is everywhere.

I am glorious to swim in
for my current will rock you softly
and hold you high.
(but I could drown you should it suit my fancy.)

I am (the maiden.) the mother. (and the crone.)
A (three) face (Celtic goddess) who wears a smile close to her heart.
(and a scowl on her sleeve.
I am not often angry, but when I am,)
I am prepared for anything.

(In) Fact
I am a fire (and a hurricane too,)
because my heart is warm
(Although, I must say that when I rain, I pour.
Fire bends before water)
and I will (wash you out unless I) care.

(Do not mistake me.
It is in my nature to care.
I care so much my chest aches.)

So run into my arms (while they are open.)
and I will hold you close.
I love easy (because I choose optimism)
and forgive often.
(at my own expense.)
You can trust me.
I am not complicated.
(in comparison to anyone else.
Everyone is equally as messy as I am.)

I am everything you imagine me to be,
(but also what you wouldn’t expect.)
and that is a fact,
(in fiction.)

The Aviator

I have always liked to think that the birds of St. Michael’s were my friends. They have been with me my entire life, and that’s more than I can say for most folks I’ve encountered. c3afaa327f1a7aa93a40b4bf034479c8Despite the changing of the seasons and endless flipping of calendars, they have remained as constant as the bells that bring in the dawn. The clear and bright sound of their ringing disperses the fog every morning, and with it there is a chorus of beating wings to add to the hymn. I can recall waking up to those bells every day as a child. Now, despite all the changes in my life, the only thing that has changed in regards to how I wake up is the view from the bedroom window.

The only creatures that seem to be alive when I wake up now are the birds. Marvelously humbling creatures they are. Despite how swiftly the river of time flows, it would seem that we will always be craning our necks to see them. Even planes have their limitations, like fuel or bad weather, but birds can fly whenever they wish for however long they choose. Such freedom would be exhilarating I imagine. Back when I was young my life used to be that way. As the youngest in a family of eight my parents and older siblings had very little time to watch me, so I spent my days wandering the cobblestone streets of my town, often throwing breadcrumbs to the birds of the church. Perhaps that is why birds can fly and we cannot. They live so close to God’s own house that it must only be natural that they can almost touch the heavens. At night they all roost in the bell tower. I fear they must be cold at night, the poor little dears with nothing but feathers to keep them warm. I’m always cold at night now. I ask the nurses to add extra blankets to the bed, but they’re the kind that makes the skin itch something dreadful.

I suppose the birds have each other to keep warm. They bundle in tight for the night in their bell tower bed, dreaming of how they will take to the sky come morning. No one else will be awake to see them rise except me. Everyone sleeps in late now. Sometimes I fear that our world has forgotten what a sunrise looks like. God paints the sky every morning, and yet when I stare down from my window I see empty streets. It’s a melancholy sight. Some might call it peaceful, but it only makes me sad. An empty street is a lonely one. There’s nothing to make the ground give off a jolly rattle, and so by leaving them alone they are condemned to sleep. And so I watch the birds take to the sky alone. Up they go, higher than the kites of my childhood could ever hope to reach. I’ve got half a mind to fly a kite right now. What a sight that would be, a woman my age with a kite in town square. Of course, no one would see it anyway. And it’s not as if the nurses would let me go. These days I can’t be trusted to go to the bathroom by myself let alone walk into town. They keep insisting I could fall and hurt myself. Clearly they don’t know how strong my legs are. As a girl, I was the fastest runner in my seventh grade class, boys included. No one could catch me. Every time I tell that story though, the only response I get is that times have change. I don’t see how that could be. I still have the same legs after all. It’s not as though I’ve gone and gotten a new pair. The memory of running like that is still in them somewhere. Of course, I could never run now, but I’m certain I could walk mighty fine on my own. Well enough to get to St. Michael’s at least. It’s only two blocks from here. I can see it from my bedroom window. It’s a lovely sight. Did you know that the bells ring there every morning? It’s like clockwork really. Despite all that’s changed, they’re the one thing I can count on. That and the birds, my darling little birds.

I like to think of them as mine. No one else seems to care much about them now, but I still do. I remember how folks used to feed them. Children would tug at their mother’s arms, asking for pocket change to buy a bag of breadcrumbs. Folks were more compassionate then I think. Or at the very least, they noticed more. Once the streets do wake up, long after the sun has been in the sky I might add, people walk by them in droves, and rarely does anyone seem to see them. Unless, of course, the birds are in their way. If that’s the case people scold them and shoo them, calling them a nuisance among other things. The kind of language one does hear in front of God’s house these days is appalling. And with nothing left to turn to, the birds take to the sky, seeking the kind of warmth that divine love can give. Even with that though, I imagine they must be lonely. They must know how things used to be. They must miss it.

The only thing that hasn’t changed is the world of the morning. When no one is awake but them or I, time seems to echo back on itself. The nice thing about quiet streets is it guarantees I can hear the bells. My ears aren’t what they used to be, and sometimes I fear that if cars start driving early in the morning, I will miss my wake-up call. Then I won’t get to see my friends immerse themselves that melted crayon sky. 8636567709_9f10548eab_mI must confess, sometimes I imagine I am among their numbers. That my fingers have stopped their infernal shaking and that they can crack my window open. From there, I would stand tall upon my ledge and a leap so strong that I would shoot up into the sky. My friends would teach me how to fly then and we’d soar until the town became nothing but a speck. We wouldn’t come down until nightfall, but even then we would share a roost. No more itchy blankets, only soft down feathers. I had a down quilt growing up. My own grandmother had made it by hand, back in the old country. Of course, it was falling apart the last time I remember seeing it. I asked my son to pack it with my things when they moved me. He said it was lost in the journey. But with my bird friends, it would be almost as if I had my quilt back. How lovely that would be!

