Work in progress.

This is the poem I can't write. 
I've never hit the backspace so many times, 
never scribbled out so many lines. This is the 
ball of yarn I'm not sure I'll ever untangle. 
The knot I've left unbrushed since childhood, 
but now it's so matted, it breaks all my 
scissors and combs. Look at me hiding behind 
metaphors because I'm afraid I'll cut my fingers 
on the point. Because the point is that I use 
other women to determine my self-worth. 
That I'm never sure if I'm good enough 
unless I'm the best and there is always 
someone better isn't there? 
That another women's success feels like 
a personal attack, and shit I don't want to talk
about this but I think we need to talk about this, 
because every time I see a provocative woman 
I hate myself, and I hate her a little bit too. 
And I get the feeling I'm not the only one who 
uses an outdated rubric to determine their 
grade. The only one who needs a grade to
feel they have value. God I want to scrub this 
off so hard that it stings. This inky stain 
ignored for so long it's become a tattoo 
so ugly I'd rather pretend it's a birthmark.
Like envy was the sin assigned to me by God. 
Some days I look in the mirror and think I'm 
beautiful, not despite, not in comparison to. 
Just truth. And then I hear an old coworker
telling me the hottest women are the ones who 
don't know it. A chorus of lamentation about 
my fat thighs. All the careful reminders that 
boys will jump when offered something better. 
And there's always something better isn't there? 
Now I've taken you down to the bottom 
of the well. This is where the echoes live, 
the place where I point fingers at corpses. 
Where I use other women's bodies as 
stepping stones to try to escape. 
Because we all want to escape.
But this isn't a birthmark.
And I don't believe in sin. 
Or God.
Or unsolvable problems.
So why the hell do I believe that anyone
could be better? Or worse? 
And I think I'm scared to write because I don't
know how it ends. I wish I knew how to 
translate thought into feeling. 
To transfigure conviction into belief.
But I don't.
I don't.

bad habits

I started picking at the lock again
the one I know I'm not supposed to pick
the one I try to forget exists
until I find my fingers bloody 
victims of the tic 
                         tick
                         tick
                         tick
just need to hear the mechanism click
but the keyhole always shifts
one moment a beckoning silhouette
of an evening off from the kids
flickers into likes and follows
blink and it's parental approval
followed by a dick
and then just as quick
we're back to stranger's clicks
and maybe a sugar fix
or the eyes of the friend I haven't
seen in years but I keep dreaming 
thinks of me and oops we're back
to dicks and now skinny thighs
but nothing fits 
and yes I've tried the trick
with the credit card
and one with knives
and I'm afraid to go down that road
again and so I'll carve myself a key
of words
and I know it will not work but
at least the whittling keeps my fingers
from picking what can't be picked

@amnotpoetry

the empties

I got a case of the empties
and no I don't mean a box
of two dozen bottles
smelling of stale beer
waiting to be returned
to be filled with fresh beer
or shattered and melted
forged into shiny new bottles
maybe crafted to carry
something different
I mean the single empty bottle
forgotten in the basement
or under the patio
or by the creek behind your house
I mean the case of twenty-three
waiting by the door
until it's full enough to move on
I mean the case of eleven also
waiting because it was scavenged
to add up to twenty-four
I mean the case of five
eleven 
twenty-three again 
case after case after case
dangerously rattling for a gap
that keeps opening up 
until you finally go digging
in the basement
under the patio
by the creek
but all you find are the bottles
in old photos of your
dead grandparents and
the friends you never see
and you can't recycle a memory
so you keep searching through
the places you used to 
drink together
laugh together
be together
and nothing ever gets filled
or broken down into anything 
that can carry something new
I got a case of the empties
a glass-sharp rattle 
begging to move on
while I wait inside the door
in case that single bottle
decides to show up

@amnotpoetry

depression to-do list:

keep yourself distracted
do your CBT
be on alert for distortions
tune into reality
have some self compassion
make yourself a tea
lock the bathroom door
while the kids watch tv
prioritize your committments
schedule in a break
sneak away when daddy's home
and walk down to the lake
see the violent dancing waves
frothing as they crest
imagine the water rushing in
to fill the hollow in your chest
blink away temptation
and watch the swallows soar
carefully count your breaths
as you balance along the shore
walk that tightrope line
all around the bay
see it stretched beneath your feet
every single day
kiss the kids goodnight
get ready for tomorrow
journal all your gratitudes
into guilts for your sorrow
wake with the dawn
smile and try your best
do it all again
eventually there'll be rest
write another poem
but try hard not to whine
tack on a clever ending
and everything will turn out


fine

Antidote

Once more the venomous refrain
comes to plague my weary brain:

I am nothing.
I am nothing.
I am nothing.

But I have found within each poison note
lies concealed the antidote:

I am 
I am
I am

So if upon your ears alight
her onerous whispers in the night:

You are nothing.
You are nothing.
You are nothing.

Find the truth within the lie
and perchance upon your lullaby:

You are 
You are
You are

@amnotpoetry

You can also find my poetry on Instagram:

A Random List of Confessions

A random list of confessions:

-I read books out loud when I’m alone. And by read, I mean “act out emphatically.”

