Our Baby Our Hero

My little baby-sister, three years younger, Suzane! Or Suzy, or tuti, or kuki, or judi.

She had her heart set on becoming a dentist. She was not accepted into dentistry school. She got into her second choice, Electrical Engineering.

On September 6th, 1996 I was in labor with my first son. It was the first day of classes of her first semester. The phone rang in my hospital room. It was Suzane. Her contagious excitement,

“Guess what Sis.”

” I just got a phone call from McGill University Admissions.”

“One of the 25 students accepted into dentistry dropped out to attend school in the United States.”

“I’m number 26.”

She had to spend the day switching her classes.

She owns a dental clinic just outside montréal. She is the one of the three siblings mainly in charge of taking care of our elderly parents.

Covid-19 comes, they were ordered to shutdown non-essential clinics. But she still has to attend to treating emergencies.

No N95 masks available anytime soon. Her and her husband created this from a bike helmet, welding shield, and a surgical mask underneath.

Our baby, Our Hero

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Birched and Oaked!

When the hard edges of the book

that sang me to sleep, woke me

I assumed thoughts of all I hadn’t accomplished

weren’t far behind, the people I’d disappointed,

the money I hadn’t made,

the power structure I’d rarely opposed.

But instead I found myself greeted

by an almost criminal hope, somehow free

of the social order that had shaped

my mind so that by the time the sun peeked in

and the huge Sugar Maple that filled my window

spoke, the only thing I questioned

was the forty hour work week, why the French and Italians got eight weeks vacation.

Because it’s been what-a million years?

And yet somehow that Maple knew me. We talked and talked

until I became Birched and Oaked, Crabappled and Cherried-drunk

with all the tree-ness I’d forgotten.

My God, to think-I could bud, even blossom.

~ Velencia Robin, Aubade with Sugar Maple, from Ridiculous Light.


a poem or piece of music appropriate to the dawn or early morning.

Driftwood sculpture by Debra Bernier:

“Each piece of driftwood I find on the beautiful beaches of Victoria BC, holds a secret story.

Where the tree the driftwood came from once grew, how it fell, how long its bits and branches have been turning over in the ocean’s waves are all untold.”

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Ridiculous Light

“And yet this bright spur
inside of me – specter and marrow,

waves and waves of vanishing light,
so much pulling at me and through me

that I’ll need to find a quiet place
and spread it all out.”

~ Valencia Robin, Story of My Life, From Ridiculous Light.

Photo, 3/1/2020, Chicago, Pratt Beach.

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Out of every 100

Out of a hundred people

those who always know better
— fifty-two

doubting every step
— nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn’t take too long
— as high as forty-nine,

always good
because they can’t be otherwise
— four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy
— eighteen,

suffering illusions
induced by fleeting youth
— sixty, give or take a few,

not to be taken lightly
— forty and four,

living in constant fear
of someone or something
— seventy-seven,

capable of happiness
— twenty-something tops,

harmless singly, savage in crowds
— half at least,

when forced by circumstances
— better not to know
even ballpark figures,

wise after the fact
— just a couple more
than wise before it,

taking only things from life
— thirty
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
— eighty-three
sooner or later,

— thirty-five, which is a lot,

and understanding
— three,

worthy of compassion
— ninety-nine,

— a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

~Wislawa Szymborska, “A Word on Statistics from Miracle Fair.  

Painting by Artist Viktoria Prischedko

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What are you trying to tell me?

See this innocent face? She’s been one of us for five years. It’ll be five on March 15th. Our 15-year old daughter, Layla, wanted her.

She was the one cat that chased after us at the shelter.

Layla named her Purrsimmon, after my favorite fruit to eat, Persimmon. On our way out of the shelter, we were handed her birth certificate, 8/23, Layla’s date of birth. She was just meant to be ours.

The only time she comes to me is if we’re home alone. When there’s no one else to be affectionate with, she’ll settle for me, I guess!

She’ll knock the phone out of my hand with her head. Or, she’ll walk all over the keyboard. If I’m watching a movie she’ll come to sit on my chest and put her face in my face, and whichever way I turn she’ll turn.

If I’m doing the dishes she’ll sit on the side of the sink and paw-splash in the water.

If I’m reading she’ll hold the book down for me. If I’m writing? She has a thing for pencil erasers.

