youth.

her love makes me feel like a child again
like two cups, connected with string at both ends
we find joy in the streets on a long summer day
and we dance in the rain, wash our problems away.

she is the promise of freedom that comes with July
and the grass stains on blue jeans, that look in her eye
gives me jitters like Christmas Day, running downstairs
to find presents abounding, abandon all of my cares.

I’m convinced that the fountain of youth is her smile
and that her laugh can help anyone breathe for a while
I only wish she could know how the tip of her tongue
forms the words that envelop me, make me feel young.

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inadequacy

I filled a notebook full of days that I owed you
and wrote songs about the way I wanted to
escape myself and be your wholehearted infinity
but was simply enthralled in your false divinity

and I should’ve known the moment that I heard
your shameless infidelity, exposed with every word
but I wanted so excruciatingly badly to stay true
despite the fact that I couldn’t expect the same from you

to this day I feel the inadequacy, it shapes my bones
like a blade wielded by skillful hands, it hones
my fitfull sleeps, my empty nights spent far away
thinking of how I once thought maybe you would stay

my heart mistaken, still cannot throw off the chains
because your venom still courses through my veins
but I’m fighting every single day to better myself
and that’s why I finally took your ring off the shelf.

pillow talk

stranded on a satin ocean that bears no relief
I hear sirens that call from the crest of the waves
for I haven’t seen your face in eleven days and I
still can’t fall asleep when you’re away.
if this bed were the ocean, you’d be the stars
so close in reflection but so very far and I
still find your hair on the pillow you left
just a piece of a piece of you I now protect
in my fitful attempts to find sleep every night
while the infant dawn starts to show its traces of light
and I think of how your light could cut through my night
and how you are my moon and for now, out of sight.

Glass Castles (Epilogue)

Hello everyone.

This is the rough draft of the epilogue for a fiction piece I’ve been working on for a little over two years. It’s called Glass Castles. I wanted to get some feedback on what I hope is a proper ending. I hope it speaks to you. Feel free to express your thoughts in the comments. Thanks again.

                                         ~~~
​I had it strung up all together; the Abigayle Stone in the middle, with all of the little glass shards streaming down around it like a wind chime. It actually made a nice sound when the pieces swayed into each other, just the faintest sound of glass clinking together. My mom thought it was beautiful, almost as much as I did. If only I could bring myself to tell her the whole story, then maybe she could see what I did. Maybe one day I’ll tell her, I thought to myself.

I went up to my old room to find that it had been cleaned up, to no surprise of my own. My mom had put away all of the things I had left strewn across the floor and the desk; now it was very neat and clean, something it had never been while I occupied the space. It still felt like home though, it still held that warmth and that feeling of comfort.

It was late in the afternoon and the sun was beginning to set. I could see the shafts of sunlight cutting through the trees and shining through the porthole window that once overlooked my bed. It was the same window that had shone the light through the castle the first time, the day Abigayle and I first kissed. It was here, in this cramped attic, that we could expel the darkness and dance in the sunlight. I fell in love with her here, lying on the floor for hours just talking about anything. I figured there was no better place for her to be.

I screwed the hook into the ceiling right in front of the porthole, then hung the Abigayle Stone on it. Immediately, the stone and the glass fragments became awash in the waning daylight and shot beautiful colours all around the room. It was just like the first time, but now I was a different person. I had seen so much since that cold November day, it was hard to imagine myself at that point being able to understand the significance of what was happening right now. I knew now that the dancing dots of colour on the walls was due to the white light from the sun passing through the stone and the glass and the science of it all, and I knew that white was Abigayle’s favourite colour simply because it was the manifestation of all colours and I thought that was so fascinating. 

My life was so drastically different now that it almost felt like another world, a parallel universe that I had somehow drifted into.  So much had happened that I hardly recognized myself anymore. Ironically, the only thing that hadn’t changed was how consumed by love I was- despite the fact that the vase that once held my flowers had shattered and now danced in front of my eyes in pieces. I felt the tears come up and overflow as they always did, felt the shiver down my back as I always did. It was always the same when I thought of her for too long, but this time it felt entirely different. Not because I wasn’t sad or angry or anything, because I still very much felt those things, but this time I could see that she was shining a light for everyone to see. She was beautiful- not just to myself, but to everyone- and I decided that she would’ve thought so too. 

arctic white

with winter’s wind we feel the force
our fires fight the beckoning of death
its frost clings to the birch tree in the yard
once tiger striped, now arctic white
the bite marks that adorn our cheeks
brush crimson blood against the sheets
where dew once formed, now turned to ice
as the sun recedes we turn to sacrifice
to keep the night from turning us inside out.