-Sometimes I tell my kids “no” when they ask for a cookie, and then eat one when they aren’t looking. It’s kind of a power trip.

-I struggle to read fiction about violence lately. And cheating. And prejudice. And death. 

-I struggle to read or watch anything lately.

-In grade 9 I had a crush on my stage manager. Until now, I’ve only ever told one person about her.

-I think superheroes are the problem, not the solution.

-I’m pretty sure you don’t like me. You think I’m an annoying flake. Not you as in anyone specific, just specifically you. 

-I think you’re right.

-I’m still sore about not beating my ex-boyfriend at Mortal Kombat after he assumed I hadn’t seen the movies because I’m a girl. “You wouldn’t get it,” he said.

-I didn’t read most of the books in university and still managed a decent grade. Most of the books were about war and rape.

-I’m very sensitive. Half of me thinks that makes me a better person, half thinks I’m just weak.

-I think you think I’m weak.

-I know you think I’m a disappointment because I decided to graduate without my honours. “A waste of potential.”

-I think it was the right decision.

-I want to succeed as a writer so you think it was the right decision.

-I think it was the right decision.

-I don’t trust my own opinion on anything.

-In grade 3, I brought a snow globe I loved for show and tell. I put it in my pocket and it broke during recess. On the bus home everyone thought I peed myself and laughed, but I refused to tell them the truth because I was so ashamed.

-I talk about myself so much not because I’m full of myself, but because I’m so empty and I think your validation will fill me. Probably there’s a hole somewhere I should fix.

-I’m not sure if this is a poem about me or you.

-I’m not sure this is a poem.

-I think raisin cookies are better than chocolate chip ones.

Before and After

Before the pandemic
I attended community potlucks.
I folded my anxiety into a handkerchief,
something to fiddle with in my pocket,
as I planted the seeds of friendship.

After the pandemic
the potlucks were cancelled.
Some members came out anti-science
and my seeds have all failed to yield
anything more than broken confidence.

Before the pandemic
I made my first ever parent friends.
We met at the park most mornings,
shared meals once a week,
and took turns filling oxygen tanks.

After the pandemic
the housing market got so hot
they left the country to cool down.
Parks and tanks are left empty now
and my lungs are learning to adapt.

Before the pandemic
we had library and market days.
Familiar places, friendly faces,
comforting routine and connection.
A safety net of welcome and belonging.

After the pandemic
we found desks, stalls, and smiles vacant.
I stretch my anxiety around my neck,
a scarf to protect against the chill,
and let my husband do the talking.

Before the pandemic
I didn't have many friends to talk to,
but I called my Granny every day.

After the pandemic
I watched her get sick.
Her number doesn't reach her anymore.

Before the pandemic
panic attacked once or twice a year.

After the pandemic
it has learned to hunt in packs.

Before the pandemic
nausea, dizziness and pain meant
I was coming down with something.

After the pandemic 
they mean that I am awake.

Before the pandemic
my husband and I talked about 
growing old together.

After the pandemic
he wonders if I'll make it through the week.

Before the pandemic
I believed in a future.

After the pandemic.

After the pandemic.

When is After the pandemic?

Before the pandemic
there was no Before or After.

Before the pandemic
I didn't need to wait for an ending to begin.

Before the pandemic
is gone.

And all we have to work with is now.

At least that much hasn't changed.

**Author’s Note**

If you want to check out the visual version of this poem and a lot of other poems that haven’t made it on the blog yet, make sure to check out my Instagram account @amnotpoetry.

Dark Days

Mid-autumn shrinking of days:
waves of midnight blue
lapping an island of grey cloud.
I watch their constant approach
and retreat, and think of how
my Granny used to call them the
longest days of the year.
To wake in the time-shrouding
darkness and not to know
whether you’ve slept early or late,
to pass the hours in a smothering
dimness that seems to seep
into the tiniest crack and expand
so that every interaction,
every experience, is muffled and flat.
I pretend this embrace is a comfort,
isolation an inspiration, but it is not.
I want to make beautiful things,
to weave words into brightness
that can outshine the fog,
cleave the day in two the way
my Granny’s phone calls used to.
Yet here I am complaining
about the weather because
the days are just too short.
Or maybe they’re too long.
Or maybe my Granny was wrong
and the days aren’t longer or shorter,
but heavier, so that even though
we carry them the same distance,
we are consumed in the effort.
And her calls made them so much
lighter because, for a while,
I didn’t have to carry them alone.

@amnotpoetry

Creative Process

My creative process
is a bomb defusal
in a crowded room
where the people
keep wandering by
to peek over my shoulder.

My mother cringes
as I touch the red wire,
so I drop the pliers
and pick up a screwdriver.
Left, left, left —
until the screw wiggles
and I hear my old professors
sigh in unison
— right, right, right.

I pore through the pages
of a tear-stained manual
but can’t concentrate
amidst the impatient chatter
of an Instagram following.
I press a button on a whim
and brace myself.
A gasp. A cry.
But nothing happens.

For a moment
I think this might be luck,
but as the voices die
I hear it in the silence:
tick, tick, tick.
The trickle of time running out.

I check the manual.
There is a whisper.
I whip the book to the floor.
A muffled clatter.
A tut and a groan.
I pick it up again
and get back to work.