She sits there by the bathtub waiting for me to come out so she can lick water drops off my legs while I’m drying myself. She gets mad if I close the door or come out dry! “You’re dry already?”

When I water the plants, and there are about 11 planters all over, she follows along scooping water with her tongue as I pour it.

Only when it’s just the two of us. And if she comes to me while the others are around it’s only if I’m not feeling well, sad or sick.

This started last Sunday. At 5 am she jumped on my nightstand and knocked my water bottle down. I had forgotten to put the cap on. My phone and tablet now sitting in a huge puddle of water. There was nothing around to rescue my phone except what I was wearing. And she was standing there looking at me.

See, the best sleep is the last hour or two of the night. So, aggravated, I grabbed something else to wear, had to go pee, and on my way back to bed I heard a big bang, glass on glass coming from the dining room. She was standing there looking to see my reaction! She had knocked down a large glass vase, water and flowers all over the place. Mind you, it’s a glass-top table. Nothing broken, picked up the vase with one hand and the flowers with the other. Put that back together in the kitchen. Cleaned the dining table, wiped the chairs.

From the minute she spilled the water on my nightstand and until I was done cleaning the mess in the dining room, not even 7 minutes had passed.

She has done this, same time, same sequence, for 3 nights in a row. I got rid of the vase and flowers. I didn’t want her breaking glass and hurting herself.

The one time, about a year ago, we changed her food, it took me a week to notice she didn’t like it. She’d follow me around budding my ankles with her head and meowing loud, otherwise, she’s very quiet.

So, what is this new thing this week? What is she trying to tell me?

What am I missing?


Photo: Our Purrsimmon, 9/20/2019


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I am free of will.


I like cutting the cucumber

the knife slicing the darkness

into almost transparent moons

each with its own thin rim of night

I like smashing the garlic

with the flat of steel

and peeling the sticky papery skin from the clove

tell me what to do

I’m free of will

I carve the lamb into one-inch cubes

I don’t use a ruler but I’d be happy to

Give me a tomato bright as a parrot

give me peaches like burning clouds

I’ll pare those globes until dawn

the syrup will linger on my fingers

like your scent

Let me escape my own insistence

I am the bee feeding the Queen (The King)

Show me how you want the tart glazed

I still have opinions

but I don’t believe in them

Let me fillet the supple bones from the fish

Let me pit the Cherries,

husk the corn

You say how much cinnamon to spice the stew

I’ve made bad decisions,

so I’m grateful for this yolk

lowered onto my shoulders

Potatoes mounted before me

With all that’s destroyed

Look how the world

still yields a golden pear

Freckled and floral,

a shimmering marvel

It rests in my palm

so heavily, perfectly.

Somewhere there is hunger,

somewhere fear.

But here

the chopping block is solid,

my blade, sharp.


~ Ellen Bass, Sous Chef, from Indigo, coming out this April.






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Rub music and language together…

“Why do you bother write poems?”

Is the question from the back of the room;

I cannot
Quite see the student asking it, but it’s deep-voiced
And challenging and I assume it’s a guy.

Because I want to rub music and language together and gawk at the flames, I say.

Because poetry, if it takes fire, cracks people’s masks, and assaults arrogance, and
sucks you beneath the surface of words toward why
we use them.

Because we have been singing before there ‘were’ words and it’s healthy to remember that.

Because the great poems are about you and me both
And there is damned little we will be able to discuss in the normal flow of the river and it’s good for both of us to stand together quietly for a while in a poem.

Because why the hell not ?

What is it exactly that we
Should count as time better spent ?

You cannot spare
Two minutes for a poem? Sure, it might be pompous
Arty muck, and you demand your two minutes back,

But what if it isn’t ?

What if it shivers you,

or startles you awake,

or makes you weep remembering a time
When you sang all day too, and everything was made
Of music and light and colors and slabs of shimmer ?

WHAT IF, brother — that’s my answer to your question.

~ Brian Doyle, How The Light Gets In: And Other Headlong Epiphanies

*Inspired by: “Estimates of how long it has been since humans began speaking vary from 80,000 to a half-million years. BUT we’ve known how to write for scarcely 6,000 years.” From Probing the mystery of how human language began. And it makes me wonder when within the 6000 years we, humans, started writing poetry!

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