déjà-vu

some people say that déjà-vu occurs when
two parallel realities converge for a moment;
when an alternate version of oneself decides
to mirror the actions of another life, another time
as if there are universes interwoven like twine
and where they overlap is where we often feel
like we have been in a place before, have done this before
have made the same mistakes or said the same phrase before
although we know all too well that it’s not the case.

maybe there is a version of reality where we’re both okay
and I can one day feel like I’ve been there before.

a year in review

he showed up in beat-up Chucks and the same shirt he wore
the last time that they spoke, when he ultimately swore
that if she was true, that their distance wouldn’t be forever
and that if she still really loved him, she’d always have the letter
but she wore her hair differently now and seemed out of place
like the most beautiful flower in a cheap, ugly vase
and she wasn’t the same as he once knew her to be
and all of a sudden, he was once again able to breathe

frozen fjords

when all is still, the streets are wide
like frozen fjords, their lines divide
immaculate glaciers, washed in gold
by a sun retreating from the cold
like clouds of breath that float away
for some things just aren’t meant to stay
our footsteps frozen in the road
two sets of tracks that sing an ode
to winter’s silent, steady hand
in bringing peace across the land.

tulips and tiger lilies

dew drops lie like
denizens of the distant dawn
on plush green grass that
grows between rows of
tulips and tiger lilies
if only to be trimmed every
Tuesday afternoon by
a gregarious gardener who
upon further thought will see
that flowers and weeds both
start out as seeds and that
the only reason why we
let geraniums grow and
groom the grass is due to
our fundamental fascination
for colourful things.

Cigarettes, Saints and a Bernie Sanders T-Shirt

When I met Dan Campbell- an incredible songwriter and one of my personal heroes- it was at the Vans Warped Tour in 2015 underneath the tarp of the Acoustic Basement tent. He was wearing a Bernie Sanders t-shirt and played an acoustic set under the name Aaron West, which is a pseudonym he assumes when he performs songs from his character study Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties. That day, I was fortunate enough to catch both that set and his band The Wonder Years play only a few hours later. While his music holds a very special place inside of me, it was a song that wasn’t played that day that I have been reflecting on the last few days.

The Wonder Years have a song called ‘Stained Glass Ceilings’, which describes the anger and frustration that accompnaies the struggles of growing up poor in the United States. It goes on to talk about gun violence and racial discrimination- essentially, the most visceral problems that exist in the United States. The song exists as a larger collective of songs on ‘No Closer to Heaven’, a concept album that explores the shortcomings of religion when it comes to death. One word to describe the theme of the album would be ‘unattainable’: that both heaven and the American Dream have become intertwined and are largely out of reach for an overwhelming percentage of the American people.

Now that the dust has somewhat settled after the American election, I have been thinking about that Bernie t-shirt that Dan wore that day, and about that song and about what all of this means for so many Americans. I write this as an outside observer; born and raised in Canada, I am not directly affected by Trump’s nomination in almost any capacity. However, I can’t help but feel connected to the issue because of how much those songs resonate with me. While I am a proud naturalist and atheist, I spent a good portion of my adolescence in a church basement being told that I needed to be saved. Every Friday night- and even some Sunday mornings, when my guilt was stronger than my desire to stay in bed- I was told that I needed to invite the Lord into my heart so that I could be saved, but I couldn’t help but wonder: what am I being saved from?

While I wouldn’t consider my family to be exceedingly wealthy, we were never decidedly poor either. I never went hungry, I was constantly bored (a status which almost exclusively applies to children with a wide variety of things to do) and I grew up in a happy, loving home. I consider myself extremely lucky, but I know that many people do not have the luxuries that I did growing up. I could understand why some people might feel like they need saving, but I always felt like life was pretty good to me.

I’m not writing this to gloat, to say that I have it so good that I don’t need religion to comfort me. In fact, I’m here to discuss the problem with relying on religion too much because I think that many Americans are finally starting to recognize the flaws in touting the Bible and the American Dream when it comes to defending the rights and privileges of the American people.

The main problem being that both were once a one-size-fits-all blanket that could keep people warm at night, the promise of something incredible if you just made the effort to reach for it. The ideas of prosperity and eternal life were carrots dangling in front of anyone willing to bow their heads and trudge towards them with their eyes closed, unwavering even with the stick resting on the backs of their heads. The mantras were one and the same- work hard, follow the rules and you will be rewarded.

What I feel compelled to ask is the following: which part of that is true anymore? In a society where Biblical law condemns one in every four Americans and a university degree can’t guarantee you anything better than an entry level job at best, where is the motivation to work towards those unattainable dreams? Why would people continue to reach when the destination is nowhere to be seen anymore?

