From her least favourite animal

My daughter comes home from school
and says to me: "Mom, during attendance
my teacher asked us our favourite animals."

"Neat," I say, "You said cat, didn't you?"

"Yes Mom," she says, "but Ben said humans.
And Teacher said those are her least favourite.
She said humans are responsible for 
too many bad things in the world."

'Favourite things are people's opinions,"
I remind her, but neither of us are satisfied.

So I say:

"I think a lot of people would agree 
with your teacher. I used to. But I think
that it's a little bit of an excuse."

"What do you mean?" she asks.

I remind her of the time she was struggling
to learn subtraction and she tried
to escape through a door labelled:
"Bad at math."

Because when we believe there's something
about us that cannot change, we can shed
our fear of failure by refusing to grow.
If we're just bad at something, there's no point
practicing to get better. If humans do nothing
but harm, then what is the point of 
of fighting for, or believing in, or expecting
anything different for the future.

Look, I don't need to expound upon 
humanity's sins to her; 
she is already familiar with them.
My daughter was born into a country
where she cannot help but walk over
the bones of other children, slaughtered
by people who looked like her. At nine years
old my daughter knows the words genocide,
and systemic racism, income inequality,
global warming, mass extinction,
she knows she has inherited a violent legacy
she never asked for. And before your protest
that she is too young, I'd like to remind you
that many children younger than her
learn these concepts at gunpoint, with teachers
like hunger and disease,
standing over their parents' graves.

She learns in a loving mother's voice,
I hold her hands as we unpick knots together,
and when she cries, it is never alone.

Are we her teacher's least favourite animal?

My daughter knows the bloodprice of profit,
knows the human sacrifices that make
a billionaire, but I remind her of the little
vegan grocery we shop from whose owners
refused to raise prices despite inflation,
who break every rule of "good business"
in the interest of being "good neighbours."

Are they her teacher's least favourite animal?

I tell her the people of the Wet'suwet'en Nation 
put themselves in the line of fire, 
stand for days on end facing persecution,
to defend the water and land that nourishes us.

Are they her teacher's least favourite animal?

She watches documentaries with her dad
about the researchers and engineers 
developing the latest clean-energy hopefuls,
trying to force triangular economies
into more sustainable circles.

Are they her least favourite animal?

We talk about how poverty is decreasing,
along with infant mortality. About increases
in conservation and species-protections..
How, statistically, the world is becoming 
a better place. It isn't enough yet, but
people are still working to improve it.

Are they her teacher's least favourite animal?

Her aunt sends pictures of her new baby cousin.

Is he her teacher's least favourite animal?

Scientists have developed a vaccine for malaria.

Are they her teacher's least favourite animal?
Mosquitoes kill half a million children every year.
Could her teacher think of no animal more
deserving of the title of "least favourite" than us?

Mosquitoes are only doing what is in their nature,
but human nature is the ability to change.
Our species' entire evolutionary strategy is hinged
on our ability to override our own programming.
A mosquito cannot chose to spare a child,
but we can.

I ask my daughter what she thinks the world
could look like, if we didn't treat each other
like our least favourite animal.

She smiles, satisfied, and already
I can see the future changing. 

dark side

The Moon is tidally locked,
which is a fancy way of saying
that she cannot turn her head.
We tell her she is beautiful,
but she wonders what it means
when we've only seen one side —
the one that shines the brightest.
She worries what we would think
if we only knew how much
she loves her darkest self.

city girl

Give me the living lights
of these high-rise constellations,
and not just the pilgrimage of 
a billion lonely suns.
Give me the astringent musk
of a dozen factory workers
on the crowded bus home;
let our lungs pass oxygen
like relay runners
on the same team.
I'd rather be kept awake
by the drunken testament
to life on the other side
of paper-thin walls,
than spend my nights
pretending the universe
is emptier
than it already is.


Closed doors
          are so much more
            than open ones.
Odd or familiar,
          cherished or abandoned,
                             they lead everywhere
                     all at once.
Infinite constellations
              collapse like dominos
                               into singularity with
                 the twist of a knob.
What am I afraid of?
                Flowers pressed to paper
                                       lose the vibrancy
                        of impermanence.
Let me exist in the
               moments between moments
                                   in the space between
                      thought and action.
Let me persist
                forever in the breath
                           before the door begins
                      to open.

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.

Just in case.

We should have said goodbye,
but "I'll see you soon"
inflates the hours like balloons
and softens our fall. 
I think we all know
the movies are a lie:
goodbye is taboo
for all but happy endings.
So we just pretend
we'll see each other again,
and even on a deathbed
we'll say goodbye
without the punctuation
just in case.
Just in case.
Can you hear it too?
The phantom ringing of a phone
we set to silent?
Weren't we taught that 
unlocked doors are dangerous?
But then again,
what hope isn't?

let go

Do you recall the moment
you were introduced to the ladder?
Maybe you were sat on the ground,
forced to squint against the sun
while they pointed out some lofty goal.
Or maybe you were placed on a rung,
lifted by loving arms while you judged
the distance you'd have to fall
if you took just one wrong step.
No wonder you want to defend it,
all the hours you climbed and fretted,
the blistered hands from grasping
and lifting, bruised shins from slipping.
No wonder your fingers instinctively curl
when I tell you: that ladder never existed.
No wonder you cling so tightly that your nails
press false woodgrain into your flesh
until that imaginary position is as 
identifying as your own handprint.
If only you'd look around you'd see
those cuts and scrapes weren't in vain;
it's no shame to trip on the uneven ground,
and so much easier to get up again.
Without the dizzying vertigo of ascent
you'll see how far you've come compared
not to everyone walking by your side,
but to that unique place you started from.