Tag Archives: spring

Poetry, My Brother and Spring

This was going to be another post about poems that I’ve sold and in a way it is. But it is bookmore than that. Last year on March 20th my brother Dennis died unexpectedly, though he had been in ill health for a few years and we had been justifiably worried. Spring when everything is bloom is now inextricably linked with death for me.

Dennis was the eldest of four and he was burdened not so much by being the big brother but by the world. He always wanted to make the world a better place, and that probably started with being the support for his siblings, in believing in us and helping hold us together. We four were weighted by the way our narcissistic parents had used us, who had planted seeds of doubt, self-loathing, fear and sadness deep within us. We battled or succumbed in different ways. Our parents’ needs drew the four of us together. We certainly weren’t always united, and we could drive each other crazy but we have always remained close.

That mentally unhealthy upbringing affected everyone. Not only did Dennis feel he had to be there for us, he had to also be there for the world. If he wasn’t giving and contributing to the betterment of society and humankind, he didn’t feel his life was worth living. I worried at different times that he would kill himself if he couldn’t find this deep purpose. He never had a hobby. Perhaps if there was any hobby, it was Dennis’s love of animals, something we all shared. But he could never just let go and ease himself into something mindless, something to let his mind rest for a bit and regenerate.

It is what killed him. He literally could never sleep. His body forgot how to turn off, even with machines and medicines. He could never shut his brain down and stop thinking of ways to make the world better. Dennis never finished high school. In some ways he was too smart for it and I’m sure desperately unhappy, searching for a sense of place. I doubt any of us were happy in high school though I think if you look back there were probably more searching lost teenagers than there were contented ones.

In seeking approval in my mother’s eyes, Dennis strove to do more. He was successful in Dennisprovincial politics. He became a Thai Consul, he worked on senate reform, and was Edmonton’s police commissioner. He worked in other parts of the world, trying to assist various cities and countries with government. And he worked at advocating for mental health, something that we had never really had in our family. He was given an honorary doctorate for his work. Dennis contributed a lot to mental health and created the Chimo Project, which brought pet assisted therapy to Alberta long before experts were recognizing the benefits of animal-human interactions and healing.

I could go on about my deep-thinking brother, who was perhaps only second to my mother in stubbornness about their own health. He didn’t believe he could be helped, he was leery of psychologists/counsellors/psychiatrists and thought they would bleed his secrets to the world. He resisted seeking treatment. Dennis always tried to see from another person’s point of view, and it was as his body was deteriorating that I saw a darker side come out. I had rarely seen him angry until those later years, where that dark mood and glumness was troublesome and he became more fatalistic. He seemed to believe less in democracy as all the ills of the world ate at him.

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This bee, here.

Yet, he still cared about us and we, about him. Last March 20th was the first day of spring. I found a bee on the steps staggering about, having awakened too early to a chilly day. I rescued it and brought it sugar water at about the same time as my brother was dying in another province. I like to think that as the weight of the world and his burdened brain wore down, that his spirit lifted free and ended up in that bee, small and seeking nectar and the warmth of a new day. I like to think that he was finally able to fly away from worry and sadness.

 

It does not feel like a year. I still cry every week, missing him. And this is about poetry. In trying to move through my grief, to not cry constantly, I immersed myself in poetry. I couldn’t write longer works because of my sorrow, so poetry it was. I started exploring different forms, where structure and length occupied my mind with these word puzzles. In a way, I became obsessed and have written more poems in a year than probably many years combined.

That obsession hasn’t stopped. I’m still exploring forms and writing poems. But my many many poems that have sat for years have had a scrubbing. I’ve not only written new works and explored different themes but I’ve truly looked deeply at my old poems, asking myself, what does that mean? Some of these haven’t sold in over 20 years. In some cases, I set them aside, feeling something wasn’t right—the proof was in no sales. With other poems, I would send them out, not always every year.

Now, with this deep cleansing I have rewritten quite a few poems and have submitted them resurrected and they’re selling. In this way, every time a poem is sold, it reminds me of how my brother believed in me and how, even though he is no longer physically here, he continues to inspire me. I know that if he were to read this, he would kind go “Huhmp!” raise his eyebrows and give me a look.

I think of my brother every time I sell a poem. The ones sold in the past month (the ones with links are already published) and with different release dates are:

  • “Monster” in Breath and Shadow
  • “Telltale Moon” in Dreams and Nightmares
  • “masquerade” in OnSpec
  • An untitled hay(na)ku “luring” and my first haibun “Sacrifice” in Scifaikuest
  • “Three’s a Charm” in Songs of Eretz Poetry
  • “Spinning Wheel,” “Broken Words” and “Penned By My Hand” in Cascadia Subduction Zone
  • “Hacker Halloween” in Polar Borealis #14
  • “Family Dinner, Prince George” and “Sweat Lodge” in Transition magazine
  • “Hand of Fate” in Cosmic Horror Monthly
  • Widow’s Lament” in The Weird and the Whatnot
  • To the Core” in TERSE Journal

To my brother, I thank you. I miss you and I still wish you were here.

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The Terrible Thing About April

Actually, I quite like April for several reasons. It’s usually spring in one form or another and blossoms and bright colors abound, trees are pushing out tender green leaves, and everything is fresh and new after the winter. Even here in Vancouver, where yes, the grass truly is always green. However, the terrible thing about April is “taxes.”

For Canada, the deadline is April 30. I get to try to get the taxes done before my birthday might come along. Sometimes I’m late and sometimes I’ve very late. Because I’m claiming various professional activities like writing and copy editing, I have to keep all my receipts. I was claiming as a writer long before I started doing copy editing. In Canada, we have this rule that if you’re an artist (pick any art you want) and you don’t realize a profit in your lifetime, but you are trying to sell your work in one way or another, you can claim your expenses.