I would assert that both heaven and the American Dream never truly existed in the capacity that they were advertised, but now roughly half the population of the United States is starting to come to the same conclusion. The Bible doesn’t speak for them anymore, the American Dream doesn’t seem real to them anymore and they have every right to believe it. The problem is that the other half of the country still stands on a soapbox and reminisces about the glory days where they could still wrap their fingers around the things they were promised.

John Wayne with a God complex
Tells me to buy a gun like shooting a teenage kid
Is gonna solve any problems,
Like it’s an arms race,
Like death don’t mean nothing.
To know the heavy price of living poor
Walled in by red lines
Backed into a corner.
Not knowing, growing up,
What it’s like to belong here
In America. – from ‘Stained Glass Ceilings’

Fast forward to early November, when the words ‘president-elect Donald Trump’ became more than the punch line of a nervous joke between democrats who were too busy to vote on election day (or on any of the early voting days). That is now the reality that Americans have to live with: the democracy that their government has force-fed to countless nations across the globe has failed them so completely that a blatantly misogynist, racist demagogue can get elected on a platform of what could easily be misconstrued as neo-Fascism.

I’ve been watching this whole thing unfold from my front row seat on the Canadian border, constantly reminding myself that all is right in the world and that he couldn’t possibly get elected. Yet here were are, devastated at the outcome and voicing our outrage through the political forums of Facebook and Twitter as if it will make any of this go away. What we forget is that half of the country voted for him, supporting/in spite of his abhorrent platform. The part of all this that scares me beyond all measure is that a country could be so viscerally divided and not fall apart altogether.

The truth is not hard to find: the American Dream is dead and God is buried right next to it. The problem in America is that a large portion of the country is leaning even more heavily on both of those notions now that they are seen to be in jeopardy, under siege by the “supreme evil” of liberalism. They reject science and proper intellectual debate in favour of ignorance and hatespeech, encouraged by their now-President who has done nothing but follow through on his promise to “make America great again”. The problem is that the greatness he refers to harkons back to the days where society was still racially segregated and women were still kept out of the workplace.

It took me a long time to write this essay; I started it shortly after the election results were decided and am only now finishing it, roughly a week into Trump’s presidency. I’m still not quite sure what my message was and I don’t know that I had a specific point to prove. I’ve expressed my concerns and my frustrations, but I suppose my true message is that America seems to be stuck in limbo between their traditions and their aspirations. They are torn between the supposed golden age in the first half of the 20th century and the bright future they hope to have as they make progress, as they keep stride with the rest of the world. Yet, here they have elected a man who threatens to tarnish and destroy both of those.

What I am working towards is the idea that America is now misrepresented: not only by its government, but by its own people. It is a country struggling with split personality disorder, with one side trying to move forward from the racism and misogyny and violence and the other side reveling in it. If it were possible to do so without inciting another civil war, it would almost certainly be better for everyone if the States were allowed to disband and not feel forced to decide between one of two polar opposites. You can almost see their borders fraying like an old rope, pulled to its breaking point.

I think back to that Bernie Sanders t-shirt, to a time when there was hope for millions of people who were unable to afford education and healthcare and felt like there was a glass ceiling on the dream they were supposed to be living in their country. There was hope that their problems could be fixed, that their country could make progress again. Now we’re living in a completely new reality, where their hope for progress has transformed into a fear of oppression, where women and immigrants are terrified that their lives and their futures have been forever diminished and cast aside.

Just yesterday, there was a mass homicide enacted by a French Canadian at a mosque in Quebec City that killed six innocent Muslims in their house of worship. It was on my side of the border this time, not far from my own home, and it made me realize that we are not impervious to the infectious hatred, racism and xenophobia that Donald Trump has been spewing into the air. It disgusted me that someone from my country could do such a thing, and then I realized that I can now empathize with the American population.

For we are not the racists, just like Muslims are not the terrorists. I am not the person who kills innocent people based on their religion, just like nearly all Muslims living in America are not the ones who were involved in 9/11. We cannot let religion command us and divide us anymore and we certainly cannot use it as a justification for violence and discrimination against innocent people.

I can feel the pain of the American people, the shame and the anger towards their fellow citizens and the fear that comes with all of their uncertainty. I empathize with the people who wish they could end the violence and the hatred, who wanted education for their children rather than oppression for the people who moved to their country under the delusion of living the American Dream. The American Dream was hope for a better life; it was freedom, it was progress, it was a heaven on Earth that would reward the diligent and the innocent.

The American Dream was a Bernie Sanders t-shirt… and now it is nothing at all.