That would be a dream life I should think; flying clear and free. Everyone around you encouraging you to go higher rather than to stay on the ground. Of course, it will never happen. My wings have been clipped I’m afraid. Instead, I will have to content myself to nothing more than the ringing of bells and the sight of grey feathers among an illuminated morning sky.


“And the rest is rust and Stardust.”-Vladimir Nabokov Lolita

hhhAll my life
I have wondered how the universe would be
if I could hold it in my hands.
I have longed to know whether or not
grasping at the straws of infinity
could make the world we live in a better place
or a worse one.
At the age of eighteen I am acutely aware
that my hubris will be the end of me.
This deadly pride that prompts me to
swallow galaxies
in an attempt for some sort of control.
As if my tiny, incapable hands could somehow
contain and constrain the cosmos.
Still, the thought lingers.
That tantalizing ‘what if’
holds my soul hostage.
After all, there is no definitive moment
in which the brightest star of a constellation
becomes Icarus
and plummets to the earth.
Who is to say what the limits of greatness are?
The ‘when’ and ‘why’ and ‘how’ of it all
are so murky.
Perhaps that is why
I refused to be satisfied
with all that is mundane.
In this lifeof stained-glass ceilings
and stars
I want nothing more
than to push past the barriers
and rearrange the constellations.
To calculate and quantify
and boil out all mystery
until there is nothing left to question
and everything open to know.
I suppose in many ways this makes me a typical person,
as typical as typical can be.
My audacity and refusal to leave
well enough alone
simply makes me a number among the masses
who feel that they are akin
to all the stars in the sky.
Still, there are moments
when I look out at that infinite space
and feel as though those bright lights and I
are one in the same.
Both of us are simply a part of something greater
and yet we shine bright with a uniqueness
that is entirely our own.
Perhaps I am both parts rust and stardust
and that is why the heavens call to me.
Among the earthly dirt and grime
there is an etherealness
that comes from exposed fingertips
grasping at starlight.

Summer Cherries

The following is a journal entry based on an in-depth, diarized annotation of Tennessee William’s play A Streetcar Named Desire. Blanche DuBois has been a character that somewhat alludes me in terms of analysis, as I find I have trouble rationalizing her actions. Writing this piece really helped me to get inside her head, and as a result I have gained a better understanding of not just her character, but the piece as a whole. 

Task: Write a diary entry pretending you are Blanche. In the diary, explain why you didn’t want to let the newspaper boy go; whom he reminded you of; and why you kissed him. 

Dear Diary,

Of all the kisses I have had, there is something about the sweetness of that dear little newspaper boy’s lips that make this among the most innocent and sincere. He didn’t quite kiss back, but he didn’t pull away either, and in that moment of genuine connection, there was a dissipation of bliss into the room. I hadn’t been kissed with such boyish charm since…well never mind the time. Such charm is why I kissed him. I needed to be reminded of what it means to catch a boy. After all, I’m after one now. I’ve spent so long chancing men with rough, demanding hands that I’ve almost forgotten how it is to love with rose petal lips and the euphoria of simplicity.

That’s the difference between kissing boys and men I suppose. Men are looking for what follows most of the time, but boys are just content with the moment. They’re happy to just drink in all the adolescent wonder that comes with kissing. Not to say that boys don’t kiss without want of course, but their want is solely to kiss and be kissed. Such darling simplicity! How long has it been since kissing was that simple? Even in marriage, I believe my young husband, my Allen, was looking for something in our kisses. Of course, he was a boy too, but he wanted to believe he could be a man, so he tried to kiss like one. He searched desperately for some sort of emotion or feeling to cling to, something he believed to be hidden in my lips. Sometimes I wonder if such a thing even existed within me, and if he spent what precious time he had searching in vain.

This boy, however, he wanted nothing from me other than a moment of my time and a press of my lips. He didn’t want to put me under bright lights, or silk sheets, or examine me as though I were a bug under a microscope. What a relief it was to just simply exist without thinking of such fears! He wasn’t much in way of technique, or even enthusiasm, but there was something irresistible in his cherry taste. It was as though I was kissing childhood summers personified! If I didn’t know better, I’d say his lips were a blend between ocean spray, ice cream under a noon day sun, and the rosy colours of dawn all rolled into one. By his kiss I was seventeen again. Only for a moment, but what a moment it was! It was summer, and all the frost that seems to have enveloped the world these past few days had thawed. I could by no means call it a search light, but it did remind me how sparks feel. They feel wonderfully warm! Who could have ever known that fire burns with the taste of cherry? When it ended, there was still a tingle on my lips and no clouds came to steal my summer sun away. I suppose that’s the power of a chaste kiss; you get all of the validation and pleasure, but none of the regret that follows. I was sad to see it end, but I knew if I let it continue, it would be sullied, and then I could treasure it no more.

Of course, not all kisses can be this way. I know that. There can be no future for people who only in the moment, and I am in need of a future. This doesn’t mean though that I don’t cherish the such wonderful moments as the kiss I had today. If I could, I would string those moments together and wear them as though they were a rope of pearls. How they
would put all other jewels shame, for nothing can shine brighter than the happiness I have felt in those moments. Nothing flatters me more, makes me feel younger or fresher or as beautiful as when I am adorned with such wealth for only adoration’s sake.

That is why I do believe Mitch and I could make it if we tried. We’re both so lonely, and he looks at me as though I were Venus herself. He’s no Lancelot of course, but the way he looks at me is enough to make me weak in the knees. He kisses like a man, but I don’t mind. I know what he is searching for and that makes all the difference. I can become a bride for him, so long as all he wants is to love me in low light.

Humbly Yours,

Blanche DuBois