For writing, this can mean anything to do with art and submitting work to publishers/magazines: software, books, movies, postage, paper, office supplies, etc. I just have to prove, should I ever get audited, that I was trying to make a profit. I do this by keeping rejection and acceptance slips, or the emails. Every once in a while, I weed through those papers and toss out a few, but I keep seven years worth, just in case.

But taxes are still a terrible thing and on the news today they said that Canadians on average are giving away 40% of their income to taxes. So you have to work half your time just to pay the government. And of course, we do our yearly taxes, which includes federal and provincial taxes but on top of that we pay daily GST and PST on top of those taxes. And should you own a house or other property, you have those taxes. It seems as if we cannot turn around without being taxed. And just think, federal tax is not a hundred years old yet. It was put into place by them Prime Minister Borden as a temporary war measures act.

See how permanent temporary measures can be. And even on top of income tax, came provincial sales taxes and then the GST, yet another tax on our pockets. I bet good ole Brian Mulroney told that that tax was temporary too. And imagine this, for centuries countries existed without taxes. Okay, sure they had tithes, and peasants feeding nobles who galloped around in their finery and shot deer for fun. But at least you could have a peasant uprising then. Now, we’re cowed and bleat futility as we pay those taxes.

And then the provincial and federal governments want to combine all those taxes and tax on things so far not taxed. And somehow they say this will make jobs? I’m not sure how except maybe in the tax department.

So…taxes. It takes me three nights to do it, mostly from procrastination. I do my taxes online now, even if I am claiming more than the standard form. Online is faster when it comes to calculations but Quicktax doesn’t always give explanations for those claiming professional and business activities. So I have to remember that I can claim two conventions a year because I won’t find the information there. For someone just starting out to claim artist expenses and using the online system, it might be better to buy their business packet. But I still use the standard and usually manage well. Unless Revenue Canada thinks I’ve miscalculated, which can only really happen if I enter something in the wrong section. And since capital gains and other areas aren’t explained really clearly, it’s not that hard to do.

Still, even with screwing up this year and not putting money into an RRSP, I will still get money back. It’s better to put the money into RRSPs though because it does cut down on money being sucked into the government. Not that you won’t end up paying that tax when you eventually take them out so it’s not really a big savings.

I hate doing taxes like most of us. I hate seeing how much money is sucked away and I can understand why some people go to live on the street or squat because you can work less and still survive. Such a lot of the big wheel moving round and round. I think we have complicated our world too much, but then again would we all want to work in fields growing our food and building our homes from wood? I think we’ve gone too far the other way though and some simplification and less taxation would help. It’s one thing to have services and resources. It’s another thing to be snowed under the avalanche of costs before even being able to hold a roof over your head.

April comes with trepidation and some relief when the taxes are done. For me, that refund won’t be spent until I know it’s accurate, and then it will probably pay down those bills.

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Theme Parties

Here’s something light to balance out the dark thoughts about our police. It’s spring, finally, in Vancouver with rumor of our temperatures getting up to 22 (centigrade) today. The cherry trees finally burst their blooms full force. Daffodils, weeks late, are now out and tulips are on their way. Everything is late this year because of all the cold weather so we are relishing the warmth.

And thinking of parties and barbecues of course. Over the years I’ve been known for having theme parties, much to the annoyance of a few friends. These themes have nothing to do with a particular time of year but more to do with having fun. Adults should get to dress up too. Here are a few themes I had.

  1. Nothing But the Blues: everyone was required to wear something blue. Easy enough for the blue jean people, and an excuse for me to wear a vintage 50s dress in blue satin.
  2. Come as Your Favorite God: open to people’s interpretation of god. There was a football player, someone’s personal god. My landlords came as household gods; she was dressed in apron, 50’s hat and full dress, rubber gloves with lace on them. He was dressed in underwear and tool belt. Then there was a smattering of other gods, Greek, Roman, Celtic.
  3. New Year’s come formal from any century or place: Although most people opted for your traditional fancy dress I had one goth, kilted, black booted friend, one very drunken guy in a toga that ended up in the shrubbery, and three Atlanteans dressed in shimmery blue-grey with glitter everywhere.
  4. Bad Boys Bad Girls: you guessed it. There was a manga, tousled schoolgirl (with panties in hand) and a bad biker dude. And there was a priest. Anyone not dressed up got handcuffed together, including my landlords.
  5. Mad Hatter: this was by far the most elaborate and the most fun. My partner at the time and I both had a fair number of hats. We made it Alice theme. Anyone who didn’t show up was  given a hat to wear. But people went all out and the costumes were fantastic. Here is a list of a few that we had: Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the walrus and the carpenter, Charles Dodson, two caterpillars, a griffon, a card, a flingo, a male, female and child Alice, a male, female and child cheshire cat, a mad hatter of each gender, and I think a mad queen.

I haven’t always had themes nor remembered all of them. There have been some people who do themes based on paintings. They send out an invite with a picture of the painting to be recreated, find and decorate a space and then everyone comes in costumes suitable to the recreation. I would presume that if one goes to the much effort they’re going to party afterward as well, because partying before might be too chaotic for the picture. This would be fun to do and some day I’d love to do that.

Then there are murder mysteries. They’re harder to find these days but the few we had friends would come and play the part, dressed to resemble the particular character. Those tend to be limited dinner parties of about eight people but the roleplaying makes it way more fun.

My few disgruntled friends can come to my parties dressed normally but everyone, even the big kids should get a chance to have fun and dress up as a space alien or a squid. It’s great to see what imaginations can create. I’ll be interested to see what people do for the next theme party and here are just a few ideas for the summer, where gods really should be wandering.

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